Occupy the National Prayer Breakfast

Occupy the National Prayer Breakfast February 1, 2012

If you’re not already following the Tea Party Jesus tumblr, start doing so now.

The formula is as jarringly effective as it is simple: Take verbatim quotes from public figures in politics and religion and place them in the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth.

The example here shows how this works. The quote is from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “I’m not concerned with the very poor,” Romney said this morning on CNN.

That’s appalling. I didn’t need any help to understand that much. But seeing those words in the context of this earnest, devotional picture of Jesus Christ reminds me of just how utterly, abysmally outrageous Romney’s statement is.

The word “antichrist,” where it actually appears in the Bible, doesn’t have anything to do with the Beast of Revelation or the fantasies of End Times “prophecies.” It has to do with this. Precisely this.

A very generous reading of Romney’s remark would be that what he meant was that “the very poor” will be helped by America’s social safety net. “We have a safety net there,” Romney said. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

But that’s not true. Or else his other campaign pledges are not true. “I’ll fix it” directly contradicts what Mitt Romney has been saying for months he plans to do to the safety net for the very poor. As Matt Yglesias put it, “Mitt Romney praises safety net he wants to shred.”

Jared Bernstein looks closely at what Mitt Romney has pledged to do to that safety net and thinks it means we should be very concerned about the very poor in a Romney administration:

Though Gov Romney recognized that “…we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers…” he neglected to make the following four points:

1) his budget slashes, and I mean SLASHES, domestic spending outside of defense.

2) he’s endorsed Rep Paul Ryan’s budget (now the House Republican Budget) which gets two-thirds of its $4.5 trillion in cuts from low-income programs (and uses the cuts to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy).

3) the Gov’s own tax plan actually raises taxes on those in the bottom fifth of the income scale (by $160 per year; by getting rid of a refundable credit for poor kids and cutting the EITC relative to current policy) — while cutting taxes for the very richest households by about $460K/year.

4) he’s said he wants to block grant these low income safety net programs – i.e., instead of the federal program, states run it based on an annual grant, a fixed amount that does not go up or down based on need – and that’s a great way to rip some big holes in the safety net.

So in context, Mitt Romney’s statement — “I’m not concerned about the very poor” — isn’t just appalling, it’s also flamboyantly dishonest.

And as that picture above from Tea Party Jesus reminds us, it’s the exact opposite of what Jesus said. It is opposed to Jesus.

Tomorrow morning, at the Hilton Washington International Ballroom in Washington, many of the most powerful people in the world will gather for the 60th annual National Prayer Breakfast. Attendance at and participation in this annual ritual is politically necessary for many government figures — a defensive measure required to avoid the demonization that would ensue if they dared to be absent. But many of the very wealthy, very powerful people attending are enthusiastic about the event.

And those who tend to be most enthusiastic about it tend also to be those most opposed to Jesus. The National Prayer Breakfast is a celebration of power and a celebration of the powerful. It is organized by a group dedicated to celebrating power — The Family. As Jeff Sharlet describes it:

The Family’s only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast, which it established in 1953 and which, with congressional sponsorship, it continues to organize every February in Washington, D.C. Each year 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations, pay $425 each to attend. Steadfastly ecumenical, too bland most years to merit much press, the breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can “meet Jesus man to man.”

And the “Jesus” those recruits are going to meet in those groups is the “Jesus” of the powerful, the blasphemous Jesus of power who isn’t concerned about the very poor.

Which is why I’m very pleased to read about The People’s Prayer Breakfast.

Occupy Breakfast,” writes Jeremy John:

What does it mean to be a Christian when organizations such as The Family create a Jesus that does not hear the prayers of the poor? An organization that prays to the powerful in place of God? That participates in the global crucifixion of the poor by turning Jesus’ cross into a social ladder for politicians to climb upwards, past the broken body of Christ? To cultivate relationships with dictators?

To cultivate the most powerful for political influence, to create an elite society for the elite, is that listening to the prayers of the people?

… Our political class does not hear the prayers of the poor, they hear the “prayers” of corporate lobbyists who fund their campaigns. And they hear the prayers of Christians such as Doug Coe and The Family at the National Prayer Breakfast, because they offer connections, votes, and money.

This is not the way that Christians pray politically. If we are to take one political message from the entirety of the Scriptures it is that God hears the prayers of the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed, and acts through the narrative of history both for the daily bread of the poor and to make right their conditions of oppression. And if we ourselves do not listen, we face the judgement of a God who does hear those prayers.


