Friday, November 15, 2013

Thoughts On The Rich Church For The Few

Bill Maher explains:  "It's a phony $10 dollar bill that Christians sometimes leave on the table in lieu of an actual tip.  It looks like a $10, so you get the benefit of giving poor people hope, and then crushing it, but on the back it says, 'Some things are better than money ... like your eternal salvation that was bought and paid for by Jesus going to the cross.' "

Yesterday I wrote this sentence in regards to the USCCB:  "Pope Francis' notions about a poor church for the poor just isn't going to compete with the reality in the West of the rich church for the few."  After I posted my take on the USCCB, that line kept bugging me.  I fell asleep last night still thinking about how there was probably another post in that thought.  This morning I have been blessed to find an assortment of articles dealing with the same theme.  I have to thank Bill Lyndsey for links to a couple of them.  It's often amusing to me how often Bill and I will get on the same wavelength about a particular issue and be writing about said issue, sometimes not just on the same day, but at the exact same time.  Maybe we were twins in another lifetime or something.

Bill linked to an excellent piece in Alternet by Amanda Marcotte, who has this to say about the link between Christianity piety, and the message of Pope Francis regarding the priority of the poor:  

 Pope Francis may be entirely sincere when he says he wants Catholic clergy to deemphasize the right-wing political pandering in favor of highlighting values that are more in line with liberalism, such as compassion and generosity to the poor, but the odds are slim of this message making inroads with church leaders in the United States. The church needs conservatives who need to believe they’re good and holy people despite their selfish beliefs. Without them, who will show up and tithe? Liberals? Most of them are sleeping in on Sundays, secure that their commitment to social justice makes them good people regardless of how visibly pious they are." (It's very true that liberals give time and money to charities and causes not necessarily affiliated with religion.)

The link between external forms of piety fueling beliefs that rationalize selfishness is strong.  Polling shows over and over again that the most politically and economically conservative voters in the US are also those who claim the most Church attendance and engage in the most forms of external piety.  Anyone who has spent much time on conservative Catholic websites, especially those which feature Marian piety, know that this piety covers a host of interesting views about poor people, gays, immigrants and other marginalized groups in the Church and society. They unabashedly state that giving up on the only moral issues that count--gay marriage, contraception, and abortion, is to turn everything over to socialism and destroy the country and affirm the work of the devil.  There is very little space given what so ever at all to the idea that poverty, unjust war, racism, or economic greed are moral issues.  The only moral issues are other people's sex lives.  The USCCB has underscored this thinking over and over again.  The USCCB seems to have decided their mission is to make the few, the proud, and the economically secure, feel good about what are essentially core beliefs of the Evangelical prosperity Gospel.

Bill Maher made this same point in a piece he did last Friday.  Maher uses the same kind of direct communication that Pope Francis does, albeit a little more spicey than Francis.  Here's Maher's take on this issue about Christianity becoming a sort sanitized cover for refusing to see beyond one's own driveway:

And finally, New Rule: It's OK if you don't want to feed the hungry, or heal the sick, or house the homeless. Just don't say you're doing it for their own good.  Don't say you'd like to help people, but your hands are tied because if you did, it would cause a culture of dependency, or go against the Bible, or worst of all, rob them of their freedom... to be sick and hungry.

Just admit you're selfish, and based on how little your beliefs mirror the actual teachings of Jesus, you might as well claim to worship  Despicable Me .
Now I bring this up, because last week new food stamp cuts went into effect, and Congressman Steve Fincher, a Republican from Dogpatch, justified the cuts by quoting the Bible — "The one who does not work shall not eat."...... 
Of course, Congressman Fincher failed to note that those who cannot find work also do not eat. Oh well, those folks must not have enough faith in God's single handed ability to provide jobs.  Maybe if they took what money they do have and donated it for the latest diocesan capital campaign, God would create a job for them.  But it's funny how external piety works so much better for those who already have jobs.
Maher's main rant was about the latest trend in which 'Christians' use their restaurant tab to evangelize their heathen wait staff.  That's where the photo and quote at the top of this piece came from.  I personally could relate to this whole tipping phenomenon.  Back when I was working for golf courses in Salt Lake we used to cater a lot of tournaments.  The tips from the corporate tournaments went a long way to paying our rent, but the LDS tournaments, especially the tournaments for women, were seriously unbelievable. We might split $10.00 in tips from a full field of 172 golfers--and most of them weren't using clubs from Walmart.  It was disheartening to say the least, but it taught my daughter a lesson about valuing service folks.  This is one reason I have hope that the next generation of leaders will have a better grip on what it means to actually live the Christian ideals.  Those ideals would not be saying a rosary during Eucharistic Adoration and then marching against the contraception mandate in Obamacare and ranting about socialism and big guv'mint.  
One last observation.  The Justice and Peace Council of the Vatican is holding a two day conference on clergy who minister to parliaments or politicians.  Cardinal Turkson gave an outline of the two day conference to participants.  He had this to say as one of his main points concerning the poor church for the poor:
"The preferential option for the poor includes the unborn and social insecurity, migrants and the elderly, the unemployed and the environment. One characteristic of Christians involved in politics is or should be an ability to promote an all-encompassing and coherent principle of humanity."
 Perhaps the USCCB can take note that Cardinal Turkson did not mention gay marriage or contraception, but did mention social insecurity, migrants, the unemployed and the environment.



