Breaking news! God changes position on poverty!

NBC 5 wrote:

From the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: “Rep. Baker of Baton Rouge is overheard telling lobbyists: ‘We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.’ Baker explains later he didn’t intend flippancy but has long wanted to improve low-income housing.”

Traditionally the Christian god is depicted as loving the poor and downtrodden. You know, camels and eyes of needles and blessed are the meek – all that jazz. This stunning policy reversal will surely send shockwaves through the Christian community. :roll:

It goes deeper. If you follow the historical line back from the current incarnation of the baptist and evangelical churches in America over the last 150 years or so, you will find that many of them were had charters built around virulently anti wealth beliefs.

3 cheers for god!

That damned god promised he wasn’t going to flood people anymore, too. Real cool, god.

Well there you have it. George Bush doesn’t care about black people and now God doesn’t care about black people.

This ties into the big questions in politics: the “What’s the Matter with Kansas” question. In that book, Thomas Frank asked “why do red state voters vote for “values” over their “economic interests?””. At the time I felt there was something wrong with Frank’s formulation and in the intervening time I think I’ve figured it out: historically Americans have ALWAYS voted their values, it’s just that values used to be tied much more closely to economics.

Historically, Christianity was a religion of the poor and downtrodden, and in early America there were very strong strains of belief around “Christian charity”. “Justice” and “fairness” as applied to economics were strong values issues in the US in the early and mid 20th Century. I think the historical pattern is that helping the poor was seen as a Christian duty and that policies to assist the poor were seen as being consistent with Christian values. Therefore, liberal economics were consistent with Christian values for much of the 20th Century. The wealth-focused elites were seen as having weaker values, as valuing material wealth over human life and family, as being grasping, valueless and even souless materialists.

For a segment of the Christian community, including a big chunk of the “Christian Right”, that has changed. I’m not sure how and when it precisely changed. American Christianity has always had a certain element of Calvinist thought, which focuses on wealth being a sign of God’s grace and poverty being a sign of poor moral character. This contrasted with the traditional evangelical view of the poor, which was much more charitable in nature.

My friend Mister Widget feels the big sea change in attitudes came around in the 1960s as a backlash to the cultural change then. He specifically pinpoints Ronald Reagan’s bashing of “welfare mothers” in the 1960s races in CA as a sign of the change.

I am not sure when or how things changed, but they definitely did. Moral condemnation of the poor is a fairly common thing on modern right wing talk radio, and is often phrased in values terms: “those people don’t have personal responsibility” or “those people don’t have a work ethic” or “those people are just criminals/drug addicts/oversexed/etc”.

Race probably ties into this as well.

But the big picture is this: it’s NOT what’s the Matter with Kansans voting for values over economics, Americans have frequently voted values. Instead the question is: What’s the Matter with America such that helping the poor is no longer seen as a values issues, and that helping the rich is seen as a virtue?

Dan

It’s a fair question but it ties into things like the urban flight and decay to drug use to sexual values, more than simply a holdover from Calvinist days. I mean i probably have more in common culturally with white people from middle class Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and California then i do with my hispanic neighbors “across the tracks”. American is becoming, or has already become, a community of communities.

It’s also fair to say, when you look at New Orleans, how crime really taints people’s apprehension of the ‘other’. I know stories through 3rd parties of people brutally and senselessly murdered there. I know people whom can tell me endlessly of the pervasive fear, corruption, and violence throughout the city, and mostly in the and caused by the black community. But once this community has a majority of the votes it became virtual suicide to say outright “there is a huge crime problem, most of it done by a certain race”; at best you get grants, government handouts, ect. (This is also a demographic delimma politically in Texas with the enormous amounts of crime being caused on the border with Mexico due to the drug trade.)

America’s problem when deal with urban blight is that ultimately in America people are left to their own devices to fail or succeed. This implies a certain amount of cultural decay when things go wrong in a community. Now this may not be true but it’s certainly the popular perception.

And i think there is a certain amount of disgust with the Black community nowadays. With ghetto-rap stars making millions pawning fake machismo and tribal-like aggression and violence, and with generations of black communities net consumers of public wealth, among certain people there just isn’t much sympathy anymore. People are tired of dealing with what amounts to an entirely different country in so many cities, living in a parallel world that yet has been virtually banned to whites, that seems endlessly hell-bent on a kind of degenerate tribalism. Whatever the true causes, no one can say “Alright we’re going to clean up this city by throwing the lot of you into government housing, telling you exactly how to live your lives, where to work, how to eat, ect.”

I heard some comment, on the New Orleans disaster, that “maybe this will clean out the cockroaches”. Funny thing is that as racist as it sounds there is some truth to it. As NO was the most crime ridden city in the nation, how else (literally) could anyone have tackled the problem, at least from a practical perspective? You have a Mayor whom essentially plays the racism card almost by default; how can you make any headway against that, except in a disaster?

A theory I’ve been toying with lately is that the death of racism (people aren’t getting lynched anymore at least) has shifted all of that anger onto another scapegoat: poverty. People can’t handle too much reality, so clearly everything bad (taxes, war, society not sucking up to you all the time) is the fault of poor people. It’s perfect: they’re the most loathed group of people in the United States who aren’t automatically illegal by definition. You can make fun of poor people in mixed company all you want!

Jason I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

It’s not hard to see the through line from the death of communism and the need for those who rule through fear to find an enemy that they can define themselves by.

He just said he wouldn’t flood everyone at once. Non-global floods are still AOK.