Three More Reasons to Ditch the GOP

Unbearable as the experience often is, I can’t resist peeking in on news related to the Republican presidential nomination race from time to time, and each time, it seems, I find another damning testimony which reveals how tenuous the connection between the GOP and anything recognizably Christian is becoming.  Perhaps it is now not so much the party of the “Christian Right” as the “Cold-Hearted Pelagian Right.”  Here are three examples I’ve saved from the stories of the past couple weeks:


The new media favourite of the race, Herman Cain, whose chief qualification for governing the most powerful nation on earth seems to be that he ran a pizza chain once, had this to say about the recent Wall Street protests: “Don’t blame Wall Street.  Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself. . . . It is not a person’s fault because they succeeded. It is a person’s fault if they failed. And so this is why I don’t understand these demonstrations and what is it that they’re looking for.”  

Excuse me?  Not that long ago, even Republican leaders had been willing to join in the chorus of hatred against Wall Street, against a banking system that is fantastically rich and incorrigibly corrupt, and which, after nearly leading the whole world into the abyss, has happily resumed its intemperate ways.  And not only does Cain have the guts to defend them, but he wants to tell everyone who hasn’t managed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become super-wealthy, that this is simply their own fault and they don’t deserve any sympathy.  Survival of the fittest, you know.  If you don’t have it in you to succeed in this dog-eat-dog world, then you’re not worth the world’s time, and should resign yourself to being trampled underfoot.  

But Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Meanwhile, Rick Perry has been having a rough time of it lately because he has dared to show any sympathy for the scum of the earth.  Perry, of course, presides over a state with a large number of  “illegal immigrants.”  His state has passed a law that decides to treat the children of these impoverished workers as state residents, with access to Texas’s lower in-state college tuition rates.  Perry argued, sensibly enough, that the alternative is to deprive children of illegal immigrants of the opportunity for an education, thus increasing the likelihood that they will become a costly drag on society, and that “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.”  Unfortunately for him, most Republicans do not, it seems, have hearts.  Strategists and pollsters say this is a “90-10 issue” (against Perry) for Republican voters, and voter testimonials confirmed this picture.  One declared that she liked Perry “until I heard about him giving all these kids a free ride.  I absolutely, positively disagree with any benefits that these people are getting, and if it were up to me, I’d round them all up and sweep them out of here.”  Others were turned off by Perry’s disinclination to back the building of a fence along the entire US-Mexico border to keep these workers out.  

But Jesus said, “”When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”

 

On one front, though, Perry has shown a hard enough heart to lure Republican voters: capital punishment. In a recent Bloomberg article, Margaret Carlson reports how, “In a debate in September at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, moderator Brian Williams tried to pose a question to Perry, beginning: ‘Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you — ’ Before he could finish, Williams was drowned out by lusty cheers and piercing whistles from the audience.”  And she comments acidly, “It’s one thing to support the death penalty. It’s quite another to relish it like fans cheering a winning touchdown.” 

After discussing the troubling record of modern death row cases, Carlson tells us Perry’s equally disturbing response to the question: “Perry confidently told Williams that he had never lost sleep over any of the 234 people executed during his tenure as governor,” and goes on to comment, “It’s an alarming statement if false, a contemptible one if true….It’s worth losing sleep over life-and-death decisions. It’s what presidents, and other moral beings, do.”

But Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

 

(NB: In each of these stories, especially the last, I am at the mercy of how the media is portraying things.  It is possible that each of these stories has been reportedly falsely or one-sidedly, and if so, I welcome the corrections of anyone who follows this news more thoroughly than I do.)

13 thoughts on “Three More Reasons to Ditch the GOP

  1. Ken Myers

    I recently re-read this passage from Chesterton's Orthodoxy:For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor.These claims are as true as the fact that Mormonism is not a Christian denomination, but I haven't noticed any Republicans affirming them lately.

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  2. Brad Littlejohn

    Thanks Ken, fantastic quote! Amazing all the stuff in that book that I didn't notice when I first read it…I'll definitely have to remember that quote.

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  3. Brad, thanks. I knew Perry was in trouble, but until now I didn't know way (like you, I have an aversion to checking on the GOP race). It seems to me that one of the clearest laws of the OT was to care for the stranger and the alien within your borders, to have one law of justice for citizens and non-citizens alike. This rabid, frothing fear of immigrants (including my own mother, who gets worked up listening to Rush and Beck) is seriously irrational. As for cheering at the execution of criminals – sickening. And Cain is a loony, there I said it. Not that the others are much better.

