Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The New Conversion Rate

Alternet's Adam Lee has a theory about why Republicans want to destroy the safety net for America's poor and let church charities deal with them instead: putting millions of Americans under a new theocratic state is exactly what they want.

Cutting government charity on the scale that Republican Congresses propose would be Armageddon," according to local charities and food banks. But I think there's an explanation that runs deeper than indifference. I suspect many religious conservatives are well aware that what they propose would mean throwing millions of people into destitution. In fact, they may be counting on it. 
Under the law, churches have wide latitude to discriminate and to put conditions on whom they'll hire and whom they'll serve, far more than any private business. In exchange for ladling out soup, they can make people sit through a sermon; they can impose an ideological loyalty test; they can refuse to serve people they think might be gay; they can discriminate for any reason or for no reason at all. (The one thing that churches can't legally do is tell their members how to vote - at least, they can't do this if they want to retain their tax exemption - but they're fighting hard to repeal even that trivial restriction, with right-wing pastors all around the country repeatedly flouting the law and daring the IRS to punish them.) 
While most evangelical churches proclaim that they want people to convert voluntarily, their actions show otherwise. When given the chance to coerce their audience, they'll do so gleefully, as we've seen in prison ministries all over the country where inmates are given special rewards and privileges in exchange for their cooperation with religious indoctrination. 
What they want, in short, is a captive audience. If government charity were to be cut off, the churches wouldn't be able to come close to supplying the wants of everyone, and so they'd have strong incentive to impose stringent conditions on the people they did help. Only the most faithful, the most compliant, the most submissive would be able to get through the door
And that's precisely the state of affairs that the religious right yearns for. What they want is to build a theocracy from the ground up, where the poor and the needy are abjectly dependent on a church that can yank away the necessities of life if it judges them insufficiently compliant, and so the masses will have no choice but to be corralled and steered. Even today, we can see this conservative vision put into practice, and witness the terrible consequences that result when it blocks the government from helping the needy. Consider Mississippi, which is both the most religious and has the most churches per capita of any U.S. state. If rosy visions like Ernst's were true, Mississippi would be the best place in the country to live. But in reality, it's the poorest and (by life expectancy) sickest state.

If you thought right wing Christians were furious with poor people getting tax money and having to jump through hoops to show they're really needy, wait until they have to go through the church to get basic needs met.  Millions of ready souls to be cared for, and the church can set whatever rules they want in exchange for help, including listening to whom they should vote for.

Which is exactly what the GOP wants.


Lurker111 said...

I have two small points of hope:

1) A Supreme Court that stated that the ACA was constitutional in the first place might--just might--not dismantle it because of, essentially, a typographical error that goes obviously against the intent of Congress at the time of its development.

2) If the court _does_ zing the ACA, I'm hoping that the health insurance companies have become so fond of their new income from new policyholders that they might put pressure on the GOP to fix the thing.

At least, I hope.

I shouldn't read your articles. They're beginning to act as significant depressants. :(

Horace Boothroyd III said...

That scenario makes the Daily Kos and FireDogLake crowd cream their shorts in anticipation. They hate the despised Democrats so much (how much do they hate the despised Democrats?) they hate the despised Democrats so much that they would welcome another opportunity to roast the President and his team as a gang of incompetent sellouts who Didn't.Even.Try. to get single payer through a recalcitrant Congress in 2010. They welcome any disaster that plunges millions into poverty for they have convinced themselves that the desperate poor constitute a reserve army that stands ready to leap into battle and carry them into power, the minute some charismatic leader utters the magic slogan.

Of course this is hysterical nonsense, but that was the thinking behind their sabotage vote last month and they actually did a pretty good job on that one. A good job of sabotaging the vote, of course, the reserve army of desperate poor having yet to show up and carry anyone into power.

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