I now remember why conservative Christians used to like me–because I detest sappy idealistic religious liberals almost as much as I dislike fundies. Oh sure, at least religious liberals mean well; yet, while they’d like to help, they couldn’t prep for a small picnic, much less feed, clothe, and house the homeless, abused, mentally ill citizens of our great country who need care and attention. Religious liberals love to emphasize good works, and they try to be helpful. But, you know, sometimes problems are just a tad too big for a bunch of well meaning but undertrained part time volunteers. But the liberal religious activist don’t get that, and they’re just as enthusiastic about the United States Department of Homeland Jesus as are the “evangelicals.” Hell, Mark Chaves shows that the liberals will probably soak up the bulk of the funds since they provide the bulk of the services.
I had a joint appointment in the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt, and several “faith based” social service programs were closely connected with Vanderbilt Div, and it was painful to see who got placed into those programs. Yeah. just what the HIV- positive homeless population needs, a program based in a dead church run by some goofball trustfunder who quit his/her job at daddy’s bank to go to Divinity School! Those experiences should be really helpful when one of your HIV positive clients is picked up for a sexual assault on a relative, eh? Oh, and then there’s all that coordination with clients with multiple ill-behaved children, and cleaning up when a sick clients vomit or shit their pants, and dealing with REAL welfare agencies so your clients can get healthcare and maybe a place to stay, or even a job. These people can’t even do graduate school registration on their own!!! How on earth are they going to deal with real bureaucracies?!!..None of the students I encountered at the GDR or Div School were in any way qualified to help people in need. They were idealists looking to escape from the real world. Sure, they mean well, but they are not helpful. Religious people with their simplistic, idealistic “solutions” are not going to solve real problems.
What has “faith based” social services brought us? Well, even if we ignore the fact that it is blatantly unconstitutional to use tax dollars to further religious missions, what it has done is to create inferior social services for the most needy citizens of our country. Instead of providing people with dignified and reliable food, housing, medical care, mental health, and other social services, we give them part time volunteers with no training. Or, paid staff with no training!! Great. Any screening of these people? Apparently not. The only concern seems to be about whether they can discriminate based on religion in hiring. How about discriminating based on training and ability?!!! If they did that, we wouldn’t have faith based social services. I shouldn’t complain too much about the religious liberals, at least they aren’t as bad as our conservative Christians. How many kids have been killed and molested in conservative Christian faith based alternative to prison work camps? Ted Haggard and his buddies are really into those…Can you imagine what a bunch of fundies tell some poor abused woman with three kids who lands in their homeless shelter? Why are my taxes paying to further fuck up the lives of our nation’s neediest people?
It’s way past time to end this faith based nonsense and provide genuine comprehensive social services to the people in need. That requires hiring real professionals–social workers, nurses, and physicians–and giving them real resources; not jesus freaks with bibles or div students with Foucault.