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Hating the Rockefellers By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 13, 2008

Many conservatives oppose The Rescue/Bailout, portraying it as encroaching socialism. But the Michael Moore Left opposes it too, insisting it’s a rescue plan only for sleek Wall Street fat cats.  The Religious is naturally in the second category but somewhat more restrained.  Declining Mainline Protestant denominations have fewer members, but billions in assets, much of them hinged to the stock market.  So most of their chieftains are a little less "prophetic" on this issue.

Boldest among the Religious Left spokesmen has been United Methodist lobbyist Jim Winkler, who resorted to familiar class warfare resentments.  "The rescue of the rich is taking place right now," Winkler shrilly opined, noting the supposed proliferation of limousines on Capitol Hill in recent days. Presumably he has watched from from his office in United Methodist Building, across the street from The Capitol. "The rest of us are being thrown to the wolves," he decried.

For Winkler, the Bible is very clear.  Jehovah is against the Bailout!  "The wealthy have already benefited dramatically, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, in tax cuts voted for them by other rich people. The Bush administration and Congress are filled with millionaires who profit personally from tax cuts."  Winkler also exploited the financial crisis to lambaste the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


"Hundreds of billions of dollars have already been wasted on a war of aggression against the people of Iraq," Winkler declared.  "The Taliban has regrouped in Afghanistan because the people of that country do not want a foreign military occupation of their land, and the current field commander is asking for more troops.


The scriptures repeatedly warn against the consequences of untrammeled greed and of nations determined to conquer and dominate other nations and peoples."  Supposedly making his case, Winkler quoted from the Gospel of Luke and the Psalms, neither of which seemingly provides specific financial or geopolitical counsel for governments.


Socialized "single-payer" health care is also crucial for economic justice, Winkler asserted.  And he disclaimed:  “The financial bubble has burst. Corporate greed must be replaced by the biblical mandate of stewardship. All we have is ours ‘on loan’ from God to be used for good in this world. John Wesley’s mandate to ‘do no harm’ is violated when we prey on the vulnerable.” 


Yes, Christians naturally do believe in protections for the poor.  But in the Winkler/Religious Left mindset, “greed” only afflicts fictional financiers who resemble the top hated, tail-coated tycoon on the Monopoly play board.  Greed is in fact a universal sin affecting all classes.  Much of the current financial crisis is traceable to government mandates requiring mortgages loans to low income buyers who could not afford them.  Political supporters of those mandates accrued credit for their ostensible social concern.  But their supposed compassion, undoubtedly supported by Winkler and the Religious Left, may ultimately create an economic downturn whose primary victims will be the poor.


Quaker official Mary Ellen McNish, writing for the Huffington Post, shared Winkler’s class resentment themes.  “Economic inequality is at its highest level since the Great Depression,” she opined, portraying an American economy that resembles 1932, while unavoidably getting in her own digs against the Iraq War.  “While our nation spends $720 million a day on the Iraq war, millions of households face a winter without heat because social programs have been starved of funds for eight years,” she claimed, seemingly oblivious to the huge increases in social spending under the Bush Administration.  “In our global household, 26,000 children under 5 die from preventable causes every day,” she further recounted, implicitly assuming that global childhood disease persists only because of American greed.

The Quaker Lady demanded more “progressive taxation, strengthened regulation and public control, and measures to reduce foreclosures, create jobs, and re-fund human needs.” She further inveighed against “tax breaks for the most affluent.”  And she condemned quick Congressional approval for The Rescue/Bailout, which she likened to its “hasty solutions as it rushed into the Iraq war.”

A lobbyist for the far-left elites of the United Church of Christ wrote Congressional Banking Chair Barney Frank vaguely urging that any financial rescue plan protect the most “marginalized.”  She faulted the “irresponsible deregulation of lending institutions” and insisted that “the propensity to greedy behavior must be checked before it leads to the ruin of financial institutions.”  Naturally, she omitted any reference to government imposed sub-prime mortgages in the financial crisis.

More philosophically, former seminary president Susan Thistlewaite, now a fellow with the left-leaning Center for American Progress, addressed her fellow United Church of Christ ministers, refreshingly reminding them that it is not the clergy’s role to “dictate a certain economic plan” to the government.  She recalled her lobbying Congress in the early 1980’s with other liberal clergy to argue against “wholesale cuts” in social programs.  Meanwhile, a more select group of ministers were invited to the Oval Office to meet with Ronald Reagan.  She recalled that the infamously left-wing Rev. William Sloane Coffin said that it was the job of pastors to proclaim that “Justice shall roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream,” while it was the President’s job to handle the “plumbing.”

The constantly meddlesome Coffin, who often expostulated on the politics du jour from his fashionable Manhattan pulpit, did not heed his own advice, of course.  But Thistlewaite still recalled the anecdote to declare, not unwisely, that “it is not up to us in the religious communities, across the wide range of religious affiliations in our divers nation, to dictate to the government exactly how to do what needs to be done.”

Meanwhile, also more prudently, officials of the United Methodist Church's multi-billion dollar pensions fund, avoiding Lobbyist Jim Winkler's class warfare anger, counseled calm amid the financial crisis.  "We are invested for the long term," the pensions chiefs insisted.  "While we remain vigilant of performance and volatility on an ongoing basis, we are also committed to the philosophy of prudent investment of assets over a very long term."

Denouncing mostly mythical villains, loosely based on memories of John D. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan, is easy fare for some Religious Left lobbyists with guaranteed incomes from church collection plates.  But prelates with actual responsibility over real financial assets know they must speak more responsibly.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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