I See Dead People — Why Don’t They?

I’ve been watching the news for a while now, and it doesn’t look good. For whatever reasons, we have elected people that want to kill us. The President wants to “overthrow Obamacare”. A majority of the House of Representatives want to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Apparently, some group of Senators (who are also in the majority party) want to do the same and they will be showing us their handiwork on Thursday, then attempting to push it through quickly and get  the President to sign it.

All of this, as duly elected officials, is their right. The majority party can do that when they hold Congress and the Executive Branch. In theory, the Senate could blow us all away with the best-crafted healthcare-for-all bill the world has ever seen. If they do that, the nation will breathe a collective sigh of relief and the celebrations will commence. The problem with that, of course, is that we can only predict based on past actions and stated intents. The House version of this bill was horrible enough, with 24 million people predicted to lose their healthcare. They went back and made it more draconian, more punishing, more deadly — so that it would pass.

Now, the Senate version takes up the cause, and they are doing it behind closed doors, with no one but 12 people having worked on it. Given the party-in-charge’s previous plans and celebrations, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for this mysterious piece of legislation.

But this not a political decision, between “liberal snowflakes” and “conservative realists” as it is being painted by the press (especially Fox News) or between competing ideologies (as the rest of the press seems to think). It is a moral decision. If whatever comes out of the Senate Republicans takes away health coverage from anybody, it means earlier loss of life than with healthcare coverage for that person. Contrary to what that Congressman said, people do “die because of lack of healthcare coverage”. 

Do you know what they call people without healthcare? Dead or poor. The reason Obama made it a priority is because so many of the bankruptcy cases involved medical bills.  Returning to the pre-Obamacare era is dumb economically, but it is lethal as well. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe we need to accept that death happens. But as a society, don’t we have the collective will to limit that? That’s what Obamacare taught us: that we can save people, if we want to. This Senate doesn’t seem to want to. Isn’t preventing suffering a good thing? Isn’t that our call as human beings — to take care of each other?

I’m not a big one for hyperbole, but isn’t the early death of 23 million people a form of genocide? While it’s a lot harder to prove neglect, we recognize that it is wrong, and that it is a form of violence. Writing a law that says some of us require neglect of others is inhuman. I have given up on figuring out who is at fault — doctors and the medical establishment or insurance companies and their rules or Big Pharma for soaking us for meds. At this point none of that matters. Those who have made things worse have already done so. For any other body — especially one of elected representatives — to plan the illness and destruction of millions of lives is something super-villains do in the comics. It has no place in real life. 

If this bill does anything like it appears it will, anyone who votes for it should never be re-elected. Not ever! Still, that makes it about politics again. Anyone who votes for this — again, if it is what it seems — should not he allowed to represent humanity. 

I keep seeing dead people as the direct result of this bill. If you’re ok with that, you’re dead already. I don’t know what to say after that.

I’ll be…

Resisting with peace,
John

Jesus Was A Radical, and Other “Liberal” Thoughts.

My friend Jen is not particularly aware of the Christian Left, and she is not alone. For United Church of Christ clergy like myself who have screaming “we exist!” into the cone of silence that is our media, that’s a real problem. As someone like William Barber ihas a featured place in a NY Times article, and his hard, moral work has given us the light of day to talk and be heard about the Jesus we serve. 

One would think that fundamentalists were the only kind of “Christian” around. I would run screaming from Jesus if that were true. A bit of history is important here. “Fundamentalism” is not, I repeat, not as old as Jesus. It came about in the late 1800s and said one was a “Christian” only if they believed in 5 “fundamentals” of faith: 1) The Bible is perfect in every word (innerant) 2) The Virgin Birth of Jesus, 3) that all the good people who are alive when Jesus comes back will float into heaven (the “rapture”) at the end of time, while 4) the bad people will go to a literal Hell, with flames and all that. 5) is that only the people who claim “Jesus as their Lord and Saviour” will avoid Hell. Everybody else is on their own unless we can get to them and save them.

Left leaning Christians believe what Bernie Sanders said, “Jesus was a Socialist Jew”. We believe that the early church in Acts 2 is socialism 2,000 years before Marx. We believe that love of neighbor and love of God are central to the faith (because Jesus said that), rather than whether a Virgin can give birth. We may actually believe some of the 5 fundamentals (I can do 2 of them myself), we don’t think they are what Jesus cared about most — not at all.

