Monday, July 30, 2007

"Saving Grace" Holly Hunter

There’s a new show on TNT Monday nights at 10pm by the name of “Saving Grace” and, wild as it is, I have to recommend it. Do I have a clue as to where they are going with it? Not one. But I like it. (as an aside, TNT is too darned stupid to program video for Macintosh, and I am amazed by that shortcoming - I mean, how difficult is it really, to set it up for both?!!!)

Actress Holly Hunter produces and stars in the hour-long drama about a what – Oklahoma I guess - cop that is living very fully in the secular world when she hits and kills a pedestrian while driving drunk. In that moment she asks for God’s help. Enter Earl, everyone’s favorite slightly loopy angel from Heaven. Earl isn’t quite Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life” but he’s almost as good. And for those of you that recall Holly Hunter in “The Piano” with fondness, each week seems to include a sex scene to remember, too. That said, while I’d love to dissect the accent she’s playing with, Ms. Hunter does a nice job of playing a difficult lead role. Actually, I’d really like to know if she’s even Christian in real life.

So, is this real world Christianity brought to the small screen? There are many who would say “Dear Lord, no!” and they would be right for themselves, but there are many as well who will see this and speak in their own minds “Dear Lord, are there really others like me?” And I say, yes, there well may be.

I’ll put the largest of caveats as a reminder that I have no idea where this show is going, but I’ll say at the moment that I am enjoying it as a look into the struggles of a strongly individual woman who has no desire for God to reach out to her, but He does.

Isn’t that how it is for all of us sometimes?

Anyone else catch this show?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

California Universal Health Care Act SB840 Kuehl

Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about, a single-payer all-services-provided health care system that doesn’t increase costs. It’s a thing of beauty, all 87 pages of it.

To trim it down to the basics, this is what it does:
  1. Create a commission to figure out how to do it that starts working on January 1, 2008.
  2. Gives them 2 years to get it up and running.
  3. Eliminates insurers and replaces them with a single entity.

These are some of the stated assumptions upon which the bill is founded:
  1. Health care spending continues to grow much faster than the economy, and efforts to control health care costs and the growth of health care spending have been unsuccessful.
  2. On average, the United States spends more than twice as much as all other industrial nations on health care, both per person and as a percentage of its gross domestic product.
  3. Consumers can no longer rely on traditional health care coverage due to a continuous decline of employer-offered coverage, unstable employment trends, uncontrolled increases in the amount of premiums and cost sharing, and increases in benefit gaps.
  4. One-half of all bankruptcies in the United States now relate to medical costs, though three-fourths of bankruptedfamilies had health care coverage at the time of sustaining the injury or illness.
  5. Health insurance companies have insufficient business motive to provide comprehensive and affordable health care coverage to residents who are likely to require health care services.
  6. The World Health Organization ranks the United States below all other industrial nations and 37th overall in population-based health outcomes.
  7. Emergency departments and trauma centers face growing financial losses, and uncompensated hospital care totaled over one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) in 2000. The burden for providing uncompensated care falls disproportionately on a minority of hospitals in California and leads to significant financial instability for the overall health care system.
  8. Multiple quantitative analyses indicate that under a single payer health care coverage system, the amount currently spent for health care is more than adequate to finance comprehensive high quality health care coverage for every resident of the state while guaranteeing the right of every resident to choose his or her own physician.
  9. According to these reports and numerous other studies, by simplifying administration, achieving bulk purchase discounts on pharmaceuticals, reducing the use of emergency facilities for primary care, and carefully managing health care capital investment, California could divert billions of dollars toward providing direct health care and improve the quality of, and access to, that care.
  10. It is the intent of the Legislature to establish a system of universal health care coverage in this state that provides all residents with comprehensive health care benefits, guarantees a single standard of care for all residents, stabilizes the growth in health care spending, and improves the quality of health care for all residents.

Now the thing is, can they keep it clean? Looking at medical industry related contributions for the ’05-’06 year we see that pretty much every elected official in the state of California has accepted contributions directly from the insurers, and probably even more through the various PACs. Data isn’t in for the current year, but we can assume the attempt at graft is continuing. But I ask again, can they keep it clean?

I recall a scene from West Wing where Alan Alda, beautifully playing a somewhat slimy Republican running for president, is being rebuked by an aide for taking money from someone whom he knows he will not support down the line. The beautiful response from Alda, taking a pull of scotch, was, “Well if we can’t drink their booze and take their money without giving them anything, what good are we as politicians?”

Yeah, I know, its just TV. But we can hope we have some of those kind of politicians finally working for us in Sacramento.

