Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » December 2004 » Is this what "moral values" means?

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12/31/2004: Is this what "moral values" means?

Over at Working for Change, Bill Berkowitz makes some salient observations about the Christian Right's response to the recent natural disaster: Christian right's compassion deficit

It took President Bush three days to ready himself to go before the television cameras and make a public statement about Sunday's devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck southern Asia. Even though he was late, and much more money will be needed, the president pledged at least $35 million in aid to the victims of the disaster. But, as of December 30, some of the president's major family-values constituents have yet to be heard from: It's business as usual at the web sites of the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the Coral Ridge Ministries.

These powerful and well-funded political Christian fundamentalist organizations appear to be suffering from a compassion deficit. Organizations which are amazingly quick to organize to fight against same-sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, and embryonic stem cell research are missing in action when it comes to responding to the disaster in southern Asia. None of their web sites are actively soliciting aid for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami.

In fact, there is no mention of the giant earthquake and tsunami that devastated southern Asia. There are no headlines about the dead, injured or the tremendous damage; there are no urgent appeals for donations; there are no phone numbers to call; there are no links to organizations collecting money and providing aid for the victims.
Heaven knows, that wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that the countries hit by the disaster are not "Christian nations". In fact, some of them--like Indonesia, for instance--are predominantly Muslim, or have large numbers of Muslim citizens....
The web sites of the same organizations that organized a campaign to block Arlen Specter from ascending to the chairmanship of Senate Judiciary Committee within hours of his post-election night warning to President Bush about radically conservative judicial nominees are now silent.

At the Reverend Donald Wildmon's Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) web site, the preferred cause -- and top story -- concerns the upcoming battle over the president's judicial appointees. The AFA hasn't forgotten about gays and lesbians: Under the headline "P&G Chairman Gives Thousands to Promote Homosexual Agenda" the AFA claims that "A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, recently gave $5,163 in P&G stock to help the homosexual community repeal a law in Cincinnati that prohibited giving special rights to homosexuals."


Over at the Family Research Council's web site, the powerful Washington, DC,-based family-values lobbying group is outraged that Christians are getting cheated out of Christmas, with two stories, "Is the Grinch Stealing Christmas?" and "Merry BAH HUMBUG-mas!" focusing on this. There are no alerts about the earthquake/tsunami.

At the Christian Coalition's (CC) web site, the organization's president, Roberta Combs, is busy thanking CC supporters for their "time and effort in getting millions of Christian Coalition voter guides (English & Spanish) distributed to your family, friends, churches, Christian bookstores and neighborhoods all across America."

Family.org, the web site of Dr. James Dobson's Colorado Springs, Colorado-based multi-media mega-ministry, Focus on the Family, is all over the map with its features: From messages to "remember Focus on the Family in your year-end giving," to helpful hints on how to survive Christmas without "The Lord of the Rings," to movie reviews of "Fat Albert" (thumbs up), "The Aviator (thumbs down), "Meet the Fockers" (a disappointed thumbs down), and "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (a reluctant thumbs up).

First and foremost, Concerned Women for America (CWA) wants you to know "The Truth About Alfred Kinsey." The twenty-five year-old organization, which bills itself as "the nation's largest public policy women's organization," is also offering a "Special Christmas Feature" from Dr. Beverly LaHaye, founder of the organization, and Dr. Janice Crouse. But not a word on the earthquake/tsunami.

Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM), Dr. D. James Kennedy's Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based operation, is also looking in other directions. At its web site there are advertisements for the CRM's upcoming Reclaiming America For Christ Conference, which will be held in mid-February, and for several of Dr. Kennedy's sermons.

At townhall.com, the mother of all conservative web sites and "the first truly interactive community on the Internet to bring Internet users, conservative public policy organizations, congressional staff, and political activists together under the broad umbrella of 'conservative' thoughts, ideas and actions," current headlines are totally absent earthquake/tsunami news. Here are the top five stories as of December 29: "Reggie White, defender of faith -- on and off the field"; "Focus should shift from testing to teaching"; "False friends"; "Cheap drugs or safe drugs?"; and "European court forces Microsoft to alter its products."

Over at falwell.com, the Rev. Jerry Falwell is explaining "The True Meaning of Christmas," recruiting for his new organization, The Moral Majority Coalition, and soliciting cruisers for a late July sojourn aboard the Queen Mary II.

While many Christian evangelical organizations have rushed to help the victims, why aren't the nation's major religious right political groups -- quick to claim the moral high-ground at every opportunity -- putting their organizational muscle to good use? Why hasn't the devastation from the earthquake/tsunami been on the radar screens of these groups? Are they all on a values vacation?
After all what's more important--or more Christian? "Saving Christmas"? Keeping those depraved gays from entering into long term, commtted and loving relationships? Boycotting companies for "promoting the 'homosexual agenda'"?

Or maybe feeding the hungry? Caring for the sick and injured? Clothing the naked? Comforting the afflicted?

What would Jesus do? I don't know, but I know what Christians think he said:
"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' [Matthew 25:31-45, Revised Standard Version]
Looks like damn good advice to me....

And I don't see anything there about "saving Christmas" or "persecuting those evil homosexuals", either.

UPDATE, 1/2/05: From a comment to this post I've made a couple minutes ago, just copied here because I'm lazy, but I do think in all fairness this should be mentioned here in the main post, too:
A friend told me today that some of the organizations Berkowitz mentions have added tsunami relief content to their websites, and she speculates that they were "late to the party" because the disaster hit during the holiday season when offices might be short staffed.
Given the way that websites can be fairly immediately updated (and in many cases, the appropriate personnel will have after hours access to the site from home), I'm not sure this completely explains why the sites in question didn't get with the program earlier, but if they have since added such content they are to be commended.

Len on 12.31.04 @ 01:06 PM CST


Replies: 3 comments

on Saturday, January 1st, 2005 at 5:26 PM CST, Mick said

$169 million later, Bill Berkowitz's observations seem less "salient."

on Sunday, January 2nd, 2005 at 2:24 PM CST, raje@ukonline.co.uk">Nicky Travis said

Well, I have just come to this page from www.christianitytoday.com where they have more than one article concerning the Tsunami including links to relief sites. The general article is good however and the scripture concerning the sheep and the goats ( as it is called ) from Matthew 25 is apt to mention and should rightly provote many. Compassion is ( or should be ) a hallmark of Christianity and these things are of upmost importance. Of course, the other things matter as well, but no Christian should forget love for others.

on Sunday, January 2nd, 2005 at 10:17 PM CST, Len Cleavelin said

Re: the salience of Berkowitz's observations, i note that your blogpost (cited) concerns American relief efforts; it doesn't break down how much of that is from Americans in general, and how much is from the specific "moral values" organizations that Berkowitz criticizes. IIRC, Berkowitz himself made it clear to point out that there were definitely evangelical charitable organizations that were taking a lead in tsunami relief. I have no doubt of that, and they're to be commended.

A friend told me today that some of the organizations Berkowitz mentions have added tsunami relief content to their websites, and she speculates that they were "late to the party" because the disaster hit during the holiday season when offices might be short staffed.

If she's correct in saying that some of the websites have since got with the program (I have no reason to doubt her, but I've not confirmed that myself), that's cool and they're to be commended. I'm not sure the holiday season is a complete excuse for not updating the website in a timely fashion (after all, that's why God created pagers, right? :-) ), but I'm probably just being snarky, eh?

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