How do you bridge the divide…?

November 12, 2015 9:09pm
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Whether it’s conservative/liberal, young/old, religious/atheist, black/white, or any combination thereof, we’re as divided of a society as we’ve ever been and any random look at comments on Facebook hints that the situation if anything is certainly getting worse, not better.

No doubt the issue will be front and center like it usually is at Thanksgiving dinner tables around the country here in a couple weeks, and I don’t know about you but believe it or not, I don’t want to fight with my family! I want us all to laugh and eat and talk about interesting things and challenge each other with new ways of thinking but without calling names … so how do we actually bridge that divide?

I admittedly don’t have the answer to this, but I think part of it starts in trying to understand where the other side is coming from. Of course, this too can be hard because my explanation for why someone might think the way they do might make sense to me, though it isn’t necessarily a settling one for the other party…

For example, I sincerely believe for better and for worse that a lot of the differences between me and my relatives back home stems simply from population and exposure – it’s hard for some people to really get their arms around the problems that black people face in America today when they live in a small town that’s less than 1% black. Nobody wants to be told that they’re racist, but when you make a joke about hanging a black man from a Christmas tree because you honestly don’t understand how absolutely horrible of a “joke” that really is, limited exposure to people who are different than you is one way that helps to explain why you might think the way that you do.

I think the real challenge here, however, is then breaking out of that mold to widen one’s own world view – even if it’s merely around the turkey-laden dinner table – because we’re all guilty of settling in with those who think and act the same ways that we do. It makes sense because it’s safer, but when people who only subscribe to one political party’s mentalities only interact with each other and don’t co-mingle with the other side of the coin, it just builds those walls up higher and stronger and the divide seemingly becomes even further ingrained.

People get defensive because they’re so used to only talking to other people that agree with them that an opposing opinion suddenly comes off as hostile, to the point where actually hostile comments start to get lost in the crossfire, and from there an honest debate seems pretty much impossible.

Several things really need to happen…

  • Both sides need to be willing to come to the table.
  • Both sides need to be open for debate and to legitimately hear the other side’s opinions.
  • Likewise, both sides also really need to understand their own opinions so that they can articulate them to the other side without resorting to ad hominem attacks.

I don’t even think that both sides need to be willing to change their opinions, although it certainly makes intellectual discourse easier, but hearing and acknowledging the other side is critical to actually having a discussion where both people can walk away feeling good at the end of it all.

There are some things that two sides will never see eye to eye on – take homosexuality, for example. I myself stand very firmly in the realm of equal rights as an extension of civil rights, whereas I know people who draw their lines based on their religious beliefs, and some more that are in between on the various nuances that make up just this one complex issue. And that’s ok, at least between two people, though it gets muddier when we have to look at the larger picture and how society is going to treat homosexuals in the 21st century.

But that’s how we get there is by sitting down and spelling out the differences, and figuring out where we disagree and where we surprisingly might actually agree a little after all.

And it’s hard, and all of those divisors give us plenty of fuel to not make that effort and to instead bunker down and fling poo over the wall at the crazies on the other side … which can be amusing for a little while, but ultimately isn’t very productive because it’s hard to walk away from the table feeling good about yourself when either one of you is covered in poo. And not everyone is going to feel like it’s worth the effort, and some people will make you wish that you’d never even tried, but you have to try anyways because division is bad and in the end we all have a lot that we can learn from each other.

Sometimes it just takes shutting up for a while to stop and hear what the other person has to say…

…even though occasionally it may turn out that the other person is just a crazy racist Donald Trump supporter… 😉

I stumbled upon this the other day and on the surface it seems kind of interesting – it’s essentially a group of Christians getting together to help each other pay their medical bills. Nothing wrong with that, right?!

Well…

Much like any insurance program, it starts to raise some eyebrows when you begin to peel back the layers and really try to understand what it covers, and more importantly, what it doesn’t. Right off the bat, they make it very clear that this is a faith-based program and that those who aren’t dedicated to the lifestyle need not apply. In fact, they actually have a list of rules:

  • You must take a statement of faith and be active in your religious worship.
  • You’re not allowed to smoke tobacco, or use illegal drugs, or abuse legal drugs.
  • You’re not allowed to “have sex outside of traditional Christian marriage.”

That said, if you think it’s a little strange for your insurance company (although they state that they’re not actually one) to dictate your sex life, it gets worse when you dive into what is actually covered, and even more so how the whole plan actually works.

First off, things that it doesn’t cover…

  • abortions (no surprise there)
  • alcohol and drug-related injures and illnesses
  • STDs
  • “illegal acts”
  • attempted suicide
  • maternity expenses for children conceived out of wedlock (except for rape)
  • mental health / psychiatry
  • fertility/infertility care (wouldn’t be a surprise except that they lump “birth control procedures and supplies” in here as well)
  • hearing aids (what?)
  • routine and preventative care (despite being known to play a considerable factor in whether you need additional healthcare, their theory is that these are known costs and you should budget for them throughout the year)

And that’s really a summarization of some of the more oddball stuff – the full list can be found here.

