Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Propoganda and Health Care Reform

I was stunned, and deeply saddened, when I heard that the public option died in the finance commitee today. I was saddened because the driving force behind that decision was not the senators in the room, but the fear-mongering media whores on Fox News who have whipped the gullible sector of America into a frenzy, prompting them to ask their senators to vote against the public option.

I am saddened by this because the primary reason these pundits want to defeat the health care reform bill is not because they do not see the need for reform. It is because they want President Obama to fail, and they will do what they can to make that happen, at all costs. Perhaps the biggest talking head in their camp is Rush Limbaugh, and he made it very clear when President Obama took office that he hopes that Obama fails.


They will say it's not a race issue. Perhaps Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and many of the other talking heads in the right-wing are not overtly racist (though they come darn close to being so), but they are not unaware that many of their most avid followers are decidedly racist. Their entire campaign against President Obama has been one that plays on the fears of their followers, and one of those fears is certainly about the implications of having an african-american man for our president.

Knowing what I know of the ultra-conservatives, I was deeply concerned for Obama's safety as he took office. I remain concerned, because the hateful, intentionally deceptive, anti-Obama reporting continues to gain steam, and people continue to drink the ClusterFox Kool-Aid. The type of reporting done on Fox News is not about reporting the news at all, but it is about being a political machine for the conservatives, another tool used to achieve their agenda. They are not oblivious to the fact that most of their audience is comprised of people who do not check facts (let's be honest here), and will take what they say as being fact simply because it was Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, or one of the other talking heads that said it.

There are many examples I could use to make this point, but I will use the most recent "outrage" regarding the alleged "indoctrination" of our school children. In classic Fixed News fashion, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Fox and Friends, and all of the news actors on the channel, joined in a conversation that whipped up the fury of their followers.

The clip I am showing here included how ClusterFox reported the "outrage", and the MSNBC commentary from "Countdown With Keith Olberman", which exposes the outrage for what it really is.

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As far as I know, ClusterFox has never issued a retraction of their "news", and they never will. If confronted with the truth, they will likely tell their viewers and listeners that the real story is just being covered up by the elite liberal media, because the media is in love with Obama and don't want you to know that he is indoctrinating your children. Then, in classic form, they will find another scrap of video to prove their point...never telling you the truth about that clip, either.

I am deeply concerned about the future of a nation when a large part of its populace prefers to believe a lie simply because it's told by a charismatic person, rather than accept the facts even if they oppose the charming person who lied to you. In recent conversations with staunch conservatives, regarding everything from health care reform to why the hell Christians felt the need to demonstrate at a sacred gathering of Muslims in Washington D.C., it is very clear that the facts are of little concern to the conservative "movement", and it is far more preferable just to believe the talking heads. What happens to a nation when the facts come to mean nothing? What happens to a nation that has been taught to distrust everyone except for the handful of people who spoon-feed you the only news they tell you that you can believe?

Sadly, it's a trend that is stirring people into fury, and the fury is not dying down regardless of the lies that are exposed. People are following ClusterFox and all the right-wing talking heads without question, and become hostile when the truth is presented to them. It's getting scary.

I think we've seen elements of this media manipulation before. It happened in Germany awhile back. What was that called again? Oh yeah...the Third Reich.

And they want you to believe that Obama is Hitleresque...

Here is something to consider: Part of Nazi Germany's regime was to rid Germany of the "useless eaters"...those who, due to illness, race, handicap, etc...are not deemed worthy of living because they do not contribute anything to society.

Now, if health care reform does not go through, who does that impact the most? It impacts the poor in the United States, who suffer and die due to lack of health care. Being that the "think tanks" that are spinning the lies about why health care reform would be so dangerous to our society, are actually groups of people with corporate interests and get big fat checks from those corporations, is it too big a leap to say that these "think tanks" that are perpetuating the lies about health care reform have little or no concern for the "useless eaters" who die every year due to lack of health care? After all, what does a poor person without health insurance, who possibly suffers from recurring health issues, contribute to our fine nation?

Who is looking more like Hitler here? As the "death panels" that Obama was accused of including in the bill have been shown to be a trumped up lie designed to misinform the public, it would appear that those who are so furiously opposing health care reform are actually the ones who are dictating who lives and who dies in this country, by withholding access to health care from those who do not qualify for programs that already exist, and cannot afford to buy private insurance.

