Monday, August 22, 2011

Entitlements? vs Community Charity

I have been arguing with some home school graduates on facebook about public assistance, commonly called "entitlement" programs by those who resent them. Without exception, the claim is being made that the community or the church will step in and take care of the disabled, children of addicts, the unemployable mentally ill, etc. Personally, I find that concept completely laughable, but for argument's sake, let's say it should happen. How would the community band together to help the poor among them?

Well, it would be totally unfair and unsustainable for the compassionate among us to be saddled with the whole burden of assisting any of these terribly needy groups. I mean, I am a compassionate person, but I do not really want to bring a mentally ill unemployable person into my home and provide shelter, food, clothing and medical care for them. It's unsustainable. I might be able to do it for a few days, but to be honest I am unwilling to do that. The personal cost to my convenience, safety and net worth are not something even a compassionate person like myself is willing to bear.

So, the only way to keep this person from starving, or robbing and possibly assaulting or murdering people for money to eat, is to offer some at least minimal assistance. Let's say they are too out there for church: who will help?

If our community decided to help, how would that happen? The fairest and cheapest way would be for each house in our neighborhood to chip in a little something. It should be either the same for every house, or tied to income so that the burden falls evenly on everyone by some definition at least. That will cut down on the resentment factor. If we were to expand the community a bit more, and say pool resources together in the entire zip code, we could do a better job of preventing starvation, homelessness and crime in the whole area.

But how to collect that money? If it's all voluntary, a lot of people won't help at all. That means a large burden for the people with the foresight to see that starving people in your community is bad for everyone. So there would have to be some way to enforce a common contribution from each household.

Then there is the problem of distribution. It would be a full-time job for someone to oversee the funds and distribute them fairly. We would need some sort of guidelines to determine who was in need and who wasn't. Coming up with those guidelines in a community wide meeting would be a disaster. Anyone who has tried to set a social calendar for a small community group for the coming year can testify to that. The only way such a meeting would work is if we had a small committee of people making the decisions.

How would we pick the people to serve on the committee? The way that first comes to mind is to get a representative from each neighborhood to come. The people in each neighborhood could choose from a pool of volunteers who could represent them. I don't see any other way to do that except by voting. If there were more than, say, a half a dozen neighborhoods in the zip code, the committee would still be too cumbersome. We would have to pool neighborhoods together into something representing districts and let them vote of which of the people volunteering to do the job the most people wanted for the position.

And then what if no one wants to volunteer after a season? That sure happened with our home owner's association. What our community wound up doing was paying a professional management company to handle our community business. Eventually we would need to pay these community representatives for their work, if we wanted people from the actual community to make the decisions.

Let's say this works, a committee is chosen, and they establish guidelines for money distribution. There needs to be someone in charge of reviewing applications to make sure the money is being allocated according to guidelines. This would no doubt take a lot of time, and the person in charge of this needs to be trustworthy. A volunteer to oversee the distribution would be highly suspect. I think it would be decided the person in charge should have credentials, and should get paid. If more people are applying than one person can process in a timely manner, we may have to hire another person.

Also, it wouldn't be long before people would want some sort of follow-up, to make sure that the children of addicts were getting fed, the mentally ill unemployable was safe and the community was safe, that the disabled were being cared for and not lying in their own waste while the checks went uncashed because they had no way to the bank, the grocery store, etc. Maybe we could get community volunteers to do this, but probably that wouldn't last long. Who wants to be burdened with overwhelming need in your fact all the time? I sure don't. Some people might be willing to do it as a job though. We could offer a salary for people who were willing to be the eyes and ears for the community charitable distributions.

So there you have it. Doesn't it look an awful lot like government? People from the community volunteer for the position, the community votes of the proposed names to select a fellow neighbor to represent them. Those doing the representing get paid something for their time. They have to have some sort of regulatory power to collect a little bit from everyone, or the system won't be sustainable. They need to have guidelines for distribution, someone in charge of distribution, and some people checking up on the recipients to ensure the money is actually helping.

