Monday, March 22, 2010

There's nothing quite as uncomfortable as being different. For me -as a white, heterosexual, Protestant, middle-class, fertile woman who dabbles in a helping profession and stays at home with my children - I almost never have to deal with that sort of discomfort. No matter where I go, there is always someone like me. I almost never stand out in a crowd.

Except in one area. I am a Democrat.

Here in the Deep South, Democrats tend to stay under the radar. We live mostly in the closet - avoiding Fox News, changing the subject, excusing ourselves to get a glass of water to avoid arguments around coffee tables. West Wing said it so eloquently, that there is almost nothing that compares to the hatred the Right feels toward the Left, or the tonnage of disrespect the Left feels toward the Right. In my part of the world, that hatred is evident in every political conversation. Frankly, I just haven't been that interested in putting my head in the lion's mouth. I prefer to avoid becoming the brunt of that sort of emotion. Other people know more than I do, I think. I'm not prepared for a debate. Eventually they will just punch themselves out and shut up. But it never happens. Thanks to Rush Limbaugh (and others like him) there is always fuel for the animosity. Legitimate discussion seems almost impossible, so I just keep my mouth shut.

Shame on me.

Last night we watched the healthcare vote. When it was over, Brian said, "Watch now as Facebook explodes with angry people." And it did. Things like, "Take your change and shove it," were everywhere. My (least) favorite was, "I have to go listen to worship music now, I can't take this anymore." Pa-lease, I say. Did we not learn from Christ's example that salvation will never come through governments and factions? Is that not the very (immediate) reason He was crucified by the Pharisees? They wanted a political revolution; He wanted a spiritual one. Is there really no practical application for present-day believers in His example?

The healthcare argument is, essentially, about spending money. How do we want to spend our money as a nation? How much of my personal money am I willing to give to the whole? That is what we're deciding. Me? I want my money to go to helping other people be - and stay - well.

Before a Christian Republican responds that we could use that money to give personally, let me ask you: did you? How has the American Church supported the sick thus far? There is reason to lament last night, that it was ever necessary for the government to do what believers have not done. That we have allowed multi-million dollar Family Life Centers to be erected in multiple locations in every single town in the South, while free clinics struggle to stay open. That there is such a high demand for second-hand assistive devices, like wheelchairs and hospital beds, because new ones are so difficult to obtain. That hospitals bearing crosses and denominational nametags are still for-profit businesses, turning away the poor, sending them to public (i.e., government-funded) hospitals instead. Shame on us for being so intent on making ourselves comfortable in our pews that we, as a Church, have allowed healthcare to become what it is.

But it is what it is. And while this is not universal healthcare - no it's not, it's really not - I personally am glad to see the government step in. There was a time when I was without healthcare and needed a medical procedure (ironically, a D&C, which is at the heart of all of the anger). The pregnancy was not viable, but it was a 3500$ procedure. We both worked in a church, and had no health insurance. My church family knew of my predicament and did not offer to help. The Baptist hospital that would have performed the procedure offered no benevolence. There was no government subsidy that recognized that some of the most innovative and inspiring citizens of our country - those who don't spend their lives working for companies with good benefits - may have trouble affording health insurance. I had no choice but to decline a needed medical procedure, and spent the worst month of my life waiting it out instead.

I'm not in that position anymore. But as a believer, I am happy to spend a little of my money helping others avoid it. I'm glad to know that the parents of children with disabilities will no longer be paralyzed by the possibility of running out of a lifetime cap on their child's insurance, or unable to take a new job because an insurance company will not cover their child's pre-existing (life-long) condition. I'm glad to know that a middle-aged widow who has paid premiums her entire adult life will no longer have to worry about her insurance dropping her coverage when she receives a cancer diagnosis. Good things will come from last night's vote.

Says one little blue dot in a very red state.


Kim said...

Well Said (as always), Stephanie!!

jonathan said...

The ten word answer has nothing on this post - bravo.

Cindy said...

As a multi-colored dot who often gets up to get a glass of water to avoid arguments around coffee tables, I continue to be astonished at how little the church is doing to help those outside of our own home.

A blog I visit periodically had some stats this week that speak exactly to the absence of giving that I thought you might appreciate given your post:

- Randy [Alcorn, from CFM] says we’re living in the most affluent society the world has ever known. American Christians control 70% of the world’s Christian wealth. The average American Christian gives 2.6% of his income.

- Average Christian gives 30% less than the average churchgoer in 1933 during the Great Depression.

The blogger (Free Money Finance) comments:

"But to me it's a sad indictment that people following a religion that teaches so much about giving actually give so little. There's just so much lost opportunity. I think much of the low levels of giving stem from materialism and people simply spending more than (or as much as) they earn -- there's nothing "left" to give. They don't even consider placing giving at the head of the "spending" line. It's at the end, and there's nothing left over once all "needs" (and yes, that's in quotes for a reason) are met.

Even if you don't believe people should give to churches, should we all be giving more than 2.6% of income to some form of charity?"

