Moral Contradictions

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Those who work yet do not receive

Between working full-time and going to school full-time, I'm a little behind the times. I read an article a few days ago the Richmond Times-Dispatch which impressed on me again that those who go without health insurance are not just the poor - they are the working poor.

I applaud the commonwealth for its efforts in trying to decrease the rate of uninsured children. Currently 1 in 11 go without health insurance.

I really don't know what the solution, if it feasibly exists, should be. However, I do know some things:

A. Again, this is a moral issue that receives short-shrift because the emotional gut-reaction is not widespread.
B. Healthy children grow up to be healthy adults, and thus can contribute more to society and have a better chance of attending college and obtaining substantial employment. The article mentions the risks of skipping routine check-ups.
C. This is not a class issue: 70 percent of uninsured children come from families where the income level is twice the level of poverty, or $33,200 for a family of three.
D. This is not a race issue: In Virginia, 27 percent are African-American and 17 percent are Hispanic - totalling 44 percent.

"These findings destroy some of the stereotypes that exist," Pollack said.

Families USA said that despite gains in enrolling children with insurance, the rate of uninsured children has increased since 1998. And there are wide disparities from state to state.

In Virginia, 9 percent are uninsured, while in Texas the percentage is more than 20 percent.

The figures suggest that uninsured children will represent a huge cost burden as time goes by. For instance, less than half experienced a well-child visit in the past year. Uninsured children are three times more likely to have unmet mental-health needs and nine times more likely to have other unmet or delayed medical needs.

How do we as Christians address this issue?

Family values...

"It's vile," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach. "It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."

No, this wasn't said about himself, after resigning from Congress Friday because of improper emails with a 16 year old boy, this was in relation to President Clinton.

What happened to the Republicans? Have they no shame? Where did this whole 'we'll restore dignity to the White House and DC' go?

With Rep. Bob Ney's conviction regarding corruption and the whole Jack Abramoff scandal, not to mention Tom Delay's resignation, I was told that sort of behavior was impossible, for these were good Christian men.

Shame on those Christians who claim that Jesus would vote Republican, or for those who cast Democrats out of their churches.

How is this a Christian value?

How is justifying torture a Christian value?

How is lying to the country to justify war a Christian value?

How is corruption a Christian value?

How is ignoring American and International law a Christian value?

And for Virginia and the illegal immigration debate, how is racism a Christian value?

I guess this is what happens when you present yourself as holier-than-thou... anytime you set yourself up higher than humans and closer to God, gravity's humbling mechanicism kicks in.

Update: Just saw that Foley was the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. Nice.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Not class warfare

The term "affordable housing" triggers the mind to think "housing for the poor". Not so. The economic trends of the past thirty years have seen cost of living increases substantially suprassing salaries. Of course, I don't have to mention the signficant rise of CEO salaries in relationship to that of employee's wages.

What do you do when firefighters, as mentioned in this article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, cannot afford to buy a house because the market under $200,000 doesn't exist?

Clarke said his father, who works for the state police department, bought a 2,000-square-foot home in Chesterfield in 1986. At the time, his father was making about $30,000 and the home cost $70,000.

Nearly 20 years later, Clarke makes $36,000 a year and that same house is valued at $250,000.

"The cost of housing is still outpacing salaries," Lafayette said.

Am I the only one who sees this as a moral issue?

The desire and benefits of homeownership may cause couples to work longer hours or farther away for higher wages, sacrificing family time and increasing stress. Gone are the days of single incomes for many folks. Another option is for families is to move farther away from their jobs, such as this firefighter, adding time away from home.

This is not lower class people we're talking about - it's middle class folks, making a decent living, trying to get by, who must work much harder and longer to achieve what their parents were able to.

I understand that many of these factors are systematic and is economic in nature, but the historian in me says "it doesn't have to be this way." Nothing is inevitable. Still, I don't understand enough about economics to explain how this situation arose nor do I know enough to recommend a solution.

