I cannot for the life of me remember the last time the news cycle did not have something about immigration, LGBT rights, health care, Planned Parenthood, Right to Life, or Freedom of Choice. I think a lot about such things. I have to. It doesn’t take much interaction with folks to realize these issues aren’t things that happen to “other people.” They hit home. Whether we like it or not, whether we have somehow lived under the impression we are immune from them.
Thirty years ago I wrote a song for a friend that was dealing with cancer. He was from Holland and called himself “an old Dutchman.” The song is called “The Dutchman,” and is styled after a sea chanty. It is influenced by a book by Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are. If you don’t know the book, get it.
It’s a wonderful story of a boy named Max, who was wild. His mom sends him to his room, but he leaves home and sails to the island where the wild things live. He becomes their King. But, eventually, he finds his way back home. It’s a children’s story, but I think it’s really a book about baptism, of the journey from death to life. My song is about overcoming one’s difficulties by facing them, living in faith, trusting in God’s never ending love and grace.
Little did I know that this song would have special meaning for me at this time in my life.
You never know when one of these flash-point issues hits home. And so I continue to think about and reflect upon them.
In doing so I am fully aware that not everyone agrees with my take on how to resolve any of these issues. Even within my own congregation. I remember when the shootings took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Personally I am in favor of better regulations when it comes to purchasing guns. But I had to think long and hard about how I would address my congregation about the event, knowing that many of my members were gun owners. Responsible, reasonable gun owners. It made no sense to lump the gun owners I know in with the killer at Sandy Hook.
Do you think health care is a right or a privilege? Is it fair that healthy people should help pay for the care of people who are sick? That is, after all, what insurance is. We do it for our homes and our cars, our businesses and families.
Good paying jobs? How do we find a balance between a fair wage and business profit? How about the rights of people who are not just like you? Not the same gender or sex or ethnicity or religion or political party?
What about someone who wants to come here to live the American dream of freedom and opportunity? Did you know almost half of the Fortune 500 companies in America were started by immigrants or by their offspring? Would you like it if the government prevented your family from living with you?
I told you I think a lot about these things!
And here is what else I think about. These questions are really asking whether you are a person who supports things that are lifegiving. Or death-dealing. We toss around phrases like right to life and freedom to choose without acknowledging that each and every one of us favors life AND freedom of choice. It just depends on what it is we are talking about. The problem is we don’t always agree. There’s the rub. I believe responsible, reasonable people can always solve whatever the issue is. Always.
We have the means. The real question is do you have the will?