“Don’t Forget Medicaid”

See the whole thing from Congressman Chris Murphy of Connecticut:

“As we wait for the white smoke to emerge from the ‘grand bargain’ negotiations at the White House, most Americans are already aware of the Republicans’ plan to dismantle and privatize Medicare and Social Security. But what many people may not realize is just how dangerous it would be to slash funding for a program that 60 million Americans rely on for their basic health care needs: Medicaid.

“While it seems that just about every major industry or interest group has teams of lobbyists in Washington looking out for them, some of our most vulnerable citizens simply don’t have a voice in a town where unfortunately, money still talks the loudest.

“Why? Medicaid covers only the impoverished and disabled, so it lacks a traditional advocacy base. This may be news to Republicans — but most poor people I know are spending all their time trying to find a job and put food on the table.”

Westboro Supreme Court mis-rule

SUMMARY: This isn’t Free Speech, it’s freedom of politico-(pseudo-)religious gang-persecution organized on a national basis against random mourners (as such) uninvolved in the grievances supposedly being protested by Funeral Invasion.


Mob pseudo-religious persecution of mourners’ Free Exercise of Religion — the Baptists’ “speech” is usually not on-point, but irrelevant to the life and death circumstances of the decedent at funerals they INVADE — is just like the mob persecution of Christians in Turkey, long winked at by a supposedly-secularist State.  It violates the civil rights of decedents and their grieving survivors.  Only an unholy alliance between the Court’s fellow-fundamentalists and its (this time) misguided “liberals” would rule that the civil rights of off-topic, political, media-hog, worship-invaders trump Freedom of Religion.

Yes, all defenses of Westboro defend their protests as political, though they are veiled in religion.  If (Westboro) politics now trumps (everybody else’s) religion, maybe the rest of the Religious Right IS right, that religious freedom is being flushed down the toilet with the politicization of everything — IRONICALLY, BY THEM!

Another way of approaching it is that the Religious Right, a vast well-organized group, may now abuse its “rights” to violate the rights of usually-tiny groups of mourners anywhere in the country — not unlike the invasive, disgusting, terroristic tactics of Operation “Rescue” abortion-clinic protesters and their incited gunmen / bombers / racketeers / conspirators.  If the Bill of Rights is about anything, it’s about protecting the rights of the oppressed — not only those oppressed by governments or officials, but by their fellow human beings in this country generally, especially by groups bigger than them.  Look for other hate groups to go back to the Courts now for vindication against explicit civil rights legislation — the Ku Klux Klan, “sovereign citizens,” (neo?)Nazis, self-appointed “militias” and border guards, “Dot Busters,” ‘crosshairs’ assassins, the whole sorry, scary lot of them.  What will the lawless Scalia/Roberts Court say then?  Cross-burnings and lynchings are OK again?  Literacy tests and poll taxes for voting?  Forced segregation of public schools?  ‘The disabled or mentally ill, gay or “different,” should be neither seen nor heard’?  Torching Catholic churches?  Slavery?  Human females as their males’ property?  State-Established religions again?  Swastikas scrawled on synagogues’ outside walls are OK because they don’t violate the “privacy” of the interior of the building??!!  It seems the Court liberals, including two Jewish women and a “wise Latina,” have been tricked into signing on to the rollback of the whole 20th century, if not worse.  (And Clarence Thomas? Nevermind!!!)

Ironically, this unholy alliance represents the difference between Classical Liberalism, in all its forms, and Classical Conservatism, ie, progressive conservatism … the former represented by the whole near-unanimous Court Westboro majority, the latter represented by most Americans’ gut-reaction to Westboro’s atrocities, and this ruling, more bad law, ie, incorrect law, from the Republican Courts and Party.

Learn about the ascendant hate groups and domestic terrorists from the  Southern Poverty Law Center, and support the SPLC.

And how did this case become merely about “privacy and emotional distress“?  The mourners’ lawyers should be disbarred for incompetence!  Were they law students?!  Was this one of those volunteer, workshop, law school projects they do???


