Thursday, January 20, 2005

Faith and the Good Thing 

Courtesy of Zemblan patriot K.Z.: We have generally had little patience with Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, their listeners, their enablers, and their troglodytic bastard hellspawn who populate the boards at FreeRepublic.com. But nothing human is foreign to us; and although we have never tried hillbilly heroin and may therefore lack a yardstick for comparison, today we knew the forbidden, transgressive, but strangely addictive thrill of reading a newspaper item and thinking to ourselves Hillary? Shut the fuck up:
In a speech at a fund-raising dinner for a Boston-based organization that promotes faith-based solutions to social problems, Clinton said there has been a "false division" between faith-based approaches to social problems and respect for the separation of church of state.

"There is no contradiction between support for faith-based initiatives and upholding our constitutional principles," said Clinton, a New York Democrat who often is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008.

Addressing a crowd of more than 500, including many religious leaders, at Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza, Clinton invoked God more than half a dozen times, at one point declaring, "I've always been a praying person" . . . .

"The Clintons, on faith-based solutions, have always been way ahead of the curve," said [Rev. Eugene] Rivers, citing President Clinton's support of a 1996 law banning the federal government from discriminating against religious organizations seeking funding available to groups delivering social services.
No doubt the Reverend's most gracious compliments will have their intended effect -- that of inaugurating a bidding war between the parties. Let us nonetheless give Ms. Clinton the benefit of the doubt; let us assume that her remarks do not reflect her actual beliefs, but are instead the product of that debased, cynical, and (worst of all) misguided pragmatism that leads many frightened Democrats to imagine that they can win re-election by posing as almost-Republicans. Let us further assume that panic has led her to forget a basic rule of politics: that in the battle of $$$ v. $$$, the GOP almost always wins. And after that, let us turn to Max Blumenthal for a bracing reminder of what the taxpayer money your government spends on faith-based programs -- over a billion so far! -- has really bought:
But the Faith Based Intiative does not really serve as the spearhead of some government plot to evangelize the whole of America. In fact, it serves a far more cynical purpose: bribery. If anyone's wondering how Bush increased his share of the black vote by 2 points -- a considerable number for any conservative Republican candidate -- all they have to do is factor in the predominately black congregations he lavished federal money on.
Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, one of this city's most prominent black pastors, supported Democrats in past presidential elections, backing Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

This fall, however, the bishop's broad face appeared on Republican Party fliers in the battleground state of Wisconsin, endorsing President Bush as the candidate who "shares our views."

What changed?

After Bush's contested 2000 victory, Daniels felt the pull of a most powerful worldly force: a call from the White House. He conferred with top administration officials and had a visit in 2002 from the president himself. His church later received $1.5 million in federal funds through Bush's initiative to support faith-based social services.
The White House's bribery is so shameless, Bush's Christian Right backers openly admit the Office of Faith Based Initiatives is little more than a political tool:
"The political benefits are unbelievable," says the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the conservative Traditional Values Coalition, which helped shape the administration's faith-based strategy and the GOP's outreach to black Christian voters. "The Democrats ought to have their heads examined for voting against this."
And what did the founding fathers, in their wisdom, have to say about all this? You may be shocked to learn that there were moneychangers in the temple from the very earliest days of the republic, and the architects of the Constitution saw them coming from a mile and a half off. Thom Hartmann recently dug out a few choice quotes:
Throughout most of the 1700s in Virginia, a citizen could be imprisoned for life for saying that there was no god, or that the Bible wasn't inerrant. "Little wonder," notes Cousins, "that Virginians like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison believed the situation to be intolerable" . . . .

Madison even objected to government giving money to churches to care for the poor. It would be the beginning of a dangerous mixture, he believed - dangerous both to government and churches alike. Thus, on February 21, 1811, President James Madison vetoed a bill passed by Congress that authorized government payments to a church in Washington, DC to help the poor . . . .

[A]lways, in Madison's mind, the biggest problem was that religion itself showed a long history of becoming corrupt when it had access to the levers of governmental power and money.

In 1832, he wrote a letter to the Reverend Jasper Adams, pointing this out. "I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them will be best guarded against by entire abstinence of the government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order and protecting each sect against trespasses on its legal rights by others."
Now that is "way ahead of the curve" -- especially the one that Hillary's on:
Well, the last thing I remember, Doc, I started to swerve.
But you won't come back from Dead Man's Curve . . . .

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