Thursday, January 20, 2005

Follow up on Sociopathy

Reader (and hero) Fredrick Clarkson responds to the "Faith-Based Sociopathy" post below:

I have to agree that the Bush administration's approach to the so-called Faith Based Initiative is indeed, sociopathic. I have never believed that religiosity was the primary underlying reason for the Faith Based Initiative. Rather, it was an updated and expanded version of the spoils system: sending resources to prop up the base, reward friends, buy off or neutralize opposition.

With specific regard to the LA Times story, there have been many GOP efforts to divide the African American churches over the years, and this is but one of them. The GOP correctly sees the need to degrade the historic Democratic coalition. In just the past few days, Ken Mehlman noted that the GOP will seek over the next few years, to improve their numbers among African-Americans, Jews, and women.

Unable to get legislative authorization for a broad agenda, the administration has done everything it can to use executive authority to fast track money to "faith based" groups. This, while doing everything it can to underfund, and over regulate public agencies. Its an old GOP strategy to discredit and hobble government agencies and programs they don't like, and to try to turn taxpayer money over to private business. Now religious groups are beneficiaries of the spoils as well. That the justification for this is often "efficiency," is beyond preposterous, and warrants reframing from a reinvigorated Democratic Party.

What we are seeing in this, and of course in the attempted privatization of social security, no-bid defense contracts for Iraq, among other administration initiatives is the transfer of wealth, the common wealth, to base constituents and prospective constituents of the GOP.

We have seen this at the state level in the efforts to direct money for public education into religious "charter" schools. The lack of rigorous evaluation and oversight, has meant more than a few scams, and more than a few grants handed over to incompetent operators, as has been documented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and reported in their Church and State magazine.

What to do? First off, lets stop using the term "faith based," as much as possible. Its a Bushist frame that conceals and clouds the political and policy purposes of administration programs. I find it bizarre that mainstream and progressive religious groups have internalized use of the term. When we mean grants to religious groups, lets say so. "Government grants and contracts to religious groups." Hmm. doesn't have the same ring. "Faith based" sounds so soft, and safe. The term itself and the reality behind it, is a classic cooptation of faith itself. The state can never be the source of faith, even as many, if not most people in politics in government have religious ideas of their own. Their personal faith may have everything -- or nothing -- to do with their jobs, or their idea of public service. No government has a singular faith at work in its policies and programs. There is great diversity even among Christians. There is great danger in the cooptation of religious faith by the most powerful governmetn in the world. This reality is one dimension of the meaning of separation of church and state.

The Bush administration seeks to coopt churches into its political orbit, and seek to blind them with money and warm and fuzzy talk about faith. "Faith-based" my ass. This is as coarse and craven an attack on faith itself as we have seen in our history.

Take away the warm and fuzzy frame, and its easier to talk about the realities. Remember fuzzy math? What we have here is fuzzy faith.

Some of those on the Christian theocratic right have seen this clearly for a long time. They see the risk of corruption of faith by feeding at the government trough. The risk of corruption, compromise and dependency is too great as they see it. The Rovian politics behind the socalled Faith Based Initiative in all of its manifestations, understands this perfectly well. People of faith, of many varieties, even some of the most conservative theocrats, are a check against power -- the potential corrupting power of the state -- and must be dealt with, with money and the seductiveness of power, or otherwise coopted, neutralized or silenced.

Getting churches and religious based agencies to line up at the faith-based soup kitchen is a clever effort to keep them busy, while the Bush administration carries out the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world, and a largely unfettered march towards global domination.

That potential opponents have internalized the "faith-based" frame on their own, was undoubtedly an unexpected gift that Rove enjoys every day he hears a mainstream religious leader use the term and try to own it.

It is true that government grants have been given to religious agencies for years to carry out projects and social services, and that these were not necessarily corrupting, or violative of church state separation. I have some personal knowledge about this. But what we are seeing here is mostly not benign. In my view, it is an unconscionable attack on the independence of Christian churches of many varieties. In that sense, what is going on here is indeed, as pastordan suggests, sociopathic.

Fred says he's going to write this up in a slightly different form on his own blog. We'll post a link when he does.

At 12:16 AM, Blogger Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Very insightful comments. Fred needs to write more on this.


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