I have just described the role of legislators, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the social workers they employ. For me personally, I am THRILLED to have other people take care of the distribution of funds and checking up on the recipients. I don't want to do it. And I am happy with the system where everyone contributes according to income (taxes) so I don't have to get personally involved.

The government IS the community! That is how the community already is banding together to help the needy among us. Just cut through the propoganda you've been taught by Vic Lockman and use your God-given brain to think about it for a bit.

You're welcome.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bump in the Road?

(NOTE: This post was removed by me almost immediately, in light of his apology and true turn-around shortly after I wrote this out. I am re-posting in the interests of honesty, for all who are following my story for whatever reason. The true journey- to healing or (less likely) divorce- should be shown to all. Too many people only post either the good or the bad, and the messiness of the journey is then obscured. And so the post removed is now re-posted.)

Well, the reptile brain is at it again. My husband is being a total jerk to me, and then responding back that my reactions to his abuse are, in fact, abusive to him. *sigh*

I know this happens to every woman in this situation. I am okay with having been so supportive for so long, because I can know that I have put scripture into practice and gone the extra mile. Still it sucks that after all this time, he still gives himself permission turn on me unexpectedly, and with such strong negative emotion. Yes, I understand it's all from within him, and what I said or did just happened to trigger an opportunity to vent all the feelings inside that are overwhelming him right now. But you know what? It doesn't look like my understanding this, or making allowances for it, are helping any.

It is starting to look like the only way to avoid being the target of his resentment is to avoid him. Ouch.

I will not stop being who I am. I will not stop asking questions or verbalizing the thoughts in my head that spring up in the course of a conversation. That is an essentially human quality, and it's why I can talk for hours on the phone with a beloved girlfriend. I will not become my mother-in-law.

The night my husband asked me to marry him, we were at his grandparent's house. That is one of the saddest relationships I have ever seen. His granny talked to her cats as if they were people, even supplying the other side of the conversation for them. His pappy watched sports on television. When my husband asked me to marry him, I told him that I was not signing up for a relationship like his grandparents. He agreed that what they had going on was awful, and that he would never let that happen to us.

Fast forward to today. Yesterday I tried to talk to my husband about how unequal our relationship seemed to be. Specifically, how I am always trying to understand him and support him, and he pretty much lets me take care of myself. I have some health issues that have been bothering me for months, some of which I have sought medical help for and others that I just accommodate. When I asked him how many times I had sought medical help for the one problem, he said once. I have been to the doctor about this problem three times in the past two months. Other symptoms are such that they are definitely noticeable and out of place-leg cramps/tension so bad I have to get up in the middle of the night to stretch and take ibuprofen, plus I have started sleeping with pillows at the end of the bed to prop my feet against to keep my legs sort of stretched while I sleep. See, this bothers me that he doesn't put any effort into understanding what I am going through, when I put so much effort into understanding what he is going through.

So, this morning, he started researching my symptoms online, and came up with a possible reason for them, which has to do with an unusual impulse purchase he made about a year ago. Naturally, imo, this led to my asking why does he think he makes such purchases. I expected a thoughtful response, anything from "I don't really know." to "When I was a child...." What I did not expect was being told that he was discussing my health symptom and we would not be discussing his behavior, and told in an ice-cold, menacing tone. His evolved human brain shut off; his reptile brain activated.

I left the room. I understood he had just been triggered, that much was obvious. What I am still working on is the balance between taking up for myself, in an attempt to save the relationship, or just leaving him alone, recognizing that there IS no saving this relationship. It seems like I would have to become my mother-in-law to have freedom from conflict, just allowing him to decide what I am allowed to bring up and meekly accepting that from him. But I have seen where that leads. She just continued to shrink in my father-in-law's estimation every time she 'submitted' to him, i.e. let him shut her down. That is not how I intend to live out my days.