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  4. Michael Eric Hund

    Hello Sir, While I certainly agree with the thrust of many of your posts, I do apologize that I haven't read enough of your writings to get a fuller take on your interpretation of Pelagius and Pelagianism, so I am not sure why you would refer to the GOP as the party of the "Cold-Hearted Pelagian Right", other than as a slur. It would seem though to be equally a slur on Pelagius, who, from all that I have read, had a more historically liberal position of humanity and Christianity than those who accused him of heresy in his teachings. To his youthful detractors he may have come across as a bit of a prig, for standing in learned opposition to them, but, when his death came as his bowels were suddenly shat out through his rectum without forewarning, it might appear that, no matter the possible “correctness” of their own views, or the liveliness of their own entertainments, the sport of his enemies were deceptively merciless in their endeavors. If believing, as Wikipedia short-hands Pelagianism, that "humanity has full control, and thus full responsibility, for obeying the Gospel in addition to full responsibility for every sin", I can only add the following quote from Justin Martyr, "For if it is predetermined that this man will be good, and this other man will be evil, neither is the first one meritorious nor the latter man to be blamed. And again, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions.” That some conservatives (and their current main American political party, the GOP) choose evil over good ought not to be a reflection on Pelagius, who identified a theological issue, but shows us the latest example of how, throughout our human history, the actual evil choices of a few can have a major impact on everyone’s existence, including those who choose to do good. As Christians have been forewarned, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” -Matt 7:15 If that doesn’t speak against the current bumper-crop of conservative lunacy, I haven’t yet heard words that say it better. My best wishes to you in all your endeavors!

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  5. Brad Littlejohn

    Michael,Not sure what Pelagius's bowels have to do with any of it, but I'm sorry–I'd thought the connection with Pelagianism was clear enough. Basically, Pelagianism takes its stand on the importance of individual responsibility–that each individual must take full responsibility for his own actions, and must be rewarded or punished with justice accordingly. Christianity, in response, acknowledges the importance of individual responsibility, but does not make it the highest value–we are also responsible for one another, and it is not imperative that each person be rewarded according to the strict merit of his deeds; on the contrary, grace prevails, and we are freely shown mercy (and are to freely show mercy in return), even when our own deeds do not earn it.The modern GOP has idolised the rhetoric of individual responsibility, of "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps" (which is now considered something to boast about), and therefore of showing no favour to anyone who has not justly "earned" the right to that favour. And oddly enough, Christians have gone along with it, and started imagining that this rhetoric of justice, individualism, and responsibility is closely related to the Gospel message, instead of antithetical to it.

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  6. Andrea Francine

    No, you have it pretty much right. But I do think that people like Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson whose breath was taken away at the applause during the debate in the Reagan Library would exhale in huzzahs if “reproductive rights” had been affirmed by the candidates, where the person put to death is a child inconveniently conceived rather than an adult tried and convicted.And yet leftists would reasonably deny that cheers elicited by pro-choice lines in politicians’ speeches are cheers for the dismemberment and death of unborn children in their mothers’ wombs. They are cheering the abstract principle – “choice.” Just so I think conservatives that night were also cheering an abstract – “justice.” (And yes given what horrors conservatives defend under the penumbra of “justice” that is still enough to still the heart.)Interestingly, Rod Dreher attributed the spectacle to class and identity politics: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/2011/09/10/the-perry-death-cheer-as-class-politics/.

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  7. Andrea Francine

    The Chesterton quotation is beautiful and profound but one line (“It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice.) seems closer to the teachings of the Jacobin Club than Christ Jesus. My own alas unread copy is out of reach so I am curious how Chesterton would define definable justice.Would the definition be far removed from that of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, including those whose tone have grown predictably ominous: “There still are postings that talk about taxing the 1 percent more severely or even throwing them in jail. "But then," says Schiavone, "there's an increase in 'let's kill' them. We see 'eat the rich,' 'kill the wealthy.' There are images circulating of senior executives being decapitated, images of blood. Artists are releasing images of banks on fire." ABC News.com Occupy Wall Street: Darker Side EmergesBloodlust is bloodlust, regardless of which direction it flows on the political spectrum. I think a lot of the anger of the protestors is on the side of the angels but when they start with the “kill the rich and rob their corpses” dialogue, then they are not exactly shaming the devil. Again, I am not familiar with the context of that particular line from Chesterton, other than what was quoted, but it too eerily recalled (and seemingly accepted as reasonable) some hair-raising sentiments of the growing OWS movement.