Once again, conservatives...wake up! You are being lied to. Stop being a mouthpiece for the pundits, because when all is said and done, you are just playing into their hand, and they will throw you under the bus, too, if it serves their best interests. Think for yourself. Don't let them play on your fears.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Follow the...logic?....

There are times when I can't find it within myself to be kind to people whose logic not only does not make sense to me, but actually seems rather idiotic.

Over the last couple of years, I have gradually abandoned my politically conservative upbringing in favor of a decidedly more liberal point of view. I am pro-life, but I understand the need for choice. I am not going to campaign against gay marriage. I am anti-"Blood for Oil"-war. I am a big fan of protecting the environment. I think we should be kind to animals.

I could go on and on, but I think you may get the point. Of late, my most grevious sin against my conservative upbringing is that I am in favor of health care reform. Or, in the conservative camp, the government conspiracy to keep you sick and kill your grandmother through use of the flu vaccine.

Anyway, in discussing this issue with some of my conservative acquaintences, I have suggested that health care reform is a pro-life issue. I have shared my own experiences in working with a non-profit that helps the uninsured gain access to health care, and many of these experiences involve people who would have died if we were not able to get them treatment for their medical conditions. In my own life, I have faced serious illness without the benefit of health insurance that would allow me to get treatment in a timely manner, thus making the treatment I eventually received (once Medicaid kicked in) much more complicated than it needed to be.

So, I presented that the health care reform that is needed is as much a pro-life issue as it is an issue of anything else. As you might expect, this resulted in quite a backlash from the pro-life crowd. The logic is that the gift of life is FREE, therefore worthy of protecting. Health care that the person might need after they are born is not free, therefore it is not a right and it is not owed to anyone, even though it may go a long way in prolonging life.

If I am understanding the reasoning correctly, it can be summed up like this: Being conceived gives a person the right to live. However, once out of the uterus, nobody owes that person health care, even if the lack of health care costs them their life.

This doesn't make sense to me. Is life sacred only when it exists within the confines of the uterus? After a child is born, are they suddenly expendable? Children can often get health insurance through the state, but after they turn 19, they are on their own. So, is it that life IS sacred outside the womb, but only for the first 19 years?

I am trying to understand. Try as I may, though, I can't wrap my mind around the thinking. Health care reform is a pro-life issue, and I don't understand why American Family Association and other groups of the sort are not rallying behind it. Even if they cannot adopt Obama's plan, reform of SOME kind needs to happen.

Every 12 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies due to lack of health care. The conservative fired back that, every 22 seconds, a baby dies at the hand of their mother and a doctor through abortion. I didn't see how either fact validated the other. I think the conservative was saying that we can deal with health care reform once we have dealt with Roe V Wade. I'm not sure, though.

This only further fuels my growing dislike for conservative politics, and it is becoming more and more difficult for me to seperate a person from their politics. When I see someone responding so coldly to the fact that over 100,000 people in the U.S. die every year for lack of health care, it causes me to question their heart entirely.

When supporting an ideology becomes more important than accepting fact as fact, it concerns me. This same acquaintance and I have had several discussions about health care, during which I have presented several statistics about the dire situation in our country. The response is typically something along the lines, "Oh, there we go with the statistics", followed by calling those who gathered the stats "greedy liars". I am deeply concerned about what this means for the future of our country, since this individual and others of the same mindset seem to insist on breeding.

When a large segment of people in a nation blatantly refuse to accept fact, and would rather believe outright lies, such as those told on Fox News...what is the future of that nation? When Glenn Beck becomes the bastion of honor and integrity to a large segment of the voting populace, does our nation have any real hope?

I don't understand the logic of those who are passionately pro-life, and just as passionately (and, ignorantly, in my opinion) anti-reform.

A friend of mine suggested I stop talking about the issue with those who can't see reason and at least consider the other side of the debate. I suppose he is right.

The Rachel Maddow Show had a guest recently who wrote a book called "Crazy for God", about his journey out of the fundamental Christianity he grew up with, and into a relationship with God that did not require him to check his brain at the door. He commented that there is a village idiot in the United States, and it is the fundamental Christians who have been "left behind" by science, education, technology, the arts, etc., and are just waiting to die or to be raptured so life can be good.

I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that's the gist of it. While I would not have been so bold as to use the terms he used, I can't deny that I think he's on to something. The more I see of this health care reform debate, the more I am convinced that I can no longer identify with conservatives, and I have to question their heart, their motives, and at times, their intellect, the more I see them attempt to defend their position.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's almost that time again...

