Tag Archive: Religion


The New York Times, Commonwealth Fund and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health surveyed those who use the health care system the most. According to their report, while the whole point of health insurance was to protect one from financial ruin in case of catastrophic, costly health problems, the results show it often fails in that basic function. In essence, even those with healthcare insurance face financial ruin.

One key problem, not many really know what their insurance covers. In the case of my parents, one would have thought I requested top secret clearance to national secrets. Thus, I had to threaten to sue the insurance company to receive a complete copy of their medical plan. It was stunning to see and digest the process for used to determine what services were covered and what services were not covered.

One small area I delved into involved dementia and Alzheimer’s. As previously written, the world hasn’t prepared for Alzheimer’s or dementia care. But even today, a major factor affecting the quality of such care is being able to consistently deliver it. In custodial care, Nursing Assistants are relatively disadvantaged economically, have low levels of educational attainment, serve under physically and emotionally demanding work, and are among the lowest paid. Thus, society cleans their conscious by casting loved ones into the hands of these people and later wonder aloud of the things that went wrong.

For those like my father, dementia is an increasing cause of suffering. Insurers however, both private or government, fail to address the tidal wave of custodial long-term care required by an aging population. As a result, as the population of elderly grows,  dementia will replace cancer as the most feared illness. Dementia’s impact not only affects the person with the disease, but family members, friends and those who care for them at home are forced to provide care options to which they are neither prepared nor can financially afford.

Those battling the ethical dilemma generally fall into two groups. Proponents profess that Jesus believed Christians should support a Christian president. Therefore, since the president believes in a public health option, we should therefore assist our fellow man. On the other hand, opponents claim the problem we face is that Jesus never mentioned universal healthcare. There’s neither any Biblical mandate to provide healthcare, nor is there any mandate to implement.

There is a third viewpoint – the one that blames. In the blame-game, current congressional leaders espouse exclusivity. It’s the wanton desire to blame and punish the poor for all societal ills. It is similar to Nazi Germany blaming Jews. Most recently, Senator Mitch McConnell blamed poor people for budget problems his party created. Need another example? Look no further than the September 2011 Republican presidential debate.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer pushed candidate Ron Paul about a hypothetical man without insurance who goes into a coma. “That’s what’s freedom is all about,” replied Paul. “Are you saying society should just let him die?” asked Blitzer. To which point several members of the Tea Party-heavy audience interrupted with “YEAH!”

In almost every country, the population aged 60 years and over is growing faster than any other age group, resulting in an increase in older people’s care needs. According to WHO, the population aged 60 and over is expected to increase from today’s 600 million to an estimated 2 billion by 2050.

As a Buddhist working in the medical field, good organizational structures, based on a well-coordinated team with good co-workers and a fair and understanding manager, will be critical for maintaining good care. What current congressional leaders miss is that when Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare is cut, it will be difficult to care for the old if ethical foundations for caring is absent.

Citing my personal ethics, we are called, not only as society, but as a humanity, to treat people with loving kindness. This moral compass means moving from simply understanding medical knowledge to acting in spirit-filled love. The following incident as told by a clinician highlights such purpose.

An elderly woman near 90 was acutely admitted. She did not feel well at all, wanted to have her blood pressure checked and said she felt as though shadows were falling over her. We sat and talked for quite some time and I took my time with her. She said that I was the first person she had met that looked into her eyes.

Unless you’re part of the 4%, any proposed healthcare cuts will offer little but suffering. Most will be presented with hard choices, pay a bill, pay for healthcare or pay for a prescription. At the end of the day, society has to do something better than simply saying, “Die.”

Your vote is important, not only for today and tomorrow, but for 2050 as well.

Chasing Reflections

While having dinner with a friend, I told him my time was closing and inquired if there was any last thing he wanted to do or place he wished to go while I was still here.

In tears, he asked, “You can’t abandon me.”

Sorry,” I sympathetically replied.

Shrugging it off, he chuckled. “Oh please. You said yourself that no one knows how long someone has to live. You said you were going to die over a year ago. And here you are.”

Awkward pause.

What will I do without you? You’re my only friend,” he whispered.

Make new friends.”

I can’t.”

Why not?

 “I don’t fit in here.”

Having worked here since college, you’re now fairly wealthy. You can ‘cash out,’ return to your native homeland and live in relative ease.”

