Thursday, March 29, 2012

Trying to Make Sense of it All; The Blender Comes Out Again

I knew that posting about the Affordable Care Act several weeks back would get some people all riled up. The good news is that I knew who of my friends and family would chime in on the topic! The best discussion happened in Facebook comments, of course. To preserve the public personas of these people, and your precious time, I've decided not to post it here. But I'm sure you can imagine the gist.

What continues to perplex me is the hostility that I feel from some people in our society towards "The Church". It makes me wonder if "The Church" has been going around posting "Kick Me" signs on people's backs. Maybe stealing their mail? I certainly haven't heard about churches getting caught instigating armed robberies in the news. In fact, our news more commonly reports churches as the victims, getting broken into to be vandalized or robbed.

The only thing that I can figure is that people are confused about what churches really are. This is understandable in Boston, as the sex abuse scandal of the Catholic Church rattled many of the most pious and observant Catholics, and drove away countless people from their pews. I too was outraged. How could anyone NOT be?! If I were not a regular church-attender in another denomination, it could very easily paint for me a very negative connotation onto the word "church".

Based on commentary in newspapers, Facebook posts, and other things in the media stream and blogosphere, I can only assume that there is a hulking and scary thing out there, that I will call "THE CHURCH". "THE CHURCH" apparently has some very powerful and patriarchal elements and is mean. At least that's the gist I get when I hear people talking about it.

Let me compare "THE CHURCH" as I hear about it to My Church, the place I go to every week.

My Church
Is very wealthy, with significant and valuable property holdings around the world.
Struggles to balance a budget and afford repairs to our little church building. (the only one we own)
Has a hierarchy of power that is cloaked in secrecy. And is all-male.
Is led by a President that is elected by the members. Council meetings are open to the entire congregation. Voters’ meetings are held multiple times a year for members to weigh in on issues and guide the President towards church priorities. Women can serve on council and be President.
Has grim and domineering clergy that tell everyone what to do. Uses guilt persuasively.
Has a Pastor that we hired. He helps us understand what the Bible teaches us to do. He hasn’t guilted me into anything, thusfar…
Has significant wealth.
Has money donated by church members. When the economy declines, donations decline. (see above mention of budget and repair bills.)
Forbids the use of birth control.
Encourages families to view children as gifts from God. Encourages families to plan these children wisely, considering many factors, including available family finances. Considers birth control to be part of this big picture. 
Has politicians under their influence to force church theology onto all Americans.
Has no one in politics, as far as I know, and I know a lot of people at our church…
Is comprised of millions of people, who are dogmatic and want to impose their religious views on everyone around them.
Is comprised of a few hundred people, of which about 150 attend church any given week. Some members of our congregation believe that American society should look more like our church society, and vote accordingly. Some members of our congregation believe in a differentiation between secular society and religious society: In a perfect world, everyone would believe in a loving God and behave accordingly, but in the real world, people have different beliefs, and we vote according to what we think works best for our secular society, while struggling to maintain the integrity of our religious society with our religious organization.
Clergy are all men, who are hostile to the affairs of women, especially reproductive rights.
Clergy are all men, who have wives and daughters. They don’t want them to be burdened by unintended pregnancies. Some of these clergy adopted daughters. They give thanks daily that these daughters weren’t aborted because they were unintended pregnancies.

Given what I understand to be "THE CHURCH", I understand why people think they should pay for the birth control and abortifaicients of all women. Hey, they've got the money, and if they don't really care about women, let's sock it to 'em!

But when I think about My Church, I think about the people who teach music to my children. I think about people who brought us meals after the birth of both of my children. I think about people who have come to my rescue on multiple occasions. And encourage and support me constantly.

I think about people in My Church that willingly give away 10% of their income every year to the church and charities that they believe in. Yes, 10%. That's a significant chunk of change. We're not talking Bill and Melinda Gates here. We're talking normal people. Single-income families. Dual income families paying daycare costs for multiple kids. Your next door neighbors. Calculate 10% of your income. (You can calculate pre-tax or after-tax, people do it both ways.) Imagine giving it away every year. Now imagine having the government tell you that the money you freely donate from your own household budget (man, you could really do fun stuff with that money!!!) to an organization, based on religious beliefs and your ethics and morals derived from such beliefs, must help fund something you believe is morally wrong. A sin, even. Do the words "Hell no!" come to mind? You wouldn't be alone.

I've been told that my church is technically safe under the narrow exemption. Churches don't have to cover abortifaicients for their own employees. It's the schools and social service organizations supported by those churches and serving people outside of the church that are affected. The preschool funded by a church? A food pantry funded by a church? They're likely to be affected. Again, our Lutheran schools and auxiliary organizations are ok for now. Lutheran churches and supported organizations banded together long ago for a group insurance plan that will be grandfathered in. We won't be forced to pay for abortion-causing medications unless we make changes to the plan.

Hmmm... the insurance coverage at BestestHusband's company seems to change every year.... So eventually our church's plan will probably have to change, and then the exemption will no longer apply?

So again, I'm trying to make sense of it all. Churches similar to My Church aren't protesting the idea of women having access to birth control. They aren't protesting access to preventative medicine. They are protesting being forced to help pay for abortions.

And there's that little thing about beliefs, including the idea that God has a purpose for our lives from the moment we're conceived. Actually, that's not such a little thing... 

And He also wants us to help protect the innocent and vulnerable. At the very least, refuse to participate in killing them. So really, the money thing is just the extra kick to the ribs.

If, like me, you despise your tax dollars funding water-boarding, perhaps you can sympathize with the outrage and horror felt about this mandate that we're expected to fund.

If you can't, well, are your money and your mouth in the same place? 

I'm sure Planned Parenthood would love to have 10% of your income. So would Ruth House. Poor young mothers need the option to raise their children as much as they need the option to abort them. There are other options for helping young women break the cycles of poverty...

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