So, I went back and told him how that made me feel. Waste of time. The communication-ending thing that abusers do, is portray themselves as victims in their own minds. In his mind, asking about his impulse purchases was clearly just picking on him, and now my returning to tell him that I felt shut down and marginalized was just more picking on him. His anger had not dissipated one iota. His point of view is set in stone. He was being a hero, looking up my symptoms and proposing a solution, and I was ungrateful.

The fact that he paid absolutely no attention to my health until I confronted him about it? Irrelevant. He should be honored for doing it now AS IF it was truly the result of his own empathetic heart and not something I prodded. And the solution? I should just be grateful he hit upon the possible solution, and ignore the fact that an impulse purchase he made a year ago might be the direct reason for my health problems. And my asking about why he thinks he does that, makes impulse purchases? That was not me trying to understand him; that was me shaming him, in his mind.

He left for work still in his reptile brain. Now I can easily accommodate him. He had an assignment last night to write a letter to his dad about how he feels towards him, and how his past has affected him. I can totally understand how remembering all that would make him super-sensitive to shaming in his own head. He grew up with that, and it was almost always pointedly indirect (not my style at all!). Plus he broke the family rules in even writing down his pain- don't feel, don't trust, don't tell- so I am sure his own conscience is shaming him for getting out of line.

But that is NOT ME. He may lay the blame for his feelings of shame and anger at my feet, but it was NOT ME. There is no point in analyzing the conversation for things I could have said differently, because if it wasn't this conversation, he would've hit a trigger in our next conversation. He has negative feelings that need a release, and he has given himself permission to dump them on me. End of story. I know both truths: that he is a hurting person in need of empathy, and that nothing I can do will stop him from blaming me for the negative feelings he is experiencing.

So, back and forth I go in my mind. Should I stay or should I go? Today, I feel like I am a teenager back in my mother's house. The goal of each day was to spend as little time as possible in the same room with my mom. That was the only way to avoid the pain of knowing that while I loved her, she would never love me. That was the only way to guarantee one would not be the object of her always-just-under-the-surface wrath. Well, even then you might be the one getting the blame, but she couldn't hit you or berate you if she couldn't see you.

All of this counseling, all of these marriage seminars, all of my prayers, was intended to keep this day from ever happening. Even my trying to talk to him this morning, was an attempt to draw us closer together and keep the estrangement from becoming a permanent fixture.

Estrangement is setting in anyway. He left still blaming me for his angry feelings, and accusing me of being the one who was angry and unreasonable.

A year ago I would be texting him, or calling him, wanting a reconciliation, trying to get him to follow the DAPP. Today, I just want to avoid him.

He has counseling today. I wonder, will he talk about the letter to his dad, or about his opinion of me? Whether or not he gets well is all up to him. I have no control over his life, only mine.

The choices he made this morning really suck.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Home Schooled Boys

My son comes home from his secular mission trip tomorrow night. I am so proud of him!

His dad and I spent all day cleaning his room, and we'll probably work on it some more in the morning. His dad is going to mow the lawn one more time before he gets here, just to show him that we appreciate all of his hard work in a foreign land. He is such a great kid.

He is a regular teen in many ways. He breaks the rules on occasion. He stays up late and wants to sleep in. He plays bass guitar, listens to music I never heard of before, and seems to always want to go to the next concert. He has to be reminded to do what needs done sometimes. And other times, he surprises me by going beyond what's required just for the sake of making me smile. He's a pretty awesome human being.

He has different opinions than I do on many subjects, and sometimes he has even brought me around to his way of thinking. In everything, he is kind. I can't say gracious, because he does cuss online and in person. But he does not insult people or inflame hatred. He can always be counted on to be a peacemaker, if possible, or to take up for the ones being bullied, when peace is not possible.

He likes junk food, and raunchy comedy, and I know he would love to get his driver's license already. Frankly, if I could afford the extra car insurance, I would let him. If he gets a job when he gets back and can pay his own car insurance, I'll happily drive him to the DMV for his final test.