I can’t.”

Why?

I won’t fit in.”

So, let me understand,” I said. “You’ve worked here all this time and have friends neither here nor at home?

Revealing a painful truth, “Yes.”

What you think you want out of life and how we spend our days in it, may not be nearly as important as the vital layers accumulating within you, hidden in plain sight.

Several years ago, writer David Allen wrote the following:

Love for friends and family, the decency we exchange with those around us, the value of not doing “great things,” but small things in a great way. Those are life’s moments inscribed in our heart.

Further borrowing from Allen, What the conversation between my friend and I remind us to do is that money is not the ultimate goal in life and each of us must take our heart out and read it every so often.

I conclude with the following.

As a laborer walked home along a river, he saw a shimmering in the river.When he looked, he saw a diamond necklace. But the river was completely polluted, filthy and smelly. Still, he decided to try and catch it so he could gain it’s reward. He put his hand in the filthy, dirty river and grabbed at the necklace, but somehow missed it. The second time, he walked into the river and put his whole arm in to catch the necklace. And again, he missed the necklace. Feeling depressed, he did a most disgusting thing and plunged completely into the river. Yet, he failed again.

Just then, a Buddhist monk came upon him.

“What are you doing?” queried the monk.

The man didn’t want to share the secret, so he refused to say.

The monk asked again, “What are you doing?”

The man mustered some courage and told the monk about the necklace and his attempts to catch it.

Taking compassion at the pitiful man, the Monk replied, “Perhaps you should try looking upward, toward the branches of the tree, instead of in the river.”

The man looked up, and true enough, the necklace was dangling on the branch of a tree. All this time, he had only been trying to capture a mere reflection.

Becoming Dogmatic

ThinkOn occasion, my ex-wife suffers depressive episodes. For the past several weeks, she’s questioned her worth and value to others. Sleepless nights allows he wandering mind to value and revalue her gifts and worth.

Why do you believe I am a worthy person?

Gently, I replied, “Because you’re a great leader.”

Humph,” she scoffed. “How?

Great leaders are those whose great acts are comprised of small deeds. Through all those small deeds, an unexpected, but purposeful leadership style emerges. The demons you believe are by your choice. But your choice is not mine. Do not let the seed of doubt destroy you.”

Conclusion

Sometimes, in life, we become both jurist and executioner to our own value. “Certainly, I am unworthy, for others have done more.” “Of course, that person over there is better, for I have not helped as many.” For many, false values consume both day and night.

I close with the following story.

One afternoon an ascetic met the Buddha. He was curious to learn about the Buddha’s teaching.

“Gautama, what is your teaching? What are your doctrines? For my own part, I dislike all doctrines and theories. I don’t subscribe to any.”

The Buddha smiled, “Do you subscribe to your doctrine of not following any doctrines? Do you believe in your doctrine of not-believing?”

Somewhat taken aback, the ascetic replied, “Gautama, whether I believe or don’t believe is of no importance.”

The Buddha spoke gently, “Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, he loses all his freedom. When one becomes dogmatic, he believes his doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy. Despair is birthed from such narrow views. Once bound, one becomes so entangled that it is no longer possible to let the door of truth open.”

If we are attached to some belief and hold it to be the absolute truth, we may one day find ourselves in a similar situation as my ex-wife. Thinking that we already possess the truth, we will be unable to open our minds to receive the truth, even if truth comes to our door.

This post started satirically, but since Twitter pretty much demolished Trump, I decided otherwise.

In a meandering hour-long speech in West Virginia, Donald Trump said he “fell in love” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

“We fell in love.” Trump added “No really. He wrote me beautiful letters. They were great letters. And then we fell in love.”

Sincere apologies to Melania. Or is it congratulations? I’m unsure.

Unfortunately, Trump and Kim Jong-un are not experiencing real love. “Love” can take on many forms. I can love pizza, or I can love my dog. I do love Jazz music and love an early morning rain. As such, love, has many different meanings and can be dependent upon the situation or context.

What Trump misses is that only through the sacrifice of personal time and putting oneself aside do we show true love. In turn, this allows others a glimpse of the God residing within us. Thus, God’s love for me goes beyond my love of pizza, sports or even friends and family. The God I love exhibits a giving love. His is a sacrificing and selfless love, a love that shows itself in action. God loves us, not because we are attractive or share some interest with Him, but simply because He loves us.

