For a number of years now, I have held my tongue, not asking questions that have nagged at me, out of respect for some conservative friends and family I have managed to not yet alienate. I have hinted around the edges of the question of Christian conservatism and compassion for our fellow man, but I felt that posing them, especially in a public forum such as Facebook, would be an action from which I could not step back. Yes, there have been acquaintances I have questioned, such as the teacher I used to work with. He is now a public school principal and, as a very strict Catholic, he is openly anti-gay. After reading one of his anti-Obama and anti-gay diatribes on Facebook, I privately messaged him to ask whether he thought it was a good idea for him to publicly post such messages. Predictably, he responded aggressively, and asked why I would think gay marriage was OK and that he hoped that I would come back to Jesus Christ our Lord soon. But generally, I try to keep quiet to keep the peace. Somewhat.
But no more. The cognitive dissonance I see around me every day in my family, friends, acquaintances and coworkers makes it very hard for me to be silent. It seems that in today's society, it is more acceptable to demand that the poor get drug tested for food stamps or get thrown off welfare even when they have young children in the home, than it is to ask if these are Christian values. It is the Forbidden Question to ask if Jesus would have cared for the poor, or thrown them into the streets. It is Forbidden to ask if Jesus thought the poor were lazy bastards, or if he said we will be judged by what we do to the least among us. The conservatives I know twist themselves into pretzels when the mirror of Christian social conscience, so prevalent in the 1960s and 70s, is held up to their faces.
I don't think this is fueled by personal selfishness, since many of those who hold these beliefs are themselves on some sort of social program. Part of this attitude, I believe, comes from the lack of critical thinking in our society, which has been nurtured by media like Fox News and commentators like Limbaugh and Hannity. When I gently ask people what will happen to those thrown off welfare if they fail a drug test, they merrily assure me that they will be fine. When I have pushed the issue, and asked what will happen to their children should they lose food stamps, oh, dear, the conversation gets uncomfortable for them now! Suggestions such as, "Let the kids get food stamps, but not the parents," cause me to further question as to how a 2 year old can go shopping for food and make sure Mom doesn't get any. This angers people. They don't like to have their prejudices examined. When I have called Sean Hannity on a few occasions and asked him, after getting him to promise to not cut my mike, to be honest with his listeners and admit that every policy he promotes will put more money into his millionaire pockets and harm the lower and middle classes, he goes ballistic. Do not rip the masks off the faces of the propagandists, please. It is bad form and manners.
But for me, it is time to ask. I will ask my friends and neighbors, family and coworkers, if they think Jesus would want tax cuts for the rich, or a safety net for the elderly? Would Jesus want to cut off welfare for the poor so the top 2% could keep their hard earned money (and many of the wealthy in our country DO work very hard) so they can take an extra vacation to Vail? What will happen to the poor when cut loose? Will we look like India, with families owning a cardboard box and a piece of sidewalk? Do the conservative christians even care if this is the consequence of policies they boldly promote on their Facebook pages? What does a society look like that believes the poor are poor because of moral failings, not hard luck, and that Jesus would give them an extra kick when they are down? Hostile questions? Well, it's time.