Monday, March 30, 2009

Lifestyles of the Rich and Healthy

Aaack - I'm drowning in complicated claim forms, elevator music, and underpaid telephone operators who seem to hate their jobs. I'm currently on hold - you know, listening to some John Tesh piano music, interrupted periodically by a perky voice telling me something I'm sure I need to know about products I'm certain I need to buy as soon as someone answers the phone. I am chasing insurance rabbits today... My mom's medicare+ private policy post-heart-attack issues, our home's post-giant-hail storm roof matters, our 4 cars up-almost-30% this six months bill, my son's I-might-not-be-in-school-next-semester potential loss of health coverage concerns, and the megabucks dental work an endodontist tells me I need - how much of that will be covered? It's hard to explain the breakfast dishes in the sink at the end of a day like today. Yes, I have a cordless phone. Surely I could listen to John Tesh while rinsing bowls and coffee mugs. But who wants to be caught for an instant without the policy number, group ID, registration code, online reference matriculation letters, confirmation message, secret code to the future of the human race when the happy corporate insurance specialist finally gets on the line? Yes, I feel most secure on these days in my little nest of policies, which now have Sharpie scribbles up and down the page margins.
3/30/09 Jennifer - gtng back .5% coverage $1,202 at least
100/300 Sean - rtnd call for J $789 before 5 2day
No. I won't be able to decipher the notes. Ever. When my husband asks me what progress I made with the insurance companies today, the answer will mostly sound like the blabber it is. I'll probably sum it all up with a bit of arrogant sarcasm like: How do people who didn't go to college jump through all these hoops? And then I'll feel like a jerk when he says, "Lots of them don't have insurance." 46-million people in the United States don't have health insurance. 37-million of those people are working, but have not been offered, or cannot afford to pay for, or have recently lost company contributions to health insurance. 8.1 million of the uninsured are children. As people lose jobs - college educated people included - the number of uninsured rises. Daily. Only 7% of the unemployed can actually afford to pay for COBRA, which is the continuation of group health coverage offered by former employers. The average cost for COBRA is $700/month for a family of four; $250/month for an individual. When the average monthly unemployment check is $1,000, it's easy to see how health insurance becomes a low priority. Do we need a national health care system? Do we need some way to turn the $100 billion spent every year to take care of uninsured Americans in hospitals and clinics into money that keeps them out of critical medical care centers? Hey - my car insurance is not an option. Mandatory liability insurance on cars makes Texas a safer place to drive a car. My homeowners insurance is not an option. The bank that carries my mortgage insists I protect its investment. Wouldn't health insurance for every American...you know, Americans like the guy standing next to you at the grocery store, the woman holding your child at daycare, the teen-aged boy picking up your daughter Friday night for a date, the team of night workers dusting your office furniture...wouldn't a system that guaranteed paid visits to the doctor when those Americans are sick make for a safer place to live? A healthier, kinder, more compassionate, fair place? Back to the phones, the piano music, the snarly phone staffs. With gratitude. And a bit of guilt. Everyone should have this much fun. I mean it. Peace.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vote Earth My Beloved

Oh my sweet city. My soulful nest of weirdness. Great bleeding heart of Texas. Beautiful Austin... Wherefore art thou, my bastion of cutting edge thinkers? Sweet home of sprout eaters. Tribal gathering place of tree huggers and peace lovers and the state's only dependably liberal democrats? Why aren't you an Earth Hour City, my love? 4,000 cities in 88 countries around the globe have agreed to turn out the lights for an hour at 8:30 PM tonight as a vote of support for global action on climate change. It's a World Wildlife Fund event, begun two years ago in Sydney Australia. Last year, the event grew from 1 city to 350 cities. This year...well, it's big. But Austin is not on board. I wrote the mayor and city council a few weeks ago - thinking they must not have heard of Earth Hour. Surely we global-warming-aware Austinites want to be identified with activities that say, "Hey! Wake up! The earth is melting!" - I thought. But I received no reply from Austin's governing folks. Not one. And our fair city, apparently, is not participating. This is particularly troublesome to me because I recently accused my Arlington, TX sisters of living in a soul-less swarm of malls and chain restaurants. Um...guess what? Arlington is an Earth Hour city. So is Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Irving, Grapevine...even Rollingwood - which is an enclave of upper-upper class living surrounded on all sides by the city of Austin. I am completely disappointed. You can bet I'll be turning out the lights for an hour tonight, though. If you're a person living in Austin, I hope you'll join me. Your light switch is your voice today... A voice crying out FOR the wilderness. Let's save it. Peace.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Can We Believe in It?