Both Trump and Kim Jong-un force constituents to adjust their definition of love to reflect the Trump/Kim reality of love. Thus, Trump’s and Kim Jong-un’s version of love is directly opposed to that of God. Their version of love is neither patient, nor kind. Their view of love is jealous, boastful, proud and rude. It’s irritable, keeps a record of wrongs and rarely believes in truth. Their version of love can and will kill.

For those in dismay with our leader’s newfound love, I close with this story.

“Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?”

Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed.

“Everything changes,” he said.

Moral of the story? One of the foremost teachings in Buddhism is that everything in life is impermanent – even Trump, even Kim.

I am one of many who never told my parents what happened to me. From age 8 through 10, I was sexually assaulted four times – once by my brother and cousin, once by my brother and his friend, once by my cousin and once by my brother’s friend. I wrote of one event in December 2012, Theodicy – No Easy Answer for Children.

After Dr. Ford’s testimony this past Thursday, I was chilled re-reading my 2012 blog post.

“Never shall I ever forget the laughter …”

Watching the Kavanaugh hearings, my helplessness was magnified by the possibility Kavanaugh would be elevated to a position of enormous authority, and seeing the sympathy and the sympathy he cries for just irritates me. Trump called Kavanaugh “a wonderful man, and a man who has the potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices ever.” Similarly, my attacker is considered a Catholic man of honor, has a family and grandchildren.

Another point. Is ‘living hell’ really hell? In the Judicial Committee Hearing, Lindsay Graham yelled, “This is not a job interview, this is hell.” Likewise, Kavanaugh stated his life was ruined, that these past several weeks was a circus.

Really? Two weeks is hell?

I wonder if Graham or Kavanaugh understand what Dr. Ford’s life is like. How about mine? I can’t speak for Dr. Ford, but in 2012, I posted, “… my soul was murdered and fell into a silent abyss … [I am] both insignificant and invisible, nothing more.”

Commentator Andrew Prokop captured my thoughts perfectly.

Graham indisputably made a splash in Trumpworld, providing exactly what they needed politically and telling them exactly what they wanted to hear — that Democrats were the villains and Kavanaugh was a good man.

In essence, Kavanaugh’s defense suggests a prestigious education is evidence of moral righteousness. The accused is an honorable man who attended a privileged Jesuit, all-boys, preparatory high school and onto Yale law School. Dr. Ford completed degrees from the University of North Carolina, Pepperdine University and the University of Southern California.  If we take Kavanaugh’s claim verbatim, would Dr. Ford be more honorable if she had attended Yale? And what of me? I completed college at a state university. Therefore, do I remain nothing? In the sight of God, am I still insignificant and invisible?

I offer three thoughts.

First. Do no harm. As a Buddhist, I know all of us have a short life span. Therefore, we cannot know the long-term results of our actions. But recognizing that what we say and do can have repercussions for months, years, or eons.  We cannot know the “final” outcome of something we think, do or say.

Second. Great gifts of spiritual/social insight can coexist with psychological and psychiatric illness. It’s important to understand that it is possible to be simultaneously gifted and disturbed. No matter what school, wisdom or privilege a teacher or pastor or imam claims, no one is exempt from psychological suffering. Even leaders. If all if us were more understanding of ourselves and others, it would be less shameful for such exalted mentors, Kavanaugh and all, to receive treatment when required.

And third. Perhaps in the years to come, the #MeToo allegations will steep like tea throughout Kavanaugh and help usher in a growing awareness that sexism and sexual assault invariably sets the stage for suffering in all faiths and all levels of privilege.

SatanMinnesota state representative Rep. Jim Knoblach (R) ended his re-election bid after learning Minnesota Public Radio News (MPR) wrote of his daughter’s accusations of inappropriately touching for years.

MPR wrote the case file is detailed, including written transcripts of interviews, copies of old diary entries and handwritten notes, but makes no mention of law enforcement reaching out to Jim Knoblach to be interviewed. The case file reveals Laura Knoblach reached out to various people throughout her life to express concerns about her father’s behavior, including her mother, Janet Knoblach, but apparently received little to no help.

