Category Archives: Religion

And Jesus Showed God’s Love by Guiding Sick, Injured, Poor People to Purchase “Free Market” Care

Portion of terra cotta panel at a former hospital in Liverpool. HistoricEngland.org.

Now, I hope you, dear reader, know that the title to this essay is absurd.i  The current state of affairs of our nation’s “health care” is problematic, and may soon get much worse in terms of how we (so-called Christians) treat people and in comparison to how other “westernized” countries of means, who seem to be less “Christian” than the U.S., treat theirs. I’m not just talking socialized medicine necessarily, but costs relative to care generally; they obviously consider what is going on with health care deliverers and regulate things appropriately to keep costs far lower than what you find in the states (while maintaining better health outcomes, too).ii  Why are these other countries more astute and caring than us in this “great and smart nation”? Who or what we serve is the difference. Our country serves Money (behind the guise of Freedom).iii

Of course our current system is broken, and virtually everyone agrees that it needs at least some fixes. But those who justify repealing “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) are not dealing with the core issues that are driving costs, while also ignoring a not-so-distant past when a great many persons didn’t have insurance. Ignoring all the heartache, deaths, bankruptcies, and suicides from that time, and the pre-ACA steep rises in premiums as well. Repealing Obamacare and throwing money at the states—much less money over the course of years—will not at all solve the basis for the wildly high costs of health care in America (which are still rapidly rising). The ACA contributed to this problem, but it’s not at all the single cause. The GOP talked of draining the swamp, but they are mired as deep into it as ever, as far as I can see; they couldn’t even include in their proposed legislation one of their long-term pet ideas, to open up insurance competition across state lines.iv

As it stands right now, the very very poor will still be eligible for Medicaid in the near future.  A number of poor that are in expanded Medicaid states will lose out relatively quickly (and I am going to say that it was cruel to leave people uncovered simply because they lived in a geography of no such expanded coverage), including the elderly in assisted living environments. I know that there’re plenty of people out there who don’t want to pay for much medicaid because they think people receiving it are lazy and taking advantage of the system. I’ve seen hearts-of-stone arguments regarding this, and it is not up to Christians to worry and judge so much about deceivers (and a lot of fraud is perpetuated by doctors, not patients). Deceivers will be found out and God will deal with them in His own way; our role is to lead people to Christ, even deceivers, if possible. We’re supposed to be the lights in a dark place here, not the judge.

The fact that there may be deceivers has nothing to do with helping the sick, who are often very poor because of their illness. It makes zero sense to push people who are very ill to work harder or at all in order to pay for health insurance: how can they work, and who would hire them? A lot of people get fired when they become sick—are you going to make their employer hire them back?  To even suggest this requirement is a hypocrisy and promoting a deception.  I bet a lot of these same people would nurse a sick or injured dog and not think anything of it. The dog would be getting all that care and attention for free, yet they insult and kick around those beings made in God’s image.  “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9, NIV).

But What Did Christ Do and Teach about Sickness and health?

Whatever it was He did and taught, that’s what we’re to do (or at least try!). The very first hospitals that freely treated poor patients were Christian, because the followers that started them received Christ’s teaching and tried to follow His example.  What was Christ’s example?  Well, get this.  It is estimated that He spent 80% of His time healing people.v  He met people where they were at in their need in order to show that God was a God who was there for them, not some aloof diety.  If you haven’t gotten this from reading the New Testament, read it again more carefully.  There’s a difference between how we perceive what is written regarding what was said and what was done. Seeing as the disciples didn’t have computers and cheap paper, you have to think about what was going on based on the few words chosen.vi  “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV). (I love John. Just think what a bold statement that was for his time period.) So, I think I could write a book on Jesus’ and his disciples’ works of healing, but I’m going to limit the examples to two very brief ones here; two that I think provide much insight into God’s will for our thinking in this matter (and the author of both, Luke, was a physician).

The Good Samaritan

(The full and short story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.) In this story, a “faithful” person wanted to justify himself, we’re told (that is, justify his actions or lack thereof), asking Jesus to define “neighbor” (the person who he had to love as himself).  So, Jesus told the little story commonly known as The Good Samaritan.  In it, two spiritually high-level Jews purposefully ignored a half-dead man lying in the road.  The man was there after suffering violence. But a man who the Jews would have despised (if not really hated), a Samaritan, stopped and helped the stricken stranger.  (Samaritans were considered idolatrous half-breeds who accepted only Moses’ scriptures and ignored the rest).  He not only treated the man’s wounds as best he could right there in the road, but took him to an inn and paid for his expenses, including whatever additional treatment the inn keeper could provide.  So Jesus’ (offensive) answer to the question was that the stranger in need who you happen to come across is your “neighbor” and worthy of your assistance/love. Perhaps God puts such situations in front of us, expecting us to provide His blessings–to be His hands.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