This Halloween will be my son's first, and as with all firsts, I want it to be special. Not that he will care, he'll only be 10 months old, but I'll care. As his mother, it is my responsibility to make sure I have at least one photo album full of cute and/or embarrassing childhood photos by the time he is old enough to know that it's not good for mom to have a photo album of embarrassing photos of him. I distinctly remember finding my mom's stash of photos, and hiding many of them so she could not show them to her friends, or, worse, my friends. I want Jaden to have that same privilege.

Anyway, the time is fast approaching when churches that refuse to celebrate Halloween will have "harvest parties", inviting the little children to come to the event dressed up in costumes, get loads of candy, play games, and do a lot of other Halloweenesque activities. I guess it is okay to celebrate in essentially the same way, as long as you don't call it Halloween.

I grew up in an Assembly of God church, and the Halloween alternative at our church was called "Hallelujah Night". I never saw a marked difference between Hallelujah Night and other Halloween events, and it seemed silly to me. My parents, however, thought it was the holiest option, and I remember very clearly one Halloween when my mother held nothing back when I told her I wanted to go trick-or-treating.

"Don't you know that there are people sacrificing babies on this night? Don't you know that going trick-or-treating gives power to Satan, and that Satanists celebrate that power by sacrificing animals and children?"

The tyrade went on and on. You see, prior to rolling out the Hallelujah Night idea, our church had spent several weeks educating us on all of the satanic activity that happens in our area. A police officer, whose stories were always shared second or third hand, stated that there were several hot spots in our neighborhood which became abuzz with activity on Halloween night. During our education, we were told in graphic detail exactly what happens when a child or animal is sacrificed, and we were clued in on what signs to look for if we suspected a satanic group had been performing sacrifices in any of our nearby forests.

One of the signs was diapers. So, every time I saw a diaper that had been tossed out somewhere, I assumed it was somehow linked to satanic activity. That made for a traumatic adolesence, if you know anything about the highways and byways of rural northern Michigan. Dirty diapers that didn't make it to the trash can, can be found just about anywhere.

We were also educated on the many satanic symbols we should be looking for among our peers and coworkers, to tip us off if they were involved in satanic practices. I remember one time I drew all the symbols on a piece of loose leaf paper, and gave them to a substitute teacher. I don't think that's what we were supposed to do with them.

My point is, I was freaked out by the things I was being told about the world around me. The ugly truths I was being told about Halloween paled only in comparison to the shocking documentary-style movie my parents took me to at the tender age of 6, in which all of the horrors of the lifestyles of the heavy metal rock and rollers was shared in gory detail. We went to a Baptist church to see that one, and the images were so violent, I remember my dad had to take me outside for the rest of the film. I asked him why the police didn't stop those men in the film from hurting people, since one of them had just threatened to beat up my dad and rape my mom.

I'm not sure that the film was meant for a 6 year old.

I grew up in an environment that told me that the world around me was one to be feared, and the only way to be safe was to avoid it at all costs. We burned secular music. Many of the people in my church did not watch television. I remember reading "Sybil" when I was in tenth grade, and my youth pastor told me he would pray over me so the spirits in the book didn't start oppressing me.

Years later, when I really did end up in a psychiatric hospital due to major depression, I was asked by this same pastor what sin was in my life that would have caused me to end up there. I'm sure he was thinking back to "Sybil". Meanwhile, I was feeling depressed, and now, very guilty.

After I left my Assembly of God upbringing, the trendy thing became to have a yearly Halloween production of "Heaven's Gates, Hell's Flames", which people were told to invite their unsaved friends to. I have never seen the show live, but from the bits I have seen online, I gather that the idea is to get people to come to Christ by making them scared shitless not to.

I'm not sure that's the approach Christ would prefer we use.

Something about this upcoming time of year causes many of these memories to surface. I grew up believing that God cared about us enough to send Jesus for us, but beyond that, He pretty much couldn't stand us. I grew up believing that God looked for reasons to punish me, and I not only needed to fear screwing up in the world outside -- maybe by inadvertantly participating in satanic activity--but I also needed to fear the world inside my own mind and spirit, lest I fall into a sin as egregious as depression.

