Thursday, November 1, 2012

When We Pull Back The Curtain of Fear


The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.
Gandhi

With the election just 6 days away, I want to report on 2 rather routine-yet-revealing events from yesterday.

First, I received an email this morning from Nancey Murphy, my favorite professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. She wanted to relay a personal story to myself and another former student that I attended Fuller with back in '08. It had the subject line "VOTE!" Here it is in its entirety:

I am writing to ask you to be sure to vote for Obama in order to save his health care legislation. Romney says that we all have medical care available because we can go to the emergency room. Two weeks ago I became ill during the night and was too confused to phone my primary care physician, so I called 911. I was so grateful for the competence and compassion of the paramedics. And I was one of the 47 percent of Americans who believe that they are ENTITLED to such services from their government.

Yesterday I got the bill: $1,740 for that nice ride to the emergency room. I'm pretty sure that my insurance will cover all or most of it, and I am blessed that I can afford to pay it if I need to. But suppose that $1700 is a month's salary and you don't have insurance. Do you risk that much money when you're not sure whether you REALLY need medical care, or do you risk staying home and hope for the best? Our neighbors (especially the least of our brethren and sisters) should not have to try to do that kind of cost-benefit analysis at night, in a state of impaired judgment.

Please, take the time to vote, ask your friends to vote, and don't let Romney, who has never had to worry about money, take away our best hope for more widely available insurance.

Dr. Murphy, a brilliant gift of scholarship to the infamously "scandalous mind" of the Evangelical world, orchestrates a masterful blend of theological, scientific and philosophical disciplines in her courses. When I replied to her email asking if I could share her comments in this post, she replied:

Absolutely. If you think it would be valuable, I was in the waiting room of the Emergency Department from 3:30 to 5:30 am, waiting for someone to take me home. What is said about people using that as their primary source of care seems to be true. Everyone who came in during those hours seemed to be coming for what most of us would think of as routine care. The intake nurse asked, "are you already in the computer system"? and they mostly said yes. There was one guy who said his pain was back, the nurse asked him where it was. He said, "the same place as yesterday." She told him she hadn't been there the previous day. and on and on. So clearly the hospitals have to charge exhrobitant prices to thos of us who have insurance to cover all those others. Maybe the ER doc. who only had time for about 2 minutes with me was taking care of all of those people without insurance.

Depressing story, but not nearly as depressing as the official GOP policy "alternative" to Obama's Affordable Care Act in 2009: an unfettered free market joke that the Congressional Budget Office calculated would actually cling to the status quo, keeping the percentage of uninsured Americans at 17% of the population. It would be funny if it weren't so serious.
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Second, I received an email from a colleague with this article from Jonathan Dudley on the CNN belief blog about Evangelicals and abortion. He gives some much needed perspective on how this issue (along with gay marriage) has completely dominated Evangelical voting patterns, virtually marrying most Evangelical churches to the Republican party. This is largely a late-20th century trend:

In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:

“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: 'If a man kills any human life he will be put to death' (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”

The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, “The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.” And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.

I recall quite clearly, back in the mid-80s while attending the fundamentalist Christian elementary school where my mom taught 5th grade, how important This One Issue had become and how, of course, all good Christians were Republicans. It is fascinating to me how emotional this bond became for me, as it has for millions of Americans growing up in similiar conditions. It took nearly two decades for me to work through the overwhelming influence that my church leaders, teachers and other important adults had on me: that abortion and other "family values" issues were absolutely supreme for Christian faith in regards to electoral politics. I mostly credit this to the fear that seemed to saturate the topic of politics and fetuses (in much the same way that health care reform is jargoned by my tea-party-influenced Christian brothers today).

Abortion is still a really important issue for me, but I can now see with a much clearer perspective the nuance and complexity of the issue. Our creative and strategic goal ought to be abortion reduction. This ought to include adoption services, financial assistance and contraceptive availability to protect and support women. And being pro-life means that there are so many other issues that must be included from the womb to the tomb: the death penalty, drones, oppressive poverty, the military budget, health care, housing, social security, the death-grip of corporate lobbyists, lawyers & campaign contributions, the factory farm system and dilapidated schools.

This year, millions of suburban Evangelical Christians will be driven to the polls by the fear-drenched issues of abortion and "Obamacare." By a 4 to 1 ratio, they will vote for Mitt Romney (whose faith they have referred to as a "cult") who has blatantly switched his position--for entirely political reasons--on both health care and abortion since being governor of Massachusetts. But when that curtain of fear is pulled aside to expose these two important issues and Romney's conveniently evolving "convictions" on them, what does Reality actually look like? Quite frankly, it ought to make many people of faith and conscience drastically consider changing their votes.

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