Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Public Option Healthcare: Where Senate Dems Stand

The “public option” a robust, competitive public health insurance plan mandated for all, is the key to REAL healthcare reform that isn’t just a giant taxpayer giveaway to the “death-by-spreadsheet” health insurance corporations.  If we had gotten single-payer universal healthcare in 1948, when Harry Truman tried to get it to complete the New Deal, we wouldn’t be fighting the health insurance companies because most of them didn’t exist then. (This is the time period when most Western democracies instituted universal healthcare. Ours was shot down because Southern senators were afraid it would mean integrating Southern hospitals and clinics. Yes, racism destroyed our first great chance at universal healthcare. Look it up.) So, now we have to get something which is cheaper and better than the private insurers so that it can compete head to head and win–to lower costs and cover everyone.

Don’t listen to those saying “the health insurance companies won’t be able to compete.” They could if they would stop paying obscene amounts to their CEOs and on advertising and to lobby against universal healthcare. Competing against the private companies IS THE POINT. 

So, Open Left has a chart on where the Democratic Senators stand on the public option. With Harry Reid openly proclaiming his weakness  and inability to be an effective Democratic Majority Leader (“I don’t tell people how to vote.” Really? THAT’S YOUR JOB! “I’m not very good at arm twisting.” Wimp! Step down and let someone take your gavel who IS good at arm twisting or else grow a BACKBONE!), it’s up to us citizens to corral the votes needed for this. Apparently polls showing 72% of the country wanting a public option (and 90% of Democrats, even 50% of GOP!) isn’t enough to compete with the insurance company money for senators’ attention. So check out Open Left’s chart. Anyone who isn’t listed as a YES  should hear from you–every day until this passes. It”s now or never, folks. The 2010 budget ALREADY pays for universal healthcare. Now we need to get it–or healthcare costs will cripple our economy even faster than global warming.

We know it works.  We have seen Medicare work. We have seen that senators, of both parties, like govt.  health insurance FOR THEMSELVES. Now it’s time for the rest of us. Healthcare, quality healthcare, is a RIGHT, not a privilege. But it’s a right we are going to have to organize and fight for. Remember the words of Mother Jones, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

P.S. Citizen Pressure DOES work. Sen. Hagan (D-NC) said last week that she wasn’t sure about the public option. After her office was flooded with calls, letters, emails, etc. from her constituents, she announced that she  supports the public option! The others will fold to the same pressure. And keep up the pressure on Wimpy Reid to do  his job or surrender his gavel!

July 4, 2009 Posted by | healthcare | 7 Comments

Brief Reflections on Patriotism and Christian Faith

As I write this, it is already 04 July 2009. It’s Independence Day, the anniversary of the day (04 July 1776) when American colonists declared their independence from the U.K. It’s the birthday of this republic, the United States of America, although our current form of government did not set until 1790.  Throughout this land on Sunday, churches will be filled with pastors giving sermons on freedom or on “God and country,” etc. Most of them will be pretty bad. Some of them will be positively idolatrous–reducing the God of all creation to a tribal deity that somehow cares more for this nation than others–a truly blasphemous idea.

Some preachers will do better. My brother-in-law, Rev. Bill Westmoreland, a Presbyterian minister in Cincinnatti, OH, will be preaching on the differences between freedom in Christ (e.g., Gal. 5) and the individualistic, consumerist versions of “freedom” that most of the nation will celebrate this weekend.

But let’s skip the idolatrous perversions.  What of patriotism itself? Can Christians be patriots?  Some would be highly skeptical of the idea.  The great Pascal said that patriotism as love of country is a great idea but why should my love stop at an artificial border? Good question, Blaise.  Others have noted that patriotism is the last refuge (or excuse) of the scoundrel. (I am reminded of the scene from the hilarious  play and film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas where a TX Sen. was caught at the brothel–and immediately claimed that he had been drugged and kidnapped and taken there against his will by his enemies–all because they KNEW he was the fiercest anti-Communist in the Senate. Yeah, right.) Huge evil has been done in the name of patriotism–by the patriots of many nations.  Can a Christian, who believes that the saints are called out from among all nations, really be a patriot?

I think so if we define “patriotism” differently than “nationalism” or “militarism.”  Love of one’s native land is natural,  like love of one’s family.  It doesn’t have to mean hatred or contempt for others’ nations anymore than quiet pride in one’s family means the hatred of other families.  The Apostle Paul, with dual citizenship,  both bragged on his heritage as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and on his Roman citizenship–though he knew the shortcomings of both.  The Sanhedrin would eventually arrest Paul and turn him over to Rome–where tradition says he was martyred.  So, Paul had to have a critical love of country.  It could not be the kind of blind patriotism which ignores the faults of one’s nation. It had to  point out those faults and seek to correct them.

The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was involved in a plot to overthrow Hitler–which led to his arrest by the Gestapo and eventual execution by the Nazis.  Bonhoeffer was partially motivated by his ecumenical commitments to the church universal.  But I would contend that Bonhoeffer was a greater patriot than those “German Christians” who lavished praise on Hitler, flew Swastikas in their sanctuaries,  and supported the Third Reich’s agenda.

I would similarly claim that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.–who once called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” to be a better patriot than the “God and country” Jerry Falwell types.  I would say that Rev. William Sloan Coffin, or Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J., who were leading resisters to the Vietnam War were also patriotic Americans–genuinely so.

A Christian patriotism must be an “eyes wide open” critical patriotism that is always calling for repentence and reform. Because Christians can never forget that no nation, no government, is anywhere close to the standards of the Rule of God. Our first loyalty is to that other “kingdom” (forgive the patriarchal language,  the political meaning comes through better) which is not from this world–but which will overthrow the Powers and Authorities  of this world.  We are loyal first to the “God Revolution,” and second to the global church (the scattered People of God) and third to the whole world, in and out of the church, as God’s beloved creation. Only after that, as a lesser loyalty, can we be lovers of our own nation and government.

Nationalists and jingoists, therefore, will always find Christians to be suspect. We will not appear patriotic enough for them.  Too bad.

On a more secular note, I link to this great forum on patriotism by the online version of The Nation.

July 4, 2009 Posted by | church-state separation, citizenship, ecumenism, politics, theology | Comments Off on Brief Reflections on Patriotism and Christian Faith