... it’s too hard for me to start this blog post with the sentence that I feel should start this blog, which is this: I cried tonight when I saw this image pop up in my Facebook feed: “Don’t forget to pay your taxes this year so the government can give it to people who don’t work as hard as you.”
The vitriol I see spewed at the poor finally got to me tonight, and here I am, sitting in my living room with tears on my cheeks because I just don’t know how to keep excusing people for these kinds of statements. It’s in my nature to see the good in people, even when they have views that conflict with mine, but how much of this am I supposed to take?I see angry, hateful images that target the poor on a daily basis. Even though I try to hide people from my Facebook feed who post offensive stuff frequently, it still pops up in unexpected places. And it’s not just Facebook. I hear stuff like this in the waiting room at the dentist, in the lobby of a hotel where I’m spending the night before a family wedding, in my classroom coming from my students, walking through the streets of my city or another, in editorials in my local newspaper, on blogs, in church services. I can hide problematic people on Facebook, but I can’t hide ideas like this from showing up in the real world.
St Paul says be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), but it is all too easy to be conformed to this world. because we are bombarded by the world's values everywhere we go, as Liz Boltz Ranfeld shows in her blog post. In web sites like Facebook we find the world's values distilled into neat little epigrams, but we have them drummed into us all the time, by advertisers, politicians, celebrities and all the rest. And it's hard to resist. As another neat little epigram puts it, "go with the flow".
But St Paul reminds us that as Christians we are called to go against the flow, to be countercultural, to march to a different drummer.
Since the Reagan/Thatcher years especially, this despising of the poor has been particularly strong. But when these values appear among Christians it is really a mark of apostasy, or at the very least what Russian theologians calleddvoeverie -- double-mindedness. To paraphrase Elijah: How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if the Market, then follow him (I Kings 18:21).
Baal was the god of prosperity, of commercial success. And some Christians have contextualised their theology in a form of syncretism, to justify worshiping God and Mammon. It is called Prosperity Theology. But even if we don't try to justify it in that manner, we are still influenced by it at every turn. One can't escape it. Nowadays, one can say that the dominant religion of Western civilization is the Market.
Ayn Rand's ideology of "Objectivism" has been around for a long time, and though it has its vociferous admirers, not everyone is prepared to acknowledge it openly. But since the Reagan/Thatcher years it has been widely accepted in diluted form. Its values are regarded by its devotees as axioms, needing no justification, brooking no contradiction.
But Elijah says "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him."
And the people answered him not a word.