(The full and short story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.)  Another story Jesus told was that of an unnamed “rich man” and a poor diseased beggar named Lazarus.  Lazarus suffered greatly, and his situation hadn’t changed after someone laid him at the rich man’s gate. The rich man lived in luxury his whole life, never lifted a finger to help Lazarus (even with him at his gate!), and ends up in hell upon death.  Sometime later, Lazarus himself died and was carried to Abraham’s bosom (without getting into a big theological discussion, just say heaven).  Lazarus, although he suffered on earth and might have seemed cursed to some, was in fact blessed by God; God knew his name and in the end Lazarus found rest and peace. The story continues with Abraham telling the rich man, who tries to intercede on behalf of his still living brothers, that his brothers (like himself) have not listened to Moses and the prophets. Therefore, neither will they listen to someone who was raised from the dead. They have no faith in anything or anyone else.  All in life is for self, and they are so focused on that that they can’t see anything else.

The poor and diseased are at our gate, the gate of the wealthy and powerful United States, and we only hear of ways to cut back funds for them in order to help those better off.  We don’t hear talk about greed, the high value of medical industry stocks that benefit government employee pensions, the extreme amount of money the medical industry puts into lobbying, advertising, and other types of influence, etc.  Costs do need to come down for everyone, but not at the expense of the poor, disabled, diseased, and elderly.  Price reductions need to come down by appropriate and humane means that deal with greed, corruption, and catering to the wealthy.  And our church leaders need to say so out loud, to let those in need see that God is there, and loving, and not an aloof diety.  God isn’t dead, but what of the visible church?

Notes

i  Setting aside for a moment the fantasy of a truly “free market” economy, such a market would be for choosing which potato chip brand you want to buy, not whether or not you or your child lives or dies. Markets have nothing at all do with the human need to get life sustaining help from one’s fellow man. It’s too weird that this kind of thing even needs to be said . . . that there’s this context in America where the idea of needing to say it had been formed. I don’t see how we can move further away from God than we are now.
ii  See 2015 International Profile on Health Care Systems (at the time of this writing, the most up-to-date report) and The U.S. Health Care System: An International Perspective (2016).
iii  And why don’t we have preachers out there preaching on greed and the root of evil, money (1 Timothy 6:10, but many more verses are needed for the understanding of greed and its consequences)? Jesus was radical. When He walked the earth, people knew of Him. It is really no wonder the church in America is so weak, as it just doesn’t seem to even exist.  Jesus knew what people’s needs and concerns were, he was anti-establishment (anti-world system) and the book of James is very much so as well.  I think people know this inherently; they know if God is speaking to them and their needs, and they’re not seeing it come out of today’s Christian institutions. Preachers aren’t publicly denouncing financial scandals or a living wage being denied to laborers.
iv  Besides the sources found in note ii regarding costs, here are bipartisan recommendations from persons well-experienced in the system: JAMA Forum: Reforming Medicaid
v  Healing is a Major Aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
vi  You have to use your imagination, as the common expression goes, but some Christians fear this type of mental exercise. Many only use the scriptures as a moral rule book, and they like to throw that rule book at people. Right living comes after receiving God’s spirit, not before. In any case, a dashed reading through the scriptures will not yield the insights into God’s will that we need for living His way.

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Is Your Bible Missing Verses?

Hey hey.  Blessed Sunday everyone.  I know I haven’t posted in forever–I’ve been using my (limited) writing energy at my “work-related” site, phahpa.org (trying to catch up with regional and state history, preservation laws, doing projects, etc . . . ).  But I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.  That is, the graphic below . . . but as  I’m not graphics-program savvy, I did it in Word, printed it, then scanned it (not the highest quality I wished) in order to put it on here.   The quality actually came out pretty well, considering, and if you click on it you can view it in its large format.  I hope you like this and share it with those who might seem to need it (the title is sarcastic, yet)–even atheists who cherry pick or only actually read other atheists who cherry pick.   It’d just be nice if you cited the source and creator (this site).

Which Bible are You Reading?
By Vicki Priest

 

Where I’ve Been & the Christian Genocide Resolution

Port Huron, 1939 USGS section
Port Huron, from 1939 USGS quad map.