So anyways, the way this whole program works is that much like regular insurance, you have a deductible and co-pays, so when you go to the doctor before you hit your deductible, you pay a co-pay and then they send a bill to these people, who typically knock off a discounted rate and then you have to pay the balance until your deductible is met.

You also pay a monthly premium just like regular insurance, which goes into a pool to help pay for the claims of other members. So far, so good.

But where the whole thing starts to get a little creepy is that the whole process of getting your bills paid by the pool is known as sharing, and as a result, as money from other members is matched up with your bills, the service tells those people specifically who their money is going to … so that they can pray for you. 😯

Now admittedly the whole prayer thing is a bit of a weird concept to me as a non-believer myself, but the reason I pick on this particular element is because it screams to me as being so incredibly self-serving and hypocritical when we look back at the rest of the program because although it’s a noble offer to come together as a community to help everyone take care of each other’s medical bills, you only have to skim those bulleted lists that I showed you earlier to see that it isn’t exactly everyone in as much as it’s everyone who thinks, acts, and lives their lives exactly the way that we do.

And this aligns with a lot of the complaints that I hear from the right about paying taxes these days because there are always certain things that they don’t want their money going towards, whether it’s abortions or welfare or the EPA or whatever, and so in this particularly pick and choosey world of healthcare, these Christians have taken it upon themselves to create exactly that sunshine world for themselves.

Frankly as a non-believer looking in from the outside, it’s not a very appealing “community” to me because when I read through all of these rules and exclusions, what I’m hearing is, “We’ll help you as long as you behave, but as soon as you fuck up – when you need our help the most – you’re on your own!”

What kind of sense does it make that a Christian going through issues with depression or thoughts of suicide can’t turn to his Brothers in Christ for help paying for treatment from a qualified professional?

What about people who don’t live perfect lives in God’s name and have sex prior to marriage that results in pregnancy? Should they just have to carry the burden themselves because they were breaking the rules and having sex outside of marriage?

How about someone who has a drinking problem, gets in a car accident and splits his head open, and gets whisked away in an ambulance? Are those bills simply his problem for having a drinking problem in the first place???

Some Christians absolutely think YES, as I found in reading through a large thread of comments reviewing the program where these scenarios were questioned and then countered back as “tough love” in hopes that the punishment of having to pay all of their own medical bills may be a deterrent from future sins … and that kind of thing is where I start to get real cynical when it comes to religion because as far as I’m concerned, you’re not really the community that you say you are if you’re not willing to accept each other’s flaws and work together for the betterment of the entire community.

I mean, a lot of our problems would be easier to solve if we could cherry-pick how we addressed them – fix education by only focusing on the wealthy school districts, fix the budget by only paying for the things that we personally think are important – but the reality is that as much as you don’t want to bother yourself with all of that other stuff around you, it still exists and ultimately it doesn’t do our community as a whole a lot of good if subsets of us huddle up into smaller groups and say, “We’ll look out for each other, but you guys are on your own.”

How is it even Christian to live your lives by a book that says nobody’s perfect except for Jesus, but you should all strive to do better, and then you create this program that specifically excludes parts of your own people who don’t fall in line explicitly with those tenets?

I won’t even address excluding me because I don’t believe in your religion, but the fact that you have other Christians who need real help with these things, but you just turn your back on them and say, “Our program isn’t for everyone – we do what we can…” is insulting to your brothers among you who need your help but are left staring at your backs.

This quote from one of those commenters really stood out to me:

“We are a group of relatively healthy Christians with low monthly medical expenses who are willing to join together to HELP each other pay for extremely high medical expenses in the unusual event that we get sick or injured.”

So if you already have cancer, that’s too expensive and they won’t help you. If you’re an alcoholic in need of counseling, they won’t help you. If you deviate in your lifestyle in any noticeable way to the church, your “healthcare coverage” here could be at stake, too, and as much as we all complain about insurance companies being these heartless corporations seeking to profit off our backs, I really don’t see how this is much better.

And – there’s always the chance of other members voting to decide that the medical procedure that you need might suddenly be deemed immoral and thus not covered!

“One of the reasons I am interested in Medi-Share is because it doesn’t cover immoral procedures such as abortion, but circumcision is also immoral to me.”

Don’t get me wrong – the insurance industry itself has plenty of problems that contribute to the greater issues with overall healthcare in our country today, but I think we all need to work together to address those issues rather than breaking off into smaller groups to say, “We’re good – the rest of you can fend for yourselves, you damn heathens…” In a way it kind of reminds me of Texas constantly wanting to secede from the union, or more recently the pediatrician who refused to care for a gay couple’s baby – we need to stop segregating ourselves and actually come together to collectively solve the problems that we face.

Patting yourselves on the back when you think you’re doing something righteous that’s really exclusionary and judgmental isn’t helping, either.

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