Do you want to be well?
Jesus’ question to a man with a lifelong disability (see John 5) came to mind as I reflected on the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.
When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well, you can almost picture the man’s eye roll as he kindly explained that he had no one to help him into the pool, which was thought to possess a healing component.
Jesus responds with something very simple but quite profound: “Rise, take up your mat and walk.”
As Americans went to the polls, many considered this election cycle to be a referendum on President Donald Trump’s first two years in office.
The results were a mixed message for both parties, as Republicans kept control of the Senate while Democrats took control of the House of Representatives.
Now that the polls have closed, the elections are finalized (mostly) and the stage is set, there is a reality we all need to face: Our country is sick and getting sicker.
For years now, we have made excuses and offered remedies. We have blamed each other and sought out our own solutions. We have put party over country and power over progress.
We have created a toxic environment leading to the sickness from which we now suffer.
Friends, regardless of party affiliation, we need to heed Jesus’ words to the man at Bethesda.
We can no longer afford to sit beside the pool waiting for help. If we want to leave a better country for the next generation, we must rise up and move forward.
On the following issues, we need to rise up, acknowledging our symptoms and moving forward in search of a cure:
- Racial bigotry
Words and actions matter. The U.S. has never truly dealt with our original sins, which include the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans brought to these shores.
This reality has created the current environment that casts a blind eye toward the systemic problems of racism.
From the mass incarceration of black and brown people to the ongoing white privileges of the ruling class, if we continue ignoring racism in this country, it will grow worse.
- Economic disparity
The divide between the wealthy and the poor continues to grow. An economic reality is emerging in which the wealthy continue to accumulate more resources, and everyone else continues to see them slip away.
More than any group in the Gospels, Jesus worked with the poor. If we do not create genuine and generous opportunities for them, we are sinning against them and God. We must be advocates for the poor and working classes.
All people should have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Jesus never stopped in the middle of healing someone to ask if they had insurance. Jesus never withdrew his touch because someone had a pre-existing condition.
If we accept the notion that people with means have greater rights than poor people, we have failed as humans and Christians.
We need to work together so that every person has access to quality healthcare regardless of socioeconomic status.
- Refugees and immigrants
The world has more refugees and immigrants than at any time in our history.
Certain politicians like to paint the picture that immigrants and refugees are leaving their countries because they want to take away the American dream from U.S. citizens.
On the contrary, in many cases, they are fleeing violence, poverty and hunger. They too are pursuing a dream, but a dream that simply allows them to live.
We must see refugees and immigrants as people attempting to provide for their families.
We cannot give in to the lie that they are murderers, rapists and drug dealers. Most are good and decent people we should work with instead of demonizing.
- Separating families at the border
This practice strikes at the very soul of our humanity. If we continue separating families at the border, we are guilty of inhumane actions.
Even today, children remain separated from their families. We must move more quickly to reunify all the remaining children.
We should never consider this evil policy again. This plays into the worst parts of our psyche and perpetuates a dark message to the rest of the world.
- Egalitarian transformation
We need to enact ideas and policies that place everyone on the same playing field.
Women can no longer be treated as “lesser” than their male counterparts. They need to be given the same opportunities as men and equal pay for their labor.
We need to extend that equality to the LGBTQ community as well. People should not be judged or discriminated against simply for being who they were created to be.
- Public education
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). If we do not invest in our public education systems across the country, we are setting the next generation up for failure.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “An uneducated citizenry will fall prey to the whims of tyrants.”
If we truly want the next generation of Americans to rise higher than their parents and grandparents, we need to adequately fund public education that will offer every child a quality education.
- Climate change
If we do not have a healthy planet, we will have nothing. The earth is getting warmer. There are no “alternate” facts when it comes to climate change. If we do not have a healthy planet, everything else is for naught.
As God’s caretakers of the world, humans need to be doing everything we can to care for it.
We do not own the planet; it’s God’s masterpiece. We have been instructed to care for it, and we are not doing our job.
We need to join the rest of the world and work on reducing carbon levels. A healthy planet profits everyone, especially the poor.
In a week that has further revealed the country’s deep divisions, let us look toward our better angels.
We need to cast a future with both realistic and hopeful eyes, acknowledging who we are while striving toward what we can become.
We need to work together to address the world’s most complex issues, being willing to make sacrifices to help our planet, to demonstrate compassion and to empower others to rise.
We can do this, but it is going to require us all to humble ourselves, change our rhetoric and step out toward a new day. We can rise up and move forward, but we must be brave enough to take that first step together.