Hello and happy Tuesday!  I haven’t posted in a while (which isn’t terribly unusual, I know), and knowing full well that my mind has been elsewhere, I wanted to give a “why.”  As I’ve posted about before, we moved from Southern California back to my home state of Michigan, and more specifically, to Port Huron.  We decided on this location because of all the water (and we happily concur that the St. Clair area’s nick name of Blue Water is justified), because we could afford to buy a low-cost house, and because–on paper, at least–it looked like there were enough jobs to keep us going.

(We originally wanted to move to Grand Rapids, which is the only region in Michigan really recovered from the last “recession,” but couldn’t get help with buying a low-cost home at a distance . . . realtors have replaced the lowest place holder of the employed in my mind now, with lawyers bumped up one.)

While the job front turned out to be less rosy than we anticipated, I have enjoyed getting back into my older career choice involving historical resources.  I used to work in cultural resources management–prehistory, then history–until consulting jobs became too far away from my family (as you might imagine, permanent employment in this field is rare and you have to be willing to move to wherever you can get it).

Now that we live in a place with obvious history and historic structures, my passion for investigating those things has been rekindled.   And finding that the city is a very mixed bag of preservation and anit-preservation sentiment (the state is having an anti-preservation infection now, too), which is reflected in how much a regular person can find out about it here, I decided to make a web page about it, with the hope that others would like it and benefit from it and a group would form.  I’ve spent a ton of my time getting up to speed on the history in Port Huron, catching up on preservation laws and such, and building the site:  Port Huron Area History & Preservation Association.

St Joseph Church, Port Huron
One of the historic churches in Port Huron, St. Joseph’s.

The city, being one of the older and busier ones in historic Michigan, has quite a few grand old churches, too.  And, I never ended up posting about something that we, as Christians, were excited to find here:  nativity scenes out in public areas at Christmas time.  How refreshing!  There weren’t a huge number of them, but they did pop up, and one felt that you might hear a “Merry Christmas!” come your way and not just a “happy holidays.”  I did run across an internet post somewhere by a lady who had lived here and moved to Tennessee, where there was even more openness and  joy displayed over Christmas, not just “the holidays.”  She was critical of Port Huron, but it is better here than where we used to live.

On a very different note, the US house of representatives voted 383-0 (!) in favor of calling what ISIS is doing to Christians in Iraq and Syria “genocide.”  Other countries in the world that seem to be less sympathetic towards Christians have already declared that Christian genocide has been happening.  Why is the US behind in doing so?  Obama and his administration, that’s why.  It’s strange how this administration can use the arguments of the persecutors to justify a “not genocide” stance when others know from either experience of research that the actions behind those arguments are covers for murderous intent, for the actual genocide going on.  Read about it at House Votes to Declare ISIS’s Actions ‘Genocide’: What’s Next? , House Passes Resolution Calling ISIS’ Mass Slaughter of Christians a ‘Genocide’, and at other online news outlets.

“The facts are well documented in our nearly 300-page report on this matter, and we must remember that for the State Department to issue declaration of genocide, the standard required is merely probable cause, which any prosecutor could find on any of ISIS’s Facebook pages.”  S. Smith, 03-15-16

 

The Absurdity Within: X-Files Episode 5, Season 10

X-Files Ep 5 Mulder's Trip
Mulder during his “shroom” (or placebo?) trip

The new X-Files season, a short one that renews the series after being off the air for 14 years, is a very mixed bag.  A very very mixed bag.  Episode 5 is practically one long platitude, while episode 3 is brilliant (literally, my favorite TV episode ever made, out of all I can remember, anyway).

X-Files Season 10

I’m going to make this section short.  X-Menesque mutants debut in episode 2, after in episode 1 Mulder talks of having the new revelation that men are using alien stuff to evolve humans and improve technology.  While critics ate this stuff up as a critical reflection of modern American politics, I thought it disappointingly silly, since I was pretty sure Mulder had already thought this (that is, his new revelation) from watching the previous shows.  It’s what I took away from the X-Files in the past, anyway, so it seemed cheap and confusing.  Most of the new episodes are quite gory, too (that is, gorier than before).

Continue reading The Absurdity Within: X-Files Episode 5, Season 10

Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.
Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.

That question, “Do Muslims worship the same God as Christians?” is not a new one, but has been in the Christian news (at least) recently over the controversial suspension of a black female professor at Wheaton College.  I haven’t written specifically on this topic, though I touched upon it in Does DA: Inquisition’s Imshael have anything to do with Ishmael and Islam?  In that article I point out how Islam rejects God’s plan for humanity, as provided by God in the Old Testament through Isaac, and openly celebrates this rejection through their holiday of Eid Al-Adha.  How can it be claimed that Muslims worship the same God when they reject biblical scriptures and even God’s plan for humanity?  As any bible student knows, God’s plan is interspersed throughout all of the Old and New Testaments, so to reject it and then claim you worship the same God makes no sense.  Yet the Wheaton professor, besides showing solidarity with the repression of women (which is not biblical), claims that Muslims worship the same God as Christians.

