Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lenten Meditation

The healthcare reform bill has passed the House, and will be signed by the President today at the Department of the Interior.

The Republican Party was unanimous in opposing this legislation. They remain unanimous in opposing it. They are going to try to repeal it immediately. They are going to mount court challenges to it. They will do everything they can to impede, stall, and block this legislation from going into full effect.

I have to give the G-No-P some credit. They have been consistent and disciplined in remaining on message the whole time, maintaining a united front against any bill that would change the status quo of healthcare reimbursement in this country. On that one point they show the Democrats how to do opposition politics.


I am a Christian. That means that the status quo is my enemy. Jesus came to upend the status quo. That challenge is not completed yet. If I am truly a follower of Jesus, then I must be actively involved in reforming the status quo. What's the phrase? "Comfort the troubled, and trouble the comfortable."

I read a definition of "conservative" the other day. Among other things was the phrase "resistant to change." Well, change is coming. It will come either with or without our participation, but it will come. Christians are to be agents of that change, not preservers of a tradition that is counter-productive to helping our brothers and sisters live humane, productive, full lives. We are called to be subversive of the status quo.

Conservatism today has morphed from an essentially empirical suspicion of grand social theories and a reliance on things that were known to work, to an inbred desire to horde what I have, to gather more, regardless of the effect it has on others, and to preserve and enhance my personal power, which is the highest good. Care for life is only evidenced before a person is born; once they're out of the womb, look out for yourself, buddy, but don't try to get mine. Good luck with that "life" thing.

Now here's the challenge I feel. The Republicans are my fellow countrymen and women. More than that, they're my fellow human travelers on this blue ball we call Earth. And even more than that, they're my brothers and sisters before God.

What I see when I look at the Republican party is birthers, deathers, agin'ers, haters, race-baiters, dingbats, wingnuts, loudmouth blasphemers, schemers, and hateful people of every stripe, all united in hating what I and so many other Americans believe in. How in the world am I to reconcile with this howling mob? More to the point, how am I to treat them as a follower of Jesus?

In this Lenten season, I have to wonder if these same people are the kinds of people who stood around yelling at that man nailed up to the cross like a piece of siding on some 2 x 4's. Were these the same kinds of people of whom he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?" Am I that forgiving myself? Now there's something to ponder as I walk day by day toward Easter...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Time and Tide

"Time and tide wait for no man."

So says the ancient wisdom. How true...

Or is it?

Last time, I posted a tribute to our elected representatives. I wanted to commend them for standing up to pressure that arises every Spring when Daylight Saving Time goes into effect, and heroically refusing to repeal this measure despite all the complaining they hear. Once again they have faced the challenge, and faced it down.

With this bit of courage to inspire them, the progressive wing of our Congress has moved to the next level. They intend to face down the old proverb, and show that determined government action can defy the conventional wisdom.

We are witnessing the creation of the Federal Time Bank.

No one can deny that time is unfairly distributed in the world today. Young mothers never have enough time to do everything they want to do. The unemployed and the aged have too much time on their hands. This fact seems to be true for too many young men and women in our country as well. Busy corporate executives have too much to do to get it all done in the standard 24-hour day, even with assistants and aides all around. Three-year-olds certainly have too much to do and say to get it all accomplished in a mere 24 hours. Nobody seems to have just the right amount of time for what they want to complete before they have to finally go to sleep.

Well, that is old news. With the Federal Time Bank, everyone will have the opportunity to have just as much time as they need.

Time will be bought from those with too much on their hands, and deposited into a new Federal agency. Since time is money, the storehouse of time will become an incredibly valuable resource for the entire nation. Those Americans who just don't have enough time will now be able to buy blocks of time, at a slightly higher price than what was paid to the original time-holders, and the dream of a 30-hour, or 36-hour, or even 48-hour day, will suddenly be a reality. The difference in what is paid and what is charged will be used to defray the cost of operating the Time Bank, as well as being fed back into the Federal budget, to begin paying down the national debt.

This progressive idea is not without opposition, though. Almost predictably, Tea Party partisans are already organizing rallies against the plan. Bumper stickers are beginning to appear, saying things like "24/7 or Fight!" and "You can have my hours when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers!"

So far, the church has been largely mute on the issue. Since a thousand years is like a day in God's presence, the whole issue of people having extra time is viewed by most denominations as a blessing for those who can use it. It's no big deal. Some people, however, like the members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, are already railing against the whole idea, waving signs and placards at all sorts of public gatherings that read "God Hates TAG Heuers!" This is to be expected...

Let's communicate with our legislators in Washington that now is the time to make the Federal Time Bank a reality.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Wonderfulness of DST

The day is an hour longer...

Well, no, not really. What we have is an extra hour of evening sunlight. The day is the same old 24 hours that we've always had.

What I'm referring to, of course, is Daylight Saving Time (DST), an annual celebration of the power of government to change fundamental aspects of our lives. This past Sunday, March 14, we entered into the long months when we get up an hour earlier so that we can have extended sunlight in the evenings. DST has become an accepted part of the year. Our computers adjust to it automatically, as do our cell phones, and more and more household appliances. My clock radio sets itself for DST, freeing me up to remember how all the other clocks, with their various setting procedures, will be reset.

Government, powerless in so many areas to effect actual change, real, meaningful change, can monkey around with the clock and mandate that we "spring forward" and "fall back." We therefore have the illusion of change, a change that I suspect many people would just as soon give up.

But legislators will never give up an opportunity to appear to make substantive changes, or even improvements, in anything that they can address. DST as we currently understand it was proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist (bug scientist) from New Zealand. Ever since then, it's been put in place in many countries, mostly in the higher latitudes, for a variety of reasons. It's been enacted to save energy, although most studies indicate that energy consumption actually increases marginally during DST. It's been enacted to benefit farmers, even though, for the most part, farmers dislike the disruption of their schedules. After all, livestock, particularly dairy animals, have their own internal clocks, not very amenable to government mandate. It's been enacted to benefit commerce, and here there is some value. People will go to sporting events more readily if they're going to be held in daylight. Overall, though, there's been very little concrete value gained by putting DST into effect.

In an era when our two major parties are as far apart as I've ever seen them, in an era when virtually nothing is taking place in Congress, it's good to know that our government has focused its energies on important stuff. They very resolutely refused to repeal Daylight Saving Time, even though there are always loud grumblings coming from those of us who have to actually reset our clocks. As I said, politicians will never fail to give the appearance of making a difference, and in this case making a difference means keeping something in place that's good for us (since they have experts who will verify it). How boring our lives would be if we weren't periodically shaken out of our stupor from watching reality shows on HDTV to reset the clocks. Thanks, government, you've kept us alert once again.

(I should mention that for anyone attempting to transform their lives into a more monk-like state, DST is a godsend. Having to get up an hour earlier each morning for almost eight months must surely qualify as self-mortification in some sense. And it helps with humility as well. Anyone who has failed to make it to church because they overslept on that first Sunday of springtime DST is generally pretty sheepish.)

So, I extend a salute to our politicians and their never-ending quest to change the things they can, ignore the things they can't, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Well done, ladies and gentlemen!