Thursday, September 29, 2016

My presidential endorsement with reference to 3 fictional characters (Part 1 of 3)

Walter White for Hillary
         I’m endorsing Hillary Clinton because of Walter White.
         Yes, Walter White, the Chemistry Teacher who gets cancer, can’t pay his medical bills, and breaks bad by selling meth, becomes the drug king “Heisenberg” and ruins the lives of almost everyone he loves in the process.

My Own Experience
         I have a pre-existing condition, Pulmonary Atresia with VSD (a heart condition). This means, before the Affordable Care Act was law insurance companies would do everything that could to not pay for my medical expenses. For example, while I was on internship I had a check-up and found out my insurance company at the time refused to pay for anything that involved my heart, and cast the widest net possible in defining what involved my heart. I actually had to enlist Governor Martin O’Malley and the Attorney General to help me fight for basic healthcare!
         So, in my experience, without the Affordable Care Act, a basic check-up that is required for someone with my condition costs over $10,000 and I have to pull every trick I know how to do, and figure out some I don’t, just to make sure the free market doesn’t swallow me whole. After the passage of the ACA it costs $2-4,000.
         When (not if) my valve will need replacement under the ACA it will be very difficult to pay off my medical expenses, but with hard work and perseverance I’ll get it done. If my valve needs replacement, and the ACA is not in place, I won’t be able to pay my medical bills.

This shapes the lives of over fifty million Americans
         This is not a position unique to me. 57,200,000 Americans have a pre-existing condition. Before the ACA insurance companies could in a variety of ways, choose not to cover us or punish us for our pre-existing conditions. To be clear, many pre-existing conditions are not as extreme as mine, for example acne, asthma, diabetes, and high cholesterol. At the same time, imagine an insurance company using your pimples as an excuse to not pay for treating any part of your body that has skin on it!
         So, for me, and many like me, where the two candidates fall on the ACA is incredibly important.

Donald Trump’s Position
         Donald Trump’s position on the ACA is all over the map. In fact, he’s redone his official position page since this morning. He’s claimed that he loves a socialist system like Scotland, that he’ll protect people with Pre-existing conditions, that he’ll repeal the ACA and not replace it with anything.
         Then there is the current position on his website (again, different than the one I read this morning). Look carefully at his official position (if you can, the page keeps changing). He’ll repeal the ACA on day one. Then he says he’ll replace the ACA, but makes no mention of Pre-existing conditions. He continually focuses on the free market and unleashing the power of business to provide goods and services. In my experience, businesses are happy to use their power to deny goods and services when it comes to paying for healthcare of people with pre-existing conditions.

Hillary Clinton’s Position
         Unlike Donald Trump’s position on the ACA, Hillary is clear, she’ll keeps laws in place to protect people with pre-existing conditions. Additionally, she’s been consistently fighting to provide healthcare for all since the Children’s Health Insurance Program back in the ‘90’s.

The Choice
         I know some people I’ve talked to think it is really bad to be a “one issue voter.” In fact, they seem to think my opinion on who should be president doesn’t count because I have real skin in the game, that one particular policy will shape my life in a big way, so I can’t be objective. I’d love to be objective! I’d love to make this decision looking down on it all, like Gloucester on the cliff in King Lear, or to treat elections like some game or game show, like it is Dancing with the Stars or a way to express my particular cultural and social location.
         But I don’t have that privilege.
         If Hillary is elected I spend 10% or less of my income on check-ups, and when my valve goes I struggle financially for a year, but stay afloat.
         If Trump is elected I spend 25% of my income on check-ups and call in favors, and when my heart valve goes I die, go bankrupt, or break bad.
         So, for the sake of all of us with pre-existing conditions, please give Hillary Clinton a second look.

Next up, Pedro.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sermon: What if Roles Were Reversed?

What if Roles Were Reversed?
          Have you ever seen those body switch, or mind switch, or role reversal, movies?
“Big” with Tom Hanks, or “Trading Places” with Eddie Murphy, or any of the 3 “Freaky Friday” movies, or “The Hot Chick”, or “Change Up”, or “13 going on 30”, or “18 again”. Characters switch places, and learn a valuable lesson by walking in someone else’s shoes.
          That’s what Jesus is up to in this story he tells to these well-heeled religious folk.
“Imagine if,” Jesus suggests, “a rich man traded places with a poor man. The poor man receives royal clothing and good food and comfort, the rich man sores and scraps and agony.
Previously they were separated by a gate, now by a great chasm.
Previously the rich man was merciless, now he is denied mercy.”
What if the opposite was true? / What if roles were reversed? These are deep questions.
In Philosophy, this situation is called “the Veil of Ignorance.” If you are making rules for a society you must do so with the assumption that you don’t know what kind of person you’ll end up as in society, and therefore you will write rules that are fair and good. You are less likely to write laws targeting any one group, if you yourself might become part of that group.

