It looks like Congress is hitting the ground running to address the moral crisis of our healthcare system’s failure to cover millions of children. According to an AP report today, the House is moving to extend and expand SCHIP in the next few days, pulling as many as 4 million more children into the ranks of the insured. Pres. Obama will almost certainly sign the bill if and when it hits his desk. Should this happen as expected, all involved deserve our applause and gratitude.
Expanding SCHIP is a good first step, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Even after it becomes law, as many as 5 million children will remain uninsured. I hope the faith community will a) congratulate Congress and the President for taking action so quickly, b) make clear that it’s only a step toward the greater effort to insure every last child in the country, and c) UNITE and resolve to hold Congress and the administration accountable for delivering on it. Interfaith, ideologically diverse communities can come together around the fact that all of their kids deserve coverage regardless of economic status.
When I was 8 and my brother was 5, his frequent migraines made him scream so loudly that i would run out of the house, covering my ears and crying. Because we had health insurance, we were able to take him to a succession of specialists until we found an effective treatment. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the countless families who can’t afford to stop the screaming. We can insure them all, and so we must.
When I read stats like that, I’m reminded of words from Martin Luther King Jr.:
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
Many people of faith will be feeding the hungry this week at soup kitchens and shelters all over the country; this is absolutely necessary and I’m proud of the way my home church stepped out this year. This is, to use King’s analogy, playing the good Samaritan on life’s roadside.
This Thanksgiving, let’s also consider how “the whole Jericho road” of hunger can be transformed. Perhaps the way we can best show our gratitude for the things we’ve received is to fight for programs and policies that will not leave the hungry “constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey.” With a new Congress and President about to step into office, this is the time for a new politics of hunger, and people of faith can encourage that change.
Talk continues to swirl around how the government will divide the $700 billion in bailout money. Everyone seems to want their piece of pie; after all, $700 billion is a pretty big pie.
FPL board member Susan Thistlethwaite rightly points out that any attempt to assist the Big 3 automakers has to have the working class in mind to be the right approach, and that there’s no easy answer.
Considering the complexity of the probelm, she poses a question rather than an answer: “Instead, can we find a “common good” approach that can balance the well-being of the country with the well-being of the workers and even the customers of the auto industry?”
As she lays out ways to do this, Sue puts the American worker (especially the American autoworker) front and center:
It costs a lot less than $25 billion to protect the workers’ benefits. In a “common good” bailout, the government should guarantee workers’ pensions and health care. It is certainly immoral for people to have paid into pensions for many years and then lose their retirement security. Similarly, health care is often one of the first casualties when industries engage in cost-cutting.
These are crazy times and perhaps the idea of a common good bailout is just crazy enough to work. For everybody.
Come Saturday, will you be enjoying leftover Halloween candy?
Some religious Americans won’t. They’ll be engaged in fasting, the ancient spiritual exercise of fasting which allows us to “enter into deeper relationship with God, [be] changed by that relationship, and then [be] sent out into the world.â€
Jesus said in the Gospel that “Man does not live on bread aloneâ€ but rather by “every word that comes from the mouth of God.â€ It can help Christians to focus and enter more deeply into prayer.
So it seems that, especially in these days leading up to a landmark election, Christians of all stripes agree that we cannot live on bread alone. But, the devil’s in the details, as they say. What words are “coming from the mouth of God”? How do we know? And how do we respond?
Some Christians will think the words from the mouth of God are about human despair, suffering, and hunger. These Christians fast to discern ways to respond to the global food crisis. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), my denomination, encourages its members to join in 40 hour fasts for the first weekend of each month. These fasts are meant to help Presbyterians pray for guidance on how to respond in love to suffering and hunger around the world.
This weekend, Presbyterians will focus on Haiti, a poverty-stricken nation that has been called the “World Hunger Poster Child.â€ Malnutrition is the leading cause of death for children in Haiti. Desperate Haitians spend precious pennies on “mud cakesâ€–made from dirt–just to subsist.
By fasting, Christians in America (the wealthiest country in the Western Hemisphere) express solidarity with those in Haiti (the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere) and look for the ways God is calling them to serve those in needs.
Some Christians this weekend will be fasting for another reason. “The Call Californiaâ€ –a “corporate prayer and fastâ€ will be held in a stadium in San Diego, but not to find ways to help those suffering from malnutrition and disease. Rather, this fast is about California’s Proposition 8–a proposed ban on same-sex marriage. The event is subtitled “A Battle to Save Marriage.â€ The organizers believe that “our nation is in desperate need of the mercy of God and a great Spiritual Awakeningâ€ and that traditional marriage must be saved.
Watch the video:
Which would you fast for? Children eating mudcakes or marriage in California?
…The conventional wisdom is not exactly accurate…The economy did not displace moral issues: The economy is a moral issue. Providing for one’s family is a moral obligation, one that is suddenly uncertain. Buying a house and making the mortgage payments is a moral accomplishment, requiring discipline and delayed gratification. Faulty economic theories were part of the reason for the credit crunch, but greed has played its part. The anger felt on Main Street is not mere anti-elitism: The barons of high finance treated people’s hard-earned life savings as mere fodder for risk-taking. An economy that had been characterized by an idolatrous worship of the laws of the market suddenly sees the need for social solidarity in the form of government bailouts.
The economic crisis, in short, is more than an economic crisis. It is a cultural crisis, even a spiritual crisis…(emphasis added)
If this crisis reminds us to invest greater moral energy into our economy and community, if it causes bankers and bus drivers alike to ask the age-old question “Who is my neighbor?,” maybe all the pain, terrible and tragic as it’s been, won’t be in vain.