I am struggling.
I’m going to write about it. It’s bound to offend some people, if they read it, because I think people are easily offended when it comes to this sort of thing. I’m trying to prepare myself for the inevitable self-righteous tracts that are going to appear in my comments. I can’t adequately explain how much I dread confrontation. Maybe that’s why I write a blog instead of a newspaper column. And yet, I do write a blog, and here I go opening myself up for confrontation again!
Then again, no one ever said that faith was supposed to be easy.
My struggle stems from what seems to me to be a discrepancy, illustrated below.
This is everywhere I look – the newspapers, television, web publications – but the main place that I see it is among my many acquaintances on Facebook. I live in a conservative part of the country, and many of my friends and relatives have conservative politics and religious backgrounds. They are, I understand, the Religious Right.
What I don’t understand is how the Religious Right exists. It just makes so little sense in light of my understanding of Christianity.
Before I go on, and in the interest of full disclosure… I’ve been around teh intrawebz long enough to know that the first attack I’m going to see, assuming anyone reads this, is an attack on my credentials. I can’t claim formal training in theology (then again, neither can any of the people likely to flame me) but I can say this about myself:
raised as a Christian, attending Protestant churches
attended weekly Sunday School throughout my childhood
have been a member of two different churches (due to a move)
serve as a liturgist at my church
have been approached multiple times, and have entertained the notion, about entering the ministry
college educated (and not at some fancy-pants liberal private college, either)
Back to my point. See, from my perspective, all I can see is an entire population of people suffering from crippling cognitive dissonance. These are otherwise-intelligent people who are declining to actually read the legislation, who are blindly believing whatever their favorite talk show host or email forwarder tells them, and who are totally neglecting their biblical calling in pursuit of the protection of their own personal financial security.
"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?" 1 John 3:17
"…’The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.’" Luke 3:11
Health care reform seems like a very simple issue to me, from a spiritual point of view. People are suffering. For some of these people, that suffering is a consequence of choices they have made. For others, it is through no fault of their own. Regardless, there but for the grace of God go we, right? Who here is qualified to throw a stone? And we all are in danger, because we live in a system that is designed to profit from our pain. Any one of us could have a medical issue that might not be covered by our insurance; any one of us could lose our job and be unable to get insurance due to unemployment or a pre-existing condition; any one of us could fall ill and be dropped from our insurance as a result. It happens every day, to essentially blameless individuals who just get caught up in bad luck and a bad system. If we are good people, if we are Christian, then we have a responsibility to try to fight that suffering, to try to keep one another out of danger – even if they’re in that position because they screwed up.
"The second [most important commandment] is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these." Matthew 12:31
One of the arguments I’ve seen, from people who are putting enough time into it to make real arguments rather than just calling Obama and Stupak babykilling socialists, is that it’s just not the government’s job to be doing this stuff – that the Bible tells people and churches to take care of one another, but not the government. Okay, I’ll give you that. It’s an argument. E-x-c-e-p-t, what exactly is the government, then? Isn’t the government us? A government of the people, by the people, for the people? The Bible even tells us that the government is established as an agent of God. It can be hard to remember that particular admonition when the other Party’s guy is in office, but I think it’s pretty high hubris to think that we can even begin to understand all of the mysterious ways in which God works.
If we believe that God is omnipotent and has a plan for all of us, then how can we not believe that every vote cast, every official elected, is a part of that plan? And if the government is of and by the people, and is – through the people – an agency of God’s will, then why is it wrong for the government to act in a Christian way? (Speaking of which… aren’t the people making this argument, the same people who think prayer in school and “under God” in the Pledge are important? How can you disapprove of the separation of Church and State when it suits you, and uphold it when it suits you, and not know yourself for a hypocrite?)
Now those same people are online, joining Facebook Groups like “Defy the Healthcare Mandate!” and calling for lawsuits and legislation that will drain states’ treasuries, cause hardworking parents to make the choice between food and medicine, and sign death sentences for poverty-stricken children and senior citizens nationwide. They’re hollering about the reform’s audacity in forcing them to pay a tax or in forcing them be insured (which makes me wonder what they think about car insurance). They’re saying that they’re going to refuse to pay the fines, that this is proof of the government’s inherent evil. I keep finding myself wondering if they can think over the sound of their own voices shouting.
"This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." Romans 13:6-7
"Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?" Isaiah 10:1-3
Another interesting tidbit I’ve picked up is that some religious groups believe that their material wealth on Earth is a direct reflection of their worth in God’s eyes, and that they feel that wealth is rightfully and righteously theirs, not to be shared with those deemed less worthy via Divine Bank Transfer. I wonder what perversion of the Gospel led them to that idea? Isn’t it the poor who are blessed? What is it that the love of money does?
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10:25
I just don’t understand how you can claim membership in a faith that carries Christ’s name, and not see the irony in willfully discarding so many of the teachings that Christ held dearest to his heart. I don’t know how you can think it is the Christian thing to do to encourage others to act in selfishness and disdain rather than in love and compassion.
"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:19
I do have to remind myself that the picture is not as bleak as my Facebook feed, or the following (moderately snarky) diagram, suggests:
After all, there is a Religious Left – and just because we don’t prioritize being loud, doesn’t mean that we aren’t here. The Religious Right is noisy, but they’re not the majority. Fortunately for Christ’s work in the United States, there are many, many people out there who fall into the turquoise and green sections of that Venn diagram.
"Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17
"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." Isaiah 58:10
Maybe we are wrong. But I would rather err on the side of mercy than on the side of personal profit, personal security, or personal pride.