Continue reading Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Raping of Women and Children Now Allowed in the West; Why Not, Eh?

CS Lewis sun quote
Through God can we see good and beauty, as well as contrasting evil and malignancy, and seek to keep victims from the latter.

“Amnesty International reports that Sweden has the highest number of rapes in Europe and the lowest conviction rate. According to Swedish Public Radio, in Stockholm alone, over 1,000 Swedish women reported that a Muslim immigrant raped them; 300 were under age 15.”  “What the EU fails to acknowledge and each country is realizing is that Muslim immigrants have no intention of integrating. Eighty percent are on welfare, following Islamic teaching to take money from the non-Muslim “Kuffar.” Both Sharia4Belgium and Sharia4Holland advocate complete extinction of Jews.”  As Christianity Exits Europe, ‘Criminal Muslims’ Fill Void with Rabid Violence (Dec 2014).

A chronology of the violence (including honor killings – or are those just “misunderstandings”?) and non-integration Muslim immigrant issues, via linked news articles.

Continue reading Raping of Women and Children Now Allowed in the West; Why Not, Eh?

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christian Poems XIV: Kenyon, Spires, and Donne

Sunset with road.
Sunset, toward west, but road may traveled east or west. Which way to go? Source: http://newartcolorz.com/images/2014/3/country-sunset-wallpaper-5351-5667-hd-wallpapers.jpg

Let Evening Come

by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn.  Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass.  Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sand den.
Let the wind die down.  Let the shed
go black inside.  Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come as it will, and don’t
be afraid.  God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

In The Best American Poetry 1991.  Mark Strand, editor; David Lehman, series editor (Collier Books 1991, p 119).  From Kenyon’s 1990 book of the same title (Graywolf Press 1990).

_________________

Continue reading Christian Poems XIV: Kenyon, Spires, and Donne

Michal the Maligned; King David’s First Wife

English: Michal lets David escape from the win...
English: Michal lets David escape from the window. A painting by Gustave Doré, 1865. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not a feminist, but it doesn’t take a feminist to see the mysogeny in some Judeo-Christian circles when King David is so glorified while persons like Michal, David’s first wife, are vilified.  If Michal can be so maligned, then any woman can.  David treated Michal (and his other wives) like his property in more ways than one, and many “believing” men still see David’s actions in a righteous light.

King David, Israel’s most revered king [1], who was chosen by God for that role and for his part in God’s redeeming plan, was a poet and a bit of a prophet, but he did things that God did not approve of and which are utterly un-Christlike/un-Christianlike [2] (read about Judah and others that God used and you’ll see that He didn’t forcefully make them “saints”).  As always, we should recognize and praise the good, but we need to also recognize the bad and not repeat it.  We are also called to recognize and help the oppressed.

Background

What got “me going” on this subject at this time was a biography of David.   In the introduction the author claimed that the only thing David did wrong was have Uriah the Hittite murdered because he wanted the man’s wife (Bathsheba).  Though the author didn’t provide the reference for his claim, it comes from 1 Kings 15:5:  For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.  Since there are other things written in the Old Testament that David did that displeased God, this statement can be taken as a generalized commendation, just as other kings received generalized condemnations; and “in the case of Uriah the Hittite” David committed many deep sins, not just one.  (Note, however, that this particular verse seems to have been added to scripture later since it is not in the oldest versions of the Greek Old Testament).

Continue reading Michal the Maligned; King David’s First Wife

Jesus’ Harsh Sayings: Dogs of Israel?! (Matthew 15:21-27)

atheist-group-undo-jesus-says-kill-him-againI don’t know about you, but I’m tired of Jesus’ harsh sayings being explained away, especially in light of the Christian church falling into disrepute.  We should not be trying to placate everyone, and this is obvious by Jesus’ (and Paul’s) own words (verses are from the New International Version [NIV] unless otherwise stated):

  • Jesus was hated, so His true followers will be hated.  “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. . .  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. . . “ (John 15:18-20).
  • People will be offended by him, and therefore us.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me (Matthew 11:6, New King James Version; Luke 7:23).
  • What Paul said about our smell. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.  And who is equal to such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Christians are not to attack back when we’re personally offended, but we are to convey God’s word and will.  This is simply going to be offensive to some and we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty over it.   Many “Christians” just seem to roll with the cultural flow, but Jesus’ example was . . . what?  He ended up dying on the cross for the truth.

