Ministerial Musings: The Debt Ceiling, Health Care, And Jesus

We are mired in an age where the left and the right are drifting further apart, becoming ever-more polarized.  Democrats and Republicans no longer talk to each other. They shout across the aisles and sling pejoratives in self-righteous contempt. Compromises, in the best interest of the citizenry who elected these officials, are rare. The desires of the military-industrial complex take precedence.

What are such “political” musings doing in a “religion” column?

Numerous social programs are on the cutting block as a result of the recent debt ceiling “negotiations.”  Don’t be fooled: when all is said and done CEOs will still receive tax breaks on their corporate jets. The military will get all the money they need (and then some) to fight the two wars in which we are currently embroiled. (Or is it five?)  Wall Street will still receive bail-outs while Main Street becomes a ghost town.

Meanwhile, conservatives will still dangle family values as the fault line that, if not tended to zealously, will eventually shake America into a pile of red rubble. The former Republican Senator John Danforth (also an ordained Episcopal priest) explicated it quite astutely: “The term ‘family values’ is generally understood to mean a political agenda, a set of issues championed by the Christian Right on subjects including opposition to abortion and gay marriage, but a more literal meaning might have less to do with positions on the issues than the degree to which the politician values family.”  (I cite Republicans to bolster my position about as often as Clevelanders cry, “I love LeBron James!”  Cherish it!)

That is why these reflections are in a religion column. I, too, want to know to what extent politicians value families — all families?

If they did, they would see health care, for example, as a right not a privilege. Is it me or is it absolutely ludicrous that members of Congress and the Senate warn us about the dangers of having free health care while they receive the best medical insurance of all at no expense to themselves? I guess it’s pretty easy to tell a hungry person who is banging on your door to get lost when your belly is filled with free food that you could have purchased yourself.

I know — we cannot have universal health care. That’s Socialism!

There are other “socialized” institutions that already exist in our free, capitalist society. Public education is one of them: those bulwarks of learning that the Religious Right is trying to eradicate in favor of home schooling and vouchers. Many of us grew up in secular elementary schools, went to junior high (or middle school), and graduated from one of the 27,000 public high schools that dot the landscape. I wince at the thought of where I would be today if it weren’t for Mr. Bob Dunn: my passionate and dedicated (and underpaid) high school English teacher.

My father raised a family on the modest income he made working for one of those other ultra-leftist, Marxist-Leninist institutions: the fire department. Yes, those civil servants who risk their lives daily for you and me — the women and men who fight fires and crime and keep our country safe — working for socialist institutions. Who da thunk!

And it doesn’t end there. Ever receive a piece of mail that was delivered to your house, or read a book from a public library, or enjoy a picnic lunch with your family in a park? Yup, those deceptive Socialists are everywhere! They are trying to steal our freedoms by giving us books and parks and health care.

Health care is a multi-billion dollar a year business. That is why it will never be free. Face it. It has nothing to do with Socialism (which is just a scare tactic), the absurd notion of death panels that will decide if grandma lives or dies, or doctors being told what tests they can and cannot perform. It’s about money. Period.

Oh yeah — back to the “religion” aspect of all this.

Many of those in the corridors of power claim that we are a “Christian” nation.  (If they are going to bring religion into their legislating, then I’m bringing politics into my musings.)  Instead of being so concerned about who is a Christian, or a Mormon, or a “Muslim” hiding behind a “questionable” Hawaiian birth certificate, maybe they should read the words of that book they want to make mandatory reading (in lieu of Twain, Orwell, Bradbury, and Salinger).

That Jesus character was pretty radical. He cured the sick and did not charge them a dime, nor did he clear their treatment plan with their HMO or PCP. He broke bread with the dregs of society and challenged the religious and political authorities of his day to be more compassionate toward them.

Be honest: if Jesus were to show up in Washington, DC today and was asked to testify in the House or Senate regarding health care, what would he say? Would he favor the privatization of medicine and lucrative tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies while saying that the poor need to get whatever care they can at free clinics?

Something tells me that he would send the homeless, single mother and her baby to the Mayo Clinic for the best treatment available free-of-charge and would tell Mr. Boehner and his cronies to take public transportation to the urban clinic and wait in line for hours for antibiotics. While waiting they can discuss the dormer they want to put on the debt ceiling they constructed — the addition for which you and I must pay.

It is high-time that these politicians (Republicans and Democrats) start serving the people who put them in office, and, if they are going to do so in the name of Jesus, then they better start expecting as much from themselves as he does.

John III Tamilio

John Tamilio III is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, an accomplished guitarist, and a nationally published author. His first book of poetry, Blind Painting, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters in 2003. He and his wife, Susan, live in Lakewood, Ohio with their children: Sarah, “Jay” (John IV), and Thomas.

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Volume 7, Issue 16, Posted 1:16 PM, 08.09.2011