Unrighteous Cruelty

C.S. Lewis’ demonic instructor Screwtape discusses how the minions of hell kept human history in constant flux. “In cruel ages we make liberalism the prime bogie” he tells his nephew Wormwood. Lewis was definitely on to something here.
The recent outrages committed in the name of righteousness and “teaching bums a lesson” in Utah serve to prove the point. A school lunch account is an amazing thing in our day. A student’s family puts money into the account. When the student buys lunch she gives her account/student i.d. number by use of a keypad. At the Uintah Elementary School, the decision had been taken to forbid students who had negative balances on their accounts to buy a full school lunch. The problem was simple. The lunchroom workers who had to enforce the ruling would not know which students had negative balances until the student keyed in their numbers. When the worker discovered the offending balances the lunch which had already been collected and tallied up was then taken by the cashiers and tossed in the trash. Yet, the students with offending balances were not left without any food. They were given a half-pint of milk and a piece of fruit.
So then, the minimum wage school workers were put into the position of segregating students into lunch-eaters of two distinct classes. Those persons who made the decision likely dined out for lunch that day. I hope they enjoyed it.
I would like to say this is the only time such a thing could happen. However, many students all over the country who are on “free lunch” status due to their parents’ income statements are often summoned to account for why they do not pay for their lunch because of some person who cannot be bothered to keep track of the data. In other words, parasites must be taught a lesson. But, do not expect school system bureaucrats to do their jobs or get their hands dirty with their own cruelty.
Cruel people do not see what they do as being cruel. No. They see themselves as gatekeepers and bouncers for right. They see themselves as righteous and truly just. Until one is touched by the suffering his or her “righteousness” has caused will the cruelty of his or her own actions be known. Bureaucracies and hierarchies are good at insulating cruel policy makers from subordinates who make themselves callous in order to carry out their actions.
Our culture is a meritocracy. There is little room for grace to be practiced or appreciated. Like our Roman forebears, we believe a decently ordered society is more important than the people who make up that society. The benefactors believe they have the right and duty to make certain the less fortunate are kept in place and do not get any ideas. Hence the meritocracy believes in making a permanent underclass. Therefore cruelty is mistaken for righteousness.
Jesus is the true opponent of cruelty. No thing is more important than the person. And likewise no person is a thing to be caged or chained. Jesus opens hearts to make five loaves of bread into enough to feed many with baskets full of bread left over. Jesus asks for food, clothing, shelter, and relief from sickness and prison on behalf of those who suffer from them.
How else could the issue at Uintah Elementary been handled? If funds were short, could an appeal for donations have been made? Could the Superintendent of Schools take a short-term pay cut? Could the County Sheriff have done without a new toy? I wonder what could have been done. I know this it is against all sense of righteousness and godliness to take away the food and publicly humiliate the children. And yet only the children have paid the price for cruelty masking as righteousness.

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