One example of Jesus’ harsh words that I’ve always found difficult is from Matthew 15:21-27 (see also Mark 7:24-30).  Can you imagine Jesus ignoring you, then calling you a dog and making you feel like you have to beg like a dog?  Here is the passage:

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!  My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”  

Jesus did not answer a word.  So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.”  And her daughter was healed at that moment.

I’ve heard sermons admonishing us to think of the “dogs” here as “puppies,”  and in Mark’s version of the conversation the woman indeed uses the term “little dogs.”  But, if we wanted to think of the word as “puppy,” there’s the issue of what puppies grow up into: dogs.  Whether a puppy or a dog, the creature is something less than its owner.  In the passage, Jesus is saying that the gentile is asking something of God that only the privileged should have, the implication being that not all humans are equal in God’s eyes.

Matthew 15:21-27
From st-takla.org.

But brushing aside the offense, the desperate mother cleverly and humbly responds.  We don’t know if Jesus’ expression and inflection betrayed a different intent than His literal words, which were said in the presence of Israelites.  In any case, I think the passage’s primary meaning can be understood in the light of Jesus’ other examples of people other than the house of Israel having true faith (and large doses of humility).  Many in Israel thought that, in God’s eyes, outsiders were less than they were, and here Jesus seems to be confirming that belief.  In another harsh passage, Jesus says not to throw your pearls to swine (Matthew 7:6).  Ouch. These passages seem to fly in the face of God’s love and concern for everyone, that Christ died for all, and that all are equal in His sight.

But there are common misconceptions based on these ideas which indeed are found in scripture.  Misunderstandings seem to come from thinking that certain verses refer to universal salvation.  God’s saving grace may be universal, but it requires individual acceptance (it’s a gift that one accepts, or leaves unopened), and God knows that not everyone is going to accept it.  He also knows (and has passed this knowledge on to us) that He has active enemies, not just people who don’t really want to accept Him.  We don’t know who all these enemies are, but God does.

Therefore, neither “human” or “person” are synonyms for “child of God.”  People can become children of God through faith, and individual Israelites were not necessarily God’s children.  Once Israel rejected Jesus as Christ, all who did (and do) accept Him as such were (and are) adopted into God’s family.  The Canaanite mother seems to be an example of this forthcoming church age.

While many Israelites did take Jesus’ messages to heart and come to faith, the nation as a whole did not.  What were the problems?  Following man-made traditions like many in Israel were doing was actually leading people away from God, and as alluded to above, many also had the attitude that being born an Israelite (a child of Abraham) automatically saved you (see John chapter 8, for example).

Again and again, Jesus dispelled these notions.  In Matthew 15 here,  a gentile Canaanite woman has saving faith.  She believed that what Jesus was doing was real (of God) and sought Him out, while the religious leaders amongst God’s “own people” did not.  Other examples are the centurion who knew that Jesus could heal even from a distance (Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10); the (parable of the) good Samaritan who helped a man left to die when Israelite holy men would not (Luke 10:30-37); the Samaritan woman who became His witness to other Samaritans (John 4:1-30); and, the thankful Samaritan leper who was healed along with nine other Israelite lepers, who did not glorify God like the Samaritan did (Luke 17:11-19).

Jesus also brought up other related examples from the past, like Jonah the Israelite not wanting to give God’s warning to the Ninevites, God having the prophet Elijah stay with a non-Israelite lady during a severe, long term drought, and God healing a Syrian–but not any Israelites–of leprosy during Elisha’s time (Luke 4:24-27).  Of course, He also reminded the Israelites here and there about God’s prophets they had killed in times past. These examples, of course, angered many.  Those unwilling to accept His messages sought His life, just as they sought the past prophets’ lives he reminded them of.

We can see, perhaps shockingly, that the Canaanite woman was not really offended; apparently, she understood something that was more important than the apparent offense.  Her faith led to the healing of her daughter and a compliment from the Son of God.   In another example that many of His own disciples found offensive, Jesus taught that He was the bread of life, and that His blood was for salvation.  He said that a person needed to eat his flesh and blood.  Of course, he was speaking in spiritual terms of the coming Last Supper and future sacrament of communion.  He wasn’t all-of-a-sudden advocating cannibalism.   But many disciples failed to trust His words, were offended, and left Him (John 6:47- 71).  But those who believed in Him stayed even though they didn’t fully understand His words at the time.  Faith is trust, and blessed are those not offended by Christ.