The Religious Right's Fear of Obama's Economics
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Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 11:55:48 AM EST
Introduction:  Frank Schaeffer, the son of religious right patriarch Francis Schaeffer, has written a kiss- and-tell book about his father and the movement. Frank despises what the movement became claiming his father would have also. One point Frank makes in the work is about Rich DeVos who is called a far-right financier of the movement. DeVos started Amway. I recall church members, neighbors and denominational workers seeking to enroll me in the program. There were grand stories of surgeons and lawyers who left their practices to sell Amway products because they were making so much money. You were supposed to be able to retire in a few years if you found the right faithful laborers to be below you in your corporate empire. The truth of Amway is that it was mostly a pyramid scam. DeVos and family amassed numerous wealth and funded religious right empires and governor races in places like Michigan. The folks down the line in the pyramid mostly got nothing for their efforts. Religious right pastor Charles Stanley was famous one time for telling people he often offered Amway kits to needy families who came by seeking benevolent help. The prospect of wealthy Stanley selling poor people Amway kits in his office was a picture many found offensive and Stanley never mentioned it again, even though he often spoke at Amway rallies. In Chris Hedges' recent book on the religious right, he mentions that James Kennedy, the Florida mega pastor who bordered on theocracy extremes, was partially funded by Devos.
Devos' own grand scheme of economic systems helps to lay a foundation for the movement among the crowd. Speaking with Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Baptists, Bruce commented on the Freemarket Voter Guide. He noted that people like Kelly Schackelford, a leader in the Freemarket organization, advocates no restraints on the economy. Freemarkets to these folk means no regulations. Richard Land, head of the Ethics Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has stated that the Biblical view of economics is laissez-faire. That is a system with no checks or balances. Years ago, I learned from the economics professor at my college in Oklahoma that laissez-faire economics did not work and proved a failure in the nation. DeVos, Land, et al., are not buying this. This is why Social Security, regulating waste products and welfare programs are so offensive to these types. They still believe FDR got it wrong and the government is the problem. Rick Warren hinted at such when he officiated at the first presidential debate suggesting that government programs failed to help people.

Sarah Posner in her book, God's Profits, claims that one of the driving forces of the religious right is laissez-faire. She claims that modern prosperity gospel preachers fit into this system by suggesting government handouts are sinful. To solve economic problems, one needs only to rely on faith which implies sending money directly to the mega pastor. Posner calls the Word of Faith gospel, "the ultimate in laissez-faire capitalism, regulated only by God." (p. xii).  Pastor John Hagee is quoted in the book saying that government welfare is a distortion and a deception from Satan. (p. 7). Earlier this week, I heard Hagee claim that you can make more on welfare than laboring for fifty thousand a year in New York City.  He stated we needed to abolish the program and several in the congregation stood and applauded. On the other hand, Bishop Long, himself a prosperity gospel preacher, received a million dollar grant from the Bush administration to use in his children's ministry at the church. (p. 33).  It appears to be an economic system that blesses the top of the pyramid - and those at the bottom gotta just believe.

The Georgia Baptist Index wrote in an editorial in 1900 that the majority of the poor were poor because they were immoral. Later on, Southern Protestants blamed laissez-faire capitalism for the depression.1 They appeared to have made the connection. The religious right never did.

When Obama talks about reversing the tax breaks given to the higher income portion of the society granted so by the Bush administration, his critics see this as redistribution of wealth - and the "s" word is used (socialism). More emotional critics use the "c" word (Communism).

If you need economic help in your journey, the DeVos and Freemarket crowd have some advice for you:  Work harder or have more faith. The hatred of Obama by these types reaches extremes. One of the factors is that they view him as a product of the system that used the government to attend schools and move up the economic ladder. I have heard snide remarks about the fact that the government assisted in his education. In the system suggested by the religious right, government aid to the needy is only supposed to cripple, as J.C. Watts used to say. Aid to bail out those at the top of the pyramid is just as embarrassing, but not as evil. As the Amway folks would explain it - that's just the way it works.

1  Kenneth Bailey, Southern White Protestantism, Harper & Rowe, NY, 1964, pgs. 17, 115.

TTA posted some DeVos articles in 2006, when he ran for governor of Michigan. He is expected to run in 2010 for the same.

The DeVos network includes many foundations and are tied by marriage to the Prince family
( Blackwater mercenaries, James Dobson, etc. ) with their own network of foundations.

Several books by exAmway have exposed the cynical use of faith commitment as part of the cement that bonds people to Amway even when Amway's promises miserably fail to materialize.

The DeVos and Prince families are also big in the Council for National Policy.


by Russ Bellant on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 07:28:06 PM EST

Here is the link to Russ Bellant's series profiling Dick Devos

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 07:39:34 PM EST

What is the title of Schaeffer Jr's new book?

by Russ Bellant on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 07:29:27 PM EST
His book is "Crazy for God." I highly recommend it, especially for his choice observations of some Christian Right leaders. Interestingly enough, Frank Schaeffer left his father's Calvinist Protestantism for the Greek Orthodox faith.

by khughes1963 on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:15:56 PM EST

From what I've heard, the big money in the distributorships isn't so much in sales of Amway product. Rather, the directors of the sales organizations make their biggest money selling motivational tapes and workbooks to lower level participants in their sales organizations. It also isn't uncommon for lower level participants to go heavily into debt trying to pretend they are making it financially, otherwise known as "fake it till you make it."

by khughes1963 on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:19:53 PM EST

Thanks for the comments to all here.  I personally enjoyed Russ Bellant's notes.  I had wanted to meet him since I read THE COORS CONNECTION and THE OLD NAZIS AND THE GOP.

by wilkyjr on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 09:03:34 AM EST

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