Saturday, February 05, 2011

HT Orthocuban: how laws from two decades ago can contribute to unforeseen consequences

http://www.orthocuban.com/2011/02/the-bottom-line-of-the-healthcare-debate/

I have made no secret here and there that it often seems to me that Christians (and anyone, really) can establish a policy or precedent on the basis of immediate cultural or economic or political or social concerns without thinking through the implications of those policies and precedents. Fr. Ernesto points out that thanks to a law signed off by Reagan Republicans are in the position of attempting to oppose what they consider socialized medicine which, ironically, was half-way attained when Reagan signed off on the law that requires that no one be turned away from emergency room care regardless of citizenship, finances, or legal standing. As he put it, no one would contend now that the Gipper was a leftist or a socialist. It is a bit of an irony to consider that a law given to us by a Republican president may have had decades-long ripples that have gotten us to where we arenow.

Do we want to eliminate the legal requirement as it stands? Do we let hospitals turn away anyone and everyone for the reason of not having sufficient money to pay? Consider the reasons for which hospitals have turned away patients in the past and consider whether you might be a candidate in earlier epochs of medical practice of having been turned away. For all I know if Reagan hadn't signed that law into effect I could have been turned away by a hospital because when I had my big old macular detachment I had no job or money with which to pay for the surgery. Had THAT happened I would have lost my right eye, become completely illiterate, and have become a uselessly unemployable guy in his early twenties.

Link: Internet Monk: Learn from a lousy referee

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-lessons-from-a-lousy-referee#more-16711

I was what some would derisively regard as a communications major, a journalism major no less. I would not say I was or am especially brilliant at this because one of the perennial obstacles I have faced in "communicating" has been that I don't tend to remember to simplify vocabular, jargon, and concepts for people. In fact I confess that I often look upon this simplifying impulse with suspicion because glib simplification of facts is a pet technique of demagogues (hey, I DID just mention I was a journalism major, right?).

But despite this weakness I have I firmly believe that the characteristic of a great writer is to convey his or her point by simultaneously NOT presuming you understand all the concepts and terms but also by being fluent enough with language to, in good faith, make the effort to express ideas so that even if you don't get every last tiny little syllable you BASICALLY get the idea of what the author intends to say. The author may not be OBLIGED to meet you at your door and spell everything out, the author may choose to make you work for comprehension, but the author is capable of doing all the work as a communicator to ensure that you DO finally understand. As an orchestration teacher I had in college once put it to me, the artists obligation is not to be understood so much as to not be misunderstood.

To that end, it's hard for me to express fully my appreciation for the writing that Michael Spenser (aka Internet Monk) did in his lifetime. He was a gifted communicator and certainly a capable writer. How do I know this? Look, I don't care about football. I don't care about athletics. In fact I generally find it profoundly silly and annoying when pastors attempt to make points that they anchor to sports events because it's not something I care about or find interesting, at all. I also tend to find it annoying because there's a propensity for a bunch of has-been, didn't-make it athletes to retroactively cast themselves as armchair pundits on games they couldn't play well enough to go pro. Hey, just because I don't care for sports doesn't mean I didn't notice all the armchair stuff. :)

All that said, Michael could write something that drew from the realm of sports but write it in a way where if you don't give a crap about sports you can STILL learn something from it and still find it interesting to read. I can say that for myself and I say that as someone who was conscripted into attending at least one football game and has never found anything about football interesting. But Michael's essay I've linked to is a fun read and a useful one not just for Christian "leaders" but how any Christian can consider living life as a whole.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Families and worry

Family worries about each other. This is not news, nor is it some revelation of any special import. It is mundane. Worry is an extension of care and this, also, is nothing new.

What may feel new within the moment, or within the relationship, is to have a moment in which you discover that what a family member shares may already be something you worry about. For instance, my mom has called from time to time and said she's worried that I might be depressed. I tell her there's no need to worry or wonder about whether I am depressed. I am depressed, most of the time in fact. Not having a job and not managing to even land jobs when I apply at grocery stores or music shops for jobs I applied at in person is depressing. Having a whole set of skills and knowledge that are uselessly proprietary is depressing.


Not having a financial situation, by and large, that has been stable enough to even consider going back to school has been depressing and when that hasn't been depressing it has been depressing to consider whether it's worth it to rack up thousands more in debt by way of loans to earn yet another degree that may not even net me another job at the end of it all. So to the extant that my mom has worried all those worries can be confirmed.


On my side, well, let's just say that some news was broken about family health stuff that was not exactly a revelation in and of itself. The revelation was more that the revelation was made at all by the person who made the revelation about the person themselves. I had always been at least partly concerned that a relative of mine could drop dead at any moment, literally, since an episode of congestive heart failure the relative had back in 2006.