As the fall celebrations give way to the big moneymaker, Christmas, claims staked by the church-at-large become even more glaring. If you're going to mention the holiday, it better be by way of a "Merry Christmas". Don't pull me into your "happy holidays", inclusive, ecumenical, Christ-hating greetings. And if your store sells cards that contain any such greetings, I won't shop there.

Actually, I don't really care how you greet me, as long as it's kind. I think I'm "supposed" to care, though, or my salvation may be questionable.

I have a friend that I walk with, and on our walks, we usually end up talking about churchy things. She attends a church very similar to the one I grew up in, and still believes much of what I have abandoned. We were discussing the economy and the bleak job market in northern Michigan, and somehow we moved to the topic of men and women in the work place. She believes that women should not make more money than men, or hold a position that ranks higher than a man's. I wanted to enjoy the walk, and chose not to argue.

We also talked about the plight of being human. Life is hard. Nobody gets through it unscathed. We talked about addiction, and the reality that having Jesus in your life doesn't mean you'll never struggle with it again. We talked about the struggle life can be, and how sometimes it's enough just to get up and face the day when you're going through a hard time. She went on to discuss the sins people struggle, drugs, rock and roll, and depression. Once again, I decided not to argue with her.

She feels empowered by her beliefs, and while I cannot agree with her even in the slightest degree, I am not going to take those things away from her to attempt to minimize her in any way because she has these beliefs. She believes what she is told to believe, as long as the one telling her is her pastor and he says he can prove it with a Bible verse.

Still, it saddens me that so many of these ideas are still being kicked around in some church circles as though they are biblically based, when they are nothing of the kind and only serve to alienate people from Jesus. It's not enough that you're struggling with substance abuse or mental illness. Now, you have to feel guilty on top of it.

"God doesn't like any of us all that much, but he especially doesn't like YOU." That's the message I walked away with on most Sunday mornings.

These days, I'm not really sure where my place is in the whole church scene. I'm not interested in being churchy. I'm interested in being Jesusy, and raising my son to be Jesusy in his own way, as well. I think we can be Jesusy and still celebrate Jaden's first Halloween, and wish people "happy holidays" during the upcoming holiday season. I think we can be Jesusy without fearing the world around us. I think we can even be Jesusy if we believe that not only does God love us enough to send His only son, but God actually likes us a lot, too.

Having a son to raise has made me re-evaluate many of the beliefs I grew up with, in contrast to the beliefs I have now, and find the best way to teach my son about Jesus. I haven't figured that part out yet, other than knowing that I don't want him to have the same fearful, self-loathing perception of things that I did.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Success of Failure

Last night as I began journaling, I could not think of anything "happy" to write about. I try to keep the tone of my journaling positive. I know I am the only one reading it, but I can drag myself down very far, very easily, if I am not careful. So, I do my best to find something...anything...positive to write about. Yesterday, I had no luck.

Yesterday was one of those days when the days I have left on this side of eternity...however few or many they be...seemed interminable. There are days when life seems like such drudgery, I fear that I will live another forty years, and have forty years of struggling to find meaning in the day to day crap of life. Yesterday, there did not seem to be any bright spots...only varying shades of gray.

So, that is what I wrote about. As I was writing, I remembered sharing my "testimony" when I was in my early twenties, sharing with people how God had helped me overcome depression after decades (well, two of them) of struggling. I remember people asked me if I ever struggled with it anymore, looking for the hole in my story, I guess. I told them, fingers crossed behind my back, that I didn't.

As I thought about this yesterday, I wondered what compelled me to lie like that. Why did I think I had to be perfect in order to make my success valid?

I did not have to think about it long before I conjured images of the testimonies I grew up with. Our church often had groups in from Teen Challenge, and we listened to testimony after testimony of how the heroine addict had been "set free", and never experienced another craving for the drug again. Then there was the alcoholic who stopped thirsting for alcohol and the accompanying "blitzed" feeling. Testimony after testimony was about complete, unmitigated freedom.

So, as I started sharing my own story about freedom, I realized that I may not be "free" at all, because I still struggle with occassional depression and despair. Feeling like I failed, I stopped sharing.

It is only recently that I realized that most people...if not all of us...are never totally free from our hang ups. I think there is a reason that people recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol never consider themselves fully recovered. Recovery is a constant work. Recovering from anything requires that the addict be always wary of their surroundings, their relationships, their self-talk, and anything else that could potentially derail their hard work of recovery.

