unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows'
houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall
receive the greater damnation.
- Mark 12:40
Bush is a hypocrite in the Biblical sense of the word. He holds
aloft the ideals of community service, then brings down his arm
to smash the poor. In the midst of the carnage, as virtually every
state folds up its tattered social safety net in abject fiscal despair,
Bush summons the Black clergy to revival-type meetings, his minions'
arms outstretched like auctioneers, waving federal contracts.
initiatives is a monumental deception, the centerpiece of Bush's
grand plan to reap political profit from the economic and social
devastation of Black America. Bush and his allies among the Democratic
Leadership Council are intent on transforming African American churches
into houses of rightwing patronage. These purveyors of corruption
tempt Black ministers with fat contracts, in hopes of fomenting
massive schisms within the community. The stage has been set for
bribery and vote selling on a scale never before experienced in
is a near-perfect deceit, cruel and utterly cynical. While victims
pile up in their millions, lives shattered by the relentless Republican
wars against the entire gamut of public social services, Bush unveils
a menu of contracting opportunities, newly available to the
clergy of those same, victimized communities. There is no need to
demand allegiance to the Contract Giver - that is a foregone conclusion.
and skinnin' for the side that's givin'
have repeatedly stated that their goal is to double the usual 8
- 10% GOP vote among Blacks, just enough to win key elections -
especially in the South. The GOP's bean counters have done the math;
they know how many congregations will suffice to achieve the goal.
And they are quite confident that the Right Rev. Dr. Greedygut will
step forward, grinnin' and skinnin', trailing his flock behind him.
Republicans' strategic objective is more ambitious. Faith-based
contracting is designed to create centers of well-funded, compliant,
self-satisfied alternative "leadership" among Blacks.
The secret is out: All of those furious, Republican rages against
the "poverty pimps" and "entitlements" of old
are now revealed to have been jealous outbursts. Bush aims to become
the ultimate Poverty Pimp, Mac-Daddy of the ghetto. The ministries
in his stable will represent a constituency for privatization of
social services, the larger Republican mission. Persons formerly
entitled to assistance, the infirm, ex-public employees, all can
line up at taxpayer-funded church soup kitchens. First, however,
they must greet Bush's emissary, the Right Rev. Dr. Greedygut. He
is the one who is entitled, now.
some corporate boardroom in Hell, this is called a win-win situation.
For the Right Rev. Dr. Greedygut, it is a grin-grin situation.
represents only a fraction of Black clergy. But there are enough
of him - and her - to serve the Republican Party's purposes. The
federal vaults have been thrown open, and the preachers invited
to look inside.
the twisted, greed-consumed, racist world that Bush inhabits, every
virtue is turned to vice, every exemplar of social responsibility
reborn as a scam. Thus, propagandists for the Charity Aid, Recovery
and Empowerment Act - the legislative label for faith-based initiatives
- point to a 2001 survey by the Hartford Institute for Religion
Research to show that 90 percent of Black churches provide some
type of social services. African Americans also sponsor the most
types of outreach ministries, including food, shelter, and various
kinds of counseling. Paid for by the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly,
a huge GOP contributor, the survey results are presented as a rationale
for privatization of social services - especially during economic
downturns. "There's an enormous amount of counseling going
on in these days when men and women, even highly-placed persons,
lose their employment," said the institute's Prof. Carl S.
logic feeds on itself: As more people fall victim to the Republican
public sector wrecking ball, church-based providers must pick up
a greater share of the social service burden. Therefore, the logic
goes, more public monies should go to churches! The Right's
destruction of the social safety net is used to justify privatization
and churchification of services vital to human dignity, health,
and sanity. Such is the reasoning behind what George Bush considers
his most important Black political initiative - and Trent Lott's
favorite Black offering, as well. (See "Trent
Lott Furor Threatens Faith-based Bribery Scheme," December
19.) No one puts any stock in the formulation, least of all the
sneering charlatan in the White House. It is as bald a political
ploy as ever devised in the name of religion. However, the Right
Rev. Dr. Greedygut knows there's something in the scheme for him,
and he's grinning.
has turned the social discourse on its head. Speaking to the U.S.
Conference of Mayors, the President launched into his usual, stilted
faith-based homily, before finally giving one thin lip's worth of
service to the public sector. "We recognize there must be secular
alternatives for those who wish to use the services," said
the world Bush is attempting to create, public-administered services
will be mere "alternatives"
to private and church-based providers, although public dollars
will pay the preacher-entrepreneurs.
the Trickster mocks and abuses the historical fact that Black churches
have done more than their white counterparts on behalf of the needy
- he demands further disinvestments in public services to the poor
and soon-to-be-poor. It is as if he and his boardroom cronies are
snickering, "Blacks like doing that kind of goody-goody thing.
Let's drum up some more business for 'em." With not a hint
of shame, the Bush crowd hijacks the legacy of African American
compassion, and hitches it to their own bogus, cold, corporate "compassionate
promises preachers special, cash dispensation. "In every instance
when my administration sees a responsibility to help people,"
Bush told an Indianapolis rally in July 1999, "we will look
first to faith-based institutions, to charities and to community
groups that have shown their ability to save and change lives."