Since today is the feast day of St. Brigid, let me commend a prayer of hers that might be said before the meal at the People’s Prayer Breakfast:

I should welcome the poor to my feast,
For they are God’s children.
I should welcome the sick to my feast,
For they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,
And the sick dance with the angels.

God bless the poor,
God bless the sick,
And bless our human race.
God bless our food,
God bless our drink,
All homes, O God embrace.

"I don't know what sense Christianity Today is using the word, but in Europe, "Evangelical" ..."

No silver, no pomp or style
"Indeed. And, honestly, I DO think that private charity has a definite place in the ..."

No silver, no pomp or style
"That or Thomas is a liar.I'll stick with the latter."

No silver, no pomp or style
"Having run into anti-tax people who use the excuse that the church "should" be doing ..."

No silver, no pomp or style

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Twig

    “Lend us a fiver, Judy?”
    “Stop calling me that!”


  • Twig

    Also, come on Romney, the bare minimum to keep people from starving to death in the streets isn’t a win.  It isn’t a “well, we’ve got that covered!,” it’s a first step.  A very very tiny first step.

    This isn’t a presidential nominee race, it’s Gingrich and Romney neck-and-neck in the ‘who can be a bigger parody of themselves’ contest.

  • Brandi

    I think Alabama State Senator Shadrack McGill rates a mention here.


  • Anonymous

    So I had to pursue this line of thinking, and I was surprised that there’s actually some debate.  The greek word for carpenter ‘tekton’ means a lot more than just ‘guy who works with wood.’ (/beavis) It means architect, designer, engineer, even mason.  (Let the conspiracy theories commence!  Though I’m pretty sure Jesus would not have worn a fez or driven a tiny little car– er, wagon?) There’s also debate that the term is used in the Talmud metaphorically as a ‘scholar.’

    Perhaps surprisingly, in the area of “Professions in the Levant at the beginning of the Common Era,” it’s more complicated than that, as well. =D

  • Apocalypse Review

    Oh god, not this ~selfless calling~ BS politicians love hauling out when its anything but their own wallets* getting stuffed with cash.


    * or the wallets of their favored hangers-on.

  • joel hanes

    Have you seen the little piggies

    Crawling in the dirt

    And for all the little piggies

    Life is getting worse

    Always having dirt to play around in.

    Have you seen the bigger piggies

    In their starched white shirts

    You will find the bigger piggies

    Stirring up the dirt

    Always have clean shirts to play around in.

    In their sties with all their backing

    They don’t care what goes on around

    In their eyes there’s something lacking

    What they need’s a damn good whacking.

    Everywhere there’s lots of piggies

    Living piggy lives

    You can see them out for dinner

    With their piggy wives

    Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.

  • Caffinatedlemur

    You’ve got your conspiracy theories wrong. Shriners wear fezzes and drive around in little tiny cars. Masons are just the white old guys who may (or may not, if we’re counting Rosicrucians) be running the show from the shadow.

  • JohnK

    I find it slightly irritating that tax money is always considered — even by some liberals — as “other people’s money”. I pay taxes too. Why are my interests less important than, say, that of taxpayers who support wars? Why should I feel bad for advocating that the tax money that we all contribute go towards some of the things I want? This “other people’s money” thing is such horseshit and I don’t think it’s fair to engage with it as if it’s something that’s even “technically” true.

    It’s not my money. It’s not your money. It’s not other people’s money. It’s our money. Ours. We the people. That’s how it always works, and we shouldn’t let the far right get away with the argument that spending money on liberal priorities is theft while spending it on conservative priorities isn’t.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing your happiness, the world can always use some more. Congratulations to you both.

  • All Shriners are also Freemasons – it’s a requirement to join. (My dad is a Mason, my stepfather is both.)

  • Anonymous

    This, a thousand times this. My political priorities have remained the same over the last five years, as I’ve moved from unemployed to underemployed to fully employed. I was fortunate enough while unemployed to have a strong familial safety net (and no kids), but not everyone is that lucky and there is absolutely no reason why wanting to provide that and funding advanced infrastructure is somehow terrible while using that money to bomb brown kids a hemisphere away is legitimate.

    The original poster’s umbrage disgusts me to no end.

    Also, I was fortunate enough to make a good salary this last year (working two jobs at once for a while certainly helped). Even before doing my taxes, my withholdings worked out to roughly 24% between state and federal taxes. If the last two years are any indication, I’ll get a decently sized refund that will knock that percentage down several points. This is what the tea party is complaining about? ~20% on a good income (even without deductions for kids, mortgage,* etc.) and ~14% for someone like Romney? No wonder our country’s infrastructure is falling apart and my girlfriend can’t get a degree because the last two classes she needs are full every semester and have been for the last two years.

