Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Church Hypocrites: Hate the Rich, Want Their Money

First, a defense of hypocrites. Hypocrites, by nature, profess to believe in something. Usually, hypocrites profess to believe in things of value, noble principles or virtues, though I suppose it’s possible for a hypocrite to believe in things that have little moral value. Either way, hypocrites, whether they mean it or not, stand up for a belief. It is in that risk taking that the character of the hypocrite is revealed to be flawed, thus negating the very values the person upholds. So by that measure, I consider every Christian to be perfect examples of hypocrisy, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Unlike their atheist or agnostic brethren, at least they confess to believe in something beyond themselves. And in that confession, they fall short, and are easily labeled as hypocrites.

So I am a proud hypocrite, but I do not hold that all hypocrisies are created equal. Blatant hypocrisy based on conceit or pride clearly are worse than the hypocrisies that are inevitable when one does their best to live out a moral life and falls short. So I will have the audacity to propose the kind of hypocrisy that irritates me the most. I was listening to a speech tonight by a pastor who is nothing short of courageous, who gave a very engaging speech, but also repeated a lot of very tired clich├ęs that have been disproved enough times to be discredited. Yet here they were again, presented as gospel truth to impressionable teenagers who are too young to understand economics well enough to debate.

The sentiment was great, the intentions are well-meaning, but how long do we have to hang on to the following untruths: The minimum wage needs to be increased, the rich are greedy, and huge companies like Wal-Mart are helping to keep the poor impoverished? There was no discussion of reliance on social programs, or the hint that they might make poverty worse. There was no discussion about the importance of the father in the home. At least he, unlike the State, understood that real change could come to the truly down-and-out if they could make better life decisions. He, for example, worked closely with many to help them become free of addictions.

One story in particular jumped out at me. The pastor, who works in inner-city Milwaukee, asked a banking CEO who makes $4.6 million/year when “enough was enough?” That’s a fair question to ask. Eventually, it seemed to inspire this CEO to donate over a million dollars to scholarships for poor African-Americans so that they might achieve. Yet, the same pastor could not see the irony when he lamented the woes of capitalism and recommended such socialist drivel as “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” or “Nickeled and Dimed.” What was it that allowed the banker to donate the $1 million? Was it socialism? Communism? No, it was the capitalist system, and the prosperity that came as a result that allowed him to give away a third of his salary for a year.

At one point, he asked, “Why does this country so hate the rich?” I wondered when the last time he watched the news was. Has he not yet heard that we are the most generous nation in the history of the world? Americans per capita are more charitable than anyone else, is that not correct? I guess because the minimum wage is only $5.15, America must hate the poor. But what about the data that proves that the minimum wage has never statistically helped the poor, or the simple common sense that if it did, the first minimum wage would have licked poverty? Inflation, you say? What do you think causes it? Increased in wages leads to increased consumer prices, and so the cycle goes.

I won’t preach to the choir (pardon the pun) anymore than necessary, I just have one request. For those who bemoan capitalism, please do me the favor of not benefiting from its fruits. If money from capitalism is as good as “blood money,” please be happy running a commune. I realize there is corruption in capitalism like any other economic system, but given its voluntary nature, I will defend it as a more moral system than the systems Paulo Freire or Barbara Ehrenreich espouse. Meanwhile, I’ll be looking the moral capitalists in the eye at my church and thanking them for their generous donations, which we will use as best we can to help those in need.

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