I am proud of him. I wish I could say all home schooled boys were just as loving, good, responsible and worth knowing. And many of them are: Jared, Aaron, Ethan, and Garrett are a few good people, all home schooled boys, I can think of off the top of my head. They are definitely worth knowing. =)

But that is not the whole of it. Recently, on facebook, I have had the misfortune to dialog with some Christian home schooled boys all grown up. I kept screenshots of both conversations, but they are so troubling I can't bring myself to transcribe them onto this blog. Not yet. It is still just too disturbing to me personally.

I am left shaking my head and wondering,"How did such a beautiful idea- raising children in the love of God and sharing life with them on an educational journey called home schooling- produce such rancor, such hatred,such arrogance in its graduates?"

I wrote a review of Biblical Economics in Comics a while back, exposing it for the vile anti-humanity propoganda that it is. Unfortunately, I have met home schooled boys who have bought into that line.

They truly believe that government taxation is "stealing" from hard-working citizens. They believe that Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and WIC are supporting "the scum of the earth" by government thievery, stolen from the rest of us by taxation.

I am still in shock.

On another thread, where I advocated for compassion for women who feel the best and most compassionate decision for their unborn child is to terminate the pregnancy as early as possible- women facing genetic testing that shows unalterably fatal disease that would cause horrific suffering were the child to be born (Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy, Tay-Sach's Disease are two examples)- the rhetoric was even more brutal. I "hated retards" and it was written that I was being "a cunt about it".

I was also called the product of incest, and one writer volunteered that he could put a pillow over my head and smother me, because I wrote that I wasn't against early abortion before the brain is developed enough to allow sentient thought. Apparently his great home school education allowed him to think that an adult sleeping somehow loses brain function? I am not really sure how he got there, but the animosity was clear.

If you are pro-choice, you are less than human and deserve to die.

If you need government assistance, you should suffer and, I guess, also die unless you can get a church to help you (good luck there!) or have family able and willing to help you. That was the home schooled boys pat answer to the poor, weak, sick and needy among us. It's the job of your church and/or family to help you. Atheists and orphans can suck it.

How did this happen? After all, I have heard the same arguments they heard, and I was easily able to discern that it was anti-(against) Christ! Jesus said pay your taxes (Look at your money,whose inscription is on it? The United States of America. Give to the United States of American the things that belong to it, and give to God the things that belong to God.), Paul said government was instituted by God so "obey those that have authority over you,whether kings as supreme or governors sent by the king...". The scriptures don't teach hating the government or resenting paying taxes.

Then Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan, and told the story of the goats and sheep who were judged by how they treated "the least of these". He also told us the story of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man who hardened his heart to the suffering of Lazarus. How can any Christian think capitalism in its purest form reflects the gospel? While I think capitalism is the best economic system because it acknowledges the greed and ambition of humanity and makes it work for society, I darn sure want an EPA, an OSHA, and an EEOC putting protections in place for workers and consumers.

I guess they missed the part about government being of the people, by the people and for the people. There is no mythical evil government; government agencies are staffed by our fellow citizens, real people. They are our neighbors, the neighbors we are supposed to love as we love ourselves. Yes, those neighbors.

Finally, if they consider me (or gay people, feminists, liberals, Democrats, pick your label) their enemies, ENEMIES!- even then they are commanded by Christ to love their enemies, bless their enemies, do them good. Jesus told them to give to them that ask of them, and if we were to take away their goods, they should throw in extra by their own good will.

How did Christian home schooled boys grow up with so much hatred and fear in their hearts?

I am still puzzling over that one.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How is the Bible Divine but not inerrant?

What follows is a comment left on this LINK to online newsletter GOOP. The author is an Episcopal priest. My heart resonates with her writing, and mirrors in some ways something I read by Phillip Yancey years ago, about God revealing Godself to humanity in stages. ps I love the word Godself! I first read it below.

