Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What is missing in the current national dialog

I have been thinking a lot recently about the things going on our in our nation.  What is happening in Washington DC.  What is happening in Wisconsin.  What is happening in my own state (Oregon) and my own community.  I am in the middle of the debate in a real way, for as the director of a program that relies on federal and state funding my clinic is profoundly impacted by all the arguments over entitlements, budgets, and deficits.

I am also thinking a lot because of Shane Claiborne's book "Irresistible Revolution".  What has struck me profoundly is that something is missing in the dialog that is going on.  People!

The people are missing.  Mr. Walker talks about being "broke" and budgets, and power.  But I am not hearing him say anything about he people caught up in the mess that is going on, except to see people as enemies, and barriers to his getting his agenda met.  It would be easy to pick on Boehner, but I don't see any legislators (there are probably rare exceptions, but I guess they don't make the news), talking about the people as they talk about their agenda.

Yes, the people.  What about the children who are taught by the teachers.  What about the families of those workers who are already stretched to make ends meet, who will now find health insurance even harder to get?  What about those parents who fear that they will not be able to afford to get their children health care?  What about the person who is in danger of losing his or her house?  Or the young person who sees a further education becoming an impossibility?  What about the man who is hungry?  The woman who lives on top of a grate, seeking whatever heat she can find?  What about the person with mental illness who might lose the care he or she relies on to stay stable and living independently?  What about the person caught up in the illness of addiction?

We don't hear about them!  We hear about businesses.  We hear about budgets.  Bottom lines.  We hear about the need to stimulate the economy.  Who are we considering in all of this?  Corporations.  Businesses.  Political Parties.  

We aren't even really considering the ultra-wealthy, who, God knows, are often empty and can never find joy and satisfaction, no matter how much they accumulate.  The ultra-wealthy and wealthy who have lost a sense of community, and interdependence, who have lost the awareness of the joy of sharing and also lost in the dialog.

In Acts the early Christian community was described this way:  " All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

That passage disturbs me.  It disturbs me because I don't live that way.  It disturbs me because my church, as wonderful as it is, doesn't really function that way.  And it disturbs me because this kind of thinking is no where to be found in the current dialog.  This is a model that says "people first".  It is all about the people, all people, all of whom are loved by God.  Any conversations we have should be about the people.

What is better for the people?  That a major corporation makes more of a profit than it already does?  That it keeps to keep more of its money than it already does?  Or is more important that people are fed?  Clothed?  Housed?  What is more important?  That our current health care structure, which costs too much and produces poor outcomes is protected, or that children get health care?

This is disturbing stuff to think about, but my guess is that the Jesus who gave us the beatitudes thinks that there is less moral imperative in a balanced budget, especially a balanced budget that allows the ultra-rich to stay ultra-rich at the expense of the poor, than in taking care of the the poor, the hungry, the sick.

Look at the beatitudes.  Our budgets should be all about the people we see there.  And that means my own personal budget, as well as the budget of my organization, my church, my state, and yes, my country.

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