Oklahoma Impoverished Remembered by Some Faithful

All this manufactured nonsense from the right-wing religious fundamentalists here and elsewhere that Christmas is under attack pushed an interesting Oklahoma church story to the back pages last week.

The story, written by the Associated Press, featured some local ministers arguing that the federal government should not try to balance the budget on the backs of poor people.

Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson Poster From the Digital Museum of Modern Art

According to the story, “Representatives of Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Muslim congregations urged Congress to reject proposals that would cut appropriations for Medicaid, food stamps and student loans.”

In the story, a local priest, rabbi, and a representative from the Oklahoma Conference of Churches all weighed in on the religious immorality of cutting programs to the nation’s poorest to try to balance a budget out of control because of President George Bush’s and the Republican’s economic policies.

The House recently voted to cut Medicaid, Medicare, and student loan programs. Initially, the House proposed cutting food stamp funding, a measure that all the Republicans in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation supported. This is an especially telling issue in Oklahoma because the state ranks number one in hunger, according to a recent study.

U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Warr Acres), a Mormon who is an outspoken proponent of mandating religion in government institutions, was one of those who voted to cut food stamps to Oklahoma’s hungry citizens.

How does one reconcile supposed deep religious faith with actively ensuring poor people from your area suffer immense pain? Do not count on the local corporate media asking Istook this question as he prepares to run for governor next year.

Meanwhile, Republicans like Istook plan to keep extending tax cuts to the nation’s wealthiest. Polls and election results show the country’s religious fundamentalists in the tradition of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson remain solidly behind these tax cuts and their major proponent, President George Bush.

Many right-wing Christian fundamentalists in Oklahoma spread hate against gay people, obviously support war and torture, practice a survival of the fittest logic when it comes to poor people, and whine about how they are persecuted because some people have the audacity to say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.”

Meanwhile, many of the country’s mega-churches, most of which are fundamentalist in belief, will not even hold services on Christmas because that would be too much of a burden on their flocks.

In Oklahoma, Church On The Move in Tulsa, with an announced weekly attendance of 10,000 people, will not hold services on Christmas. Lifechurch.TV in Oklahoma City also will not hold Christmas services.

Obviously, those local religious officials who want to help poor people are fighting an uphill battle in the nation’s new religious moral wars, especially here in Oklahoma, a hotbed of right-wing Christian fundamentalism. They should be commended for standing up for compassion and truth.

These religious folks who see budget cuts to the poor as immoral argue their faith requires them to take care of the most vulnerable in our society. That is a lasting moral idea that truly represents any definition of the Christmas spirit.

It is tragic that this basic tenet of all the world’s largest religions has been twisted and distorted by many Christian fundamentalists in Oklahoma and elsewhere. Where are their voices about the poor, the hungry, the vulnerable?