Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Rant: AARP=Pro-Gay and Anti-Troops???

"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. People can be persuaded to accept the most inferior ideas or useless products". H.L. Menken

Things are heating up in the "discussion" over privatizing "reforming" Social Security. While the President travels around the country "listening" to Real Americans in town hall meetings (meetings in which all of the guests are vetted and all of the speakers are invited), his surrogates are winding up the message machine.

One of their first targets is the American Association of Retired Persons. The AARP has decided that the President's proposal on Social Security is a bad idea, and they have begun an ad campaign in opposition, which last Sunday had the apt tagline: "When your faucet is leaking, you don't fix it by tearing down the house". (Ed: It could be slightly different. I am going from memory here.)

So now, it's on!! Yesterday, this ad appeared on the website for the American Spectator:

Wow, talk about high concept. No text, no argument. Just simple, inflammatory, bomb-throwing images. The AARP is evil, EVIL!!! If we can't trust them with our troops and with keeping marriage safe, how can we trust what they say on Social Security?

This ad is produced by an astroturf (fake grass-roots) lobbying group called USANext. While the group claims over a million members, their latest financial statement showed zero income from member dues. Instead, their money came largely from the pharmaceutical industry to gain "support" for the President's Medicare Drug Benefit, which not coincidentally, was very generous to the pharmaceutical companies.

So predictably, this message will get picked up by "independent" talk radio hosts, and I'm sure Fox News will begin discussions, with much head shaking, over the decline and leftward shift of the AARP. But I've gotten used to this. As angry as I am over the way this kind of propaganda diminishes discourse in our country, I am no longer shocked by it. (Although this latest ad did set me back a bit). No the thing that really gets me is the way that conservative Christians (of which I am one) have not only been taken in by this nonsense, but that they are some of people creating this stuff.

The director of USANext (and the United Seniors Association, another astroturf group) is Charlie Jarvis. Jarvis is a former executive vice-president of Focus on the Family, and not surprisingly, Jarvis' work continues to be supported and closely linked to James Dobson's organization and their policy priorities. (For an example, take a look at the Family Research Council, Dobson's policy arm).

Now here's my rant. Why is it, that when conservative Christians become involved in political dialog, the quality of the discussion goes down, and not up? Why are prominent Evangelicals' contributions so often angry, blunt, and threatening? Did I miss the memo in which we were told to forget about being fair and irenic in our discussions? I don't get this at all.

You know, Christians are free to be wrong (or right) about their views on Social Security, because there is no direct biblical teaching on the relative role of the federal government in providing retirement benefits to its citizens in the context of a post-industrial economy. We can agree or disagree about how to best approach the issue, but there should be no disagreement on how we should talk.

The Bible says in Colossians: "Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone." (Col 3:5,6 NRSV)

"Wisely" and "gracious" are the keys for Christians as we speak to the world. It is difficult to see how Charlie Jarvis' ad fits that approach. We need to check ourselves, and take a hard look at the language we use. H.L. Menken's observation may be the watchword for marketers and political operatives, but not for us. For Christians, the quality of the discussion and the language we employ should matter as much or more than the outcome. Because what would it profit us if we gain a few political victories but lose our souls?

(Hat tips to Kevin Drum for the image and Josh Marshall for the info on Charlie Jarvis)


narrator said...

actually, I'd argue the Bible is quite specific about the requirement of "imposed charity." It is filled with legal requirements for treatment of the poor, the old, the helpless. It's as if no "American Christian" ever read the prophets as they speak to the Kings of Israel and Judea.

How anyone can read the Bible and find laws against homosexuality and abortion while missing the absolute rules for "required charity" (what we'd call taxes for social welfare) amazes me.

Bob Ramsey said...

On balance, I agree with the above comment. If one looks at Israel's legal code or the requirements for generosity in the NT, you come up with something very much like "required charity".

My only hesitation is that the Lord does not back up the policies of the US in the way he does the giving of his people in the OT and NT.

I also share the narrator's amazement over the way American Christians selectively read Bible. Any attempt to "christianize" American government and politics should have a much greater emphasis on helping the poor. Sadly, it has not.

Old SAW - S. A. Wilson said...

there are waco's on boths sides:

first, you've got to be kidding about "quality of discussion" amoung chritians! catholics & protestants killing each other is more like it!

second, are you judging all conservative critism of aarp by this one cheap shot? gotta have tougher skin man.

i've refused to join aarp because i disagree with its OBVIOUS left of center politics. aarp started out as a consumer group for old folks. now it just seems to be a demo party cash cow. i support ss reform... does that mean i'm "tearing down the house"?

third, the high tone of liberal christians... and where is that? ive been called a bible thumping nazi by my loving lib friends because i said i pray for bush.

oh, and remember those tv ads for a liberal church promising "your welcome here. we aren't hateful like those conservative churchs."

finally go to hugh hewitt and the powerling blogs for high tone conservative christian political thought & discussion to match any on the left.

thanks for playing. SW