One of my favorite shows is "The Cleaner". I love this show because it shows that a clean break from addiction...physically and/or not really possible. And that's okay. It means we're human, and we have a constant need for spiritual health, community with supportive friends and family, and the ability to accept our failures without losing ourselves.

On the show, Benjamin Bratt plays William Banks, a recovering drug addict who has made his life's work helping other addicts get clean and stay sober. His methods are unconventional, to say the least. The show is very raw and makes no apologies for depicting addiction realistically, and showing recovery in an equally sobering light. One common theme among all of the recovering addicts, including Banks himself, is that it is not about achieving total freedom in one fell swoop and never facing the temptation again. Recovery is about getting through the day you have, and not worrying about whether or not you can get through the days, weeks, months or years ahead.

Perhaps freedom comes in recognizing that victory sometimes comes in small steps. Maybe the freedom Christ is talking about is not about the big, pivotal moment in life when you can walk away from all your hang ups. Maybe the freedom comes in realizing that, in Christ, you...we...are whole and beautiful and new and loved, just as we are. We are human and flawed and frail...and depressed and hooked and tired...but real victory comes in going forward anyway, remembering that we are part of something bigger.

On days like I had yesterday, thinking about how tired life makes me already and how much more tired I'll be if I think about the next forty years, it is overwhelming. I can't think about it, because it's too much. However, if I think about today, and think about who I am in Christ right now, and realize that all I have to do is embrace the day I've been given, I'll be alright. I can handle that.

When we struggle, or "fail" in our recovery by taking a step back into our hang-ups, it is not a failure at all. It is just a new opportunity to find a different and better way of moving forward from this point on. Sometimes, the most victorious thing we can do is keep going, when we so much may not want to. That takes courage and untold strength, and I believe God smiles upon that...much more than He does upon lying an attempt to make ourselves look good to others who are also too afraid to let their true heart show.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Health Action Now

Health Action Now

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Health Care Reform and Foolish Arguments

The issue of health care reform is one I am very passionate about. I think the discussion for health care reform is long overdue. We discussed it for about ten seconds in the early 1990s, and have not heard much about it since then. It has been my opinion for a very long time that a nation with as many resoures as the United States has is without excuse when it comes to the millions who have to live without health insurance. Reforms have been needed for decades, and while Obama's plan may not be perfect, I am thrilled that we are at least talking about it. Again.

Being one of such strong opinions on the subject, I could not resist taking a poll on a social networking site that asked if I believed access to health care is a basic human right. My answer was an emphatic (you should have seen the energy in my font!) YES. I knew this would cause a ripple, but with so much discussion about the topic, I had no way of anticipating the response I would receive from someone I counted as a friend.

The first response to my post was, "Who gave you that right?"

This response shocked me, because it seemed instantly combative, and I was on the defensive at once. I argued that if we are going to claim to be pro-life, as this individual does, then it only stands to reason that we would be in favor of health care for everyone. I aruged that we should not end our pro-life stance simply because the child is now out of the womb, or that child grows into an adult who is no longer covered by state medical. People have the right to health care simply by way of being human. If we are to be pro-life, we need to be pro-life at all points of the spectrum, not simply for the unborn.

I was then corrected. I was told that health care and pro-life issues are not the same. Life is a God-given right, and it is FREE (though to whom it is free, I do not know. Bringing a baby into the world is very expensive, and the costs do not end at birth. It's the gift that keeps on taking.) Health care, on the other hand, is a privilege.

From that point on, the discussion became very heated. While we were only typing our questions and responses to each other, it was clear that it became very personal. I finally bowed out of the "conversation" before I went too far and said something intentionally hurtful, out of anger. The long and the short of it is that we did not see eye to eye, not by a long shot, and I was increasingly stunned by the things this pro-life Christian was saying.

What amazes me about the entire discussion on health care reform is that the loudest voices against it seem to be coming from the Christian conservatives, the most vocal "pro-life" groups out there. It is not as though these groups are offering alternatives to the current proposal. They are simply saying that the government shouldn't take over people's health care, that Obama is another Hitler, that Obama wants a socialist nation,that Obama is a fascist, etc. All the anti-Obama rhetoric, and the Glenn Beck/Republican Party funded march on Washington, has offered up no viable alternatives to what Obama is proposing.

It shocked and sickened me to see this individual, who represents a very wealthy and powerful sect of our society, essentially say that those who do not have health insurance need to fend for themselves, because, after all, life isn't fair and it isn't our job to make it fair. What infuriated me perhaps beyond anything else this person said was the, the very blatant statement...that life isn't fair, and nothing will be fair until Christ returns to make all things perfect. When I challenged them by asking if this really was the best we had to offer...the response was YES!