Cindy said...

oops...home should be plural in my comment above (or replaced with the word congregations, but then again I don't think the church does a great job taking care of those inside the congregation either, so maybe home is better - oh the limits of the English language and my brain)...
Must-right-small-wrongs: "I continue to be astonished at how little the church is doing to help those outside our homes."

Stephanie said...

Cindy, the phrase "missed opportunity" is exactly it.

Stephanie said...

And thanks for the nice comments (and phone calls), guys.

papilio588 said...

Amen and Amen. The argument, "We should support the poor, not the government" angers me to no degree. Because if we did, then we wouldn't be in this situation!! Kris and I also watched FB explode last night. At a certain point, I had to close it down, because I was getting so riled up!!

I think that this is the most eloquent Christian perspective on the health care "debate" I've read yet! Thank you!

Also, I'm not trying to brag (I'm really not!) but it just feels SO good to be a blue dot in a very blue state!!

ljkgates said...

Steph, I am so proud of you (and always have been) but this post makes me super proud of you. Thanks for speaking out in such an eloquent way. Those of us who have health insurance are so very blessed and we need to do all we can to make sure that everyone can get medical care. It did break my heart to read why you did not have that D&C. I did not know that it was because you had no insurance. I know that the memory of that month will always be so painful for you. I am so sorry for that.

ljkgates said...

I am (and always have been) so proud of you Steph. Thanks for speaking out and doing it in such a loving, eloquent way. It breaks my heart to find out that you did not have that D&C because of no insurance. I know that will always be a very painful memory and for that I am so sorry.

ljkgates said...

Sorry I posted a comment twice but I thought my first comment did not go through!

Madame Rubies said...

Being neither Dem or Rep and having not had much opinion on this (b/c I don't understand any of it), I too have been fed up by the turning it into a religious issue. Like you said, ARE we taking care of the sick? And, do we really expect a world government to be Jesus? Seriously? That isn't there job and it never was. Give to Ceaser what is Ceaser's and give to God what is God's. Shame on us for expecting Barak Obama or ANYONE ELSE to save us.

Brian said...

jonthan wins for best comment of the day!

Nick M. said...

Thank you for saying in a nice way what I wanted to say but probably would have said in a much more sarcastic and less articulate way.

Also Brian is right, Jonathan wins for best comment!

PS-My secret word scramble for this comment was "piratin" which is the active verb for, you know, being a pirate and all...or perhaps a privateer ("Isn't that just a hired pirate?")

aristaeus said...

Stunning. I am speechless and proud to know you.

Jason said...

Fantastic blog post !!! I have already shared with family and friends. My mother( who never reads blogs) asked if you could come down to her job and speak on her behalf !!!
Your written words brought tears to my eyes.
Thank you

Stephanie said...

I'm glad you guys liked the post so much.

But are there no dissenters? Baron, don't let me down. While we practically never agree, I always love to hear your point of view.

Mary said...

Are you Luke's facebook friend?

I had a really great discussion with a dissenter there, where Luke reposted this. But, he was challenging the bill's constitutionality, not its moral/ethical implications, but still - he dissented nonetheless.

Mary Tyler S. said...

I, too, have forwarded this on to friends and colleagues. Thank you for putting into words what most of us feel. Bama has more little blue dots than we think. They are just hiding ;-)

Baron said...

I sent you a personal message on Facebook, rather than commenting.

Kendra said...

Very, very well put Stephanie.

Well it's so sad that healthcare has come to a point where government HAS to step in, thank God they have.

When I watched the nightly news the day after the vote and listened to what the vote meant, I was proud. Proud of our country.

I work in healthcare scheduling surgeries and procedures for cardiac patients. I can't tell you how many times I have seen people - hard working people- go BANKRUPT because of a much needed medical procedure. Or how often people put off their procedures or needed surgeries due to lack of health insurance.

I once helped a patient who had fainted at home the night before, and his wife had delayed in getting him to an ER because she couldn't get ahold of the insurance company to find out WHICH hospital around our giant city they would approve of. If she went to a hospital that was out of network on accident, his entire claim would be denied.

Shame on insurance companies. And shame on us for allowing insurance companies to have so much control for so long.

And shame on us for allowing so many to go without proper healthcare for so long.

My husband has been without health insurance our entire marriage. It would cost us just shy of $400 a MONTH to put him on my plan.

Let's hope we can quit arguing parties and who lost at what, and start thinking about what is really the goal here. A Healthy America.

Laurel said...

You rock, Stephanie. Another Christian democrat!!!!! You stated your points so eloquently. Thank you for adding another perspective and another positive argument to the conversation. I am going to forward this.

Mrs. Shehane said...

Your blog is compassionate, Steph -- and compassion is not at all about being Republican or Democrat. It's about being Christian.

By the way -- I have to ask: Did the church know of your need a few yeas ago? As I recall, you didn't want to have the procedure. I would have gladly paid for it.

What health care reform needs, however, and back to the subject, is more compassionate people like you. We also need to reform the health care industry itself to be nonprofit. Like the old days, when we had St. Joseph and St. Margaret's in Montgomery.... Greed is still the root of all evil. Most, anyway.