Dan Nejfelt, Faith in Public Life’s Senior Editor and Training Coordinator, worked at Sojourners magazine as part of his graduate study of journalism at the University of Missouri before coming to FPL. Prior to that, he taught remedial reading and writing to 7th and 8th graders in rural Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member. Dan blogs about health care, the Religious Right and budget issues.
Before Christmas John rightly took Cardinal Francis George to task for suggesting there were similarities between the “Gay Liberation Movement” and the Ku Klux Klan. Among other things, John said
The cardinal’s persistent question – who is the enemy? – speaks volumes about a disturbing strain of Catholicism in public life these days. It’s the quivering voice of a fearful Church that sees itself as a victim, not a reconciler, the voice of institutional callousness drowning out compassionate humanity, a Church eyeing enemies around every corner. I hope the Church I worship in and love is still too full of grace, justice and mercy to embrace that shrunken, embittered posture.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune yesterday, George apologized. Instead of just offering the PR-calibrated “I’m sorry if anyone may have been hurt by what was said” type of quasi-contrition, the Cardinal actually confirmed the substance of John’s critique. From the Tribune story:
“When I was talking, I was speaking out of fear that I have for the church’s liberty and I was reaching for an analogy which was very inappropriate, for which I’m sorry,” George said. “I didn’t realize the impact of what I was saying. … Sometimes fear is a bad motivation.
…George said although church teaching does not judge same-sex relationships as morally acceptable, it does encourage the faithful to “respect everyone.”
“The question is, ‘Does respect mean that we have to change our teaching?’ That’s an ongoing discussion, of course. … I still go back to the fact that these are people we know and love and are part of our families. That’s the most important point right now.”
While I still wish the Cardinal would go further in renouncing his hateful rhetoric, credit where credit’s due. Time will tell, but perhaps George has learned an important lesson.
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Rick Santorum’s virtual tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses has generated a great deal of commentary about the importance of his support from social conservatives. Let’s take a quick look at the entrance polling for a fuller picture of what happened.
Evangelical/born-again Christians comprised 57% of caucus-goers, and Santorum received a large plurality of support from them – garnering
38% 32% of the vote, as much as Ron Paul (18%) and Mitt Romney (14%) combined. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, more than almost 1-in-5 participants in the caucus were evangelical Santorum supporters.
Issue-wise, Santorum won a whopping 58% of voters who listed abortion as the most important issue. Perry came in second among this group, earning the support of just 11%. Among caucus-goers who listed the economy as the top issue, Santorum got 19% of the vote, compared to Romney’s 33% and Ron Paul’s 20%. Santorum came in third among voters who said the budget deficit was most important, earning 19% of votes, compared to Ron Paul’s 28% and Romney’s 21%.
Ideologically, Santorum did best among the most conservative voters. He won a plurality of Tea Party supporters by a 10-point margin, a plurality of self-identified “very conservative” voters by a 20-point margin, and edged out Romney among registered Republicans. He did poorly among moderates (8%, compared to Romney’s 40%), opponents of the Tea Party (13%, compared to Romney’s 43% and Ron Paul’s 21%), and independents (13%, compared to Ron Paul’s 43% and Romney’s 19%).
Age-wise, his strongest support was among 30-44-year-olds and 45-64-year-olds, both of which he won. He came in second among 17-29-year-olds (23%), but because of their low overall turnout and Ron Paul’s dominance among these young voters (48%), just 3.45% of all caucus participants were under-30 Santorum supporters.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find crosstabs that would paint a clearer picture. But the story told by the data we do have is clear – Santorum was not only social conservatives’ favorite, he also won the overall race to the right. And he did very poorly among everyone else.
Photo credit: djwhelan/Flickr
UPDATE: Corrected Santorum’s percentage of the evangelical vote.
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Data released this week shows that 2.5 million more young adults now have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law passed in March 2010. This is a remarkable achievement, especially as young adults enter the workforce at a time when job seekers outnumber jobs more than 4-to-1.
For reasons beyond my control, I went without health insurance from age 24 to 28. Uninsured twenty-somethings are often called “young invincibles” who forgo health insurance because of the good health and sense of invulnerability associated with youth. I’m sure that’s true for some, but not me. I didn’t get a basic check-up during those four years, and I depleted savings and leaned heavily on my family to pay for a couple of emergency room visits, numerous specialist appointments and skyrocketing prescription drug costs. I know what it’s like to be hounded by collection agencies over medical bills. But it could have been much worse. If my pre-existing condition had taken a turn for the worse, or I’d faced serious illness or injury, I would have gone bankrupt and jeopardized my parents’ ability to afford retirement. Or I could have been denied necessary treatment. No one deserves that, and it’s a disgrace that so many people face such situations.