When the President announces a new strategy for a country we're militarily active in...and the strategy involves moving more troops into the country, is that change we can believe in? It happened today. President Obama announced a metrics driven strategy for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It calls for an additional 4,000 military troops - beyond the 17,000 additional personnel scheduled for deployment in a couple of months - all of whom are added to the 38,000 already on the ground in the area. "Oh," I sighed as I heard the news while I sped across a Texas highway this morning, "This does not sound like change." I am now home, at my desk. I have read the President's new strategic plan. I have reviewed stories in The Washington Post, at Voice of America, and on the BBC. Yes, we are sending more troops. The primary mission is to "train Afghan security forces" and "confront the enemy." This does not sound like change. Except this time, at least, we are going to send our elite forces - the 82nd Airborne Division...the All American team - to do the work. Not National Guardsmen. And we're going to measure our progress every step of the way. The President says our goal in the region is not a re-vamped, U.S. style government in Afghanistan, but stopping Al Queda. The President also says the work to defeat Al Queda must involve Pakistan to be successful. Gulp. I do hate it when we start rattling our swords toward Pakistan. But, wait a minute... It's not "bombs and bullets" Obama is proposing in Pakistan, but a bit of compassion. $1.5 billion a year in aid. For five years. That's money, of course, tied to cooperative behaviors from Pakistan's government - but, money, nonetheless earmarked for things like education, hospitals, and job creation. Wow. These Pakistanis are the folks who turn a blind eye to the hills that provide save havens for the world's most feared terrorists. Are we really going to love the people who love our enemies? Guess what we've found out about Pakistanis? They don't necessarily love terrorists. They like clean water and schools and opportunities to succeed, just like most people. Has President Obama figured out how to win friends and defeat our enemies? The administration's Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, said yesterday that as many as two-thirds of the Taliban groups protecting Al Queda are motivated by local concerns, and could be defeated or pacified by addressing problems like inadequate water supplies or access to education. President Obama will take his strategic plan to our NATO allies next week. He says he'll ask them to help us train Afghan security forces, and will propose they make a "greater civilian commitment" to the area. He says we will lead the way. This sounds like believable change. The kind that really could lead to peace.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Do It For Your Mother...

This Saturday - at 8:30 PM wherever you are on this planet - take a stand for Mother Earth. Turn off your lights. Your light switch is your vote. Do it. Peace.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Philosophy of Persistence

