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America’s New Entitlement Class September 22, 2012 Author: Stan Moody

Stan Moody, founder of Maine Prison Chaplaincy Corps, is a former Maine State Representative and most recently a Chaplain at Maine State Prison in Warren…Dr. Moody is an advisory board member of Solitary Watch and has been a speaker on human rights issues…His articles on prison reform may be read at www.scribd.com/stanmoody...

Through Mitt Romney, America is getting a close-up look at the effects of living in the bubble of excess. Those we traditionally have envied as winners in the American Dream are unmasked in his iconic privilege. Romney offers to America a deep and honest look into the soul of what lies physically and intellectually isolated behind gated suburban ghettoes. America has a new entitlement class – entitled to power; entitled to more wealth; entitled to unearned respect; entitled to set public policy that affects us all. Sadly, all too many of us of deep religious faith have embraced this ethic as God’s blessing poured out on a faithful people. It follows, then, that those pinned or struggling beneath the wheel of progress must be living evidence of God’s condemnation. There is my own close and beloved relative who, as an employee, was the reluctant purchaser of stock options in his company that became wildly successful in the 1960’s. He was rendered a multi-millionaire upon retirement. To the shame and embarrassment of less fortunate family members, this financial success was attributed to tithing to the Church in excess of the traditional 10%. I thought of my Dad, who every week divided up his meager paycheck into budget tins to support a family of 7 and set aside 10% for his church. Another close family member purchased a business from his Dad, also a humble part time pastor, and parlayed it into a wild success, He told a struggling nephew who, in order to help pay for his college expenses, was a distributor for an off-brand line of sparkplugs, “Auto parts is my business. Stay out of it!” He later took his money to the Cayman Islands, creating an off-shore bank. Then there is the business partner for whom only the hard work of daily operations is worthy of reward – not the thinking and planning behind the project. When it came to settling the account, the creator of the project, a passive minority shareholder, was offered a token that failed to include even his capital investment. This settlement was not legally owed, according to the operating shareholder, also a professing Christian, but offered only out of the kindness of his heart.

A local pastor acquaintance, who claims to receive 6-8 appeals a day for help and has built a successful suburban church, was agonizing over the culture of the needy in our society. “I don’t know what to do about it, and I certainly will not stop helping,” he said, “but the fact is that there are all too many of these people who are, for lack of a better term, bottom-feeders.” He went on to say that they are appealing to churches to support their drug habits, all of which may be true for many but simply begs the question: Should the Church not hone its gifts of discernment and charity and act accordingly? Or are we consigned to writing off large segments of a dependent culture because of the greed and excesses of the few? More to the point, is the Church being caught in an agenda of prospecting for new members instead of for opportunities to showcase unconditional love? To this pastor, the root problem is a culture of people who are living together out of wedlock, failing to seek the healing power of faith and, instead, are imposing on the charity of the faithful. In fact, there are literally hundreds of caring people out there in Maine who do not wear their religion or lack thereof on their sleeves but are willing to wade into this exploding and seemingly futile world of mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency, homelessness and criminal behavior. They live by a unique and refreshing ethic – “touch a life” – and are not detracted from their mission by the many who may well game the system. It is not Romney’s conscious doing that has focused attention on this cultural divide. It is we who have exalted success above our responsibility to the least successful among us who have given voice to a wealthy elite entitlement class. Our mutual connection is the god of the American Dream. It seems rather too obvious that the Church and its faithful, of all people, ought to be cognizant that in a spiritual sense, we all are bottom feeders in need of grace and forgiveness.