Jewish World Review July 31, 2001 / 11 Menachem-Av, 5761

Paul Greenberg

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Consumer Reports

LETTER FROM BELOW -- (With apologies to C. S. Lewis) My dear Wormwood,

Would you please calm down, for Hell's sake?

I have here your semihysterical e-mail of the 24th instant, and I can't recall ever receiving a more wrongheaded lament from any of my numerous apprentice devils, second class, up there in the field.

I think I should warn you that your soul, poor ragged thing that it is, may be in danger if you insist on carrying on in this woeful fashion. What next, are you going to trade in your nice pointy tail and solid pitchfork for a pair of those wimpy wings? Beware: The Enemy never sleeps and is forever seducing our agents into His own ranks.

So pull up your spiffy red socks and get your demonic self together, man. Contrary to this so-called Report From Washington you've sent me, the world is not, I repeat not, going to heaven in a handbasket.

On the contrary, the very developments you cite as defeats are really victories. You must learn to look beyond the surface of things. That is where our greatest triumphs occur. The more showy the displays of religion, the more we advance behind the scenes. Didn't you learn anything in Deviltry 101?

You must stop, I repeat stop, trying to hinder this movement to give religion more government support. On the contrary, you need to encourage the impression that all the churches need to succeed is more federal money. There is no need, not now, to emphasize the federal regulation that comes with it.

Never give a sucker an even break. -- Barnum 4:1. Just swing all that moolah in front of them, like a pocket watch before a baby, and watch their eyes bulge. We'll have them reaching for the bait in no time. Indeed, they'll be fighting each other to get at it. It'll be a splendid sight, watching the pious frauds trample one another in the stampede for government grants.

There will be plenty of time later to exact the petty consideration we will expect in return for our investment, namely their faith -- or at least their right to express it when they're operating on our dime. Only later, when the small print comes to light, will they realize what they've signed over, and then it'll be too late. The suckers will have become so dependent on public aid that they'll never summon the strength to break free. (Thinking about it even now, I can feel a chortle coming on.)

Remember our Founder's cardinal principle: The love of money is the root of all progress. Iron chains are nothing compared to the shackles made of red tape. Why, just look at the wonders we've accomplished in education using this approach!

Note to myself: The next great idea to implant in Washington is a Cabinet-level Department of Religion. It would be modeled, of course, after the Department of Education. Soon studies of religion could replace religion itself, the way studies of education have supplanted education.

Far from being disheartened by all this talk of government aid for faith-based organizations, you should welcome it -- and do what you can to encourage it. If you can't beat 'em, finance 'em. Think of it, at last we will have put the churches on welfare, and nothing is more debilitating! The power to subsidize is the power to destroy.

This faith-based proposal could be the best thing since the religious wars of the Middle Ages, which indeed this program might come to resemble once everybody from the Wiccans to Louis Farrakhan's bunch becomes entitled to tax money. And, to think, you consider this a threat. Why, it's the most promising development since we invented man's will to power.

What we've got to do, my young and too easily discouraged friend, is to get people thinking of religion the way this proposal does: as an instrument of society, and not as an independent realm that may shape it.

We'll start by -- how does this bill read? -- forbidding those churches that accept public money from using it for ``worship, instruction, or proselytization.'' That pretty much covers it all, doesn't it? And concisely. Couldn't have written a better bill myself.

The suckers will begin by covering all those crucifixes and soon enough they'll learn to hide their faith -- or lose their grant. Without outward signs to reinforce it, inner belief may atrophy. (Do you think you could get a clause inserted barring the Muslims and Jews in the program from wearing those irritating little beanies?)

Once we've got religion on the dole, all else will follow. If we can make it just one more government operation, we will have struck a blow against one of the great pillars of the Enemy: willing sacrifice. We'll persuade people that their faith need not involve any effort on their part -- government will do it for them. They'll soon enough come to look to the state not just for financial but spiritual guidance. Can you think of anything more promising, you young devil?

If we can make faith dependent on government, it won't go wandering off on its own with unpredictable results. It needs to be woven smoothly into the social fabric, so it can be corrupted along with everything else.

Left alone, there's no telling where faith might spread or what disruptions it might create in our plans. The Enemy is always most dangerous when left to His own strange devices. Be warned, young demon. He is never stronger than when He appears to have no visible means of support.

You would think all of devildom would have learned as much by now. Look at the havoc wrought by a single Mother Teresa, or by all the unrecognized saints in the world. Yet dolts like you worry when government takes over faith and squeezes out these troublesome free agents. You should be celebrating instead.

Like the most effective things devilish, this program sounds good. So good that it has generated immense enthusiasm among our target market -- the sort of people who have always felt religion was really just a list of social benefits anyway. From urban renewal to midnight basketball. These innocents now have been handed a stone and they think it's bread. I can hardly wait till they have to swallow hard, very hard.

So cheer up and start working for the state's takeover of the church. Anything that melds the two will sap the vitality of both and so advance our cause.

There's not much news to relate. It's still hot as Arkansas down here, and I'm still vying with my old rival Gallclaws for the next GS rating to come open in this literally damned bureaucracy. The competition is, of course, hellish.


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