Thursday, March 23, 2017

As Trumpcare Goes Up for Vote, Commentary on Theological-Ideological Roots of GOP Cruelty Towards the Poor

As healthcare coverage for between 20 and 30 million Americans goes on the chopping block today due to the voting decisions of large percentages of white American Christians claiming to be "pro-life," some religion-and-politics things for us to think about, most of them hot off the press:

Neal Gabler on the theological-cum-ideological roots of Republican cruelty towards the poor: 

So, again, why? What kind of people seem dedicated to inflicting pain on others? 
It is not an easy question to answer, since it violates all precepts of basic decency. I suspect it comes from a meld of Calvinism with social Darwinism. From Calvinism, conservatives borrowed both a pinched and unsparing view of humanity as well as the idea of "election" — namely, that God "elects" some folks for redemption, which, when rebooted for modern conservatism, has an economic component. Plain and simple, rich people are rich because they are better than poor people. 
By the same token, poor people are poor because they are worse. This is God's edict, so to speak. (The so-called Calvinist revival has an awful lot in common with Trumpism.) From social Darwinism, they borrowed the idea that this is the way the world should be: winners and losers, those who can succeed and those who can’t. It is a world without luck, except for tough luck. 
From this perspective, conservatives may not really think they are harming the vulnerable but instead harming the undeserving, which is very different. In effect, conservatives believe they are only meting out divine and natural justice. It's convenient, of course, that this justice turns out to be redistributive, taking resources from the poor and middle class and funneling them to the wealthy, who happen to be the benefactors of conservatism as well as its beneficiaries. (Just note how Republicans howl about redistribution when it is the other way around.) Where many of us see need, they only see indolence and impotence. It is, by almost any gauge, not only self-serving but also plainly wrong — moralistic rather than moral.

Chauncey DeVega on Republican cruelty towards poor people and what it says about American culture as a whole: 

Conservatism is a type of motivated social cognition that by its very nature is hostile to those groups located on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy. 
Conservatives are more likely than liberals or progressives to believe in what is known as the "just world fallacy," where people who suffer misfortune are viewed as somehow deserving their fates. Conservatives are also more likely than liberals or progressives not to use systems-level thinking as a means of understanding that individuals do not exist separate and apart from society. Conservatives are also more likely to defend social inequality as "fair and legitimate."
Social psychologists have shown that, in effect, poor people are invisible to the rich and upper classes. . . . 
Unfortunately, the Republican war on the poor is but one sign of the deep moral rot at the heart of American society. This crisis extends well beyond the election of Donald Trump and the cruelty both promised and so far enacted by his cadre and the Republican Party. If a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable and weak, America is a country in decline, a country whose citizens should be ashamed of their leaders — and, in some cases, ashamed of themselves."

As Patrick Caldwell notes, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity are calling for the Trumpcare bill to be voted down because it's not yet cruel enough. It does not inflict sufficient misery on poor Americans to receive the Koch brothers' support.

And, finally, a concluding sermon from Judge Wendell Griffen's new book The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2017):

On November 8 2016, 81 percent of the people who profess to be evangelical followers of Jesus in the United States refused to proclaim by their votes that God cares about people who are hungry, thirsty, homeless, frail, imprisoned, and unwelcomed. People who self-identify as evangelical Christians did not vote for, nor did they urge others to vote for, a candidate whose positions and records showed concern about people Jesus identified as God’s surrogates in the world. 
Hungry and thirsty people, homeless people, people who are frail due to age, illness, disabling infirmities, incarceration status or history, and immigration crises are God’s surrogates. People marginalized due to religion, including people who are Muslim, are God’s surrogates. 
On Election Day, four out of five people who self-identify as "evangelical Christians" did not vote as people who understand, with Jesus, that hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick, imprisoned, and immigrant people are God’s surrogates in the world. Their votes did not show that they see God in our hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick, imprisoned, and immigrant brothers and sisters (p. 141).

The cartoon is from Jeff Danziger at the Truthdig site.

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