Even after reports of being cured came up I disbelieved those reports entirely but didn't say anything at the time out of a sense of diplomacy. Heart failure is not something that just gets better and while that sounds pessimistic or like "not a positive confession" I have lived with substantially impaired vision all my life. There are things in physical health where once it goes bad the effects can only be minimized and never reversed.


I know this because I've had at least one gigantic retinal detachment in my good eye and have to consider at least the risk that another big detachment could happen in either eye as I get older. I am not merely speaking in abstractions or apart from personal experience here. Once you have part of the inside of your eye peel off the most you can do is minimize the damage that causes. It is not possible within any human effort to reverse that damage. The only foreseeable likely avenues for such an innovation to happen as best I can conceive that would be a combination of stem cell research and a selective combination of cloning and eugenics. I trust I don't have to rehearse the sentiments most evangelicals would be likely to have about this trio of suggestions. :)


In other words I have spent the last four years wondering about every week if this relative wasn't going to drop dead at any moment. Jesus said that worrying won't add even an hour to your life but I worry anyway. I was worried about stress at my job when I had my job, I was worried about relational stress in my family that I was sure (alternately) that I could and could not do something about. I was worried about family health issues, I was worried about church issues. Unsurprisingly all this dread began to culminate in panic attacks which I for the most part kept to myself.


I did share with a certain circle of friends and discovered to my further discouragement (at first) that a surprisingly large ratio of the friends I confided this matter to seemed to take no note of it at all. There were friends and family I felt comfortable sharing this with who were very supportive and I learned along the way that sometimes you are better off not telling everyone you would wish to tell something what is going on. I can respect the conviction that there is and isn't a right time to share with family or friends just how badly things are really going.


So when the relative shared with me just how bad things have really been it was more a relief than a shock. I feel bad putting it this way but I had already been sufficiently worried the person could have dropped dead any given week over the last few years that at least hearing that was the official medical verdict made me feel that however little my worries lengthened my life my worries were, at least, not the least bit irrational. It sounds really stupid to say this in print or in person because it can be taken as saying, "Well, uh, at least I was right about what I was worried about for so many years because that turned out to be the case."



We as Christians can often be told to not worry. Jesus, after all, said do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink or what you will wear for the Lord knows you need these things. The context of that teaching does not mean that you don't worry that a relative could die at any moment. David did not pray in Psalm 3 as though all was well adn that he had no need to worry because his son was seeking to kill him and vital allies had betrayed his confidence and sided with a usurper. David did not fail to recognize that he had brought about much of this grief on himself and yet even as he could acknowledge how his own sin led to this point of disaster he didn't refrain from asking the Lord to deliver him.


I suggest that this awkward, exasperating paradox is more emblematic of the Christian life than "don't worry, be happy". We're not going to stop worrying or fearing that terrible things might happen. Trusting the Lord does not mean we won't have any fear. Far from it. What trusting the Lord means, as poorly as I may be understanding it, is clarified by Jesus Himself, "Do not fear men who can destroy the body and can do nothing more. Fear the One who can cast both body and soul into Hell."


We are not enjoined with "Do not fear" because there is no reason to fear our enemies or poor health but because what the Lord in His power could do to us is far worse and yet the Lord values us more than many sparrows. At my old church, early on, we were admonished to realize that many things Christians believe are "held in tension". Over time I have wondered if Christians tire of "holding things in tension" and wish simply to choose or affirm merely one or the other. We want things to either be fine or either be terrible. Worry is in some sense an endless temptation because worry is recognizing the risk of disaster in otherwise stable situations (even situations that are, let's be honest, not always very good).


For reasons that are not entirely clear to me I feel I shall have to tackle writing about family and worry connected to the last words of David. This is just a ramble here.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

pending project part 2.56

Essay project pending, big one. I've had enough unexpected problems come up for family and some friends that I keep having to table stuff while handling all that stuff and also job-hunting. But the big project on cartoon characters vs cartoon morality IS still coming together.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pre-written all purpose "open letter" for Christian bloggers

Dear Christian celebrity (who is better-known than I probably am) whose doctrine or person I find problematic for reasons I explain at length in my blog (even though people don't know me from their dog):

I "love you in the Lord" (if you are even truly a Christian) but you suck and I am obligated before God as a good, honest, humble Christian who struggles with his flaws (but not as much as you do) to tell you so.

Your could-have-been-friend-if-we-didn't-differ-on-essential-Gospel-distinctives,

Me


P. S. I'm not perfect, just better than you, and by the grace of God that's good enough for me, for Jesus' fame.