I am recommending that we Christians, if we really want to focus on the family, should start focusing on real, everyday issues that families actually do focus on, such as making money to give their children a decent life. With high rates of divorce plus studies that show financial disagreements as a major cause of marriage breakups, this issue needs input and concern from the Christian community if we want to be relevant to the problems society face.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Straight to the heart

I read this article last night before bed in this past week's Newsweek. I thought about certain quotes I wanted to post here, but after reading through it, I'd recommend you to read the entire thing.

This is the reality - the reality that not only are our men and women dying overseas, but the toll their deployment takes on the families left at home. The military is stretched - we've invaded two countries and now in the end of 2006 neither one can be considered stable.

This article makes me ashamed of the government that led us to war. Justified war is fine and necessary, but why have the justifications changed so often?

Further, why does it seem the leaders that haven't served in the miliary are the war's biggest backers while those who have served are the most critical? With John McCain, the former POW in the Hanoi Hilton, having to stand up to the President on torture instead of assuming everyone knows his story and would agree not to treat our prisoners that way. Secretary Colin Powell, a highly decorated veteran who clearly loves his country, having to stand up to the hot air coming out of DC and defend himself, instead of being listened to.

And to top it off, the Administration is eyeing Iran? How are we going to accomplish this?

When you get a chance, read Jonathan Alter's "An Alternate 9/11 History". In a time that called for statesmanship, I think we are lacking.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The real attacks on marriage

Former Senator John Danforth explains how anti-homosexual marriage amendments, touted as protecting the institution of marriage, are simply red herrings:

"America's divorce rate is now over 50 percent, and marriage is under attack from a number of quarters: finances, promiscuity, alcohol and drugs, the pressures of work, cultural acceptance of divorce, et cetera...But it is incomprehensible that one of these threats is when someone else, whom we have never seen, in a place where we may have never been, has done something we don't like."

Maybe we should look at shore up marriage by taking steps to protect our own, instead of throwing stones and worrying about others.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Despicable torture

I'm late on this one, but I have to say that I am ashamed of the President's conduct and his witness as an American, let alone Christian, in regards to torture.

Yes, we need to protect Americans. I don't disagree with that. But hasn't the uproar fostered by Abu Ghirab techniques taught him anything (besides the fact to move prisons to secret CIA locations)?

We all want the same end, but they do not justify every single possible means. Yes I want this country and this world to be safe, but if we have our safety yet not integrity, what do we really have?

Smoting, she-bears, and society

Yesterday a professor began class with two passages of Scripture. In a pseudo-serious voice he charged that to make this a Bible class we had to frame it and open the Good book. He proceeded to read from 2 Kings 2:23-24:
He (Elisha) went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying "Go away, baldhead! Go away baldhead!". When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. (NRSV)

Of course my professor did this in jest and we all had a good laugh, but the passage stuck with me. Another professor noted today how the church is no longer the 'center of town' and has lost the prominence of societial focus.

I grew up not too long ago, and there were no such things as soccer games on Sunday or what have you. Church was made a priority in my life, and when I grew old enough I chose to make it a part of mine. I'm not part of the generation that knew blue-laws and such, but even still, Sunday was special. One took a break - although it seems today in our churches, members have not come back from their break. They still hold Christian values and may vote them or occasionally open the Bible, but the church and its mandate seem forgotten.

The power of God, through His Holy Spirit, is beyond our comprehension. The mysterious wind that carries His strength is not something that can be elected or legislated. Growing up I learned that "one plus God can do anything". Our country has seen several Great Awakenings, all with arose from the power of the Holy Spirit, not that of Washington DC. I can go on about how great God is and how He's worked through our country and world, even when working with us sinful humans.

I agree that there has been hostility from certain corners toward the church in our society, but an objective analysis of why is required. Not to contradict Elisha, but how many times, as Christians and the church, have wished that we could sic large wild animals on someone or an institution and just be done with it? How many times has that tactic been employed, and does that correlate at all with the increased opposition?

