Sunday, December 27, 2009
FAITH-BASED INITIATIVES: Feeding the Poor By Executive Order of the King
Some things I’ve learned since the last time I wrote:
I. We have selective memories.
II. Jesus Shaves.
Wait - before I go any further let me explain.
Wait - No – I’m not going to explain a four month absence. In the spirit of Jesus’ absence that lasted 40 days in the wilderness – plus @40 days between tomb and heaven - o yep - and his 2000 year disappearing act – I have every right as a woman to remain
number three: irreverent
And if you doubt what I write below – feel free to request 28 pages of meticulous notes I have on the subject. (part of what I’ve been doing – behold – I go to prepare a place for you – if it were not so, would I not have told you?)
Back in the day – remember when George W. Bush started (actually continued and strengthened) that Faith Based Initiative thing? Remember how fucking bent out of shape we all were?
What?!?! The Federal Government is giving Taxpayer Dollars to Religious Organizations in place of the Secular Welfare Programs cut by the 1990s Neo-Conservatives?! Over my Dead Body!
Maybe you’re of the breed of: Less Government is Better Government – Bureaucracy Sucks! (yes it does – I can testify – it sucks when it works against you – but does the opposite of suck when it works for you). In which case – you can selectively choose which side of the FBO fence you’re on – the government is just returning tax dollars to the people – or the government is expanding and overreaching.
From the conservative side of the fence – we hard-core Jesus people didn’t want the government anywhere near our churches… not even to give us money to help other people who didn’t have money. Once a church accepted money from Uncle Sam – o shit – o damn – no way in Tarnation that one of my churches would have accepted out and out $,$$,$$ from Big Brother to help little brother – because that would mean that Jesus would have to answer to Pontius Pilate – and Pontius Pilate is a secular heathen – those two descriptors not necessarily being exclusive.
So – fast-forward 8 years – 8 years of attempted court cases and bitching and moaning and moaning and bitching from the mid to far left about the Establishment Clause being trampled on (which it was) and the separation of church and state being misinterpreted (which it was)… 8 years of pure Bush Hell, right? Remember how annoying Bush was about giving money to Faith-Based Organizations?
And then – remember when the Freedom From Religion guys attempted to sue the government for misuse of tax dollars and it made it all the way to the Supreme Court and was dismissed because Faith-Based Initiatives were an EXECUTIVE ORDER – which ultimately meant they were barking up the wrong tree since Bush and his predecessors insured that the Executive Office can do pretty much whatever they want and not answer to anyone. Point being, no way these Freedom From Religion guys could sue the Executive Office for misuse of their tax dollars. But it was as close as we got to shutting down the FBOs.
This is where the Selective Memory problem comes in:
Obama comes along – promises that he’ll clamp down on the office and make sure religious groups that receive federal money will not be able to discriminate in the hiring process. He gets into office, Changes the name a bit, and Changes his mind a bit.
But where is all the uproar? The uproar has ceased to exist – and it’s not just me saying so – the uproar over Obama’s handling of, AND STRENGTHENING of, FBOs has gosh-darn-near disappeared – not just a turned down volume – but gosh-darn-near disappeared. He decided to NOT hold FBOs accountable for their discriminatory hiring practices. We give taxpayer dollars to organizations who would never hire me because I’m an atheist – or that person because he is jewish – or that person because she is a lesbian femi-nazi.
Here’s the rub: reporting of the issue has all but disappeared. There was even a Pew Study that shows to what extent the press's uproar about FBOs has taken a long winter’s nap.
Is the uproar alarm on snooze, or has the uproar alarm been thrown out the window?
To top things off – another cute not-so-little Pew Study from last month shows that NOW More Democrats than Republicans SUPPORT FBOs.... a grain of sand in that Pew Study.
So I’m asking - Where Is The Uproar? And - WTF, Democrats?
No seriously – WhatTheFuck?
I’m also here to make sure you know how many in the Faith want nothing to do with FBOs. Would you want the federal government giving you money as a round about way of controlling what you can or cannot say - especially if you're teaching people that they will live forever if they believe in someone who rose from the dead? The churches of my experience – the extreme right ones – are actually fairly close to the ideas of the extreme left on this… and no – as much as the Republicans would like us to believe, Obama is not extreme left. The Jist is – keep executively ordered (taxation without representation?) faith-based initiatives (freedom of religion AND freedom FROM religion) out of the church door.
I’m not here to argue Establishment Clause precedence. I know we are becoming more and more comfortable with politicians and pastors jacking each other off under the table. Are you comfortable knowing where your pastor’s or politician’s hands have been when you press their flesh at the end of a rally/sermon?