If the Affordable Care Act’s provision allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 had been in effect back then, my time without health insurance would have been cut in half. When conservatives on Capitol Hill and religious right leaders work themselves into high dudgeon about the moral urgency of repealing “Obamacare” in full—including this provision—I take it personally. It’s hard to believe that people who claim to follow Christian principles would enthusiastically pursue a policy agenda that puts millions of people like me in direct physical jeopardy.
Passing the Affordable Care Act was the right thing to do. And I’m especially grateful to those in the faith community who worked tirelessly to pass it.
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Media Matters has an important new report about the alarming frequency with which leaders of the Family Research Council appear on cable news shows. You might ask why that’s a big deal. As the report spells out, it’s because FRC regularly traffics in false, demonizing rhetoric about the LGBT community.
Since being designated a hate group by the highly respected Southern Poverty Law Center in November 2010, FRC staff have appeared on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC 52 times. Only two of those segments mentioned FRC’s designation as a hate group. (Despite FRC’s claims to the contrary, the SPLC designation stated “Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.”)
A few notable hateful, misleading claims by FRC leaders cited in the Media Matters report:
- The “It Gets Better” Project is a disgusting and “part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that ‘lifestyle.’”
- “The ‘Research is Overwhelming’ that gay men are more likely to molest children.”
- “Senators Who Vote For [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] Repeal Will Have ‘The Blood Of Innocent Soldiers On Their Hands.’”
In addition to these examples, we’ve also noted FRC’s willingness to make inflammatory false claims on a variety of issues, such as:
Having diverse viewpoints in the news media is important. But so are accuracy and credibility. Giving FRC an elevated platform in the public debate on critical issues implicitly extends to them an image of honesty and integrity they simply do not deserve. Kudos to Media Matters for so thoroughly cataloguing this problem.
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As the economy relegates social issues to the back-burner, Religious Right leaders are baptizing the Tea Party’s agenda of punishing the vulnerable in order to further enrich the wealthiest Americans. Toward this end, Tony Perkins wrote a post on CNN’s Belief Blog this week arguing that “Jesus was a free-marketer.”
To make this point, Perkins offers a noncontextual exegesis of the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19. Rather than a figurative lesson about using Spiritual gifts to grow the church, Perkins interprets the story as proof that God rewards industrious businesspeople with fantastic wealth and punishes lazy people. He also offers this dubious, troubling description of the nature of our modern capitalist society:
Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades: that everyone gets a trophy – equal outcomes for inequitable performance. There are winners and yes, there are losers. And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual. [emphasis added]
This, in a nutshell, is what I call The Big Lie about our economic system – the argument that everyone gets what they deserve, that poverty and prosperity alike are truly earned.
Taken to its logical conclusion, Perkins’s argument means that there was a sudden massive collapse of individual work ethic in Fall of 2008 that led to millions of layoffs. It concludes that those who currently can’t find work have only themselves to blame (never mind the fact that job-seekers outnumber job openings more than 4-to-1). Perkins’s argument suggests that a difference in work ethic is what keeps 49 million Americans in poverty and allocates to the richest 400 Americans more wealth than the bottom 50 percent. In other words, it’s pure fantasy that serves no other purpose than to deny the existence of economic injustice.
Perkins also clearly argues that this system is not inevitably sinful:
Some would argue that such an approach encourages abuses, the likes of which we have seen on Wall Street. While some egregious abuses have taken place, they are not inevitable or intrinsic to free enterprise. [emphasis added]
This claim ignores that corruption and predatory practices are ubiquitous features of not only free-market capitalism, but also the entirety of human history. I’m sure Perkins recognizes that we are a fallen people, but his economic philosophy doesn’t seem to square with this belief.
Two immutable aspects of human nature are that we have a strong desire to pursue narrow self-interest, but are also social beings who seek the moral approval of our neighbors. Free-market capitalism, in theory, reconciles these impulses by harnessing our selfishness in a way that establishes an inherently fair economic and social order. The problem, in practice, is that it simply doesn’t work. The continued prosperity of the bankers whose greed crashed the economy and the ongoing hardships faced by teachers and nurses who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own, are but two small pieces of evidence.
I don’t mean to imply that hard work has nothing to do with prosperity. It absolutely does. I know of many very rich people who work very hard, and have also met poor people who don’t. But the inverse is also true. Reducing success and failure to consequences of personal virtues is foolish at best and dishonest at worst. And Perkins should be ashamed of himself for using the Bible to perpetuate this myth.
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