The past two decades has not been kind to American Christians.
In spite of the Bush presidency, largely supported by Evangelicals, the former administration’s efforts were focused on the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than at home. In 2000 only a single state recognized same-sex marriage. Today only 12 states do not, and gay rights have rapidly moved from a fringe issue to a widely accepted stance. Support for Roe V. Wade has seen a slow but steady increase, and belief in evolution has seen similar growth- even among conservatives.
With these defeats, it would be understandable if conservative Christians claim that their once mighty “Shining city upon a hill” has fallen into disarray, with the forces of secularism closing in for the final siege.
Enter Dr. Ben Carson, 2016 presidential hopeful, and, to hear many talk, one pale horse shy of the second coming.
A talented neurosurgeon and six-time best-selling author with popular Evangelical publisher Zondervan, Ben Carson is viewed by many as exactly the kind of genuinely Christian leader this nation so desperately needs.
While first noticed for his vocal opposition to Obamacare (actually voicing his issues directly to the president at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013), Carson has skyrocketed in popularity among religious conservatives for his unapologetic stances and often incendiary statements. Statements such as “[Obamacare] is the worst thing to happen to this nation since slavery”…
…and just yesterday arguing that homosexuality is a choice, using the reasoning “A lot of people go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out they’re gay.”
While swiftly retracting that last statement (under a torrent of criticism), Ben Carson has certainly been no stranger to specious reasoning, stating this in his 2013 book America the Beautiful:
“I believe God loves homosexuals as much as he loves everyone, but if we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman, we will continue to redefine it in any way that we wish, which is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.”
– America the Beautiful, Ben Carson 2013
Now if you’re wondering just how we jumped from gay marriage to the fall of the Roman Empire…
…Well I guess I am too. Stop me if I sound crazy, but I think there might be a few subtle differences between some perceived decline in values and thousands of barbarians sacking the capitol.
Carson’s likewise taken a strong stance against evolution, and has opted for more traditional stances on marijuana, citing concern that its legalization as a recreational drug will lead to more extreme use.
And you know what?
I’m not really worried about that.
Don’t get me wrong now- I disagree with the guy on pretty much each and every one of his positions. But he’s a contender for the Republican presidential nominee- why would I?
What bugs me isn’t so much Carson as it is his religious fan base, who seem to gravitate solely around the issue of abortion. “Respect for life” is the byword, and while I’m not going to address all that here, I think it’s these folks who are in for a nasty surprise.
Carson, you see, holds to the tragic misconception that handouts are harming the poor, rather than helping, and that poverty is chiefly caused by laziness. Just look at his interview with National Review:
LOPEZ: Fifty years after Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society speech, what is the bottom line for you on questions of poverty?CARSON: Poverty remains a great problem in America even after trillions of dollars have been spent in an attempt to eliminate it. This is because people do not recognize that the creation of dependency by providing inappropriate handouts is actually cruel and perpetuates poverty rather than eliminating it. Our resources and intellects can be much better utilized by figuring out ways to empower people in our society.LOPEZ: The current state of Detroit, where you were raised, must break your heart. Would you ever run for office there?CARSON: I would not run for office in Detroit unless I lived in Detroit, which I do not. I very much sympathize with the people there and hope that they learn many lessons about fiscal responsibility. Hopefully our nation can also learn before it suffers the same fate.- May 29, 2014
Firstly, let me disillusion anyone who might have the wrong idea of how welfare works. Social workers aren’t dancing through the streets handing out bags of cash. Getting even the most basic assistance is an excruciating process, often only available long after it’s too late.
What I find really disturbing is this Prosperity-Gospel-By-Any-Other-Name, claiming that the destitute people of Detroit need to “learn a lesson”. As if many of ’em had anything to do with the mess they’re in.
See, I have trouble believing that either Jesus or the primitive church would’ve had a “**** ’em” approach to widows and orphans. I’m fairly confident the good lord told ya to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, not to sadly shrug and murmur “Well, maybe they’ll learn.”
And lest anyone think this is just empty rhetoric, Carson has been cited as wishing to cut 10% out of every federal department’s budget.
So would that include foreign aid?
The Facebook page calling for endorsements for Ben Carson provided that link above, and what struck me was that one of the commenters (in favor) sported the “nun” symbol for solidarity with Iraq’s persecuted Christian minority. What so many, many, many Christians forget (conservative and liberal alike) is that their actions at home affect their brethren abroad. Bush might have been popular among Evangelicals in the US, but made life hell for countless believers across the globe. What about aid to the poor and downtrodden of the world at large? Are they lazy, indolent folk who need a lesson in “fiscal responsibility”? Are the refugees to pull themselves up by their bootstraps?
Carson, like so many Republicans, has come out with unconditional support for Israel– support which comes at the expense of the much-beleaguered sons and daughters of the very first Christians.You don’t get to have it both ways, people. You want a strong Christian leader? Well, he or she’s gonna have to be Christlike, even if it does mean providing for the poor and treating your brothers and sisters in God abroad with the same deference as given to those at home.
I know how difficult a sacrifice that must be, but I’m sure you’ll get through it.