  1. Hummer limos? Really? We in Maine have not had a bishop in over a year and I am beginning to feel we are lucky!

  2. You probably are lucky, or you are being given a respite to recover from your last one.

  3. I saw that faux $10 tip that was left by the evangelical "Christian" this past week and was truly flabbergasted at the sheer madness & selfishness of it.

    I also saw Bill Maher last week and he is right on in his observations & insight. He sees clearly the hypocrisy of the right wingers & the so-called Christians.

    Great post, Colleen. You nailed it!

    I'm off now to watch Bill Maher for my liberal fix of laughter & sanity! :-)

  4. At the conservative link you provided it is interesting how certain words are used and they are like brainwashing code for right wingers. The word that stands out most to my memory is "socialism" and "moral" and "immoral."

    The last two paragraphs are really pathetic in that it propagandistically ties in their principle notion of defining morality strictly with abortion & same-sex marriage and in such a way that it prioritizes it above all else. That is something that the USCCB tends to do too and it does not appear they are willing to change their obstinate stance.

    "This being so, what can be said of fiscal and political conservatives that accept, support or even promote planks of the socialist agenda such as abortion or same-sex “marriage?” All genuine conservatives should reject such an aberrant contradiction lest they betray their fundamental principles."

    Their "principles" are more important to protect than anything else. That these issues are tied in with a "socialist agenda" is tantamount to the speeches that Hitler gave in which he uses code words such as resurrection.

    It is the special language of "conservatives" that put these issues ahead of all other issues in the mistaken belief that their view of the world and its people is the only view or only "moral" view, even using the Ten Commandments, the founding fathers as reason to rationalize their pathetic and bewildering judgments with such arrogance and ignorance that can only equal the language of Hitler and his henchmen. It is the language of Sarah Palin and the TGOP Party. It is the mind-set of evangelist giving no tip at all to someone who relies on their tips for their income. That truly is a messed up evangelist and it is no wonder that Christianity and/or religion has become code for ignorance rather than true enlightenment.

    It is a very clever and devious language, to say the least. I love that Bill Maher is able to dissect this language as well and communicate the truth of their intentions and point out their hypocrisy. Bill Maher and many Christians share the view that religion has a history of defeating its own supposed agenda by its hypocritical stances. Conservatives are fearful of seeing that their agenda is full of hatred and hypocrisy rather than towards toward freedom in a true Christian context.

  5. Thanks so much. You seem at times to assume that Pope Francis is unaware of what the US bishops are really up to. That is very implausible to me and counter to my experience with other hierarchical multinationals
    Cardinal Pell in his latest apologia suggests that Francis is up to speed on the Australian scandals, for example. The USA is more powerful and wealthy and likely followed even more closely by Francis and his closest advisors.
    Sadly, it increasingly appears to me that Francis is well versed in political tactics such as "Good Cop/Bad Cop" and "Bait and Switch".
    As I indicated on the NCR website, I hope Francis invites you to participate personally at next October's Synod. You would provide good doses of honesty and realism.

  6. Colkoch, I'm not familiar with Maine's last bishop. Was he anything like Maine's current governor?

  7. Obviously, America is a servant to mammon, can the USCCB and us American
    'christians' be anything else?

  8. I absolutely refuse to go to any church that's only for the wealthy and White and privileged-which is why I'm an atheist; mainline Protestantism and Unitarianism and the Quakers are not only 95% Middle/Upper Middle class but even Whiter than the Tea Party and have a higher average age than the Republicans.