Furthermore, does the ruling consider that funeral “privacy” only applies inside a building-of-worship, funeral parlor, chapel, mausoleum, etc.?  What about processions outdoors, burials, cemeteries, motorcades, even the going TO the funeral by the mourners — Some Protestant services even sacralize this with a “Gathering for Worship” recitation or song.  What about Neopagans, adherents of Indigenous religions, or other “outdoorsy” faiths, which might not often even USE a building with a real “indoors” component?  Obviously outdoor portions of a funeral share the vicinity with the neighbors, if any, of the funeral sites, so that’s presumed within Free Exercise.  I’m not sure being attacked, verbally assaulted, or finding yourselves involuntarily amid a political demonstration, controversy, or riot, especially one featuring offensive language, IS presumed within Free Exercise, except during times of Persecution of your freely-chosen (or -retained) religion … something the Court seems to endorse today, even its Fundies!  (Appropriate, I suppose, since their fellow Repugs drove the President out of the church of his choice, then complained he wasn’t Christian enough!  “I played you a tune but you did not dance, I sang you a dirge but you did not wail….”)

I’m willing to consider that baptisms/circumcisions, funerals, and weddings aren’t the same as routine religious services which might be invaded by hecklers urging you to change your religion.  I’m not sure though!  When I was a Quaker in the 1990s I admired George Fox and his Friends’ doing so in 17th-century Anglican and other Protestants’ “meetinghouses.”  Maybe they would’ve really converted  England if they’d just waited till after services, and stumped outside the buildings as the faithful were leaving!  But IIUC these Baptists aren’t recruiting, merely advocating for their ethical or political positions.  And often their protests seem aimed not at anyone present, except the newsmedia.  That’s just rude … Supremely rude.

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Clergy re-victimization of a rape, incest victim?

Beware what kind of chaplain you seek counsel from in our Armed Forces (maybe even anywhere else).  In this disturbing account, a “conservative” “evangelical” Protestant minister seems to say that when a gay woman in the Navy came to him about being raped by a male Sailor, he did two things to her I’ve never heard of in a lifetime of theological study:

  • he supposedly got her to agree, through that bizarre Scholasticism that only his branch of Christianity does so well anymore, to be “married to Jesus” on the spot,* and
  • supposedly he involuntarily, unsolicited, imposed on her an “exorcism” of her homosexuality.

I’m not a lawyer, nor an expert in Clergy Malpractice, and I guess as long as the young woman is satisfied with his treatment of her and its effects in her life, he won’t face that lawsuit, and she’ll join the list of the — for now at least — “ex-gays.”  But his superior officers in the Corps of Chaplains at least, his Denominational Judicatory (if applicable), and/or his therapeutic credentialing body (if applicable), should look into the clerical, religious, and professional ethics of his own claimed behavior towards a woman who was within the military structure, already forced once to submit to heterosexual, male impositions recently therein, and he claims, also a victim of repeated incestuous heterosexual abuse previously.

This isn’t about my opinions concerning “evangelicalism” or demonology, simply what I believe to be — yes, the re-violation of a rape and incest victim by a minister she’d turned to for counsel and not, apparently, for a “wedding,” nor for a “cure” for her lesbianism, about which she had not, by his own account, complained.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this preacher involuntarily “baptized” playmates with water balloons or the garden hose in younger days.

He as much as admits to manipulating her: “And she had to answer ‘well, of course they’re full of the devil'” (emphasis mine).  Now, that one question-and-answer might have legitimate use in a ministry situation such as this, but not to catapult someone in an apparently fragile state into actions of dubious therapeutic, professional, or theological nature.  (I pray he didn’t also take it upon himself to ‘stand in for Jesus’ and “consummate” this “wedding” with her physically.)  Furthermore, he doesn’t tell us about her “renouncing” lesbianism: Did he make it up, lie to “the spirit of lesbianism”??  Or did he consider that the root of the presenting issue, the recent rape, would be legalistically removed if the victim were of an orientation not so disinclined logically, fundamentally, to reject male impositions, ie, straight?  Was it just more “evangelical” Scholasticism?  If so, was that his commission, basically to collaborate in her being ‘raped straight,’ as we’re seeing recently in other parts of the world?