I thought of Ms. Knoblach after listening to current Republican leaders summarily dismiss Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations, and to a larger extent, how the religious community’s wholesale embrace of Republican norms, including those of Donald J Trump, necessitated the rewriting of personal and moral ethics. But the hypocrisy of legislative staff is not limited to Ford alone.

The Wrap’s John Levine noted Pro-Trump CNN political commentator Jason Miller announced he’s “decided to step away” from the network after a recent accusation in a legal filing that he slipped abortion pills to a former lover without her knowledge.

Lastly, the York Daily Record recorded,

“Found within the depths of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on priest sex abuse is a letter written by a former Diocese of Scranton bishop.

A priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion, according to the grand jury report. And then-Bishop James C. Timlin wrote a letter expressing his feelings: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.””

I remember an op-ed by Jennifer Weiner from October 2017. Weiner wrote of Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who resigned his House seat two days after voting for a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks on the medically dubious grounds that, at that age, a fetus can experience pain.

I was proud both to sponsor and vote for this important bill to clearly stand for the dignity and value of all human life, both the born and the unborn,” Murphy wrote.

Then The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published texts revealing that when Mr. Murphy’s mistress thought she was pregnant, Murphy urged her to consider an abortion.

Sarcastically, Weiner wrote:

“There are a few, rare exceptions that abortion opponents tend to allow to their hard-line rules: rape, incest, life or health of the mother, and “I got my mistress pregnant.

For real life American, it’s become ok to dance with Satan, as long as you’re doing it for God.

You know all those websites claiming Trump has lied 3,000 or so times? No biggie. He’s also pro-life. He’s doing God’s work.

Remember Leviticus 19:33-34? You know the line saying “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.” Fuck that. God now allows us to ‘discern’ which aliens to love. That means Norwegians are in, Mexicans out. After all, white lives matter more than others. Right? Right.

Trump’s closest evangelic adviser, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas told reporters in 2011 that Mormonism is a “cult” and that voting for Romney for president would “give credibility to a cult.” I am sure any one of the Pennsylvanian Archdiocese victims will be comforted by Jeffress. After all, he’s a man of God.

Then there’s Moore … As in former Judge Roy Moore. Moore lent his unsolicited endorsement to the similarly troubled Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. Moore came to the nominee’s defense by sharing a supporter’s quip with his 80,000 Facebook followers: “They are Trying to ‘Judge Moore’ Him with Unproven Sex Assault Claim.” Moore, if you recall, is the same Moore who likes to date underage teenagers while simultaneously returning God’s ten commandments to America’s judicial system.

Supporting Kavanaugh is critical. Kavanaugh represents the man from God who can potentially overturn Roe vs. Wade. As such, Kavanaugh supporters dismiss his youthful behavior in a whole range of ways – but not assault. And if true, Kavanaugh’s actions constitute little more than normal adolescent male behavior. Remember, the the columnist from God’s network, (i.e., Fox News) Stephen Miller tweeted, “it was drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven.”

Daniel J. Boorstin, in his piece “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)” notes.

“We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.”

Congratulations America. You’re pretty sick.

I looked at the yin-yang symbol for nearly a decade and always thought I understood the hidden dynamic. Rooted in Chinese philosophy, are often thought to be opposing forces versus complimentary forces.

Others propose a more defined view, that everything has both yin, the darker, more passive force, and yang, a more active positive force. The message insinuates that yin cannot exist without yang. Vice versus, yang cannot exist without yin. Lastly, some taught that neither yin nor yang could exist without the other.

I refined my personal perspective after watching the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In Rogue One, we learn that the same material used by the Death Star to destroy planets also powered the Jedi’s light saber. In The Last Jedi, Rey learned the Jedi hold no exclusivity rights to the Force, for the Force is in everything and everyone has equal access. Thus, as Christ would say, each one of us has the ability to accomplish what Christ did and more.

Moving forward, I ask the following question: “What if there is neither a yin nor yang?” What if the world’s yin and yang happen to be derived from the same one life force? What if our own personal yin and yang are derived from the very same force? If true, what becomes of yin and yang?

I propose both yin and yang are breathed to life via personal choice. All of us, will at times, choose yin. Likewise, all of us, at times choose yang. Christ talked of such a view in Matthew 15:19,”For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” The challenge lay in choice.