It is still upsetting to me. This individual represented every reason why I have distanced myself from the conservative movement and from the mainstream Christian church. In my opinion, the mainstream conservative Christians have become so arrogant, so "fat cat" in their view of the world around them, all compassion and empathy has been lost. If it is still their, it is buried under a lot of bullshit rhetoric. These people say in one breath that they care about the problem of so many people being uninsured, and in the next breath say that health care is a privilege, and life is not fair and it's not our job to make it fair.

Perhaps it is not our job to make life fair. We can't make life fair. But, if we have the means to help lighten the load for someone, we should do it. I believe we are compelled to do it. As human beings, and most definitely as Christians, we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Why is it that the U.S. is so quick to send aid to help the poor and oppressed in the Middle East, yet just as quickly ignores the poor and oppressed in our own country? Why do we not feel compelled to help our own citizens?

Every day, people suffer needlessly, even to the point of death, due to conditions that could be easily treated if they had access to quality health care. The uninsured either do not get treatment, succumbing to very treatable illness, or they flood the emergency rooms for conditions that are not emergencies. The uninsured have become very savvy, realizing that the emergency room cannot turn them away. Emergency rooms are overflowing with people who are there for conditions that could easily be treated by a family docto, if the patient had health insurance and/or could afford to see a family doctor.

I am not saying anything here that is not well known, insofar as the need for health care reform is concerned. There is no denying that our health care system needs an overhaul. What baffled me today was the callousness with which my worthy opponent seemed to dismiss the uninsured. It seemed as though the individual had a "I'm covered. Too bad for them, though. Life's not fair." Perhaps that wasn't my imagination.

I wanted so much to say that if the church that the individual was hiding behind would do its job, we would not even be having this conversation. Matthew 25 indicates that the only difference between the sheep and the goats was what they did and didn't do. Jesus spoke specifically, in verse 36, about health care when He said, "I was sick, and you looked after me."

What I am reading there is that if the church was doing what it was supposed to do, there would be no need for government intervention for health care or anything else. Within the body of Christ, we have people of skill, people who have the education, training, and licensing to do everything Jesus mentions in Matthew 25:34-36. Yet, for everything mentioned there, we have a government program that pays people to do those things.


So, who gave me the right to health care? It looks like Jesus did. I am having a hard time swallowing it when a Christian can truly profess that we do not owe anyone access to health care as a basic right, because life is not fair and it's God's job, not ours, to make it fair.

I feel very passionately about this issue because of my own experiences with needing health care but having no insurance. In April of 2007, I was diagnosed with renal carcinoid cancer, and had surgery to remove my left kidney. At the time of my diagnosis, I had insurance from my job, so everything connected to my care at that time was paid for.

However, I could not work, so, naturally, I lost my insurance. Six weeks after my surgery, when the pain from the surgery would not subside, my doctor ordered a CT scan. The scan showed I had some cancer in my lymph nodes, and it was recommended that I receive radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000. I did not have that kind of money in my sock drawer, and I had been denied Medicaid. The cancer wasn't going away on its unfair!...and I needed treatment. What was I supposed to do?

No one could believe I had been denied Medicaid. I had cancer, for cryin' out loud, and I was denied Medicaid? That was disheartening and infuriating. All of us felt so powerless.

What could be done about it? Who would have the power to get me the help I needed? I had done everything I could, to no avail. What now?

My mom called our state representative's office and explained the situation. A few phone calls and a couple of days later, I had the Medicaid approval I needed, and simultaneously received word that I had been approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

So, I know what I'm talking about when I say we DO need the government to step in and oversee things. Obviously, without my state representatives help, I would have been left to suffer as the tumors grew and made me more sick. I was not destitute enough to qualify for Medicaid on the first try, and I was not wealthy enough to buy private insurance. I know, I isn't fair and access to health care is a privilege, not a right. God will provide, right?

It looks to me like the way He provided was by having the government step in and make sure I received access to health care. I do not understand the notion of God providing, when there is a stubborn unwillingness to be the vessel through which He provides.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The New Patriotism

I was very glad when January 20,2009 finally rolled around. I had long been disgusted with the Bush administration, and I felt eager to see someone new take the reigns. I did not vote for Obama. I voted for one of the independent candidates. However, since Barack Obama did get the job, I was really looking forward to seeing W. get outta the way so Obama could get to work.

