“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”


Flipping channels the other night, I caught this key scene from The Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne is having trouble wrapping his brain around just what the Joker is after. Alfred explains that trying to understand the Joker logically might be futile:

Alfred Pennyworth: … some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Hold that thought.

As Matt Bevin was being sworn in as the new governor of Kentucky this week, NPR ran a story about struggling people in rural Kentucky who, in spite of Bevin threatening to roll back Medicaid expansion in the state, voted for him anyway. Liberals have a hard time wrapping their brains around that (emphasis mine):

Among those on Medicaid in Jackson County is Angel Strong, an unemployed nurse in McKee, Ky. — one of roughly half a million Kentuckians who received health insurance after outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, embraced the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Kentucky saw one of the sharpest declines in the rate of uninsured adults.

“I had never had Medicaid, because I had insurance at my job,” said Strong. “Now I am out of a job and I am looking for another job, but in the meantime I had no income.”

Bevin’s lack of support for expanded Medicaid didn’t faze Strong, who voted for Bevin because she supported his socially conservative stands against gay marriage and abortion.

“My religious beliefs outweigh whether or not I have insurance,” Strong said.


Strong, and her hair stylist, Stephanie Wilson, both voted for Bevin because they believe too many people in Jackson County rely on the government.

“They want everything they can get for free,” Strong said.

“They think somebody owes it to them — just because,” chimed in Wilson. “Nobody owes you anything. You earn what you get.”

Let’s keep going. A friend last night mentioned this Daily Kos diary about how conservatives, even Christian ones, believe justice works in the universe. The setting was a Bible study in which the writer and a group of “Fox News watchers and Tea Party sympathizers” are discussing the parable of the Prodigal Son (emphasis mine):

After rereading the story, the pastor asked each of us with which character we identified. Ironically, even though I was the only childless person present, I was alone in identifying with the father. I’ve been in situations where I was so happy to see a person again whom I had missed that I was perfectly willing to forgive and forget whatever had happened in the past.

The old ladies, without an exception, identified with the prodigal son’s brother, who they believed had been wronged by the father. The poor brother had done everything right, yet the other one, the bad one, got the party. How was that fair? Why wasn’t the good brother rewarded and the irresponsible one punished?

I pointed out to them that while the prodigal son had a brief time of debauchery, it was followed by a rather miserable life, during which he had to work as a swineherd — not a pleasant occupation for a Jew. “Yes,” a woman named Elaine replied, “but that was his own fault! He brought it on himself! Besides, the only reason he even came back was that he was broke and miserable. He probably wasn’t even really sorry.”

“So what would you have done if you were the father?” the pastor asked.

“I would have told him off, of course,” Elaine answered. “I would have said, ‘You made your bed, so now lie in it. Go right back to where you came from!'”

“But what if the father loved the son so much that he wanted to forgive him?” the pastor followed up.

“Well, but that’s not love; that’s enabling. Besides, the son did not DESERVE to be forgiven.”

“That’s exactly the point of the story,” I chimed in. “The son didn’t deserve forgiveness but received it anyway. According to Jesus, that’s how the Kingdom of Heaven works.”

“Well,” fumed Elaine, “sometimes Jesus is just plain wrong.”

That is their world view, and the Savior himself cannot change it. For some people, faith in the Constitution, fair play, honesty, e pluribus unum — even their faith in Jesus — is a mile wide and an inch deep compared to gut-level ideology, however loudly they proclaim otherwise. Their belief in salvation may indeed be deeply held, but not as deeply as their dualistic, quasi-eastern, contra-Christian sense of how the universe is supposed to work. Salvation for me but not for thee.

Policy arguments do not sway such people. Democrats should just stop trying. It is not how they vote, no matter how the left finds that confounding. I’m thinking here about ideologues (left or right). True believers. Fundamentalists of any stripe. Fire-and-brimstone preachers. Do they all, on some level, just want to watch the world burn for rejecting them? Or at least, anyone who is not with them?

Conveniently, Jesus gave Christians a choice in how they approach that:

Mark 9
40 “For he that is not against us is on our part.”

Luke 11
23 “He that is not with me is against me”

Guess which one this woman chose:

Update: Oops, that was Mark 9:40.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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