In Rogue One, the blind spiritual master Chirrut Imwe, was in constant dialogue with “the force” as he chanted “I am one with the force, the force is with me.” We must be in constant dialogue with the Father if we want to know what he wants us to do and where to go.

I conclude from the story of a Cherokee grandfather teaching his grandson about life.

A fight is going on inside me,” the elder said. ”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one I feed.

So, which will you feed? The yin? Or the Yang?

KingEddie Glaude Jr. made a stunningly insightful comment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. James Baldwin wrote, “... we had to invent the word “nigger” to justify the crime.”

In other words, if we wish to conceal ignorance and the openness of our own prejudice, create a word to cover it. Need to conceal your racism of Hispanics, call them ‘rapists.’ Need to dodge your hate of Muslims, classify them as ‘terrorists.’ Dislike a reporter or news service, call them ‘liars,’ ‘dishonest‘ and ‘fake news.’ Blame a company (Amazon) for congressional leadership inability to lead (US Post Office). Need to demean your predecessor(s), call them ‘cheatin‘ [sic].

Factual support of any claim is secondary or tertiary. No need. Simply represent yourself as the ‘truth, the light, or the way’ just as a famous politician proposed in July 2016 when he asked Americans not to place their trust in God, but him. “I am your voice. I alone can fix this.” And like those on the Exodus, we crafted our golden calf, placed it unto our personal alter and believed that he … alone … could solve our problems.

Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Martin Luther King shared many ideologies. But they both probably share that our current desire for the golden calf is born from hatred not from wisdom. Hatred. Jealousy. Bitterness. A person who suffered much fear, anger and violence comes from such darkness.

As such, this level of darkness lives not in the possible, but from scarcity, “there’s only so much pie to go around, and if you get some there will be less for me“.  This mindset could be viewed as a “scarcity mentality” and is part of the Lose-Win paradigm.

Stephen R. Covey explained in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“: The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.

“People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production.  They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the successes of other people – even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates.  It’s almost as if something is being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition or windfall gain or has remarkable success or achievement.

Although they may verbally express happiness for others’ success, inwardly they are eating their hearts out.  Their sense of worth comes from being compared, and someone else’s success, to some degree, means their failure.  Only so many people can be “A” students; only one person can be “number one”.  To “win” simply means to “beat.”

It’s difficult for people with a scarcity mentality to be members of a complimentary team.  They look on differences as signs of insubordination and disloyalty.

Luke 6:38 states “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

I am sure the question Dr. Martin Luther King would ask you to ponder is, which gift will you choose – anger or love? Unfortunately, it appears that 50 years after Dr. King’s death, we’re still embracing the golden calf.

Imbueding

Commentator Jay Busbee wrote of Tiger Woods continuing back dilemmas.

“The clue was right there, buried deep in an otherwise routine Tiger Woods interview last week: ‘I feel good, not great,’ Woods said. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever feel great, because it’s three back surgeries, four knee operations…’

I feel good, not great. For Woods, who has spent an entire career insisting, often in the face of all sane evidence, that he wasn’t just great, he was greater than you could imagine, this was a remarkable concession. This was a man laying down his sword and shield. This was surrender.”

I read no further into Busbee’s article. That’s not to say Busbee’s analysis wasn’t spot-on. Busbee could be right.  Yet, I have no prolonged thoughts of Tiger Woods. Regardless of what’s occurred or hasn’t occurred in Woods’ life, I wish him all the best.

My thoughts are personal. Laying in bed, unable to move due to the Multiple Sclerosis symptoms, disabling neck pain and circulatory problems, I experienced my own personal “remarkable concession.”

I simply want to surrender. I am tried. I want to move on.  


 Fast forward several weeks.

I wrote the above and never posted into the blog, sidetracked by pain management. I thought of changing what I wrote but left the front part of this post intact, as written. I wrote the above in a time of such personal pain.

Anyone living in chronic pain knows, they’ll eventually have to surrender. As life’s end nears the horizon, all query “Surrender to what?

Most Buddhists are taught that if you wish to develop understanding, kindness, and clarity, you must willingly surrender to dukkha, the inevitable pain of life. Suffer? Hmm. I do not necessarily believe my suffering is worse than others. Yet there is a time when I realized I myself must find a way to the spiritual (the other side).