If you really want something in life you have to work for it. Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers.
-- Homer Simpson
Where has President Obama been all his life? I am beginning to wonder if the loony anti-Obama crowd has been right all along - perhaps he's not an American. I mean, if he's lived here most of his life, surely the man has noticed that Americans WANT IT NOW. A thriving economy. $0 budget deficit. Affordable health care. Compassionate doctors. High achieving students in every district. Top notch teachers in every classroom. Improved SAT scores. Zero emission cars and factories. Green energy grids everywhere. Peace on earth. After all - it's been 64 days! The President has had over two months in office, and what the heck do we have to show for it? He came into power on January 20 with two wars raging and a $1.3 trillion budget deficit staring him in the face. So, what's up with the lolly gagging? Isn't he ever going to fix that stuff? And where's my free health care? The President reminded us all last night that he lives by a "philosophy of persistence." He named banks, lobbyists, Iran, and pork barrel projects as a few of the issues he's approaching with this brand of problem solving. Could he be more out of touch with the people? This is not an immediate gratification strategy. Just take a look at what the word persistence means:
1. continuing steadfastly or firmly in some state or purpose, in spite of opposition; 2. lasting or enduring tenaciously; 3. being insistent in a statement, request, question.
What are we Homer Simpson Americans to do? For a quick fix, we could turn to yesterday news:
New home sales rose 4.7 percent in February - in spite of economist's predictions that sales would fall. Demand for big-ticket manufactured items rose in February, even though the experts expected demand would fall.
No, it's not Happy Days Are Here Again. We're still walking the somber lyrics of Hard Times Come Again No More. But it's something. And we have a president who seizes every opportunity to tell us he can see a future that pulls us from recession to recovery, and "ultimately to prosperity." "This is a big ocean liner - not a speed boat that turns around immediately." That's what the President said last night. But, oh - we do so love speed boats... Here's to persistence. And patience. And, eventually, peace.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Greed We Trust

When I try thinking about myself in relation to executives at AIG who received taxpayer bonus money, I see a little kid kicking the dirt and telling the school yard bully she can keep my lunch money because I wasn't hungry anyway. Sure, we're mad as all hell about it...but what are we going to do? Our elected representatives (you know, the people who make laws and spend tax dollars on our behalf) handed over the lunch money last September with a kind of reckless surrender we now find utterly irresponsible. That headlock the bully had us all in seemed inescapable at the time, so we quickly handed over the cash. $173 billion to AIG, with very few questions asked. The move was dubbed TARP - Troubled Asset Recovery Program, aka Bailout. We now know it might more appropriately have been named TRELOU - The Rich Eat Lunch On Us. Who knows, really, where all the money went? Your Congressman or Senator? Um, well...try writing those people today to ask them that question. Here's what we do know - of the $173 bil AIG received, $164-$215 million went to AIG executives in the form of bonuses. Retention bonuses. Like we need to make sure all the bullies stay in school so the rest of us don't get fat eating lunch with our own lunch money. We now have legislation, passed in the House, stalled in the Senate, that would send the bullies to the Principal's office. HR 1586 (passed last Thursday) and S 651 (currently sitting on a Senate calendar) enact a 90% tax on bonuses paid with TARP funds. At companies that received more than $5 billion in tax dollars. For individuals whose income tops $250,000 a year. Whew. Making sure bullies are dealt with fairly is a bit complicated. The legislation has been declared unconstitutional by many - a bill of attainder, an ex post facto law, not to mention a simple violation of a contractual agreement to pay bonuses. Others say the moving around of bailout funds in this way constitutes illegal fraudulent conveyances, which crop up from time to time in bankruptcy maneuvers. What happens in these cases is debtors hide assets from creditors so they don't have to use the assets the way creditors expect them to. Ugh. I'm telling you - unless you have a PhD in Economics, a JD in Law, and a red phone linked to the U.S. Treasury Secretary - I think you can count yourself out on really knowing what happened to your lunch money. Today, 9 of 10 top executives at AIG have returned their bonuses, totaling $50-million. You realize that means nine people took home $5.5-million each in bonus money, don't you? Do you also know that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 135-million Americans work for pay, with a mean annual income of $40,690? These were the lunch boxes raided for bonus money. I'm anxious to see what happens next. Will we applaud the benevolence and right-thinking of executives who gave back their $5.5 million dollar bonuses, then step away and declare the playground safe again for pockets that jingle when we run? What about the rest of the money - the $115-$165 million in bonuses at AIG? Will it show up on the teacher's desk before the bell rings, too? Does anyone ever sit down with the money grabbers to say, "Hey, kid, you have plenty of money. Stop taking change from the poor kids." ? Ah, whatever. We weren't hungry anyway. Right? Peace.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Here's To Life!

