Sunday, October 26, 2014

Running the Candidates Through the Litmus Test-Who Has the Best Interest of the Least of These in Mind?

In my area, the two most contested races are Congressional District 6 with Gary Palmer and Mark Lester. The next is the gubernatorial race between Robert Bentley and Parker Griffith. 

Robert Bentley has failed every aspect with regard to the least of these in Alabama. And Gary Palmer has already been out through the test and failed every aspect as well. 

But I will break it down.

Matthew 25:31-46 - "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on the right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you! And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one if the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
      "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The least of these. When you treat the least of these well, you treat Jesus well. When you hurt the least of these, you hurt Jesus. 

So here is the breakdown. Robert Bentley has avowed that he will refuse to expand Medicaid. And let me set something straight. People on Medicaid are not lazy. Medicaid, as established, is supposed to help the poor and the disabled. In Alabama, Medicaid has an assets test of $2000 maximum. Most of the poor and the disabled tend to have just over $2000. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, it gave states the opportunity to expand the Medicaid program. But Bentley let his hatred of President Obama get in the way. Bentley said healthcare was something that only his Christian brothers deserve. And the thing is, he is wrong. Many of the poor and the disabled are Christians but they still have no access to healthcare because they can neither get private insurance because their income is less than $11,000 and they do not qualify for assistance, but neither can they get Medicaid because of the assets test being one of the worst on the country. If Bentley had expanded Medicaid, just about every single person in Alabama would have access to healthcare. Bentley will continue to refuse access tohealthcare  for the least of these in Alabama as long as he remains in the governor position. Take a look at The Birmingham News from this past Sunday. A nice lengthy article about the disabled on the waiting list. These are the ones who have been blessed enough to actually be out on the Medicaid rolls. However, they are waiting for services because of an outdated and lengthy waiting list which even those who need the help still cannot get on. The state of Alabama will not improve in this regard as long as Bentley is governor. To make Medicaid work, and work well, it has to be expanded. The disabled need the expansion. Also, many of the poor do work. The ones who don't work are often the disabled. 

Parker Griffith has affirmed that he will not only expand Medicaid but reform Medicaid. And I support his position. For a disabled adult who is able to be placed on Medicaid in Alabama, it serves as nothing more than a supplement to private insurance. The coverage is worse than bare bones. It is almost non-existent. Neither private insurance nor Medicaid covers hearing aids for adults. And with the current assets test of $2000, affording hearing aids when state agencies, like Voc Rehab will not even help due to lack of complete understanding of how the hearing loss affects a particular person, is impossible since a good pair, but not necessarily the best pair, costs $3000. 

That is where the ABLE Act waiting for Senate passage in November comes in. The ABLE Act will allow families of the disabled individual to save up to $100,000 in a special 529 type of account tax-free without benefits being lost. This means that a disabled adult who is able to work more than just part time will not lose their benefits. Most of the disabled cannot afford to work right now due to the fact that they need the benefits more than they need the job. And the reason for that is because of the gaps in coverage through insurance companies and Medicaid. 

As you can see, the problem is circular. 

Now compare Gary Palmer and Mark Lester. Gary Palmer has avowed to not only repeal the ACA, but to fight against the president. Why run if you are just going to fight the president? Consider this thought: In a sense, the president is the boss. A senator or a congressman has said they are going to fight him. Essentially, they are planning to fight the boss. Now, if I go to a job interview saying I am going to fight the boss, I am most likely not going to get the job, right? So why should we allow senators and congressmen to be hired if all they are going to do is fight the boss, the president? 

