Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you cut my food stamps;
I was thirsty and you gave me a fracked aquifer;
A stranger and you erected a fence against me;
Naked and you gave me your dirty castoffs;
Ill and you defunded my health care;
In prison and you profited from me.
With apologies to St. Mathew
I don't know what has come across my country.
We have always had a thread of selfishness about us, but we also had the sense that we should help each other as well. Maybe it's because we haven't had a world war or economic depression to remind us that we are all vulnerable to the same threats to our lives and well-being. But we certainly have come a long way from the days of social cohesion born of necessity.
In my hometown, the first credit union in the country was opened by immigrants who didn't trust their money to the institutional banks run by the "English." They contributed their nickels, quarters and dollars into a common fund, then lent to each other at affordable rates. Don't pay your bills and you had the community to answer to. The loan payments were fed back into the common fund, strengthening the community rather than profiting some high-falutin' executive at a faceless bank with no ties to the community, nor any interest in the community's health.
We have come a long way from the days when people banded together for the common good. Today, we are more likely to advocate for our sacred rights to stand apart and alone -- to do what we want with our properties, to fire our guns at anything that moves, and to be vulnerable to the concerted efforts of corporate and political interests that only have their own interests at heart. We clamor to dispossess those at the bottom of the economic ladder, while congratulating the vultures perched at the top for their great perspicacity and good sense to have inherited wealth from their grandparents.
But where the irony really hits the fan is that many of the rapacious at the top and self-destructive at the bottom claim to be representing Christianity. There's no better indication that my countrymen have confused American-style capitalism with the faith of Jesus Christ than the recent imbroglio about the ACA -- a bill that would halt the predatory insurance practices that have bankrupted thousands of American families unable to afford healthcare, and have led to the premature deaths of many others who have exceeded their lifetime caps.
Now I don't think that being Christian means Americans have to martyr themselves economically to pay for medical care for all. If covering all Americans was a budget-busting guarantee of economic insolvency for the nation, then we would need to think twice about whether we were being wise. But the ACA is not a budget-buster, and was been crafted to have minimal impact on the deficit. There is no martyrdom or threat to our way of life if another 30 million people are covered. Quite the contrary.
At the end of the day--at the end of the age--we will be asked simple questions. Not how many times we attended Mass, nor our score at the firing range, nor how many votes we got or how many dollars we raised for our political party, nor how many square feet were in our second homes. We will be asked whether we did what we could to help the hungry, thirsty, alien, naked, sick and imprisoned.
The degree to which Americans can align their answers to those questions with their political passions is the degree to which the nationalism that burns in their breasts is in line with the tenets of our Savior, whose ethics cross class, social, national, political, and economic barriers.