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  8. AJ

    I agree with you on the first two points, and on the third I agree that the cheers were absurd. But saying that the death penalty is an area where Perry's heart is hard enough seems uncharitable. Do you want to call everyone who supports the death penalty hard-hearted? I agree that cheers were evil, but Perry didn't cheer.

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  9. Brad Littlejohn

    Thanks Andrea, very helpful comments both. I appreciated the Rod Dreher link. Regarding the Chesterton quote, I don't think it's really fair to Chesterton to compare him to a Jacobin. That is simply Chesterton's hyperbolic rhetorical style, for which he is justly famous, and is considerably more tame than many of his famous lines. Regarding OWS, I don't doubt there are darker elements. But from the (limited) reading I've been doing, most of those involved in the movement seem to have peaceful and very reasonable motives–they are seeking to shed light on real injustice, not merely trying to greedily steal someone else's free lunch because they're too lazy to earn their own (as one pastor recently blogged). But, of course, like any such movement, there are going to be a whole lot of divergent elements, and I guess we'll have to wait and see which ones win out.

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  10. Brad Littlejohn

    Alex, The complaint against Perry wasn't that he cheered, but that he acted completely blasé about it–"Executing 234 people? No big deal. Never troubled my sleep" was the gist. And that hardly seems to reflect a sufficient appreciation of the moral gravity of that life and death responsibility. Certainly not the kind of person I'd want in charge of making foreign policy decisions. But, from the standpoint of sapping my faith in the GOP (heh, what faith?), the crowd's cheer was much more depressing than Perry's response.

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  11. Andrea Francine

    Hi Brad, unfortunately at this point of the movement I think the OWS protests are giving more heat than shedding light. Perhaps that is the way with these sorts of movements. I remember the nascent tea parties being angry, leaderless and incoherent and even contradictory about its goals and solutions. (Still are actually.) I do think it is funny that newspapers like the Washington Post are writing harlequin romances about OWS protests being angry, leaderless and at times contradictory, whereas those traits two years ago inspired the same writers to warn something wicked this way comes regarding the tea party protests. And not to be outdone suddenly the conservative media are having the vapors at angry public protests. Alas. More identity politics.

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  12. Andrea Francine

    As for the pastor’s take, I can see where he would get that impression from some of the videos coming out of the protests, in which injustice is defined as being a college graduate without a job but with a student loan to repay. (Inopportune, unfortunate, stressful and more, but the word “injustice” typically comes to mind when considering, for example, how the U.S. Government keeps First Nations/American Indians in colonized poverty.) The number of “I spent four years in college and all I got was this lousy degree in French/Classical Studies/Russian-language belle-lettres”-type complaints makes me gloomy at the state of arts and humanities in American universities. Somehow these scholars have missed the point of their scholarship. It should have been understood that the liberal arts are fields of knowledge “pursued disinterestedly – that is, without regard to political, economic or practical benefit,” to quote Louis Menand (whose book I happen to be reading which is why the quote is fresh!). That does not mean graduates are rightly denied a livable wage (whatever that may be) only that perhaps professional or vocational degrees would have been better pursued if they join the so-called capitalist market in thinking so cheaply about their fields of study. But of course those are just some of the videos. OWS protestors are not all leftwing hipsters with disposable income, products of privilege without a sense of irony, or anarchists in zombie make-up. They are not all crying, “Give me your money.” Most are decrying the injustice inherent in the Wall Street-Washington system. Their anger is real and mostly valid, I think. Just as I think the anger of the Tea Party is real and mostly valid. Both are protesting two sides of the same corrupt body and if they ever realize it, then things will get really interesting. Back to the original topic of the post, well the 293th Republican debate is now behind us and I continue to be at ease with just leaving the circle blank on the ballot. (Or maybe I will write in Ron Paul.)

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  13. Brad Littlejohn

    All well said, Andrea."Their anger is real and mostly valid, I think. Just as I think the anger of the Tea Party is real and mostly valid. Both are protesting two sides of the same corrupt body and if they ever realize it, then things will get really interesting."Very true–and very vexing. I was thinking about writing up a post on just this point. It's very odd to me how all my Tea Partier friends are trying to outdo one another in pouring scorn on OWS, mindless of the fact that they're both basically angry about the same thing. I particularly find it ironic that they're criticising the OWS people for being "greedy," when the basic premise of the Tea Partiers, as I understood it, was "Hands off my stuff! I'm not paying taxes–that money is MINE!" The difference is that Tea Partiers think they're necessarily entitled to what they currently have, and the OWS people (at least, so the criticism goes) think they're necessarily entitled to something they don't currently have. From an ethical standpoint, I think both claims are equally invalid.

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