I’m fully aware that Protestantism, today and historically, is full of such pietistic, emotional manipulation, as are certain streams of Catholicism and probably Orthodoxy also.  We’ve all seen the movies, TV dramas, read the books.  But even if we were to simplistically ask “What Would Jesus Do?,” did He ever do so with a woman, a victim of any kind, innocent or guilty?  I could be wrong, but I can’t recall that He did.  Did He ever work Himself and His beneficiary into the kind of frenzy of guilt feelings we’re all too familiar with — in this case turning the victim into the defendant, as she may well have been undergoing in the trial of her assailant already, as often happens in rape trials?

Tragically, many Americans, faced with the 40,000 sects of this land, would be hard-pressed to distinguish between one kind of Protestant chaplain and another.  Furthermore, in chaplaincy situations often clergy of one stripe are theoretically required to do double or even triple duty, serving patients or charges of a diversity of denominations on any given base, ship, or unit; often there aren’t many different chaplains to choose from.  If you’re from a small denomination, you’re at the mercy of whoever got stationed with you — and the Pentagon too is at the mercy of whoever volunteered after ‘having it put upon his heart by the Lord’ to go and do something for/to somebody(ies).

I’m not seriously trained in counseling either.  But I know what not to do, Lord have mercy on me.

A couple more quick points: 

  • Can exorcism ever be voluntary?  Well, someone might have a relatively mild problem — no head spinning, no projectile vomit, etc. — and go to a cleric asking about it, but is that then demonic possession, or maybe something else?  Otherwise, someone else might bring the supposedly-possessed person to the clergyperson, figuratively or literally kicking and screaming.  Neither is reported as happening here.
  • I won’t discuss Orthodoxy’s approach to homosexuality in this post, because I don’t believe it would be constructive or helpful to do so at this time or in this context.
  • In another, less-detailed allusion to this incident, this chaplain claimed that during it the evil one left the woman’s heart and Jesus moved into it, in the context of the “wedding.”  Actually this is said to happen Traditionally, not as such during the Orthodox Mystery of Holy Matrimony, but of Baptism / Chrismation** / Communion.  Orthodox Tradition goes on to say that previously, the evil one acted on you from within, and the All-Holy Spirit of God, One of The Trinity, from without; afterward, the Spirit of God acts on you from within — a position of strength for Him if you will — but the evil one may still act upon you from without — a relatively weaker position for him.
  • It seems this chaplain has become a political figure since late in his military career (sic).  Information about that is available through the linked page and elsewhere.  I’m so concerned about the particulars I’m discussing in this post that I’ll leave out the political angle, as well as his apparent or possible personal issues.

(*–Apparently, though, this didn’t make her a nun: Roman Catholic piety used to consider Religious Sisters “married to Christ,” but this preacher says his charge “started dating boys” openly.)

(**–likened to the Western Sacrament of Confirmation)

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Catholic Bishops attack Obama again

Let’s be clear: I deplore Embryonic Stem-Cell research or usage in any way at all except for a good-faith attempt to bring to those embryonic human beings to birth.  This is because, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian who aspires to be a member of Christ, ie, one of His body-parts, I don’t consider endorsing human destruction of unborn humans — even disabled ones (I am Disabled, perhaps from birth or before) — to be in keeping with Christ’s body-parts.*

However, the U.S. Catholic bishops go out of their way to attack the democratically- and Constitutionally-elected Obama Administration in recent news releases on the issue.  They’ve been indignant that we elected him and VP Joe Biden (himself a Catholic), as they made clear at their winter meetings days after the 2008 Elections, televised live on cable.  But as any Civics student could have told them, the Executive Branch of the US Government doesn’t lawfully appropriate money, Congress does.  The Executive Branch does nothing with money that Congress has not authorized.  This is the bishops’ national release; this is from one of their most “conservative” divisions, Pennsylvania.

