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.)