March 15, 2012

Gospel reading: Jesus rebukes an unclean slut

Fred once again posts a brilliant satire on the whole "slut shaming" from the religious right. And in doing so, reminds me of what has drawn me to the idea of Jesus. I lose sight, to be honest, listening to my religious conservative friends talk about the poor or in these discussions about women.

I continue to be amazed, frankly, at the lack of compassion or love for anyone who doesn't look like a middle-class evangelical Christian. I shouldn't be surprised, and am sure that Leighton will read this wondering just how long it will take me to figure this out. But it still stuns me that people who claim to follow Jesus have such little compassion for the poor, or for "difference" or for the "other" all while reading passages (or reading past) where Jesus demonstrates great love for those very people.

Here in Oklahoma, Republicans are trying very hard to do a couple of things in our legislature. One is to cut the income tax, and the other is the "personhood" bill that transforms a fertilized egg into a legal person. Meanwhile, our health is among the worst in the nation, and we also lead in abuse of prescription drugs.

The conflict between these two trends is very clear to me. Not so much to Republicans, or perhaps they just don't care. One of my FB friends defended the personhood bill as "biblical" (?) but about cuts in services shrugged and said something about there is "need everywhere."  When a poor or sick woman struggles with her pregnancy, they will say "God doesn't make mistakes," and "that is a human life that is sacred," and, of course, "your morals may not be the best."  If she needs pre-natal care, she may or may not get it.  If the child is born, they may or may not have food, or vaccinations.

She will absolutely have to give birth--even if it kills her.  But if that child dies during the first year (and we are on the bad list for children in poverty, and infant mortality), my Republican friends will shrug and blame the mother.  Or lack of a father.  Or both.  It just won't be their fault.

The people who talk about Jesus the most, are passing legislation that shames women, ignores the poor, and celebrates wealth and power.  Whatever this is, it isn't Christianity.  Or, to be more accurate, their policy doesn't, in the least, reflect the teachings of Jesus.

But according to my FB friend, the problem is my lack of faith.



leighton said...

As long as we're working on making more accurate predictions of people, maybe I'll try not to be surprised when you are surprised. :)

More seriously, I remember that when I was teaching, I had to keep a constant focus on people's ability to learn and improve. That activity of willing myself to hope made me more vulnerable to Republican-induced disillusionment than I am now, where being a corporate type person means making accurate assessments and predictions about people's behavior is a critical aspect of my job. I'm definitely not saying teachers can't clearly perceive reality, or anything like that. I think molding behavior and analyzing behavior are different habits of thought that would lead to different instinctive expectations. I am really surprised when engineers who consistently fail to perform a specific task correctly finally figure it out, which would probably be less shocking to someone in education.

Streak said...

Dammit, Leighton, I actually had a draft that said that you would be surprised that I am surprised. Would that make me look smarter? :)

I think for me the surprise is not really about the people doing the bad things. They are largely stupid people, and I am not sure what else to say about them. The surprise continues to be for people I know are not stupid and who actually care about other human beings. I don't know how to make sense of those people standing by voting Republican while these things happen.

leighton said...

Somewhere in the past few years I read an account of people's moral universes, meaning the collection of beings toward which an individual feels obligated to behave ethically. I want to say this was in Martha Stout's Sociopath Next Door, but I'm only about 70% sure. The point she was making (I think it was her) was that sociopaths have an empty moral universe, whereas most people who behave problematically have moral universes that include some people but not others - e.g. a religious fanatic will probably treat fellow believers humanely even as he persecutes nonbelievers. Most people include at least some animals in their moral universes - we don't go around killing dogs for fun or try to wipe out cats the way we try to eradicate infections with antibiotics and antiviral drugs.

(Tangentially, when you follow this train of thought and start considering the movement for animals' rights, including the push to identify whales and dolphins as non-human persons, the phrase "pro-life" becomes even more disingenuous: nobody is pro-life for all forms of life, even Buddhists who claim to be. The polio virus is alive, but the only people who want to keep it around are virus researchers who want to exploit it to learn how to exterminate other viruses.)

There is large subset of the population that has trouble with abstract thought, and tends to view the world in simple, black-and-white terms. It's been my experience that people like this will have moral universes that include only people they personally know, and strangers who are seen as simply good: fellow believers, their countrymen (so long as they aren't liberal), starving children in Africa (usually just the children), etc. Everyone else whose circumstances might require analysis or difficult consideration is rejected out of hand. To my mind, this explains why people who clearly care deeply about the people physically around them can be so vicious toward strangers, because it really isn't about people at all for them. It's partly that the strangers affected by our social policies are outside their moral universe and thus by default they don't consider them human. But it's also that in admitting that some social and policy issues are complicated and that the Right Thing To Do (TM) may not be immediately obvious, they would be surrendering the core of their worldview: the simple, black-and-white nature of goodness and evil, truth and falsehood, and the consistent rightness of the universe.

Someone in college actually told me that "God wouldn't put us in a situation where we don't know what to do, because that wouldn't be fair." Well, maybe I'm a liberal because I don't think life is fair.