"Bringing faith to the West Wing" and "Base language"

Readers react to Salon's coverage of Bush's faith-based charities plan.

Published February 5, 2001 9:00AM (EST)

Read "Bringing faith to the West Wing" by Bruce Shapiro.

As an evangelical Christian, I share Bruce Shapiro's concerns regarding Bush's plans to give federal funds to programs run by religious organizations. After all, it wasn't for nothing that Jesus warned us that you can't serve both God and money.

-- David P. Graf

Bruce Shapiro nailed it. Everything he predicted in his article will come to pass. What's worse -- to me anyway as a Christian -- it will cause further harm to Christianity.

The fundamentalists, particularly the ones who marry their faith to the Republican Party, do not represent the larger body of Christianity. They are a vocal, very small minority who have achieved a power grab. So now their views are in the forefront of the public gestalt due to the "Left Behind" fiction series and the bended knee of the Republican Party (just whose doobies have the fundies got in their grip anyway?), and so they become the de facto voice of Christianity for now.

Christianity is about loving one another and loving God, not political agendas and listing whom "God hates" (only fundies use those words together). But, after this "faith-based charity programs" initiative, and all the resultant scandals that will happen, the main body of Christianity will receive a black eye due to the actions of its snotty, sociopath little brother, American fundamentalism. And that really sucks.

-- Tim Hanson

Hey, let's give him a chance.

I didn't vote for the guy, and until he suggested giving the folks who are already providing charitable care for those in need a helping dollar or two, I was hoping he'd fall on his face.

But I've seen the so-called welfare agencies in action, and I've seen federally funded social agencies try to do well by doing good. Churches and temples, on the other hand, usually with much less money to work with, have an added ingredient. They have people working who really care.

My grandfather once told me that in the Depression, neighbors helped each other, and you gave a man a job in exchange for money. Whether it was a job that you had to have done was beside the point. What was important was that the man be able to hold his head up, and also to know that someone cared.

I know it's cool to be a cynic, and believe me, I'm pretty jaded myself. But I'd like to see this idea get at least a fair try. As far as I'm concerned, there is a lot of need out there, and things can't get much worse.

-- Dacia Adams

When I was a teenager, I was in a Baptist youth group that would "volunteer" at a homeless mission. Our volunteer work consisted of us standing in front of a group of homeless men and singing "praise songs" for an hour followed by a long sermon. I felt so sorry for the men who had to be subjected to this every night before they could have a hot meal.

The idea that this kind of activity is now going to be sponsored by government funds completely burns me up. It is in no way constitutional, no matter what kind of language is used to describe it.

-- Jenifer Geiger

Right now 62 percent of Catholic Charities' budget of over $2 billion comes from some form of governmental agency, be it state, local or federal.

Get a grip -- faith-based organizations do a better job at helping the poor. And if I have to write a check to the federal government by way of taxes to fund some program, I would rather see a program that has results than one administered by the feds.

Look at the low-income housing problem, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Aviation Agency, etc. Government stinks at doing things -- the liberals can't stand it because after eight years of a president who did little for the poor we finally do have one that cares.

-- Risa Kaplan

There are those of us in the religious communities of this country who disagree with President Bush's initiative. He aims to solve the anomalies of capitalism by throwing money at religious groups who attach their religious teachings to concrete, social actions (like soup kitchens).

Scott Rosenberg would present a stronger case against such blatant disregard for the separation of church and state if -- instead of showing us his left knee jerking -- he had gone to the roots of that concept. It lies especially in the historic contributions that Baptists have made to this nation.

A Baptist minister myself, I strongly oppose the president's initiative. To gain some historical perspective on the separation of church and state, visit the Web site of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. They have been a watchdog for separation of church and state and will in the days ahead be a major voice raised against Bush's efforts to tear down that wall with vouchers and faith-based charities.

-- Michael Bledsoe

Kudos to Scott Rosenberg for his trenchant commentary on faith-based organizations. It is symptomatic of our increasingly accuracy-challenged society that we cannot see something for what it really is.

It boggles the mind that ever since George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" exposed the ridiculous predilection for euphemistic verbiage so rampant in modern society that we continue to accept this nonsense. Is it too much to hope that we might ever be able to see through the empty-headed phraseology that obscures meaning? Have the thought police finally established firm control over our language?

-- Conor Carlin

Isn't faith-based just Bush-speak for faith-biased?

-- Judy Licht

I'm not at all surprised that Bush has been favoring the term "faith-based" over "religious" -- it's fewer syllables, after all.

-- Mary Burke

We learned from Clinton that words have no meaning except at the exact moment they are spoken. And then, the word only means what the speaker wants it to mean.

-- Jesse Spurway

I share Scott Rosenberg's distaste for how euphemisms are used in Washington to avoid saying "hot button" words.

But he seems to imply that George W. Bush started this trend. Long before our 43rd president came to Washington, our political culture gave us "reproductive freedom," meaning the freedom to kill unwanted children; "alternative lifestyles" for homosexuality; "affirmative action" for racial quotas; and "outside the mainstream" or "extremist" to describe anyone who disagrees with you, whatever your beliefs.

Replacing concrete description with abstract "feel-good phrases" has been with us at least since George Orwell wrote his essay "Politics and the English Language."

-- Matt Ward

I thought Mr. Rosenberg might like to hear about the time a politician in my state said that there would not be a tax increase, but simply "an increase in payroll revenue from the state's population." I laughed about that one for days.

-- Penny Clifton

Hooray for Scott Rosenberg. It is about time someone stands up to the latest Bush hypocrisy. Faith-based my butt, it is just a weak-minded individual caving in to the demands of the people who contributed the $200,000,000 it took to get him elected. Now it is payback time.

-- L.D. White

Two questions:

When did religion become bad?

And what is so hard to understand about President Bush's plan? If a secular, non-"faith-based" charity gets buckets of money, why should a nonsecular, faith-based charity get left out in the cold?

Regardless of what you believe, it's a travesty to let the government discriminate against religious groups only because they'd make the government trough crowded.

-- Bryan Bitters

I completely agree with the author that the separation of church and state is a terrific idea, one that has served this country well since its inception. And I too don't much care for the euphemism "faith based organization." (It makes me think of "worship centers" -- don't people go to "church" anymore?) But I do have to take exception to Rosenberg's interpretation of the First Amendment.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." To the founders, the word "establishment" meant something much different than giving religion a place in civic life, or according religion a special place in government. "Establishment" had (and has) a very specific meaning: state support, state funding, lock, stock and barrel, of one particular religion, making it the official national faith.

In England, taxes collected from everyone (Buddhists, Muslims, Roman Catholics, atheists) were used to pay the clergy of the (aptly named) Church of England. Our founders thought that was a terrible idea, and proscribed it in their new country. I applaud that decision.

So the debate about the "separation of church and state" (a phrase not found in our Constitution) can go on, but not necessarily based on the First Amendment.

-- Gary Sullivan

" or the free exercise thereof."

I agree with the article, but please, don't edit the Constitution just to prove a point.

-- Jmar Gambol

By Salon Staff

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