          What if the roles were reversed? Think of what this simple question does? Imagine it!
Imagine with me, what Monday’s presidential debate would look like if Hillary Clinton’s mind went into Donald Trump’s body and vice versa. I’d imagine this situation would reveal some hypocrisy, with Democratic Party Pundits extoling Trump in disguise, and Republican Party Pundits acclaiming Clinton without knowing it.
          Or imagine if a white Vietnam Vet and Colin Kaepernick, now known for protesting the mistreatment of African Americans in this country by kneeling during the national anthem, imagine them changing places for a week. Wouldn’t that be a fascinating conversation to hear on the other end of that experiment, the two of them talking through their experiences as one another?
          Or imagine the 11 million people in the state of Georgia trading places with the 11 million Syrians who have fled their homes in the face of Civil War. How would this shape America’s treatment of refugees? How would Syrians view Americans after that experience?
          How would the many divisions we find in this world change if, even for a blink of an eye, roles were reversed all over the globe, people put in positions they’d never expected?
          What if the roles were reversed?

          What if the roles were reversed?
          How would those at ease in Zion feel, if they were thrown from themselves and inhabited the lives of their neighbors threatened by Assyrian armies? Would they continue to luxuriate while their brothers trembled, after they themselves trembled for a time? Or would they feel compassion?
          I’ve mentioned this word before—com-passion—suffering along with, someone else. Would they be moved to grief at the sight of their sisters exposed to the sword?
          Would Amos and his deep, prophetic, anger at them, be blunted and turned away—would they at ease in Zion be spared God’s wrath, if they had the basic human decency to care?!?

          What if the roles were reversed?
          Would Timothy’s rich congregants, tempted as they are, find contentment, trusting they have enough when they get what they need, without pushing the envelope and pursuing what they want—if they traded places with the poor among them?
          If they experienced a life where food and clothing was all you get, would they… be humble, turn away from the idolatry of wealth, do good, be generous, and share, as Timothy is advised to command of them? Could they too experience life that truly is life!?!

          What if the roles were reversed?
          That’s what the rich man is asking too, right?
What if my experience of this role reversal with Lazarus could be passed on?
What if my five brothers could be warned?
If Lazarus warns them, couldn’t they maybe be saved?
Could they maybe see their own Lazaruses? See the folk resting hopelessly at their own gates?
Can’t compassion be passed on to them and this evil be avoided?
Can’t contentment visit their house?
          And Abraham responds, “Nope.”
“Nope. The extended story of God acting to save His people from slavery in Egypt should have been a clear signal to them that God cares about those down on their luck.
          “But!” the man continues.
          Abraham cuts him off, “For that matter, have you even read the Prophets? I mean, if you read the book of Amos and like it, you don’t understand it
—if it doesn’t make you run in repentance with your tail between your legs, nothing will!”
          “But that’s God speaking to us in a book, no one takes that seriously!” the rich man protests, “Send someone from the dead! How could people not be moved by a man come back from the dead?”
          Abraham replies, “If Moses and the Prophets don’t do it, even a man risen from the dead won’t move people.”
          But, thank God, Jesus doesn’t come only to warn us—he comes to free us.
          He, in fact, switches places with us,
reverses roles with us.
He takes on our sins…
our sins, once many, are no more.
We’re freed of that debt
—but not for license or luxury or privilege—
We’re freed for community, for the sheer joy of discovering what God is up to,
where God is found.
He takes our sins, but gives us his eyes
The whole world looks different! Our eyes have been replaced… “we can see clearly now!”
It is as if, in Jesus reversing roles with us, we have in fact switched place with our neighbors, and now know a little more fully the face of God.
Yes, with these new eyes, the eyes of faith…
Christ has given us new eyes to experience holiness all around.
Our whole life is one extended dive into the waters of baptism;
it is an ongoing transformation of our lives and our relationship to all people…
all of creation, even!
          If we are freed by Christ, we are freed to seek him out in our neighbors.
Once we looked and saw no one but Lazarus, now we see our Lord.
I ask you, “What if the roles were reversed?” because they are! A+A