I am writing, this morning, from Bloomington, Indiana...where my brainy oldest child is a grad student at Indiana University. He's a bonafide grown up with a home his parents can comfortably visit. It's a crazy weird and wonderful thing. So, the first day of Spring stretches before me outside a window I find distracting. The birds sing unrecognizable tunes. The rustle in the trees is not the noisy oak leaf, but a soft rattle of pine needles. The air is crisp, not balmy. There are no buds yet on the tall deciduous trees framing the edge of my view from this perch. But it is a sunny, blue sky day. A full and glorious day of springtime. Indiana style. Of course this reminds me that seasons arrive for all of us...no matter where we sit and drink our coffee. The sun rises and sets. The moon shines. Stars twinkle. Children grow in wisdom and stature. It happens to everyone...whether we're in Austin, Texas...Bloomington, Indiana...Baghdad, Iraq...the Gaza strip...or Kabul, Afghanistan. The particulars may be slightly different, but the cycle is the same. From winter, spring. From darkness, light. From death, life. Let there be life. Peace.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

War is Not Healthy - Year 6

2,190 days at war in Iraq - at least 533 to go. Perhaps 1,020 still ahead, depending on how you view the stationing of "support troops" in Iraq until the end of 2011. I slipped into a booth in a bagel shop Sunday morning, barely out of my PJs and reveling in the naughty feeling a hookey day from church allows. I had my newspaper, a cup of hot coffee, and my favorite Sunday news companion. It was all good. Good, at least, until I realized it was that Sunday. The one before the anniversary of the U.S. invasion in Iraq. The one on which every soldier from my part of Texas who has died since we flew/marched/ran/illegally entered Bagdhad in 2003 is pictured in the Life & Arts section of the paper. I hate to look. It makes me cry. There they are, most of them pictured in front a flag in their military dress.... Specialist Corey M. Shea, 21 Captain Michael J. Medders, 25 Specialist Jessica Sarandrea, 22 Sergeant David K. Cooper, 25 And on and on it goes. Over 500 of them from Central Texas. It feels almost voyeuristic to stare into the faces...like I'm intruding on another mother's pain, somehow. But I stare. I study their names. I grieve over their ages - young, like my own sons. I imagine them as little boys and little girls. I picture them with little ones of their own. And I let myself cry. Even in a booth at the bagel shop. I take our wars quite personally. I invite you to do the same. Since we started war in Iraq on March 19, 2003 - 4,259 of our sons and daughters have died fighting for something they don't quite understand in a land they never imagined they'd be in - much less die in.
Look into their faces. Let these children of ours - the fallen, the lost, the dead - let them speak to you, if you can.
I can easily imagine them saying, "Enough. Bring my friends home." Let there be peace. Soon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