Jesus didn’t own anything. Jesus wanted us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the sick. He didn’t care if you had a membership card to his club. He talked to women when no man was supposed to. He touched unclean people all the time, he talked to “half-breeds”, like Samaritans, when he wasn’t supposed to.  He just broke the rules all the time and it didn’t go over well with The Powers-That-Be. Just to confuse matters, he did it out of love, not out of anger. He didn’t much care who the political leaders of his day were, but he did care about what they did. He believed in the equal value of all people and he wanted to know why, if everybody was equal in God’s eyes, why weren’t we treating them like it?  He was.

There are , and have always been, people who liked the status-quo because it worked for them. Jesus was not one of them and it got him killed. Left-leaning Christians accept that as a possible cost of our faith. We’re not happy about it, but we know it’s possible — likely even — if we do this life right. Bet you never heard Jerry Falwell or Loel Osteen say that, but St. Francis did. And MLK did. 

That whole “God loves everybody, so why don’t we?” thing is primary for us, and anybody who has ever been oppressed in any way gets that. Anyone who has ever said, “Hey, don’t I matter?” gets it, or should. That’s our connection to Black folk’s faith. When plantation owners wanted them to understand God loved them more, they saw the Old Testament slaves and said, ” Hey, wait, what’s this stuff?” God frees slaves! Jesus says you’re supposed to love us as equals!  What’s with that? We thought you said the whole Bible was true! Once again, God and Jesus messed with everything the powerful believed. That’s our Jesus! 

That belief in taking the Bible “seriously, but not literally” connects us to millennials and evangelicals. I don’t think even the New York Times gets how that works, but it makes sense to people like Bono and Jim Wallis, both of whom believe budgets are moral documents

So, we “Left-leaning” Christians are finally getting heard. We hope to keep it up, and we hope you’ll notice our Jesus, found in the actual scriptures, not the works of Adam Smith, Ayn Rand or the “prosperity gospel”. You can seen why we’re not thrilled about healthcare cuts or budgets designed to kill people. When you “lefties” are organizing, count us in. Let us introduce you to the guy we work for.

Resisting with Peace, 
John

AUTHOR’S CORRECTION: if you read the comments, you’ll note that “my friend Jen” is Jen Chapin and (through her work at WhyHunger, as a musician, an activist, and as history teacher) she knows and likes a whole lot of us Left-leaning Christians. I continue to be impressed by her knowledge. I commend to you her song ” Gospel” which features samples of a supporter and strategist for MLK. For those interested in such things, check out Vincent Harding’s organization “Veterans of Hope”, Mennonite theology, “On Being” on NPR, liberation theology, … and, of course, support WhyHunger.

Trump Must Go. Now!

A recent article in The Nation  discussed from a variety of points of view whether we should let the process play out or whether we should impeach him sooner rather than later. What it boiled down to is this: Is Pence more dangerous? Keep him. Is Trump’s getting nothing done helping people? Keep him. Is he too dangerous to leave in much longer? If yes, he has to go. 

Today, when Donald Trump decided to back out of the Paris Climate Accords, he put himself in the last category. Forget politics. Forget ethics. Forget classism. Forget racism. Forget whatever you have for or against him. A man who chooses to deny climate change, or declines to do anything about it, is not — and cannot be — concerned for the welfare of America’s citizens. It’s not just the act, though that is enough. The problem here is intent. Why would anyone choose to do this? Trump apparently said he was elected by Pittsburgh, not Paris. There are two problems: 1) Pittsburgh doesn’t support the decision and 2) America is more than just Pittsburgh. Trump was elected to be President of the entire country, with its miles and miles of coastline. I have nothing against the Rust Belt, and in fact, I want them to have jobs and education and food and all the things they need. Still, America is more than the Rust Belt, Bible Belt or any other piece of the country. 

 Deny all you want, Mr. President, but if there’s even a chance in your mind that climate change will make things worse for the entire planet, at least attempt to stop it. You’ll attack N. Korea because it threatens lives. You’ll attack Syria because they kill and maim people. You’ll attack the Press because they bother you, but you don’t feel threatened enough by global climate change and its effects on all Americans to at least attempt to stop it?! 

With every other issue that follows this campaign, with the isolation of our allies, and now with this, it is clear that the President is actively working against America’s interest. He needs to step down. If he won’t do that, we need to remove him. We must start now.
Resisting with Peace,
John