RHETA JOHNSON: What’s with hard Christian attitudes toward the poor?



FISHTRAP HOLLOW – Fall feels different this year. For one thing, so far I’ve spent too much of it inside.

I missed the Harvest Moon rising over the lake. I forgot to send Martha Hammond the first red leaf I saw along my road.

My two old dogs still manage to hunt in the cool early mornings, but either they are slower or the squirrels quicker. I’m thinking it’s the former. I can’t help wonder when they’ll be over the bridge and beneath the rocks with Mabel and Hannah.

Football, which used to consume me, seems this season to be broadcasting from a different planet. By rote I pull for Auburn and against Alabama, but that’s as natural as taking a breath. I can’t find the proper passion for either task.

For the first time in my life, I don’t turn up the music on the sunlit porch in the afternoons. Is there an age of demarcation for really listening to music? Will I become one of those soulless persons who think of it as merely background noise? I surely hope not.

I keep thinking about Jimmy Carter and his infamous use of the word “malaise.” He got into big trouble for even suggesting that as a nation we might feel it. But then he also got into trouble for lowering the speed limit to save lives and for wearing a sweater.

That was part of his popularity problem. He dealt in the truth. Never popular.

I’m re-reading my friend Todd Johnson’s novel, “The Sweet By and By.” It is a wonderful book, full of pathos and humor, which seems to suit my mood. Most of the characters live or work in a nursing home.

Health care has been much on my mind.

I keep reading reports about Alabama and Mississippi and plenty of other states turning down billions of dollars in federal money to keep from expanding Medicaid to insure poor people and cooperating with the president.

The last part of that sentence is the key to understanding the insanity of turning down string-free funds to provide health care for the poorest citizens. It is political cowardice and lack of compassion.

Candidates don’t want to be seen as cooperating with a black president. That’s the simple truth and the bottom line.

“Scratch hard enough and you’ll find a racial angle to every story,” my late editor in Memphis once said to me. So far, four decades into my trade, he hasn’t been wrong.

Why is it that the more a politician or a party professes to own the franchise on Christianity, the harder the attitude toward the poor? Makes no sense to me. Not in the Bible my grandmother believed.

I guess we are moving from a fall of frustration to a winter of discontent. There is no apparent remedy for hard human hearts. There is no prescription for nonchalant greed.

I won’t stay in this senseless funk, this malaise. I’ll get bored with myself, find my favorite sweater with the moth holes, listen to Hank on the porch and give myself a fireside chat. My old dogs and I will howl at the Hunter’s Moon.

To find out more about syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com, or write to her at Iuka,MS 38852.

Click video to hear audio

  • the_rocket

    Candidates don’t want to be seen as cooperating with a black president. That’s the simple truth and the bottom line.
    Way to call it, Rheta Johnson! Not a single one of them man enough to admit it, but this is at the center of the health care debacle.

  • barney fife

    Right on target & well written.

  • 1941641

    Bravos!, Rheta.

    Now, with that said, I just want to remind you, in case you don’t already know, that there’s another story being told with similarities to yours in many ways but with different characters, actors, different logistics but centrally themed around “Christianity” aka the one and only True God, the only True Religion and its many different groups and theologies and, of course, its Conservative Political agendas (anti-women, anti-gays, anti-human rights, anti-black,) to mention just a few. My story is titled “The Dark Side’ of Tupelo, MS an otherwise All American City.” Or, for the sake of brevity: the “Dark Side of Tupelo, MS…”

    Knowing the truth, for the truth will, no doubt, set men free, how could anyone believe that the so-called Christian Jesus Christ is expected to return to a world obsessed with Conservative Politics, Greed and Hate for one’s fellow-man. All these things are contrary to Christs’ Personal Teachings and to the mind-set of our Founding Fathers, gazing into the crystal ball at the future of the “New America” aided by experiences in their own times. Hence, the “Separation of Church & State” became the law of the newly formed United States Of America. I am so thankful as an American citizen to live in a country founded by rational-minded men, many of them Deists, and known historically as the “American Founding Fathers.”

    “America The Beautiful, Land Of The Free And Home of The Brave!” Let us strive with all our might to maintain it that way while keeping Religion and Government separate forever and ever.

    All our futures depend on it!


    Beautifully written Rheta. We elect politicians to govern for the duration fo their term – not dominate our every day with their gamesmanship. I welcome the hope for the day when media, religous and secular, focuses on positive progressive measures with meaning.

  • Kevin

    There are several reasons people become Christians (or continue being Christians after being indoctrinated toward that belief system as children): 1. hope–it gives people hope in an otherwise hopeless world; 2. fear–it assuages people’s fear for acting immorally because supposedly Christian god is forgiving or in other words it’s nothing but fear of hell; 3. conformity–in a nation like this one, which really is a Christian nation, it’s best to conform to the dominant belief system or suffer the consequences of being ostracized; finally, 4. it’s a weapon that can be used to denigrate those who are not Christians.

    Helping the poor doesn’t even factor into it. Being a Christian is about fitting in and dealing with your own guilt more than anything else. Heck, I know dudes to who to church only to get dates–and I know a ton of people who go to church because it’s good for business. They could care less about the highly theoretical messages.