Inspirin’ Words from the Reverend

I was listening to the radio yesterday. Amazingly, the question of whether Mormonism is a cult is getting much more attention than the question of how we are going to get Americans back to work. I think it’s because the ‘cult’ thing has entertainment value, while unemployment is really scary and depressing. Among the interviewees was a Christian minister who conceded that Mormonism is not a cult in the ‘Jim Jones’ sense. Talk about faint praise! Then he said that Mormons have Christian values like being against abortion and gay marriage.

I thought of the New Testament and wondered how the Christians manage to overlook all the words of Jesus about giving to the poor, loving our enemies and abandoning wealth and status for a greater goal. Jesus never said anything about abortion or gay marriage. How did these issues come to define the core message of Christianity for so many?

This Sunday, in my Unitarian church, I heard an inspiring and challenging sermon, and one that I think connects with our best values, both religious and secular…

John Steinbeck summarized our collective problem, when he observed how; “socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Let me be clear. I’m not against Capitalism. As Mae West and others, who would know, said, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. And, honey, rich is better.” I’ve been poor and I’ve no brief against making money.
But, there is a shadow to Capitalism, and it is a big one, a really big one; that is the business of business is business, and left to its own capitalism becomes monopolistic. Twenty percent of the American population control eighty-two percent of its wealth, and the majority of that is concentrated in the hands of one tenth of one percent of our population. It has been a very long time since we’ve seen such inequality in this country.
Capitalism is about accumulation of wealth, and nothing else. Think child labor, sweatshops, unsafe mines and meat painted to disguise its corruption. To be useful to people in real life, Capitalism needs regulation. As we’ve learned Ronald Reagan is said to have said, “free enterprise is not a hunting license.” And, and this is so important, there is no force other than government to attend to regulating businesses, to keep them from their own natural inclinations to excess, to the constant concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

Read the rest here, at Rev. James Ford’s MonkeyMindOnline.

Tough Talk in the Times

Maureen Dowd is mightier than a nun with a ruler in her Sunday column. Some singed vestments out there. John L. Allen of the National Catholic Reporter argues that Pope Benedict has done more than his predecessors to combat child abuse. No doubt this is true, but not convincing. Let me explain using a parable.

Once there was a man who bought a huge old house that had been divided up into apartments. He used his life savings to buy the house and moved into the landlord apartment on the top floor. Soon he discovered a problem.

The plumbing, which was as old as the house, had never been upgraded. The previous three owners had done almost no upkeep. To do the job right would be hugely expensive and disruptive.

Soon some of the tenants from the basement apartments began to complain of stopped drains and bad smells. The landlord hired the same handyman who had done work for the other owners. Duct tape was applied.

It was only a matter of time until sewage backed up into the basement shower. The landlord had his guy remove the shower and cap off the pipes and all was well for a while. But then a bad smell started to rise from the cement floor. The landlord had his guy put down a new coat of cement. The smell was gone but the tenants had started to complain. They wanted a real fix, instead of having to wonder when the old pipes were going to fail again.

“Why me?” the landlord asked them. “It’s not fair to blame me for all this. I’ve done more to fix this problem than any of the previous owners. Besides, no one on the top floors is complaining about bad smells. I think you are just persecuting me.”

That’s my answer to John L. Allen. The Catholic church did not invent child abuse and they are not the only organization plagued by revelations of crime and cover-up. But the Church has to take responsibility for what’s coming up the drainpipes. If Benedict has done more, it’s basically because he has no choice.

Real fundamental reform of the institution would not be cheap or easy, but if they do not fix the mess, then no one will want to live in the house.

ANOTHER VOICE: Sinead O’ Connor was sent to an Irish reform school as a child, she writes about the culture of abuse that should not be allowed to prevail.

Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

But it’s looking good. It’s been a nasty process, and I think the outcome will be some modest reforms of parts rather than a real reforming of the whole.

It feels like a battle for a principle– that no one in our great and wealthy nation should suffer or die for lack of access to medical care that we call the best in the world. People refuse to believe me when I say that I heard many people declare that it’s acceptable for some to die for lack of care. This is not the best of America. This is not the view that should win.

I’m not yet taking it for granted that the health care bill will pass, but I’m hoping. It’s a very diminished bill, a compromise of a compromise.

I was standing in front of the State House this winter, demonstrating for health care reform and talking with people there. A man told me that he runs a small business, but due to his age and pre-existing conditions cannot buy insurance. He was aware of all the deals made and the flaws in the legislation.

But he said that Medicare was a very weak bill when it first passed, and he hoped that beginning the process would lead to real reform that would make health care available to all Americans.

I’ve stopped biting my nails. I’m starting to hope. I’m thinking about working harder, because the real work is ahead.