Okay. So I’ve had this thought kicking around in the back of my head each time I read some of the comments and commentary by the more . . . extreme conservative politicians and advocates out there. And each time it’s kicked, I managed to stuff it back down again. But you know how these things can be. They work on you through erosion. Bit by bit, there’s less of you left to gather up the energy needed to stuff things down, and eventually, you just give in.
What is it, you ask? Well, it’s this. I can’t help seeing a stark contrast from time to time between conservative politics and the conservative religious types who so often embrace those politics.
Note: this doesn’t necessarily mean I’m talking about you. Whoever you may be. I’m not making a blanket statement here, so please don’t try to take offense by jumping in front of this bullet. It’s an observation on some patterns I’ve seen–not an end-all-be-all statement of Truth.
But let’s look at welfare or healthcare as specifics. You’ll have liberals put up a plan for increased welfare or universal health care, and conservatives freak out. They start talking about how it’s a step toward socialism and the burning of the constitution or something. And honestly, I’m okay with the freaking out on those grounds. Differences of opinion. Fine.
But then some people inevitably start using other arguments. Arguments like, “welfare’s just used by lazy people who don’t want to get off their bums and do an honest day’s work.” Or “Why should I have to pay for health care for some person who’s too lazy to go out and get a job?” Arguments also include things like people on welfare just spend all their money on booze or cigarettes or drugs.
Bottom line is that for a significant number of people, it appears that the poor are poor because they are lazy or stoned or drunk all day long. It’s like there are no really poor people. Only people who are trying to game the system. Trying to get something for nothing.
And let me say that I do understand there are people like that out there. It’s true. I’ve met some of them. Talked with some who are quite open about what they do. And it really gets my goat. Right there with you on that. And there have been times that I’ve used the same arguments in the past. Guilty as charged. But time changes all things, and the more I think about things, the more I come to see certain facts. Is it too much to think that the scammers might be in the minority? That there are a lot of, well . . . real poor people who are poor because they’re doing all they can to get by, but they just can’t get ahead?
Of course, there’s no real hypocrisy implied yet in any of this. But then many of these same conservatives are big time Christians. (I’m limiting this to Christians for now, since it’s the religion I understand most clearly.) And that’s when things fall apart for me. That’s when that thought at the back of my head starts kicking its way out. Because I’m pretty sure Christ never stopped to ask any of the ten lepers how they got to be sick. He didn’t ask for a drug test. He didn’t tell any of them they really should have gotten a full-time job so that they’d have health coverage which could see to their treatment.
He just healed them.
When 5,000 people showed up without the forethought to bring a sack lunch, Christ didn’t tell them all to go get something in town. He didn’t berate them for being short sighted or thoughtless.
He just fed them.
When the Romans tossed dice at His feet while He was on the cross–not even caring at all for anything Christ thought or did–He didn’t remind them they really should have figured out who was the Son of God and how they should be treating Him.
He just forgave them.
My point is that maybe we (and note that I say “we,” since I consider myself pretty darn religious, and I’m tempted too often to use the same arguments to dismiss people on welfare or otherwise in need)–maybe we should be a bit slower to jump to conclusions. What’s the worst case scenario? That we get taken advantage of by some people? I don’t think so. I think the worst case scenario is that we don’t help some people who desperately need our help. That some people die, or get buried in health bills, or freeze over winter . . .
Which do we want to prevent more? The scammers, or the deaths?
I know there are arguments against the government administering the funds to help people. That churches can do the same things. Or charities. But if you think churches and charities don’t get scammed just as easily, I’ve got a Nigerian Prince who needs you to launder some money for him.
Can welfare and health care and the like be administered more smoothly and efficiently? Sure. Should we wait to implement them until they can be? I don’t think so.
Again–I’m not against free debate and discussion. But I think sometimes some of the people making those arguments should take a step back and see if they’re not preaching one thing and practicing something very different.
And that’s all I have to say about that.