romney and the pharisee

Today’s gospel reading is the story of the woman ‘who was a sinner’. She crashed a Pharisee’s dinner party and began washing the feet of Jesus with her tears, and anointing them with fine oils. (Luke 7:36-50) Luke turns the spot-light onto the host, who cannot understand why Jesus would waste his time with this woman. Doesn’t he know who she is?

The Pharisees are portrayed in the gospels as self-righteous and judgmental souls. Their lives were focused on rules and regulations, easily measurable means of good and evil. Doctrinal blinders were screwed tightly onto their heads, blocking out the messy greyness of life. Grey is a nuisance, because it requires a radical paradigm shift from the much easier, black and white view of the world.

The leaked video of Mitt Romney addressing a $50,000 a plate GOP fundraiser have rightly sent out warning signals to voters, and have left Republican strategists scrambling into damage control mode. In the video, Romney characterized Obama supporters as,

There are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.

The scary thing is that Romney is not apologizing for these words, even though commentators are pointing out the crass falseness of his statement. The 47% includes retired elders, who are now collecting the social security they have paid into all their working years. It includes the working poor, the under-employed and families raising children. It includes service women and men. AND, it includes millionaires with sufficient tax breaks to avoid paying taxes!

This video shows a man completely out of touch with the people that he wants to lead. Lead. Obviously not serve. Speaking to a room full of wealth, he projected an exclusivity and sense of entitlement that does not bode well for the common good…We are the rich and we have earned it. We did not and do not need anyone to help us. And, we do not want to help anyone else. Those who don’t pay taxes are lazy, dependent, victim-minded losers. And, we don’t need to waste our time with them.

The Pharisees were a self-righteous lot, too. They believed that they had earned God’s favor and looked down on those who had not attained their idea of holiness. They, themselves, were God’s chosen. The rest were unclean sinners. And they did not want to waste their time with them, either.

Doctrinal blinders or the blinders of wealth and privilege have no place in leadership. Yes we need doctrine, for it can provide a spiritual and moral foundation to our lives. And no, wealth in itself is not a sin. Money, when used wisely, can bring great good. But, we cannot be so focused on either that we forget to look outwards, beyond our cocoon of like-minded souls.

Leaders are called to serve all. Self-righteousness, sweeping judgments and exclusivity has no place in leadership.

2 thoughts on “romney and the pharisee

  1. There are many who believe that increasing reliance on the government by increasing numbers of the population is a road to disaster. For many there is a temporary reliance. For many there is a permanent reliance. The cycle of poverty and dependency grows deeper and stronger. I am reminded of a former employee. A sad situation. She is poor. She also has 6 children by at least three different men. I don’t believe she was ever married. Her oldest daughter, mentally challenged, has a baby now. She moved constantly because there wasn’t enough money for rent. She has since left the city for another town. I suspect she was no longer able to rent in this city. Have we enabled her, encouraged her to live in poverty? Have we really made any inroads into improving poverty? Feeding people, yes. But they don’t know how to fish. And we don’t require those capable of doing so to learn to fish. Our system doesn’t seem to help those in need to take steps toward a better future. In many instances our efforts to feed people also keeps them captive in the poverty cycle. I don’t know what the answer is, but it doesn’t seem to me that what we are doing now is working. Human dignity requires more than food. If politics and government create such a system of dependency it seems reasonable that those most enslaved by poverty and dependence will vote for more of the same because there doesn’t seem to be any other way for them to survive.

    So as crass and cold as Romney’s statement may be, it may contain some uncomfortable truths about our system as a whole. And the attitudes of each of us towards the poor and how to improve the lives of the poor.

  2. Hi Anthony,
    Thanks for your comment. You bring up many valid points. How to break the cycle of poverty really is a question that has been with us forever – with no clear answer in sight. And, yes, our attitudes to the poor must be honestly explored.

    Sometimes it helps to look at individual situations. The classic ‘welfare Mom’ is often categorized as an irresponsible woman who keeps having children she can’t afford. Some are even accused of having more children in order to get more benefits. Sadly, where is the man in this picture? Where are his responsibilities? What of the woman who has had to escape an abusive situation?

    We know several young mothers on social assistance in our town. They are good mothers, and their children appear well loved and looked after. Perhaps we need to rethink the role of these mothers in society. If a single mother has several children, outside work can become impossible. If the only work she can get is a minimum wage job, then child care costs wipe out her salary. Child care, itself, is meaningful work. Perhaps we can look at welfare benefits for these mothers as a ‘salary’ for staying home and caring for their children while they are young.

    I know that this doesn’t answer the bigger question of dependency and the cycle of poverty. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say! Perhaps it’s just that we need to look beyond statistics and generalizations (eg. Romney’s remarks) and see the individuals behind them.

    Thank you, again, for your comments Anthony. There is much to ponder in them.

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