The church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can do great things - and great harm. Off the top of my head the word "Inquisition" comes to mind. When we are attacked or encounter segments in disagreement, we must engage with those elements in our society and culture. Reactionary condemnation cannot be the first and only solution. According to Jesus (we are Christ-ians after all), the two greatest commandments are to love God and love each other. The natural employment of His teaching is that in every action and saying, we do it in love.

I grieve when the church engages issues such as homosexuality, abortion, stem-cells, church-state, immigration, etc, without love. Sure, there is love of the Bible and the unborn, but what about love for those who disagree? By standing for the Bible, are we in fact turning more folks away from God in our witness? I can respect someone that passionately disagrees with me, but will do me the honor, in love, and listen to my perspective. I know it's not always that simple, but I cannot shake how simple Jesus' commands are. Love one another.

When love fails or is ignored, the quickest reaction of many, I suspect (only because at times I've been there), is to simply call fire and brimstone from the heavens and smote our opposition. It worked for Elisha, but something tells me that should not be applied for every situation.

Nothing about our faith is easy. Let me repeat that: nothing about our faith is easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a false prophet. In the deepest valleys of life when we are persecuted and abandoned, cheap grace pays out its real value. Loving friends is much easier than loving enemies, yet Jesus simply said "love one another". Are we allowed to be angry, frustrated, and annoyed? Yes! How many families put the "fun" in dysfunctional?

Our faith is a journey - in order to reach point Z , we must travel through A, B, C, D, E...etc. That's why it's often referred to as a "daily walk". The ends do not justify the means, even if someone is attacking our faith or our church. God is big enough to handle it, and we should be too.

In times of persecution and in the face of opposition, don't let she-bears be your witness as God's called servant and follower.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Obligatory 9/11 post

A few weeks after 9/11 my father drove me by the Pentagon on the way to my flight back to school. I'll never forget cresting the hill on I-395 in Arlington as DC spread before us and noticing the blackened hole immediately. A sharp anger welled up inside of me, but took comfort in that we had the world's sympathy and we were looking toward Afghanistan, and daggumit we were going to get Bin Laden.

Never would I have imagined that five years later our country would be mired in an occupation in Iraq, and all of our infrastructure support and country-building were nowhere near Afghanistan. Bin Laden is still alive, being used as a prop to continue justify war, yet efforts to find him have screeched to a halt.

We all knew that life would change after 9/11, but not like this. We were like sheep looking for a shepherd, only now that the shock has worn away, we're wondering why we're not in a different field.

I'm not sure what saddens me more - the events and tragedy of 9/11, or the tragedy that has been the last five years.

No post-invasion plan, unfinished job in Afghanistan and with Bin-Laden, a war with dozens of justifications, continued violence in Iraq after "Mission Accomplished", and the paltry response and sheer negligence to a freaking hurricane.

Here's to hoping this country can get its act together and honor the heroes of that day five years ago without partisan politics or unneccesary destruction.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Morally grounded issues?

Since Newt Gingrich started to publicly offer his opinion again, raising suspicion that his ultimate motivation is a four year sleepover at the White House, I've become nervous.


Besides having a weird first name (couldn't resist), he just doesn't sit well with me. As Speaker, he played hard-ball politics for the benefit of his party and at the expense of the American people. He comes across as an opportunistic politician, especially with his latest moves, that preys on the ignorance and reactionary senses of voters, resulting in political gain, but not much else.

His eleven points for victory this fall for Republicans are interesting, as in completely misguided and out of touch. His first goal is to make English the official language. With a couple thousand dead soldiers, terrorists still actively seeking to attack, and record breaking profits by oil companies at a time when millions of children go without health insurance, I think there are more pressing moral concerns.