    *Screw the mortgage deduction.

  • Dariayarrow

    Wow, Fred you hit the nail on the head with this! Romney’s statement is so indicative of that Antichrist mindset. What’s interesting is that in the Book of Mormon, Moroni 7 gives the clearest statement I’ve ever seen about how to find your path to God in this confusing world. To paraphrase, it states that ANYTHING that enhances your understanding of Christ and draws you to Jesus Christ is of God; and conversely, ANYTHING that draws you away from a greater understanding of Christ is of the devil.
    “16 For behold, the aSpirit of Christ is given to every bman, that he may cknow good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
    17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do aevil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
    18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the alight by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same bjudgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
    19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the alight of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a bchild of Christ.”
    Thanks again Fred for your amazing insight. I love your blog!

  • Amaryllis

    Congratulations to Emcee and husband!

    “other people’s money” …. ohhh

    I’ve clearly been a bureaucrat for too long: I was skimming this thread, behind as usual, wondering why people were getting so excited about the Office of Personnel Management.

  • P J Evans

    Masons wear aprons, I think. Probably not ruffled gingham,  but I like the image in my mind….

  •  Happy Anniversary, Emcee and Mr. Emcee!

  • Fortunately, the injured man in the Good Samaritan didn’t need any kind of specialized care. 

    If he had, which would be the more efficient way to go about it? 

    For the Samaritan to have paid ahead of time through, say, sales taxes, and call 911 (or the 1st century equivalent) and have paramedics (or the 1st century equivalent) come to the site and do the work they needed to do without up-front payment; or

    For the Samaritan to have to go through the yellow pages (or the 1st century equivalent) for a private paramedic service (or the 1st century equivalent) and hope that the bill isn’t more than he has in his checking account (or the 1st century equivalent)?

    I know which one I would choose.

  • Baeraad

     Since I am at work and don’t have time to write the long, searing reply that a certain bonehead deserves – thank you for stating my point so calmly and succinctly. :)

    And as for the bonehead in question: may you be stricken with a painful, debilitating medical condition that your insurance company weasels out of paying for the treatment of, and thereafter surrounded by smirking assholes talking piously about how terrible it would be for anyone to be *forced* to give a shit about your suffering. That is all.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Notice, if you please, that the Good Samaritan used his own personal resources to succor the stranger, his less-fortunate neighbor. Unlike some progressives would have it, he did not seek or use OPM to care for the stranger. (OPM: sounds like opium, is equally addicting, stands for other people’s money.) Had Jesus done that, he would have used the forceof government to take money from some of his neighbors to succor the stranger, making him a co-conspirator in theft and making the stranger dependent on the government dole instead of God.

    Oh piss off.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It’s not my money. It’s not your money. It’s not other people’s money. It’s our money. Ours. We the people. That’s how it always works, and we shouldn’t let the far right get away with the argument that spending money on liberal priorities is theft while spending it on conservative priorities isn’t.

    Plus there’s all the saints (especially but not exclusively in the early centuries of Christianity) who held that any money or goods you have beyond that required to sustain your basic needs is not yours. It belongs to the poor, and by keeping it to yourself you are a thief.

    According to this view, if you were to look at the parable of the Good Samaritan in economic terms you would see that the Samaritan wasn’t donating money to the robbery victim cos he was a swell guy. He was giving the victim back what he rightfully owned.

  • Anonymous

    Notice, if you please, that the Good Samaritan used his own personal resources to succor the stranger, his less-fortunate neighbor. Unlike some progressives would have it, he did not seek or use OPM to care for the stranger. (OPM: sounds like opium, is equally addicting, stands for other people’s money.)

    What?  Yes, he did.  Says right there, he got the innkeeper to chip in too.  He promised to pay the guy back later, but presumably his OPM addiction prevented that, poor bastard. The innkeeper got gypped and the Samaritan and the injured guy ended up celebrating the world’s first Medicare fraud.

  • It’s not my money. It’s not your money. It’s not other people’s money. It’s our money. Ours.
    We the people. That’s how it always works, and we shouldn’t let the far
    right get away with the argument that spending money on liberal
    priorities is theft while spending it on conservative priorities isn’t.

    The idea that “we” are an “us” is utterly alien to libertarian thinking, and utterly horrifying to conservative thinking.

    And _that_ is why Occupy movements scare them so much.