WTF?*

*Why Talk Fancy... About a loving God and a reconciling Jesus when what you really want is a rule-making God and an exclusive Jesus? I've about had my fill of Christian jerks, I must say. The latest among them is someone in charge of a group of orchestra students from a Midwest Christian college of some renown. This guy decided his traveling student musicians couldn't stay in the warm and open homes of members of the church hosting the group's concert because those members were homosexuals. A great friend of mine is the pastor of this church. It gives me a stomach ache to imagine the moment he realized he was going to have to call his generous gay members to give them the news that their hospitality had been rejected... Solely on the basis of who they choose to love. Do you understand this scenario? A beautiful BAPTIST congregation agrees to host student musicians for a nighttime performance, and arranges lodging in members' homes for every student. When the director of the group discovers the church has gay members, he says something like, "None of them are hosting our students, are they?" When he is told that, in fact, four homes opened for his students have been prepared by homosexual couples he says the students can't stay in those homes. I keep re-writing that, looking for a way to say it that makes it a bit more believable. I mean, at least have the decency to load the bus after the performance and take every student back to the narrow minded hallowed halls they came from. Leave town saying, "Oh, we forgot we left the water running." Do something a touch more loving than kicking sand in the faces of people who've welcomed you into their church and their families and their kitchens. What kinds of Christians do that? My pastor friend and his staff wrote a letter to the president of the college, saying:
We write simply to ask you to join us in our grief for the immeasurable and unjust pain that was inflicted upon the men and women of our church, both gay and straight, because this decision was made by (the college) representatives. People went out of their way, prepared their homes, arranged their schedules, cooked and shopped, only to be told that students would not be sent home with them because they are gay. These are men and women who have given their lives to Christ, who are a full part of our fellowship of mercy, who like many of us carry wounds from our religious past. They were left to question again if they are invited to be “for Christ and His Kingdom,” to quote (the college) motto. Regardless of whether you agree, we trust that you believe that God grieves with us at their pain from an unexplained, unwarranted rejection of their gifts.
I salute this pastoral team for taking the high road in this letter. I believe I would have asked the college president what he was hoping to teach students at his highly respected church school about the world in which they live. Is he hoping they will fear and hate people who are different from themselves? Surely there is no concern about contagious homosexuality in 2009. Certainly there is no one who believes a comfortable bed and a warm breakfast in the home of a gay person is going to affect the health/sexual preference of a college student. Surely. Certainly. Furthermore, can't we at least count on our exclusive, private, Christian institutions of higher learning to teach kids a few basic manners? Like: "Thank you for your kind hospitality?" And, if not that, how about the lessons from the life of Jesus? You remember him... The one who ate and drank and stayed with society's marginalized during the entirety of his public ministry. The one who said, go ahead, throw your stones. Just make sure you have no reason to have stones thrown at you. The one who said, sure it's easy to love those who love you - try loving someone you find a touch outside your comfort zone. Yea. That guy. It's been a week, and my pastor friend has not had a response from the president of the college. Can you believe it? Is it possible to imagine real peace in such a world?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Where Art Thou, O Prince?

Did we kiss a toad with no princely outcome, peace lovers? I clearly remember Barack Obama saying "troops out of Iraq within 16 months"... which by my calculation, if we start counting on his first full day as President, would be June of next year. Ten days ago the President gave us a revised time line for withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq - August of next year. Okay, I can give him an extra two months to make good on his promise. But can I abide the ace he pulled out of his shirt sleeve? "Support" troops will stay behind? 35,000-50,000 of them. Those Americans will stay in Iraq in the spirit of "training, equipping, and advising Iraqi security forces." So says the President. Where, my prince, is the promised surge of diplomacy and humanitarian aid in Iraq? Surely we do not expect 18-25 year olds who've been trained to kill people to serve in this capacity, do we? Ultimately, says the President, we'll be completely the heck out of the Fertile Crescent by December 31, 2011 - which, actually, is just fulfilling a "Status of Forces" deal that George W. Bush worked out for us before he punched out. Can you tell I am struggling with feeling a bit betrayed? This is the President for whom I pondered driving straight to Washington D.C. on November 5, 2008 to sign up for whatever team would stand between him and a bullet. This is the President for whom I spent 5 days in the bowels of New Mexico, stretching my introverted self to the absolute max knocking on door after Republican door to sing his song of "the change we need." This is the President to whom I pledged no-peace-at-the-family-Thanksgiving-table allegiance. And war is my big issue. I am not alone in this quandary. Some of my favorite peace buddies are feeling the same way. Another Mother for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action are all calling for a quicker end to the illegal, immoral military occupation of Iraq. These groups are also disappointed, as I am, with the escalation of war in Afghanistan. Obama was to be our prince of peace. I claim no expertise on military strategies. I have been clinging to hope and trying to be patient on this subject. I am encouraged to hear our president say things like:
"Long term solutions (in Iraq) must be political, not military."
and
"The United States pursues no claim to your (Iraqi) territory or resources."
And I am well aware that he is working with people like Robert Gates, the very Secretary of Defense who a couple of reporters at the Washington Post have dubbed the US Defiance Secretary. And I know he is trying to avoid a neocon coup up there in Washington, D.C...where he desperately needs some Capitol Hill kum-ba-ya moments to get through the sludge left behind by the political processes of the last 8 years. Yesterday we heard 12,000 troops will come home from Iraq over the next 6 months, which pretty much takes us to the end of 2009. That leaves 128,000 kids still standing between Iraqi security forces and sectarian suicide bombers. All is not well on that front - twenty-eight people died in one of those attacks in Baghdad Sunday. Twenty-nine have been killed today. Many of our kids will be there until the end of 2011. Almost three years away. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan... Oh, my.
"We will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned."
That's what President Obama said ten days ago. I pray the honor he intends is not the Purple Heart. "Before one more mother's child is lost..." Peace.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Beat Goes On