One other problem. Many of these republican candidates tout their Christianity. Yet, they want to destroy programs set aside to help the least of these? Bounce back to what Jesus said in that passage in Matthew. Now think about what I just stated. If we know them by their fruit, and if the republicans claiming to be Christians are willing to destroy programs set aside to help the least of these even though Jesus made it perfectly clear that what they do to the least of these is what they do to Him, do you honestly think that they are truly Christians? I have to question that one big time. To me, this is like a church that abuses and bullies someone for having autism, and having been there, I can tell you that it not only hurts to experience that, but it is unforgivable and it tarnishes one's mindset of what church should be: a SAFE place full of love and grace and mercy and acceptance no matter what the person's walk of life might be, a SAFE place that comes along side of the person through their most difficult of challenges and never discriminates against someone, a Jesus-filled SAFE place. Yet, too many churches have failed people like me. They have failed. Period. This is why churches cannot be expected nor trusted to help the least of these. Not by themselves anyway. The government has established programs to help the least of these for a reason. Programs like SSI, SSDI, VA, SNAP, TANF, etc. Look into the history books of the Bible if you would. There are a lot of passages where kings would have the people who were able to do so go out and harvest the crops before a drought. Then when the drought came, the kings would have designated people who made sure every citizen's family had just enough food to eat for the day. That's right, the government made sure their citizens were cared for and provided for. There are many passages where God says that the rich should be kind to the poor and that the love of money is the root of all evil. Yet the republicans today would prefer to give tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations while taxing the poor through the nose and denying them the help they need. 

Picture this: The republicans in many states have been trying to make the poor pee in cups before they can get help they need for their families. But the courts have said this is illegal and a violation of privacy. Also, did you know pre-employment drug tests are actually illegal? I found that out after one store discriminated against me because I was on prescription ADHD medication at the time. I provided a copy of the prescription and all the information needed to prove it yet I was still discriminated against. I am no longer on the ADHD medication because of it. Also, the argument, well, I have to take tests when I am employed, fails. Why? Because you are employed. Also, you should question what kind of behavior your employer thought warranted the test. And unless you are in a position where public safety or heavy machinery is a factor, you should not need to drug test. But picture this: At the feeding of the thousands where a little boy sacrificed his picnic lunch so Jesus could feed them, imagine if you would each person coming to Jesus for their share and Jesus holding out a cup and saying, "You can eat after you pee in this cup." I can't imagine it because He would not ever do that because He never did. Jesus never made those kind of contingencies.

Jesus was not the one who said that a man shall not eat if he will not work. It was a disciple that said it. And it was not a reference to the disabled or the elderly or children although many people do not understand that these are the people on SNAP. Also, many of the people on SNAP do work. And nowhere does the Bible say anything about teaching a man to fish, though it is a nice proverb that some man after the Bible said. 

Minimum wages. Did you know our current minimum wage level is now below poverty level? In Shelby County, Alabama, it would take $14 per hour to not be below poverty. And yes, the law established minimum wage to be a living wage. If cost of living expenses were truly attached to minimum wage, then why has the cost of everything gone up despite the stagnation of the minimum wage? Well, they should go get an education! Many minimum wage jobs are filled by people with college degrees and years of experience. Even in government sector jobs. Well, then they should look for work elsewhere! Because there is such an abundance of jobs? Stop arguing the point of reality. Stop watching Fox News which admits to lying claiming there is not a law. (There is a code of ethics for journalism though.) 

Hobby Lobby. Suddenly a corporation is a person that can think, feel, breathe, eat, poop, sleep. Hmmm. The First Amendment is about people. Not corporations. But if Hobby Lobby has its way, no woman will be able to get any healthcare. Plan B says right on the box that it is a three day dose of standard birth control and that it does not cause abortion. Plan B is OTC and most insurances don't cover OTC. Hobby Lobby does not exclusively sell Christian merchandise nor does it indicate religion in its name. Hobby Lobby has infringed on the rights of women to have independent decisions about their healthcare. And what I think needs to happen now is that employer based coverage be eradicated. Completely. 

Also, faulty logic going on. A pastor once said that maybe the reason the woman chose an abortion was because it was a choice of being able to feed her existing children or losing one of those children to starvation for having the baby. Afterward, I did some research to see if that kind of thing could happen and was appalled when I discovered that his birth state actually had a law in place that said unless a woman could prove that the pregnancy was due to rape, that she had a choice: She could carry the baby to term but doing so would mean that her SNAP benefits would be cut. Or she could abort. So therein lies the problem.

