Former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza Herman Cain participates in the Republican presidential debate airing on CNN, October 18, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
What is it with the crowd at GOP debates? So far, they have cheered capital punishment and letting an uninsured person die, and they jeered a gay soldier. At the most recent debate, they stood and cheered loudly for Herman Cain’s reassertion of his statement “Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”
I would say, if you don’t like the nastiness on display in these debates, don’t blame the crowd, blame these candidates. Blame the candidates for their sometimes astonishingly frank assertions that it is really okay for people not to come together and help each other out in time of need, like being unemployed and falling into poverty.
For that’s what government is in a democracy, it’s us, the U.S., all of us together, helping one another in time of need. That’s all. It’s just U.S.
People coming together in a democracy and helping each other out, however, is not in the ‘gospel according to Herman Cain.’ In Cain’s version of the biblical account of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus is a “perfect conservative.” “He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps…For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check.”
It’s a stretch even to call Cain’s perspective in this article “biblical literalism,” since there are so many actual errors of fact, as in Cain’s statement, “And when they tried Him in court, He never said a mumbling word.” See the Gospel of John, chapter 18.
But the biggest error Cain makes, and it is an error made by many who want to privatize helping the poor and the unemployed, and use the scripture to justify ‘keeping government off our backs, is to fail to recognize Jesus did not live in a democracy. Instead, Jesus lived under Roman occupation. Rome, a vicious, militaristic occupying power, was not exactly known for its excellent government programs to help the poor. Roman occupiers were far more likely to enslave you as to help you with food and job training.
If you would like to go a little deeper in scripture, and actually understand Jesus and his view of the Romans and unemployment, read John Dominic Crossan’s
God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome Then and Now.
Crossan caused me to ponder this question: Why did Jesus walk all the way to the Sea of Galilee and recruit fishermen for disciples? Why not recruit disciples from closer to his home in Nazareth? The reason, according to Crossan and his excellent combination of biblical interpretation and use of archeological material, is because the imperial Roman occupiers had wrecked the fishing industry for the locals with their oppressive policies. Why did Jesus find the disciples on the shore of the lake and not out in their boats? Because, Crossan helped me see, they were probably unemployed, our at least underemployed.
In other words, Jesus went to Galilee to call these unemployed and underemployed fishermen because it is they who would understand “(T)he logic of Jesus’s kingdom program…that program built a share-community from the bottom up as a positive alternative to Antipas’s Roman greed-community established from the top down.” (p. 118)
Hmmm. Share-community versus greed-community? Sounds a lot like what the folks at #OWS are saying, doesn’t it?
Mr. Cain, if you’re going to bring the Bible into your view of government and the economy, then go the whole way.
Understand that there’s a choice to be made: it’s Jesus versus Rome, then and now.