My 77-year old mother took down two trees in her front yard this morning. Then she called me and asked me which bags of mulch she should buy to put in her flower beds. After the horror subsided over the trees... felled by a woman with a hand saw and 12 stents in her heart ... I said, "No, mom...you are not hefting bags of mulch." Then I suggested she ask my sister, who lives in her town, to help her. "I have a good wheelbarrow," she said. An hour later, my sister was calling me from her car and we were agonizing over the very real possibility that she was going to need to call an ambulance to mom's house. The tree work did not sit well with mom's chicken-wired heart. We need our hearts to work. That little fist-sized muscle in the middle of our bodies is solely responsible for keeping our brain supplied with oxygenated blood. The brain simply will not tolerate much in the way of oxygen deprivation. When the heart stops pumping, the brain thinks the movie is over and it begins to turn off the lights and lock the doors. I'm happy to report that my mom's heart is still pumping tonight - re-wired with a brand new set of stents and busy keeping the brain amused with another round of "gotcha!" I understand heart instability can be hereditary, and I've mentioned my concerns about that to my doctor once or twice. He usually replies with some version of, "Well, what are we going to do about heredity?" Indeed. What are we to do about that? It's an intensely stubborn heart sitting in the middle of my mother... flawed almost to death...but fiercely determined to see each day's work through. It is a big and open heart, one that has welcomed the lonely and bandaged the hurting for as long as I can remember. It melts when her favorite aria is sung, hardens when the world rejects the weak, bursts when her grandchildren write her a letter, dances when the family is gathered, and breaks when any of us cries. And it is beating its own rhythm tonight...keeping its own time. That amazing little fist-sized muscle. Not such a bad heart to inherit... Peace.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On Judges and Justice

I heard Sandra Day O'Connor say last night that supreme court judges can't afford to question their judgment once they've made a decision on the constitutional critical mass of a law. She said, in fact, that her personal policy in 26 years on the U.S. Supreme Court was to express her opinion and move on. No looking back, she said. No second guessing. Ever. Otherwise, I suppose, you'd never sleep. Poor, poor members of the California Supreme Court. Today, those judges were forced to look back over their shoulders - a long gaze across a $40-million church-funded campaign machine, and 7-million November votes that said, "You got it wrong when you overturned our ban on same sex marriage, judges. We don't like 'em." Those 7-million folks fear allowing same sex marriage will destroy "traditional" marriages in California... which we know makes as much sense as my blaming a bulging belly on the grocery store in my neighborhood that's allowed to stock Ben and Jerry's ice cream. But the judges in California aren't considering what makes sense today. They aren't even considering whether or not the rights of same sex couples are being violated. They seem to be focused on the unalienable right of Californians to gather forces and change the constitution with a majority-rules vote. The votes of 7-million Californians last November upended a 5-month old Supreme Court ruling that allowed same sex marriage on the sound basis of liberty and justice for all. That means twenty percent of the population of the Golden State changed the constitution for the other 80%. Marriage, in California, is now defined by the constitution as being a union between a man and a woman. And it looks like the supreme court judges - on second thought - may agree. "You can present your own initiative to the voters," said Justice Joyce Kennard today to proponents of equal access to the right to marry. Some have rewound California's constitutional proposition history to 1964, when the same majority-rules vote overturned a law that had made it illegal for property owners to refuse to rent or sell to people because of their race. With a 65% margin of victory, Californians re-legalized racial discrimination that year. The vote was reversed by the the state's supreme court two years later. Mobocracy. It's fickle and nurtures decision-making ruled by passion, not reason. It sounds like a good thing for those of us who are passionate, but really it's like letting your children gang up on you and make the rules for bedtime. Supreme court. It should be the fail safe button on mobocracy. It should be the place where a majority is told, no...you may not take away the rights of a minority. It's the voice saying, "Because I'm the mom, that's why." We'll know what the judges think it looks like in the rear view mirror sometime in the next 90 days. I hope they choose a good night's sleep. Peace.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Really - What WOULD Jesus Do? Part 2

