(From Facebook) Anne C Woodlen: Nastiness I learned today: When people with chronic mental health problems become old and sick and need Assisted Living Programs or a Skilled Nursing Facility, they have trouble getting a placement. It is because elder care institutions expect that patients with psychiatric diagnoses will be hospitalized frequently, which means the institution will lose money because they have to hold a bed for the patient but they can’t charge for it if it’s empty. In the medical system, it’s always about the money, never about the patient.
Catherine Suttie: I’ve also found that everything comes down to money. It’s not right but how do we change it?
Wow—is that a good question or what? How do we change a money-first society to a people-first society? Where would you start?
I knew a pastor who refused to look at the records of congregants’ donations to the church. The church had a stewardship committee whose job it was to keep track of giving, but the pastor didn’t want to know about it. He wanted to keep himself financially blind so that he would respond to his congregants without reference to who had money and who didn’t.
I knew a couple who were deep in the faith. She was a nursing supervisor in a nursing home and he was a social worker in the Salvation Army. They lived their faith.
I knew a doctor who clearly and intentionally treated sick people without regard to their insurance. He said, “What do you need,” not “What can you give me?” He, too, was firmly grounded in his faith in God.
In my final active days, I was turning toward the ministry because what a decade of activism and complaint-filing had taught me was that you can’t legislate kindness. You can legislate behavior but you can’t change hearts with laws.
Catherine, I think the only way we can change the money-first policies of America is by reawakening people to their relationship with God. (I say “God” because that is what most Americans relate to, but I mean Brahman, Yahweh, God and Allah, who are all one.)
Why have Americans divorced themselves from God? The churches and synagogues in my neighborhood are typically two-thirds empty during worship services. In other parts of the country, it appears that some mega-churches are enormously full but it also seems as if those churches are filled with fundamentalists, i.e., people who believe that the Holy Bible is literally true.
No thinking person can believe that. The Holy Bible is a large collection of ancient stories written by many different people over a long period of time, then collected by another group of people—men only—under pressure of a deadline. Some of the stories are clearly derivatives of pagan stories. Others have been mis-copied or mis-translated. Sections written by one author have been interspersed with sections written by another author. The Genesis story stipulates a world that was created in six days; verifiable scientific fact says the world has evolved over a period of 6.3 billion years.
What fundamentalism does is reject rational thought. God gave each of us a brain and expects us to use it. One of my favorite spiritual sources is Ravi Zacharias on his radio program Let My People Think. “Zacharias states that a coherent worldview must be able to satisfactorily answer four questions: that of origin, meaning of life, morality and destiny. . . Zacharias believes that the apologist must argue from three levels: the theoretical, to line up the logic of the argument; the arts, to illustrate; and ‘kitchen table talk,’ to conclude and apply.”
Zacharias believes that evolution is incompatible with the second law of thermodynamics. I don’t even know the first law of thermodynamics, let alone the second. Do you? It is not about being right; it is about being challenged to think, not just to feel. Churches have tried to ‘become relevant to our times,’ which has resulted in a lot of social nonsense being preached from the pulpit. The word of God is what should be preached. If people actually read the Holy Bible, they would find it interesting, exciting, challenging and wholly different from the lectionary snippets that are preached on Sunday morning.
The Church in America has been serving the needs of the church hierarchy, not the needs of the people. What the people need to learn is that following God’s word enables you to straighten out the mess you’ve made of your life. It’s not about judgment; it’s about guidance. The hardest questions in life are answered by God, but in order to get that you have to read the Holy Bible and you have to pray.
Prayer is a time when you stand consciously in the presence of God. That requires silence and Americans are afraid of silence. They plug into headphones, get on cell phones, and bow their heads to text. What are you afraid you will hear if you let the silence be?
There is the question. What are you blocking out? What are you running from? What if—unlike your mother, boss or significant other—God accepts you as you are? What if, in prayer, you learn that God thinks you’re a pretty cool person? What if God doesn’t think you’re lazy or bad or selfish?
It takes time and study and practice to really get to know God, but if you spent four or more years getting educated for your profession, don’t you think it makes sense to spend a few years developing your spirit?
What we have, Catherine, are people who know how to make money but don’t know how to make love. God is the ultimate lover. We change the money-first approach by helping people to learn love. If you have a loving spirit then you put people first.