Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Historic Day?

Today, Congress may or may not pass one of the most important and controversial bills of the last several decades. Whether or not the bill is perfect, which it almost certainly is not, is not the question as far as I am concerned. The question is, what kind of nation do we want to be? Just watching this video made me so sad. It just made me sad. It's kind of long, but so telling.

The worst part of it, in my opinion, is the fact that the vast, vast majority of tea party members, anti-healthcare activists, and Fox News Junkies are professed evangelical Christians. The people in the video are what caused the very first cracks in the foundation of what was once a strong, life-giving faith for me. I simply cannot stomach being associated with such ignorance, such lack of compassion, and such scandalous misinformation. The bizzare mistrust of government, the institution responsible for public schools, fire departments, police departments, highways and transportation systems, fair labor laws, constitutional equality, and countless other things that were probably once vehemently opposed but now form the fabric of our daily life, I find maddening. Are they serious? I'm no champion of the government, God knows that any institution run by flawed people will naturally have flaws, but give me a break. Ameristan? Because of providing health care to its citizens? The ridiculousness of the argument is almost too obvious to bother arguing against, and yet it has so many people so angry.

I have to reiterate how much it breaks my heart that the most vocal opposition comes from people like my parents. My parents are doctors, intelligent, compassionate, generous people, and yet they follow this viral campaign of propaganda and scare tactics because it ultimately comes from a source they trust: the Church. The Church that was meant to be a place of sanctuary for the widow and the orphan, that was meant to care for the needy, that was taught from the beginning to put other's needs first. Paul originally ordered all Christians to sell their possessions and give to the poor and live together sharing everything. You know, like commies. The church was one big red commie-fest. But we forget that.

The best book I ever read that dealt with this, the book that saved me from joining the ranks of angry ex-Christians everywhere, was Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing about Grace. Yancey is an evangelical, a faithful Christian, but he is time and time again criticized about this book. It's message was simple: the Church should not, and in fact cannot, by it's nature, be involved in politics. A political church will inevitably be a corrupt church, because politics are power and power is a corrupting, corrosive force. The church is about grace and grace alone, scandalously so in fact, and because government is an enforcer, it cannot ever operate under the principles of the church. The government has justice, the church has mercy. The world needs them both, but never mixed.

Jesus never once took on the government, Yancey points out. He never once paid even a single second's worth of attention to any laws, never railed against political figures; in fact the single time he was asked about the government in any direct way he said "Give unto Caeser what is Caeser's." He had nothing to say about the Roman occupation of Israel, nothing to say about homosexuality or prostitution or drunken orgies or gladiator kill games or any of the laws of Ancient Rome. But he had plenty to say about the religious leaders of the day. He saved all his venom for them. He called them a brood of vipers, who ignored the poor and lined their own pockets, who followed every law to the letter but had no compassion or mercy, who were self-righteous and claimed to be close to God while turning away from the very people they were supposed to serve. Jesus never ate with senators, he never ate with religious leaders, he ate with society's rejects and taught his disciples to do the same. That was it. That was his message. When asked what the most important commandment, he answered Love God, and Love your neighbor. All other commandments come out of those two.

So I look at the Church today, and all I can see is that they have become the enemy of what Jesus taught. If he were to be born today, you know who he would come down on like a righteous tidal wave? Not Obama. Not democrats or republicans or abortion doctors or homosexuals. Oh no. He'd leave them alone. But he would have plenty to say to the people who use his name to advance their politics, who insist that the law of the land be work for what you get and not neighbor helping neighbor. It makes me so angry. (An aside: I feel the need to point out that there are many, many Christians I have met all over the world that exemplify loving your neighbor and being generous and compassionate. I am speaking here only of this strange, new, conservative right wing church that seems to have overtaken so many in this country).

I realize this is a really long post, and kind of off the health care topic, but I think it's apt. Because health care for all is just one of the many evolving aspects of a good, citizen-centered nation, the ultimate in neighbor helping neighbor philosophy. Never mind all the myriad practical reasons to put it into place! I hope, I really really hope, that it passes.

Now I'll just leave you with this: a video taken at an anti-health care rally in my own state last Wednesday, followed by a mess of Bible verses showing just how ridiculous this line of thinking is for any human being, let alone the ones who are supposed to be living by what the Bible says.

Deuteronomy 15:7, 11
If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

Leviticus 23:22
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Proverbs 11:24-25
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Proverbs 14:31
He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.

Isaiah 1:17
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 58:6-7;10
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? ...and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (My aside: this was in response to the people's tendency to spend their time fasting and praying to be more holy. God had this to say: save your fasting. Go out and DO something. Just another l'il note)

Ezekiel 16:49
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (My aside: notice the sin of Sodom was NOT homosexuality, bu indifference to the needy. Just a l'il note)

Mark 10:21
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

1 Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

1 John 3:17-18

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.


Trista said...

What an interesting and poignant post. As a Canadian, I have been watching the American health care debate with great interest. We have (ahem) "socialist" health care in our country, and while it isn't perfect, I can honestly say that in most cases people aren't denied health care because they can't afford it. Not everything is free (most medications, for example), but there are also programs to help people who can't afford the parts of it that aren't free and don't have insurance that would cover the bulk of those expenses. Most Canadians believe that access to affordable or free health care is a societal value, a fundamental principle (perhaps even a basic human right). If this is communism, I can live with that. Does our government have to expend money on our health care system, and possibly cut other areas to afford it? Of course, those hard choices are made. The polarization that the health care debate has contributed to over the last several months is pretty appaling. I don't know enough about the current health care debate to authoritatively weigh in on the US situation, but clearly, in some cases, human decency has gone out the window in favour of partisan politics and religious fundamentalism. The second video you posted made me very, very sad.

Marie-Ève said...

Great post. As a fellow Canadian, I would second Trista: I've been guilty of whining about long waiting times in our health care system a few times, but overall, I appreciate it so much, you have no idea. And yeah, if this is communism, then I guess all industrialized (and many emerging) countries BUT the US are communists!

My husband and I have watched this debate with great interest. We are thrilled that the bill was passed, and even more thrilled to see that today, the buzz all around is so positive, renewing our faith in the American people (good thing there are people like you to counterbalance the Tea Party crazies!)

We refused to believe that they were really the voice of America -and today, I really feel that yeah, like we suspected (and hoped), they're just a very loud minority with a disproportionate coverage in the media. (But wait, according to them, it's the damn Liberals that control the media and never portray the "real Americans"...? I'm so confused now...!)