Their Eminences and Excellencies could be forgiven (if I had the power!) their confusion, after their boy in the White House, George W. Bush, appropriated money without Congressional authorization several times, occasionally with active deceit on the part of the corrupt then-Republican leadership of both Chambers.  (And they wanna come back?!?!?!)  False or cowardly Federal judges or Congressmembers allowed this ACTUAL theft of taxpayers’ money to fly almost completely under the radar.

What do I want?  President Obama and Vice-President Biden are no more nor less a threat to advance abortion or its related horrors than a Congress that hasn’t brought to the floor a Constitutional Amendment to reiterate the protection of unborn Americans in 27 years in the Senate, and EVER in the House, NOT EVEN UNDER REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP!  Instead, Republican alleged “pro-lifers” spend their time and money (and yours) fighting [PDF] real Democratic proposals (and candidates) to eliminate nearly all abortions voluntarily by addressing their causes — showing that they view the lives of Unborn Americans less sacred than their own political power (witness their last-minute, repeated deceptions over [lack of] abortion funding in America’s Healthcare Reform).

What I want is for the bishops and other non-Democratic pro-lifers to understand that specific parties and candidates clearly aren’t how to prevail, but bona fide proposals on the floor of Congress.  Based on that, who’s the REAL pro-life party?  THE DEMOCRATS, AFTER ALL!!!

And what about the bishops’ dioceses’ tax exemptions for targeting Obama/Biden?  After all, a partisan church’s tax exemption is like spending YOUR TAX DOLLARS ON THEIR FAVORED PARTY OR CANDIDATE.  (There are Orthodox Church clergy who could be called on the carpet equally and worse than these. But Catholic bishops tend to have more resources on which to call, and lawyer friends advising them, so they should know better. Orthodox, not so much yet.)

(*–The only exception I can see is, in shorthand, to save the life of the mother: where the best available medical opinion[s] is that continuing the pregnancy will kill her in and of itself, not via suicide or threats thereat, or financial impoverishment [falling through our coarse Social Safety Net], her own mental illness or disability, etc.  Because I don’t believe we can require mothers by law to actually — not metaphorically — lay down their lives for their babies; that must be voluntary.)

PS: I’m not “an anticatholic;” I’m a convert from Catholicism with extensive graduate work in Catholic and other (Western) Christian theological ethics.  I don’t “hate Catholics;” some of my best relatives and old friends are still Catholic.  Just for the record.

Biblical Judges: Chiefs?

So say some Jewish scholarsOne per “Tribe” of the traditional 12 Tribes of Ancient Israel?  Maybe even a permanent office in each Tribe, versus the occasional charismatic commander we’re told about?  Some of whom were more noteworthy than most?  (How many Presidents, Monarchs, or Prime Ministers of any one country can you name?!)

I know enough Hebrew to know Professor Sarfatti isn’t out on a limb here (no pun intended!).  Conflating shevet and shofet?  Consider that every Sunday School class — or Hebrew School — has been asked, “Why are they called judges?”  We see them as military commanders, prophets, philosophers, power-lifters, lovers….  The answer is, They might not have been called “judges” as the word has been most commonly understood in the centuries since then!

Maybe King James should’ve sent the Old Testament by his translators one more time!  Then again, a Biblical book of “Chiefs” or “Chieftains” around that time, the early 1600s, might’ve made Irish or American Indians look too favorable for His Majesty’s comfort … or rather, that of his wicked counsellors….

It’s a minor semantic point.  The roles and deeds of the particular Israelite Chiefs upheld in Judges are clear enough for Scriptures’ purposes.  But since the English words chief, chieftain, chiefdom, etc., are today so identified with Indigenous Peoples, Scottish Clans, Irish Septs, and other oppressed people, “Speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.”