Tell me how comfortable you are. I maybe could learn a trick or two.
Have I lost you yet? If not, let me draw you a picture.
One dreary fall day – chilly but not unbearable - I was waiting at a bus stop in a colorful part of town. I had just left a delightful homework-regulated interview at the oldest Carnegie library in the City. The library represents a community in full bloom: American Indian mosaic murals on the wall, Muslim magazines on the shelves, tutoring services to every person who sets foot in their doors. No one – but No One – is turned away.
I’m at the corner, and this little cracked out native girl stumbles by, approaches another poor but portly caucasian girl. They have an exchange of words and the little cracked out girl continues to stumble down the street. The portly girl decides to explain the scenario to me.
“She had bp38734s in her scarf.”
“She had What?”
“BR9879dfs in her scarf. Bpricouoijldfs.”
I stood embarrassed that I was experiencing a failure to communicate.
“Yeah – she was trying to sell the Bricks in her scarf.”
“O yeah? Really!”
((Finally, I got it. This girl didn’t require much interaction from my side.))
“Man – she going to get busted if she not careful – walking up to people like that. I feel sorry for her – I really do.”
“Yeah – she’s native and that apartment building down there with all the native colors – they built it for the Native Americans – and now people like her have no place to go because the building is swarming with Somalians.”
((O shit – I say to myself. -This girl is either a gold mine or a mine-field. Just hear her out))
((Ironic full-disclosure: I helped teach free non-spiritual yoga at the American Indian Center down the block from the apartment complex she was talking about. Apparently a lot has happened in 2 years.))
"Yeah – I feel really bad for her. Used to be this was a place for American Indians, now the Somalians have moved in and ya can’t recognize the place – this hood is swarming with Somalians. Everywhere you look – Somalians everywhere you look. Don’t get me wrong –((she’s on a roll)) – I have nothin against Muslims. They can believe whatever they want. That’s cool. But I know without Jesus in their hearts they’re in trouble. If they don’t accept Jesus into their heart, they’re going to hell.”
The bus was coming – I’m trying not to say anything – no point in saying anything – I mumble, “I guess that is what some people think.”
She wanders off to talk to another lady.
And here’s the rub. Again. (are you liking or disliking my rubs?) This girl who just defended the American Indians, dissed the Muslims and witnessed for Jesus was waiting to get into a Center that has a fading sign that reads:
Join us for Bible Study Every Day at 5:30
Free Meal Served after 7 pm Worship and Prayer Service. Doors Locked at 7.
I look in the window. There is a ceiling to floor larger-than-life painting of Jesus – a handsome, kind Jesus with his arms open, looking down on a small room with a table piled with loaves and loaves of bread.
Read that sign again please.
This little dingy building passes out Free Food! – as long as you sit through a worship and prayer service.
O shit! I thought as the bus rolled up and I rolled away. O damn!
I don’t know if this Center accepts Federal Funds. I doubt it does. It is falling apart at the seams. But the lock still works to keep people in and keep people out.
This is an unholy example of FBOs. What if that Center received federal money to feed the poor – and Allah knows someone needs to be feeding the poor on that corner – What If? That girl is being fed at the corner. She has a big heart – but she also has a big stomach. We all have stomachs. How long will it be until an outcast Somalian girl ventures in to be fed – and has to listen to the message of Jesus’ salvation before she can eat? How long will it be before that cracked out, bricked out American Indian girl ventures in and has to listen to the Faith that cut her heritage off at the knees before she can eat? I’m guessing it is happening right now.
I’m also pretty certain that right now federal money is holding together big-hearted organizations that prey and pray on Americans with holes in their stomachs – and no one is causing an uproar.
In the meantime down the block, the Franklin Community Library opens its doors – doesn’t lock anyone in or out – doesn’t turn anyone away. Public Library funding has been slashed. Granted the Public Library doesn’t feed stomachs, but it does feed minds and hearts – former fundie girls rubbing elbows with Somalian girls hiding their legs who sit next to American Indian men and women who will never settle for being locked in or locked out of the Rez. Praise the Lord and pass the Mashed Potatoes!
That’s all I’ve got. As I said – I have nearly 30 pages of notes on the subject. Dinner Time! Come and Get It.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: SURVEY: The Starting Line: Media Coverage of the Faith-Based Initiative in the First Six Months of 2001 and 2009. Aug. 12, 2009.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: SURVEY: Faith-Based Programs Still Popular, Less Visible. Nov. 16, 2009.
Top to Bottom Paintings:
"Living Water" Simon Dewey
"Christ" by Chris Young
"The Weight of the World" by Ron DiCianni