I know one cannot escape death. I do not fear death. When I think of fear, I remember watching the movie Wyatt Earp, when Doc Holiday said “…I wake up every morning looking in the face of Death, and you know what? He ain’t half bad” to which I replied “…damn straight Doc!

What I am amazed me is the weakness and fragility of my human body. In my 20’s, I would laugh at simple walking. At 57, a simple walk exhausts me for days. And as man who has traveled the world, I wonder why I took so much of living for granted.

Still, I continue to reach out to all whom I hurt. I have asked for forgiveness, reached to touch those I have not and sought truce to old lingering wounds. As best as possible, I wish for my death to be calm and peaceful. I simply wish to imbued positive thoughts at the time of death.

Therein lies my message everyone. Imbued! Rather than waiting to reconcile at the end of life, inspire a feeling or quality now. Live in love. Permeate others with a feeling of quality. Honor all around you.

Imbueding” is real living.

hooksAs many readers know, I’ve been absent for many months. Much of my time away has been due to a series of medical issues, high-blood pressure and heart problems. Then something new, cervical spondylosis, commonly called arthritis of the neck. Although many people with cervical spondylosis experience no noticeable symptoms that was not true the case for me.

So I read Kate Bowler’s column in the New York Time’s SundayReview with great interest. Writing of her struggles, she wrote of her Stage 4 stomach cancer diagnosis, heart and back and forth issues of religion, specifically prosperity gospel.

As many know, prosperity gospel belief’s center upon God providing material prosperity for those he favors. The idea goes both ways: materially successful people achieve such success because they’re favored by God and, at the same time, people who are favored by God will eventually be materially successful. In other words, godliness causes material prosperity.

Just to get this out of the way, to me, buying into the prosperity gospel message is like eating a week old banana – we all say we love it, but in reality, it’s shit. If the message of prosperity gospel were true, every single person of faith would bathe in material wealth. Additionally, it implies a nonsensical quid pro quo. The entire idea of a prosperity gospel is based on direct reciprocity – meaning if you believe in God, you will be given wealth.

So my question is as follows: how many prosperity gospel minded believers succumbed to cancer? More than likely, a whole lot. To phrase it another way, the late radio show host Bob Collins (WGN 720) once said, “In the end, something’s going to get you.” Prosperity gospel nor regular gospel will prevent one from cancer, car accidents, or any other malady. Death happens. That’s life.

So I can relate to Ms. Bowler’s comments:

It is the reason a neighbor knocked on our door to tell my husband that everything happens for a reason.

“I’d love to hear it,” my husband said.

“Pardon?” she said, startled.

“I’d love to hear the reason my wife is dying,” he said, in that sweet and sour way he has.

While keeping Ms. Bowler’s comments in the forefront, technically speaking, I understand my problems are no where near the breath of difficulty others have. But I cannot tell you the number of people who’ve offered me simplistic medical advice:

  • A new bed:
  • Eat a plant-based diet;
  • Quit my job and enjoy life;
  • Move to the southwest;
  • Natural medicine;
  • Participate in Reiki healing; and
  • Align my spine.

I’ve received many comments from the well intentioned, some are bizarre, others rude.

  • It’ll be okay, I just know it.” (Really? That’s great. Tell me how you know?)
  • Someday this will all be behind you.
  • Don’t worry, things will get better.” (Disk compression from cervical spondylosis does not get better. I can get spinal fusion, but the condition does not get better).
  • So when will you be all better?” (Disk compression from cervical spondylosis does not get better.)
  • When will your conditions be gone?” (When I die or until all the Southern Comfort in the bottle to my right is consumed … whichever occurs first.)
  • Live in the moment.” “Be strong.” “Fight hard.” “Keep your chin up.” “Don’t give up.” “Attitude is everything.” (I will remember this when I can barely move in the morning.)
  • We’ll pray for a miracle.” (Is spinal fusion considered a miracle?)
  • What’s your prognosis?” (Pretty fucked.)
  • Could be worse.” (Just did. Listening to you say that confirms it just got worse.)

And the coup de gras of all statements:

  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • It’s all part of a larger plan.”

To this, I remind myself of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”

You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.

In many ways I sympathize with Kate Bowler and for the seriously injured. For them everything’s on the hook.

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