February 26, 2013

Ruthless and people of faith

And then Jesus instructed the disciples to win at all costs.  "Love each other and treat each other with respect, unless you need to win a political battle.  Then do what works to win."
Or not.  But that was all I could think when I read the most recent proposal from Pennsylvania Republicans to change the way the state awards electoral votes.  The purpose is a concerted Republican effort to change the electoral college in order to win.  It works like this:  in battleground states that lean Democratic, but are controlled by Republican state houses, they would split up electoral votes based on US House districts.

An uninformed reader might think, "hey, that sounds fair, and the states have the right to determine how they manage those electoral votes."  But a closer reading reveals that this has nothing to do with fairness.  Those same Republicans have no intention of doing that in states like Texas that might have a few electoral votes from Austin, Houston and Dallas going blue.  No, the states that are Red on the map aren't going to split up their electoral votes.  Only those states that matter, and where they can take away votes from the Democrats.

This is the response of ruthless and unprincipled people, make no mistake.  It is an attempt to rig the game and displace the votes of minorities and other urban dwellers and allow the rural and more conservative part of the country dominate.  They don't want to change, see.  They don't want to be nice to Mexicans and blacks. They don't want to appeal to modern women.  They like believing that God wants all fetuses to be born, but not all children to be fed.  They like believing that rape can be a blessing from God.

What amazes me is the manner in which good, honest, and even moral people of faith find themselves in support of policies like this.  How does this happen?  How do people who read the Bible often, attend church weekly, participate in Bible Studies and Sunday School, and who say that Jesus Christ is their Savior and guide for life--how do they look at a situation like the one in Pennsylvania and think that is anything associated with their faith?  The vote rigging scandal is only one example.  Texas Senator Ted Cruz recently accused Sec of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel of accepting money from Iran and North Korea--without a shred of evidence.  Can you imagine Jesus doing that?

I suspect there are a lot of reasons for it.  Leighton has noted the tribal affiliation and others the low information portion of the conservative pool.  Some would suggest that conservatives are more open to authoritarian ideas and so defer to Republican leaders even when they defend the indefensible.

For me, at least today, the reasons are less important than the reality of people of faith endorsing a completely ruthless and scorched earth approach to, well, anything.  There is nothing ruthless about Christ.  I know I no longer attend church, but even I know that.  You don't talk about "turning the other cheek" if winning is the only acceptable option.  The GOP's version of Jesus would say that the one lost sheep was more than an acceptable loss.

And my conservative evangelical friends still look quizzically at me when I suggest that they are losing their witness.  If you can read about changing the rules of the game with no regard to fairness or justice--only to win power--and not speak out about it?  If you can watch a member of your party casually accuse his enemies of treason and not speak out about it?

If your Christ endorses ruthless and brutal tactics, he isn't Christ.  You might want to do some thinking about that.


Smitty said...

For the sake of discussion:

Do we need to conflate religion with political platform on this one? In other words, these are "religious" people acting in a stupid fashion, but in this case, they're not using religion as their bludgeon. This has everything to do with political advantage and changing the rules when you lose, which indeed is morally inconsistent.

But I see this not so much as morally inconsistent, and more along the lines of...bad...sportsmanship? No...that's too weak. It's cheating. I'm not going to get into "both sides do it," because here, while true in individual isolated cases, is not wholly and consistently true. There's no back-and-forth between Dem rewrites and Republican rewrites. Only one side does this consistently.

But again, this is all about *political* advantage, not using religion as a bludgeon.

Agreed: this is criminal.

Disagree: inconsistency of faith.

Does faith address political advantage? Sure, though not as explicitly as "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich dude going to Valhalla" but it's there maybe implicitly. I tend to see political advantage-taking, though, as a failure of human beings who wish to retain power, not as a religious person bludgeoning someone they don't like using a religion tat actually tells them to LIKE that person whom they are bludgeoning.

I'm splitting hairs maybe. Whatever. Sake of discussion is all.

Smitty said...

Now...this is brilliant.

Streak said...

Smitty, I think we are talking about slightly different issues, and perhaps it is a lack of clarity in my post. I agree with you that the politicians doing this are acting out of pure political malice. I think my broader point--which is always a bit in the background given my own life experiences--is that conflation of religion and conservative politics that makes up the evangelical base of the GOP.

It is kind of like my response to Karl Rove. I expected him to do what he did because he is, from everything I can read, a rather amoral person who will do whatever he can. He is the guy who would, in a different context, sell drugs to school kids. So when he played the homophobic card to get voters to the polls, it was hard for me to be surprised. But I was surprised that some of the people I grew up with, who actually have morals, seemed to not mind those tactics.

Does that clarify?

Smitty said...

So your point isn't this this particular thing in and of itself - changing election rules - is the issue; it's simply endemic of a whole system of actions and beliefs. This is just one more of many myriad examples of the right's inconsistency. And of course, to that point, I agree.

Streak said...

Correct. We could use the examples of Conservatives opposing legislation that protects women, or the entire attack on the poor and working poor. Nothing about that is consistent with their faith, yet my conservative evangelical friends go along with--or even clap along with it.

Smitty said...

It goes right along with that "violent Jesus" article I linked above. That's so dissonant, it's like they've achieved Zen through the dichotomy.

leighton said...

Well, you know my broken-record spiel about what "tribalism" means, by definition, is a restricted moral universe such that those outside the tribe have zero rights and are unworthy of consideration. (Insiders may, at their sole discretion, care if they choose to, but demanding that they care is somewhere on the spectrum between oppression and outright warfare.) Humans in general parse language according to whatever social preconceptions they happen to hold. So you, for instance, might read the gospels as being inclusive of everyone, whereas followers of a ruthless faith might read exactly the same texts* and be strengthened in their beliefs that Jesus and community and justice are only for the right kinds of Christians and everyone else can just twist.

That's what I think we've been over already. Here's something I haven't quite figured out. Why is it that people of faith who know praising injustice and longing for oppression is wrong still fellowship with others who do this? How is that not a dealbreaker for communion?

* This is uncommon, I think, because the most fervent worshippers of the bible are the least likely to have read it. But not all apologists for Christian empire are so obviously silly.