Pro-life. For life. All life. At all stages of life. Republicans would rather that women carry and birth babies they cannot afford or they do not want but do not want to actually take care of the babies once they arrive. That is not pro-life. That is pro-birth. 

My stance: 

1. I do not like abortion. But I will not judge the woman who chooses abortion. It is not my place to judge anyway.
2. Yes, I do believe that homosexuality, along with adultery, along with pre-marital sex, are all sins. I will not condone them. But neither will I judge someone because it is not my place to judge.
3. Yes, I believe Medicaid should be expanded. Matthew 25:31-46 sort of supports this stance.
4. No, I do not believe that the poor should be drug tested before receiving help. This has failed in other states already nor does Jesus purport that kind of thing.
5. Yes, I believe minimum wage should be slowly raised. Initially to the $10.10 proposed which is still below poverty but not so below poverty that people would need as much as help as they do now.
6. No, I do not believe all the poor are just lazy. That was a horrid lie from Romney, who is not a Christian no matter how much people want to delude themselves into thinking that Mormons are Christians, and yes, I have researched this point as well.
7. No, I do not believe that President Obama has anything to do with the end times. Matter of fact, I do not believe America has anything to do with the end times because America simply did not exist when those prophecies were written about.
8. Yes, I believe churches should do more to help than they already do. They need to be more intentional about reaching out to those in their communities at home and targeting those who have special needs and their families. But, I also feel the government should do more as well. 
9. Yes, I believe the second amendment has been taken out of context. "A well-regulated militia" is not the general public and "arms" did not mean high powered shoot with six bullets at once guns like we have now. 
10. I am a Christian and these thoughts have been shaped through experiences. I took a quiz just for fun that indicated that I am 60% democrat and 40% republican. The thing was, a lot of the questions were about social issues. And if that makes me a liberal or a socialist, then I am very proud because I have based many of my positions on the words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 25. 

I have never forgotten that sermon about the least of these. And I have never forgotten that the pastor said that any Christian who held the same attitude that Romney expressed about the least of these needed to repent. That sermon inspired me to utilize Matthew 25 as a sort of litmus test and a prayer guide when approaching any and all elections. And then I add simply, "Lord, may Your will be done in light of this passage." 

Story: After the presidential elections in 2012, I had a nightmare. Romney had won and I lost my insurance. Then my mom, a DAV, and I lost our home. I woke with a start and prayed, "Lord, you know my heart and You know my needs. Let Your will be done." The next morning, it was with great relief when I learned that Obama had won the election. I now have better insurance as a result. Stubborn doctors who seem too afraid to actually act in my benefit and move toward life-saving IVIG infusions that could help me get well enough to work and live and thrive, but better insurance nontheless. I will repeat the same prayer this year as well. For me. For others like me. And the thing is, God's will will be done. It sickens me when I see people praying so specifically and then claiming that God is not answering prayers. That they pray everyday for Obama to be impeached but it never happens. Well, maybe consider that you are asking God to do something that is not His will. Stop praying for Obama to be impeached and stop praying so specifically. Simply pray, "Lord, let Your will be done." 

I get hurt when someone says, pray for this person that they no longer have cancer. Or pray for this person that they no longer have depression or autism or whatever. Why? Because when I was still a teenager a friend of mine had a son with a brain tumor that just would not truly go away. And for some time after he passed, I questioned everything about God. Why did God not heal him? That is what everyone prayed for. Only now when I reflect back, I see that God did heal him. God gave him ultimate healing. It was not the healing we wanted, but it was healing. Robin Williams may or may not have been a Christian, and suicide is not the unforgivable sin and Christians do commit suicide just as much as any other people do, but God did heal him of his depression. Not in the manner we would have preferred, but healed him nonetheless. And please, stop praying for autism to go away. It is not a disease that needs a cure or that kills. Matter of fact, God Himself may have autistic traits. 

Lord, we have elections next week. And You know the needs of the people more than even we do ourselves. Let Your will be done.

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