From the Welfare Mom with the Cadillac, and so on, we've told terrible stories about a huge segment of our society, with one purpose in mind - that we might dismiss them and their needs and get on with our lives.
But in recent years, we have witnessed the rest of the story, a story so large that it boggles the mind.
It's not the poor who are scamming us, it's the wealthy, and they're scamming us by the hundreds of billions.
From Enron a few yeas ago to Madoff and now to the former head of Countrywide, Angelo Mozilo - and how many more small fish wearing expensive suits and flashy ties are involved in this massive transfer of wealth from the many to the few?
But as long as the myth of the welfare mom exists, we continue to scold and punish the working poor while ignoring, if not celebrating, the crimes of the wealthy. The powerful of this nation lack for nothing when it comes to medical insurance, job security (so what if they're fired; they have hundreds of millions in compensation) and personal comfort, and from their citadels of comfort, they fight national healthcare, they stubbornly refuse the minimal rights of the American worker, they continue to shift jobs out of America, they spend millions to bust the unions, all the while blaming the little guy for the ills of the nation.
That so-called Christians should espouse such nonsense is all the more saddening, given everything said about the plight of the poor in the Prophets and everything Jesus said about our values.
But drive by "successful" churches around the country on a Sunday morning, and the more conservative they are, the more Jesusey they are, the more likely we're to see ostentation in buildings, cars, hairdos and dress, with shallow, fill-in-the-blank sermons that inspire a "stand up for Jesus" mentality without any clear sense of why - why would we stand up for a man adjudged by the religiously powerful of his time as dangerous and killed by the Roman authorities?
We do well to remember Gandhi's Seven Deadly Sins:
- Wealth without Work
- Pleasure without Conscience
- Science without Humanity
- Knowledge without Character
- Politics without Principle
- Commerce without Morality
- Worship without Sacrifice