There's a letter spreading like fire in dry weeds among the politically conservative. You must see it if you haven't. It's titled: I Want A Divorce:
Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists, Obama supporters, et al: We have stuck together since the late 1950's, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has run its course. Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right, so let's just end it on friendly terms. We can smile; slate it up to irreconcilable differences, and go on our own ways. Here is a model dissolution agreement: Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking a portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes. We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU. Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA, and the military. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore, and Rosie O'Donnell (you are however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move them). We'll keep the capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart, and Wall Street. You can have your beloved homeless, homeboys, hippies, and illegal aliens. We'll keep the hot Alaskan Hockey Moms, greedy CEOs, and Rednecks. We'll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood. You can make nice with Iran, Palestine, and France, and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us. You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or way of life are under assault, we'll provide them job security. We'll keep our Judeo-Christian Values.. You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism, and Shirley McClain. You can have the U.N. But we will no longer be paying the bill. We'll keep the SUV's, pickup trucks, and over-sized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru Station Wagon you can find. You can give everyone health care, if you can find any practicing Doctors (that is practicing, Howard Dean) who will follow to your turf (sic). We'll continue to believe health care is a luxury and not a right. We'll keep The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the National Anthem. I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute Imagine, I'd Like to Teach The World To Sing, Kum Ba Ya, or We Are the World. We'll practice trickle down economics, and you can give trickle up poverty its best shot. Since it often so offends you we'll keep our History, our Name, and our Flag. Would you agree to this? If so please pass it along to other like-minded patriots, and if you do not agree just hit delete and hang on. In the spirit of friendly parting, I'll bet you ANWAR on who will need whose help in 15 years. Sincerely, John J. Wall Law Student and an American P.S. please take Barbra Streisand.
My first thought was: Sounds good! Where do I sign? The second was: Surely some impetuous liberal put this out on the Internet just to make conservatives look stupid. Something akin to Stephen Colbert's show. As I continued to exchange email with the friend who had forwarded the letter, our conversation meandered from, "Oh, my!" to, "Sounds like what Jesus would do." Apparently - we decided - the writer wants a divorce from Jesus. Under the proposal submitted by Mr. Wall, we "liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists, Obama supporters, et al." would be left, post divorce, with the following: A system in which the rich take care of the poor. Jesus likes that (Luke 18:18-23). No firearms - no violence for violence. That's cool with Jesus (Matthew 5:38-42). No greed. Very cool with Jesus (Matthew 6:19-21). A love for the homeless, homeboys, hippies, aliens. Yep (Matthew 9:10-13). Making peace and being blessed. Check (Matthew 5:9). Less entitlement to the world's natural resources. Jesus is on it (Matthew 23:25). Health care for the poor (not just another luxury for the rich). Um, yes (Luke 14:13-14). Mindfulness of the language we use in our patriotic discourses. Certainly (Matthew 12:36-37). Food, clothing, and shelter for the least fortunate among us. Surprise, Jesus is for it (Matthew 25:39-40)! And, Barbara Streisand, Jane Fonda, Joan Baez, Bono... all welcome (Luke 19: 5-9)! Of course under Jesus' plan we'd also have to consider custody of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Dick Cheney...(John 13:34, Luke 6:27-28). Really. Yikes. Peace.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Really - What WOULD Jesus Do? Part 1