Enjoy. =D

From Cynthia Bourgeault:

"How you answer this question depends hugely on what you take the bible to be. IF you believe that the bible is a single, timeless, internally consistent teaching on matters of human morality dictated by God himself, then yes, the Old Testament book of Leviticus is definitely uncomfortable with homosexuality. But it is also uncomfortable with menstruating women, shellfish and pigskin. (And for the record, it has some very harsh words to say about lending money at interest, a prohibition that even Biblical literalists seem to find it perfectly permissible to disregard!)

Like most other critically thinking Christians, I see the bible as a symphony (sometimes a cacophony!) of divinely inspired human voices bearing witness to an astonishing evolutionary development in our human understanding of God (or God’s self-disclosure as we grow mature enough to begin to comprehend it, another way of saying the same thing.) The Old Testament, whose 46 books span well over a millennium in their dates of composition, also straddles what scholars call 'The first axial period,' when spontaneously, across the entire globe, human spiritual consciousness seemed to take a huge evolutionary leap forward. In the same time frame that the Biblical psalms were being composed, the planet was also being graced with the Buddha, Lao-Tse, Zoaroaster, and Plato: a quantum leap in human understanding and ethical vision. It simply defies credibility—my credibility, anyway!— to believe that the early Old Testament teachings on animal sacrifice and 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' are at the same level as Ezekiel’s luminous axial prophecy, 'I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh' or Jesus’ stunning 'Love your enemy; bless those who revile you.'

This is not in any way to demean holiness of the Bible, but only to affirm that God reveals Godself in time, through process and dialogue, not in unchanging monolithic statements. This does not make the bible less sacred; it makes it more sacred, for it grounds God’s divine presence in the lived reality of our human experience.

As a Christian I am bound, when I listen to this diversity of biblical voices, to set my compass by the teachings and the path walked by Jesus himself. Where biblical testimony is internally inconsistent (and even Jesus experienced it this way!), I am bound to honor Jesus as my final court of appeal. And thus, the bottom line must inescapably be that nowhere does Jesus condemn homosexuality, and certainly nowhere does he wish harm upon anyone, even those whom the religious culture is so quick to condemn as sinners. His harsh words are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes them to condemn others, or to block the Spirit’s persistent attempts to open up new channels of forgiveness and hope. Jesus is all about inclusion, forgiveness, and empowerment. In the light of his compassionate presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of whether they be considered outcasts by those in the 'religious know.'

Thus, as a Christian, when confronted by a tension between a religious certainty which leads me to violate the law of love and a deep unknowing that still moves in the direction of 'loving my neighbor as myself,' I am bound to choose the latter course. Was it not the Pharisees, those so sure that they had 'the law and Moses on their side,' who were the first to condemn Jesus to the grave? And make no mistake: The word Pharisees does not mean 'the Jews;' that utterly reprehensible piece of scapegoating was a product of the early Christian church. Rather, 'Pharisee' names the spiritual sclerotic in each one of us who would prefer the certainty of an unchanging rulebook to the radical open-endedness of God’s ongoing self-revelation in love.

If I really follow what the bible teaches, it seems to me that I need to be constantly laying my human arrogance (and in Latin, this word comes from 'a-rogo,' or 'I have no questions'), upon the altar of God’s constantly demonstrated delight in new beginnings. 'I will be what I will be,' is the name he asked Moses to know him by in the book of Exodus. With that as one line of bearing on my thinking, and the steadily increasing revelation of God’s mercy and compassion as the other, I am compelled by my Christianity to refrain from any behaviors or judgments which arrogantly demean the dignity of another human being, or cause him or her to lose hope."

Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest, writer and retreat leader. She is founding director of the Aspen Wisdom School in Colorado and principal visiting teacher for the Contemplative Society in Victoria, BC, Canada. Her most recent book,'The Meaning of Mary Magdalene,' is now available.