During the Bush administration, many people vocalized concerns about his policies, anger over the war he started under false pretenses, frustrated and suspicious because he offered little in the way of answering for his actions. People who voiced those concerns were considered unpatriotic, reminding people that the war was necessary in order to protect us from the terrorists. Whenever an answer was demanded of the Bush administration, those demanding the answers were generally considered to be people who did not love their country. During the Bush administration, demanding answers of our government...rather forcefully demanding them, if necessary...was considered anything but "American".

Now, we have the Obama administration, and everything has changed. The same people who once made a living by shaming those who demand answers of their government, are demanding answers of their government. The "tea parties" are running rampant. Fox News and conservative radio talk show hosts are generating hefty ratings for their hours upon hours of railing against President Obama. One Fox News pretty boy has even organized a march on Washington, to take place tomorrow.

Why do these Obama naysayers do all of this? Because it is patriotic! It's a grassroots movement to let the Obama administration know that they aren't going to take anything that they deem to be against their freedom as American citizens. So passionate are these conservative folk about the things they believe, they do not even bat an eyelash when one of their own heckles the President during his address to Congress. Not only do they not bat said eyelash, but they seem to applaud the senator for the outburst.

All of the sudden, demanding questions from your government, and calling them out--however inappropriate the place and time--is no longer unpatriotic, but it chic and savvy! All of the sudden, you can flat out call the President a liar...and do so during a joint session of Congress, in the middle of his speech...and nobody accuses anyone of being anti-American.

It seems to me that there is a double standard that is playing itself out right in front of our eyes. I would venture to say that the same people who are so quick to call Obama a liar would still call another person anti-American if they were to call Bush a liar. Even when solid evidence is given to demonstrate that Bush lied, the die-hard conservatives are not willing to call it what it is. Yet, based on hearsay alone, these same people are rallying against our current president, calling him a liar, a fascist, a socialist, a racist, and so forth, and somehow that is okay.


I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the conservatism I've seen in the last couple of years. It seems as though being a conservative has come to mean being mean-spirited, even militant, against those who oppose conservative ideas. I've heard conservatives refer to homosexuals as "sickos", Democrats/liberals referred to as "idiots", and grown men who throw temper tantrums in Congress lauded as heroes.

It seems that conservatives have become less willing to discuss different ideologies in a peaceful manner, and continually resort to Hannityesque tactics of calling names, or simply shouting down the opponent. If you talk long and loud enough, an opposing voice will not be heard.

Conservatives, I beg you to take a look at where you are, and ask if that is really where you want to be. If it's not, let the Glenn Becks and Sean Hannitys of the world fight their own battles, and you can be your own voice.

As for me, I've distanced myself from the conservative movement entirely. It just became embarrassing.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

In Defense of His Faith

This is Rob's rebuttal to the criticism of his teachings and his faith.

I think Rob answers the question that converts have after "getting saved"..."Okay, what now?"

Jesus is more than fire insurance for the great beyond. That is how He has been packaged and sold, but a relationship with the personhood of Jesus is infinitely more than that. The kingdom of heaven can be here and now. I believe that is what Jesus taught, in addition to his teachings on the hereafter. He came to give us abundant life RIGHT NOW, and it is so much more than a list of rules. I don't think Jesus did all He did just so we could be obedient little children and finally do what we're told. There is much more...and Rob Bell touches upon that with his books and conversations.

Faith, God, is all mysterious. If we could easily pigeon hole and define God, would He still be God? Not in my mind. I think God invites us to delve into the mystery, and to be okay with not having all the answers. Some people fear that, and need to adopt an "I'm right, and if you don't agree with me, you're wrong and not as spiritually mature as I am" attitude. That saddens me. Is this all we have to offer this world? "Agree with me, or go to hell"?

I think when we get to heaven, we're going to find out that a lot of us were wrong about a lot of things, both the fundamentalists and the emergents. I think we'll be surprised by the company Jesus chooses to keep in heaven, and we'll realize that we had God figured all wrong.

There are some things we'll never know on this side of heaven. But one thing I am sure of...Love wins.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A Disturbing Revelation

A friend of mine directed me to this video after I posted one of Rob Bell's NOOMA videos on Facebook. The point of the video is obvious from the beginning, all but calling out Rob Bell as a heretic.

