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Compassion and Punishment

By Carl S ~

Compassion: Deep awareness of the suffering of another. Sympathy. Tenderness. Empathy.

Something that rankles me is the fundamentalist attitude of "Tough S**t" for the misfortunes of others. For example: I remember one discussion, initiated by a member of Teen Challenge, where I brought up the inefficiency of prayer, citing the fact that thousands of babies and children died every day in Africa while they were being prayed over. The teen, echoing what he'd obviously been taught, said this was due to the fact the people of Africa were being punished for their "immoral promiscuity." His breezy answer impressed me for its heartlessness, but it shouldn't have; after all, he was only repeating a fundamental Christian belief. Consider the rationale: Punishment is his God's knee-jerk answer to most problems he has with humanity. If the human race deserved to be drowned nearly out of existence for its "immorality" - even that of infants - then who are we to question God? According to Christian doctrine, Jesus, too, weeping over the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem's inhabitants, nevertheless said they had it coming because they didn't accept him. There is no depth in Jesus' weeping, let alone "deep awareness" of their suffering to come. His tears are maudlin, shallow, and uninvolved. And so was this Christian teen's answer.

Constantly, examples of Christian non-compassion keep appearing: Hurricane Katrina's devastation, the thousands of lives lost in tsunamis, 9/11/2001? All due to the immorality of gays, secularists and non-believers turning away from God. Compassion? You've got to be joking! When news reports of gays dying from AIDS first came out, the evangelical response was they were being rightfully punished by God for their immoral life-style. Who cares, since they had it coming? If women die from back-alley abortions, or become infertile from attempts to self-abort (and according to reliable statistics, approximately 100,000 women in the state of Texas have attempted to self-abort in the last 2 years alone), well then, they should be forced to bring their pregnancies to term. If they're that opposed to the will of God, then let them suffer and die. God is punishing them. And so should God's people, doing God's work, make even more laws denying abortions in a clinical setting to them, even if it means denying them access to essential health care. That'll teach them. Compassion, my eye!

The state of Maine, headed by a vetoing governor as close to a Bible belt politician as you can get, is the only New England state to refuse federal funding to expand Medicaid. That isn't all: forty thousand MaineCare recipients have been cut from the rolls. The "holy values" religious right keeps trying to scrap the Affordable Care Act, is behind building more prisons, is in favor of the death penalty, and for barring illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.

Why don't the fundamentalists have compassion for the poor, the needy and the wrongfully imprisoned?Ever since I sent a 60th anniversary note thanking the monastery for throwing me out, I've been getting petitions from Catholic organizations. One of them is Priests for Life, an anti-abortion PAC. They have a mania for "fetus rights" even at the cost of a woman's life. They demand rights for a fetus or an embryo, and not for women who have a right to how their bodies are used; after all, they're murderers if they abort, and deserve no compassion. Although scriptures say nothing about the subject of abortion (but plenty about killing undesirable infants), they persist in spending millions of dollars and thousands of hours for the "person-hood" cause. I have to be angry. What the goddamn hell about compassion for all the thousands of victims of pedophilic clerics in every single country where they've been trusted, some of whom committed suicide? All I've ever seen of compassion from churches was applied solely to the perpetrators

Why are so many Christians opposed to the Affordable Care Act, which has already brought heretofore unavailable health care to millions? Why aren't evangelicals raising hell over the fact that the federal minimum wage is not being raised? Why aren't the "personal prosperity gospel" faithful seeking prosperity for all? Consider RFRA prejudice. Why does "religious freedom" mean denying freedom to others? ("We won't serve gay citizens. "Tough s**t. They choose to be homosexual and it's against my conscience to wait on them." But, as my friend said, even if homosexuality could be a choice, it's still wrong to deny rights to gays. The Christian fundamentalist moralist values emphasize punishing others for not being as "moral" as themselves.

Fundamentalists see the world as a battle between "us" and "them." When it comes to religious righteousness, anything negative is permissible or overlooked whenever it befalls "them." This is the evangelical mind-set that explains how so much prejudice, hatred, and injustice is perpetuated. Nobody cares about the victims, because their God doesn't care about the victims - he blames the victims.

Why don't the fundamentalists have compassion for the poor, the needy and the wrongfully imprisoned? Why don't they protest because the bottom 90% of American households averaged, for 15 years now, zero income growth, while the wealthiest 10% received 100% of income growth? Is it because wealthy interests/politicians elected by Christian voters advance their agendas? The religious business interests - the Greens of Hobby Lobby, the Koch brothers, the Duggars, Falwells and Pat Robertsons of this nation - can't and don't care to relate to the suffering of others. Could it be that it's because, like so many fundies, they've got theirs, and want to keep adding to theirs? ls it because they, after all, are God's chosen, so they have no compassion for those suffering as a "result of their choices?" Doesn't this make us the "them" who deserve being punished? It should be no wonder that those of us who are compassionate oppose them and their shallow, punishing God.