United for Separation of Church and State.)
initiative is a transparent euphemism for pulpit-based patronage.
Right up to the minute that Trent Lott reminded the forgetful about
the true nature of bigotry in America, Bush insisted that discrimination
against religion was the nation's main bias problem.
ACLU suit in Louisville, Kentucky, early last year, exposed faith-based
scheming as political favoritism for the clergy. $2 million in federal
housing grants were earmarked for church programs, only. "By
requiring grant applicants and recipients to be affiliated with
religion, this government-funded program unfairly excludes all organizations
doing essentially the same good work," said David Friedman,
General Counsel of the ACLU of Kentucky.
to the grant guidelines, eligible projects must be "undertaken
by, sponsored by, or developed in partnership with local faith-based
organizations" or result in "substantial benefits"
for a faith-based partner. These are set-asides for the clergy,
by political design - the kind that make preachers want to set themselves
down beside the politician with the grant.
it wanted to get cozy with the Black church, the GOP had a lot of
catching up to do. With midterm elections around the corner and
2004 not far off, Bush's federal machinery and local GOP organizations
put their faith-based show on the road. Hundreds of hopeful ministers
showed up in Columbia, South Carolina, in July, and the tour drew
an overflow Atlanta audience, in October.
turned away 1,000 people and still had about 2,000 people there,"
exulted Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based
and Community Initiatives. The Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment
Act was stalled in the Senate, but that didn't stop the Bush men
from scheduling millions more in grants. As if everything were perfectly
legal, Republican salesmen enticed the assembled ministers to review
rich menus of contracting opportunities offered by five federal
departments. By the time the road show got to Philadelphia, George
Bush himself was set to announce that he would keep the spigot flowing
by executive order. To Hell with the legislative branch and those
liberal, constitutional skeptics.
Trent Lott, that other great fan of massive southern resistance,
spoiled Strom Thurmond's and the entire GOP's party - for the moment.
Bush's discrimination-against-religion theme had become temporarily
inappropriate. He had come to the Philadelphia podium to rejoice,
yet found himself having to repent on behalf of his party. The December
12 executive order was overshadowed, but federal agencies remained
open for church business through the holidays.
the issue is up to the U.S. Senate, leadered by Bill Frist, of Tennessee.
Faith-based bribery is, if anything, an even higher GOP priority
than before Lott's breakdown. As we pointed out, it is a near-perfect
deception, a scheme tailor-made to undermine Black leadership through
cooptation of the clergy, yet non-racial on its face. Bush has begun
calling his measure the "Armies of Compassion" bill, invoking
the War on Terror (!) by pointing to the drop-off in donations to
some charities in the wake of September 11.
Black lawmakers are keenly aware that the Charity Aid, Recovery
and Empowerment Act will wreak havoc in their districts, they are
reluctant to directly address the patronage issue. No wonder. Ministers
are formidable political forces in Black America, prone to collective
self-defense when the integrity of "The Church" is questioned.
Unfortunately, we may all be done in by this taboo. The Right Rev.
Dr. Greedygut has very little shame, and will only be deterred from
the most craven political treachery by the massed opprobrium of
his colleagues and the community at-large - if at all.
Congressional Black Caucus stood solidly against the faith-based
stampede in the House, citing the same constitutional and anti-discrimination
arguments as the ACLU, People for the American Way, Americans United
for Separation of Church and State, and others. George Bush may
have the votes to steamroll the measure through the Senate; however,
in the wake of the Lott affair, the GOP craves a multi-racial blessing.
The time approaches when the CBC may be forced to say out loud what
each member knows full well: faith-based funding is a massive, racist
assault on Black political leadership, and an attempt to subvert
and cow the Black Church, itself.
Joseph Lieberman plays the Democratic Judas in this drama, ready
with a sloppy kiss and the still-potent clout of the corporate Democratic
Leadership Council. Presidential candidate Lieberman, always positioned
only inches away from the GOP, is George Bush's best hope for total,
"bipartisan" victory, and Black people's worst nightmare.
Lieberman has worked hand in glove with the White House for more
than a year, fashioning a faith-based fallback position that would
pay lip service to non-discriminatory church hiring. His own bill
opens Pandora's Box by financing "repairs" to "historic"
churches - a category that would soon be enlarged to accommodate
a huge cathedral or a tiny store-front - all of them historic and/or
"sacred places" in their own ways.
Lieberman makes his move, watch the CBC. Those who applaud the "compromise"
will have already acclimated themselves to the new era of faith-based
bribery and, whichever way the Senate vote goes, will soon constitute
a conservative caucus within the CBC.
a great deal of luck, the Senate may block Bush, and the Right Rev.
Dr. Greedygut will be preemptively defunded before he is allowed
to do irreparable damage. Otherwise, he will have to be confronted
on far more unpleasant terms, later. Black Texas Congresswoman Sheila
Jackson Lee offered an oblique warning to those Black ministers
who are preparing to join the Republican patronage feast. "The
IRS will have a field day," said Lee.
the end of this saga, the Right Rev. Dr. Greedygut is going to jail.
Few will defend him, and he won't be grinning, anymore.
relating to this commentary:
Theological Seminary survey press release
for the American Way on faith based initiatives