After watching the video, I remain a "fan" of Rob Bell, and even more uncertain about my spiritual path at this point in my life. I am not the least bit disturbed by the teachings of Rob Bell, but I am very disturbed by the "truth" being peddled by the person who created this video.

If I am to believe what the critic says, I am to believe that the God who supposedly loved me enough to send His only son to die for me is the same God who doesn't even like me. This God dislikes me so much that the only way He can even bear to look at me is if I am drenched in His son's blood. Apart from that, He finds me vile and horrendous to gaze upon.

I am also to believe that this God has no need for me whatsoever. If this is true, then I have to ask why they heck He bothered creating any of us. Life is hard, this world can be cold and cruel. If God has no need for us, then did He create us so He could observe our struggles and enjoy a chuckle at our expense? Are we just pawns that He moves about on a cosmic chess board?

More than that, is this God really so desperate for adoration that He would create something He cannot even bear to look at, with the fervent hope that we will so love Him (despite His intense dislike for us) that we would willingly serve Him and worship Him? To me, that seems weak and desperate. Is that really God?

Let's talk for a minute about the issue of creating our own reality. I like the idea that my thoughts, words, actions, desires, hopes, dreams, etc...can work together to create a specific reality for my life. I have no desire to be God, but I do think God has placed in each of us the ability to decide what reality we want for our lives, and to make choices that create that reality. By our choices, we create our own personal heaven or hell.

Honestly, I think that saying we have no will of our own but simply follow God's will is a way of absolving ourselves from any responsibility for our lives. We can totally screw up and say, "Well, God orchestrated that because it was His will...". To that, I say, "Bullshit."

Excuse the language, but that is the only thing that comes to mind. Did God really create us to be so weak minded that we must rely on Him to facilitate our choices in order to achieve a result that, ultimately, we had nothing to do with? We're just along for the ride? I don't believe that.

I believe God has given us tremendous creative ability. Jesus said that his disciples would do even greater things than He did. How would that happen unless we were living as though such things were actually possible?

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen." How do those things manifest themselves in our lives? I believe they are made manifest as a result of our fervent belief being reflected in our words and actions. We SPEAK what we believe in faith. We LIVE what we believe in faith, all the while trusting that the thing or circumstance that we are believing for is going to become a reality. Do you think that those things would still become a reality if we did not so fervently believe for them? If we were lax or apathetic toward that thing, would the result be the same as though we pursued it passionately? I don't think so.

I have had my own experience with this. When I left my husband last year, fleeing for my own safety and the safety of my unborn child, I knew very well what Michigan's laws were regarding child custody. I knew that Michigan typically splits custody down the middle, and even a man like my ex-husband would have parenting time with their child.

I knew this, and it terrified me. So, I created a vision board. Of the many things I put on that board, I put a picture of a mother holding her baby. I put it inside a circle, which represented peace and safety for me and my baby. I chose to believe that, against all odds, my baby and I would be kept safe, and by the time our divorce was finalized, my ex-husband would be out of our lives completely.

I focused on the words of Jesus, when He said that with man, certain things are not possible...but with God, all things are possible. Those words indicate a joint relationship. WITH God, all things are possible. We do our part, and God does his. We believe, and live what we are believing with every fiber of our who we are.

During the 40 weeks that I carried my child in my womb, I was reminded almost daily that the courts would decide his fate. I would remind myself that Jesus said all things are possible when we are in partnership with God. I would meditate, quieting my mind and my heart, and envisioning a peaceful existence for my baby and me. Day in and day out, I faced my fear, and I stood on my faith. I used the creative ability God gave me to begin creating the reality I wanted for my baby and me.

My divorce was finalized in March. I have sole custody of my son. My ex-husband moved out of the state, and I have not heard from him in over a year. He has shown no interest in my son. We are safe. My son will not be subjected to abuse. He is living in a climate of love, and he is flourishing, just as I envisioned. The impossible became a reality.

All of this is to say that if God is as He is represented by Rob Bell's critic in the video, then I am not sure if I can align myself with Him. It seems that the God represented there is a tyrant, whom people serve out of fear...not out of love, desire, willingness, or respect.

I grew up believing in the God represented in the video. The God who didn't like me, the God who was always angry with us filthy sinners, the God who was never even remotely happy with me even though He created me. That is the God I grew up with, and it made me very literally want to die.

If that is God, then count me out.

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