Monday, September 10, 2012

Going Forward


This past weekend, Julie, my daughter, participated in the Special Olympics state softball tournament in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Frankfort Bombers wanted to win and played to win, but in the end, it was not that big of a deal. They were just happy to be there, to be able to participate, to enjoy one another.

They have much to teach us about what it means to be human and to pursue God’s dream for humanity.

I read a story about a Special Olympian athlete competing in the one hundred meter race. He very much wanted to win and was ahead of the other runners when a friend slipped and fell. When he saw him fall, he stopped, turned around and picked him up, and they ran across the finish line together. His love for his friend was greater than his desire to win.

I wonder how many of us are prepared to give up the prize, to give up our agenda, to relinquish our need to be first, to be on top in order to be in solidarity and in relationship with our sisters and brothers in the human family. I wonder how many of us have come to feel secure in our false superiority and exceptionalism and desire our own comfort and freedoms over those whose comfort and freedoms are far more restricted because of their place in the world. I wonder how many of us who bear the name Christian actually have a desire to practice Jesus’ kind of spirituality (which is both personally transforming and socially engaging) and share his inclusive vision for a world at peace and made whole. I wonder first about myself. 

I believe that following Jesus means trusting in the value of every person. It means believing that we are all children of God, all one body, all one family, all sisters and brothers who are loved and cared for by God without partiality.

If we believe in the inherent worth and value of every person, then distributive and restorative justice should be at the top of our prayer and “to do” list. I know that we are limited in what we can do. But we can all vote for representatives who favor and promote policies for the common good, especially the disadvantaged. We can volunteer. We can engage in community service projects. We can become advocates for those who so desperately need someone to speak and work on their behalf. We can confront oppressive powers and speak out, even when it is not popular, when we know that what we say will be challenged by family and friends.

Do we believe what Jesus taught? That prayer can move mountains and that all things are possible with God? These promises were not given to us to enhance our own position, power, and place in society, but to motivate us to engage society with the unconditional love of Christ. Christ’s love is for everyone, but has special regard for and takes special action on behalf of the most vulnerable, wounded, impoverished, and disadvantaged. 

Both political parties take too little interest in and show too little concern for the disadvantaged, though I do believe this coming election will say something significant about who we want to be as a country and what we value.

I have been both pleased and disappointed in President Obama’s policies. Health care reform was greatly needed and he demonstrated great courage in taking it on. The new law will help many afford health care who could not otherwise, though it’s likely that some will still fall through the cracks. (Universal health care is what is needed, because in a democratic society adequate health care should be a fundamental, inalienable right of every person.). On the other hand, drone attacks are a moral travesty, we have deported too many, and  it’s taken too long to end the war in Afghanistan.

It seems to me that valuing every human life means that Democrats need to talk as much about the disadvantaged as they do about the middle class and prochoice should be about limiting the number of abortions, ensuring that abortions take place in the early stages of pregnancy, and never supporting abortion simply due to the personal ambitions of the mother (or father).  

But unless I’m missing something, it seems obvious to me (I invite Republicans to convince me otherwise) that the philosophy that permeates the Republican party these days has completely eliminated compassionate conservatism. Under the Romney/Ryan budget the rich get richer and the poor poorer. Programs assisting the disadvantaged and disabled, like my Down Syndrome daughter, will be eliminated, while the wealthy enjoy more tax breaks. From a Christian point of view the Republican budget is completely immoral.

Both political parties are obviously flawed, but it does seem fairly clear that this election will determine the course we choose as a nation. Are we on our own? Do we care only for our own well-being? Or do we bear responsibility for those less fortunate and advantaged? I hope we go forward, even if it is a baby step, rather than surrendering to fear, false security, and greed under the guise of personal liberty, getting the economy moving, and the call to reform government.  

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