I walk every spring to raise money - and human sensitivity - for the world's hungry. It's a small thing: a short walk, usually on a nice day, with some of my best friends. The money I raise is almost completely insignificant, especially in the shadow of the problem:
One person dies of hunger in this world every 3.6 seconds.
Still, it's something. And, I always hope the awareness I raise significantly outdistances the dollars I bring in. This year, the new awareness is mine. It came in response to my request for a donation. Please bear with me as I give you some background on this event: It's a 2,000-community-strong fundraising walk sponsored by CROP - Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. Over the past 20 years, CROP Walks have raised $264-million to help the world's hungry. Twenty-five percent of that money - $66-million - has been spent in the communities where it was raised. The rest has been distributed throughout the world. The money is used to provide food, water, fuel, vocational training, literacy classes, health/sanitation/hygiene kits, etc. The parent organization for CROP is Church World Service - founded in 1946, in a post-war world, to:
Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, comfort the aged, shelter the homeless.
It was, and still is, a multi-denominational** effort founded on those stated principles, which - if I check my Bible - I see are the very instructions of Jesus (Matthew 25:35). Mission and principles aside, it is the inclusive work of Church World Service that bothered one of the people I asked for a donation. Here's the response I received:
Their mission (Church World Service) isn’t to extend the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and needy world, but rather, to “eradicate hunger and poverty and promote peace and justice.” In part, that sounds good, but there is an alarming absence of a desire or mission to extend the gospel to those who are in need of “the Savior.” In their list of core values they seek to “respect all faiths,” but quite frankly, that is not what Christ has called us to do.
Needless to say, this person declined to pledge money. I responded, respectfully of course, by saying surely the gospel delivered to a hungry world without a loaf of bread was not effective. Here's what I was told:
They need food, clothing, shelter, and to witness the love of Christ in our actions, but, most critically and fundamentally, they need Christ, lest hell be their future. That's why we find it important to not mix the Christian faith with "interfaith" associations. Buddha will not get them to heaven, Islam will not get them to heaven, Mormonism will not get them to heaven, Jehovah Witnesses will not get them to heaven, Hinduism will not get them to heaven, even Catholicism will not get them to heaven. Only faith in Jesus Christ will get the unsaved to heaven. CWS merely seeks to “eradicate hunger and to promote peace and justice.”
Okay...I'm going to ignore most of that paragraph that offends me and focus on this word: merely. "Merely seeks to eradicate hunger and promote peace and justice?" Is there a message of good news, aka gospel, more loving than: "I am here to give you food," or "I am here to protect you," or "I am here to provide sustainable ways for you to survive?" Does my friend really believe Jesus puts proselytizing over feeding? Christian literature over hygiene kits? Sermons over solutions to grinding poverty? What would Jesus do after telling his followers to remember two things: Love God and love your neighbor? Would this Jesus use the word "merely" in a sentence about eradicating hunger and promoting peace and justice? When we're talking about that person who's about to die in 3.6 seconds - does the Jesus of the Christian faith require this response?
"I know you're about to die, but I'm here to save you from hell. Apparently just in the nick of time."
Why have we made loving our neighbors so bloody difficult? And so, I am more keenly aware than ever that the hopeful of this world must ignore the rule makers of the world and stay determined to take the mean face off God. In fact, correct me if I'm wrong...isn't that exactly what Jesus DID do? Peace. **CWS Member Communions: African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA, Armenian Church of America (including Diocese of California), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Church of the Brethren, The Coptic Orthodox Church in North America, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Friends United Meeting, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Hungarian Reformed Church in America, International Council of Community Churches, Korean Presbyterian Church in America, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Mar Thoma Church, Moravian Church in America, National Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, Orthodox Church in America, Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the U.S.A., Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious, Society of Friends, Polish National Catholic Church of America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., Reformed Church in America Serbian Orthodox Church in the U.S.A. and Canada, The Swedenborgian Church, Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America, United Church of Christ, The United Methodist Church