Help pass this bill, please. Write your state Senators and Congressman. Write Arnold. Write the paper. Tell your neighbor, your co-worker, and other members of your congregation. Tell your kids to tell their friends. Get it passed.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


No, I’m not offended really, to be considered less of a Christian by Pope Benedict XVI but I am amazed at the audacious ability of a man born Joey Ratzinger of Bavaria to lose sight of his own human-ness. Jesus Christ himself said He was for everyone, and I have yet to read anything of Him saying that His forgiveness was only to be given through what has become a very selfish lineage of men known as the Roman Catholic Church.

In a nutshell, the pope recently reaffirmed previous statements made when he was cardinal, stating that the Catholic church is the only true church and that the reformed church, due to it’s lack of ecclesiastical succession, cannot offer salvation. The statement kindly calls that shortcoming a “defect” in our theology and states that we might be considered part of the community but not part of the church.

The “Dominus Iesus,” which translates as “Jesus the Lord,” begins with a statement of faith and ecumenical desire, expressing them well. Shortly, however, it goes into a warning against other theologies even minutely different from theirs, and a proclamation that there is but one church. Further impoliteness follows. Sadly, as with some other derivatives of the faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the proclamation of faith in a loving God becomes one of exclusion that if taken too far, becomes one of war.

The ecclesiastical succession the pope refers to is the incoming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as told in Acts 2. The apostles were infused with the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and went on to build the church by spreading the word, performing miracles of healing along the way. The Roman Catholic Church believes that only from men who have had a direct succession of laying on of hands from those twelve might the power of God to forgive be continued in the world.

With incredible rising arrogance the Pope then goes on to call us “wounded” for not accepting him with primacy, or as the supreme leader of the Christian faith. Has a man of faith ever been more wrong in beating his own chest and saying “I am the way!” Sorry, Benny, but you could not be further from the Truth. Methinks you doth protesteth the heretics too much.

I read of this in today’s Los Angeles Times and two pages later found the “Religious Directory.” It is a half-page of very small type with listings of faithful gatherings. It’s a nice snapshot of the religious community, or at least those that feel the need to advertise in the Times with a small budget, and the variety of faiths, from mainstream to the far reaches, is enlightening.

I’d actually like to visit the Messianic Jewish congregation that has “proof who the Jewish Messiah is” but might pass on a non-denominational groups call that “Spiritworks is a Feeling!” To each their own. The mainstream groups, Christian and Jewish alike, give no indication to their respective differences in theology, mostly going with name, address and times of worship alone. You can tell which groups might be breaking new ground by the fact that they need to proclaim something there along with their name. They are still building the association of name and theology in the public mind.

It has been said that mankind was born with a God-sized hole in their souls and I’ve liked the sound of that phrase every time I come across it. Even those that deny any god at all, in so doing, speak or think of the possibility. For those that seek some fulfillment with God or a higher power as they individually understand it, their personal theology is as good as they can get it, as rational and as faith-driven as it needs to be, and as different from the next as the variety of plants on the planet. Who is to say that "What is written on their hearts" could be written by a creator that doesn't care about bringing them home? I'm left wondering if the pope has even read Romans 2, or if that would be too painful a reminder of the whole reformation brought about from within his church?

What part of “The Peace of our Lord” does the pope think we cannot have except by the touch of man? Communion? Was it not well before the coming of the Holy Spirit that the command “Do this in remembrance of me” was given? Was it not well before then that Jesus proclaimed, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed ... you (could move a mountain)?”

Surely the pope’s proclamation does nothing to further the love of God among those of His creation, surely nothing to open the ears of those that have yet to hear, surely only spite can come of it.

Does the pope think that God does not hear every prayer called out in His name? That He doesn’t respond but to those He chose and their selected followers? Does this then give the pope a better understanding of the Jewish view of Christ and His church?

That all said, I am not offended by these statements because they are but opinion of a man, a man that happens to be head of his church. Call him the Jerry Falwell of Rome if you like, I hold him in no higher esteem. For a church to have such a belief as part of their faith I can accept, if with my own reservations. For a church, however, to publish such a statement is the height of arrogance, of the foolishness of man, and can only be seen as intentionally and acerbically condescending. Those are, in a phrase, fighting words. Where is the love in them?

Would it not have been better to keep that paper within the church, knowing in their hearts that it defined their thinking, but holding back from using it as a slap in the face to every person they were trying to reach?

Whenever a man or group of men considers themselves the only conduit of God, one might immediately realize that they are not.

With apologies to any of the Catholic Church laity who may be offended, my sense is that you may be comfortable in your faith and I applaud that. I, too, am comfortable in mine. Can we move on please, working together in our communities, separately in our churches, and know that we have the love of Christ in common?