What will officializing the predominant language do, anyways? Please explain to me how prejudice does not play a part in this move, as I have a difficult discerning a pure motive. Will it outlaw signs in Spanish? Do we have a sudden problem of immigrants not learning English? Furthermore, doesn't that essentially curb freedom by compelling someone to learn the predominant language? If someone wanted to live the American Dream, wouldn't they naturally seek out ways to learn English on their own?

Further, how is the death tax a "morally grounded" issue? Or property rights and energy dependence? I'm sure moral aspects of these issues exist, but from the view here they make up a minority of the reasons to pursue that agenda. Hunger, illness, and the growing gap between rich and poor all seem to have clearer and more urgent moral components, don't they?

Finally, I believe he is completely off-base about his proposal to fix the failing schools of Detroit. Something tells me that pulling federal funding is simply of punting an issue that only bolsters the Republican agenda while leaving poorer Americans worse off. An explanation of why teachers aren't able to help students graduate faster would be a start. A purely economic view is a cheap and souless perspective that ignores the human element of the issue - a bit of sociology is needed to comprehend what's really happening.

These eleven issues were written in a way to "return to the American values that twice elected Ronald Reagan and returned the House to a Republican majority with the Contract with America." Democrats lost in 1994 because they "had lost touch with the American people."

Mr. Gringich, you've lost touch with the American people. Maybe making English the official language will help Republicans win in November, but how does America benefit as a whole? The list you are proposing is simply a shallow attempt to divert honest and distressing discourse from issues that contain much clearer moral components.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

BTSR Orientation part 2

I'm definitely excited. Thank you all for your comments in the last post. Today was more laid-back and us incoming students had more opportunities to get to know one another.

I was nervous about getting all the classes I wanted, but I did. I have all the books I need and was able to save money because Kristen already had some of them. Tonight is reserved to be a quiet night where I'll clean off my side of the desk, clear a bookshelf, and clean the cat hair off the bookbag (orange fur plus black bookbag is real attractive).

I'm taking:

Exploring Ministerial Identity - Dr. Tracy L. Hartman
Introduction of Biblical Foundations - Dr. F. Scott Spencer
Introduction to Christian Traditions - Dr. Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants
Models of Youth Ministry - Greg Randall

I'm glad I'm able to take Foundations with Dr. Spencer, and am definitely looking forward to Dr. R-P's class. I know she'll work us hard, but I can't wait to learn the material. I'm not sure what to expect out of Dr. Hartman's class, but I know it's necessary and I am eager to see what's what. Greg's class will be great - he's neat and I know it'll be enjoyable and challenging.

The Student Government Association Moderator made a great point - the school has only been around for 15 years, and the 3-4 years we'll be there makes up a significant portion of that time. A lot of 'bugs' have been worked out and with Dr. Grave's resignation, transition is in the air, coupled with an expectation fulfilling much potential.

I know my life will never be the same, and I'm ready. Classes start tomorrow, so who knows how this blog will be affected.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Overwhelming. That's an understatement. Lots of information, anxiety over whether I'll get the classes I need, but definitely the excitement of beginning a new adventure.

I'll spare you all the details, but will post the classes I'm taking as they'll most likely influence what I write.

I'm definitely impressed with the faculty, staff, and my colleagues. I'm very glad I'm at BTSR.

Just a bit nervous about that whole class thing...

Monday, September 04, 2006

GOP and terrorism - "a phony issue"

So... what was that about Republicans trying to pin 9/11 on President Clinton, despite President Bush ignoring warnings received on a month-long vacation that Osama was determined to attack the US?

History's great - forgetting history creates irony.

So why did the GOP block President Clinton's initiatives to try stop terrorism? Fairly, I think we can all agree he was trying - if his solution wasn't good enough, then where was the GOP proposal?

Either way, I think if anyone is to take blame other than the most-vacationed President (who still has 2.5 years left), then the blame needs to be properly placed.

(via raw story)