What do we see, then, in pre-Monarchy Israel?  Twelve or so loosely-affiliated “Tribes,” or rather, Chiefs, each with his “staff” or “scepter,” literally and figuratively — the Tribe.  “Tribal Sovereignty,” even!  With him, various officials, aides, counselors.  And within each Tribe, Clans, Houses, and so forth.  And a God Who opposed a permanent royal federation under an earthly king: The Israelites’ problem in Judges isn’t that they keep getting harried by their neighbors, but that they keep slacking-off in their devotion to Him Who Is, so He lets them have their way, and they get the stuffing beat out of them — rightly, we are to believe, since who knows better than God how to do anything?!  Their problem isn’t geopolitics, it’s Theology.  (Even these gentlemen agree today.)  Doesn’t God say so often throughout Scripture?  Early Israel’s throne was atop the Ark of the Covenant, not in “a cedar palace.”

And so should we who are “Judeo-Christians” today continue to adjudge the ups and downs of our favorite “nations”: My sins, not anybody else’s, not any other nations either.

(I know: “Joshua Chiefs Ruth” doesn’t have the ring of “Joshua Judges Ruth”….)

Insurance cos. promote abortion to save money, killing disabled babies?

Looks mighty suspicious here.  I speak as a disabled person!

IOTM also to ask who’s more “disabled”: a person with special needs who maybe drives his family and neighbors and teachers and acquaintances crazy … or a world that would rather do without us?

“Suffering”?  I know a little about that subject, though definitely not as much as many of us disabled.  But killing us in the wombs of our mothers denies us even the chance that we’ll struggle and overcome it, or others will cure it or at least lessen our suffering.  Who ever said life was supposed to be free of suffering?

I also speak as an Eastern Orthodox Christian.  In original Christianity suffering has an honored place: it can make us more like our Founder, who suffered a bit Himself.  I don’t mean ‘Suffer like Jesus suffered’ — that’s just masochism.  But Orthodoxy teaches that suffering* may help cure us of our own will and inadequate understanding … and Orthodoxy itself directs us to the Will and Understanding of One Whose Will and Understanding are infinitely perfect.  In fact, many ancient Christians envied the original Holy Martyrs, and found the real and difficult Struggle was ordained for those who lived in the Faith to a ripe old age.  Furthermore, Orthodoxy says that even though we Orthodox with long-term illness/disability might not or ought not, for instance, participate in the Church’s fasting rules and Traditions (i.e., abstaining from certain foods at certain times), God Himself has as it were fitted us with this special ascesis to purify us of sinfulness,** He has allowed this to happen to us.  Some admired, sick Orthodox have taken this teaching so to heart that they have ceased desiring to be cured — again, understanding that it may be easier than the “normal” Orthodox ascetic spiritual path, and blessed by God.  If I may paraphrase St. Raphael of Brooklyn, ‘Man — or demons — may have meant this to me for bad, but God means it for the good.’  Orthodoxy also still teaches that miracles do happen, by the Graciousness of God.

(I don’t say this as someone who has reached such wisdom or dispassion himself yet.  But it does seem most reasonable.)

I also have some expertise in Western Christian ethics or moral theology.

As for calling aborting someone saving his or her life, that reminds me of “destroying the village to save it,” or “killing the Indian to save the man” — real Orwellian, and I don’t say this lightly to a rabbi who survived the Holocaust, even as an infant.  More than 40 million Americans have been electively aborted under color of law, few without the dubious benefit of genetic testing of them or their parents.  Now it’s being sold to us as a large-scale, historic, positive good?

(*–This is ‘redemptive suffering.’  In Peace Studies they talk about some “myth of redemptive violence,” which however I never heard of till then.  Violence does not redeem!  [And real “martyrs” don’t die killing others intentionally, even vengefully!])

(**–Orthodoxy also remembers and teaches that all creatures suffer sinfulness from the first moments of their lives, thanks to the choice of our first parents — what one Western wag once called “Christianity’s only self-evident doctrine.”)