I have no right to take the medications my doctors prescribe; I can pay for the privilege of taking them

It’s that time of year again where I have to fight with insurance and with all that goes into public discourse I thought I’d share my experience. Every time my insurance changes, and frequently even if it doesn’t, I have to go through a roughly 3 week process of getting the policy to pay for my meds. On this same piece of paper is a list of “alternative” meds with an asterisk after them. If you follow the asterisk to the bottom of the page, the text reads:

These recommendations are not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider.

The irony here is that I have, in fact, already consulted with my doctor. That doctor prescribed me the medication that is being denied. So now I have to prepare for weeks of arguing with the insurance, requesting appeals and exceptions, getting documentation from my provider, all to get the insurance company to acknowledge that the doctor did in fact prescribe a necessary treatment (which is hilarious to me since I’ve been on these meds for a decade).

And of course with each new shift in insurance policies there is always the potential that I will reach the point where my appeal requests will fail and I’ll either pay out of pocket or not take my meds or switch to other meds that don’t work, meds that my doctor has specifically told me not to take.

This has been my reality for so long that I’ve internalized it and find it utterly unsurprising when I receive this same letter each year from different companies.

I understand perfectly well the system we have devised in our country: I have no right to take the medications my doctors prescribe; I can pay for the privilege of taking them.

So many don’t seem to understand this. Not just young people but all age ranges. “I need these medications!” No, you want them. We have decided as a society that no one needs anything but emergency care and anything that may want after that to get the best treatment is a privilege that they are financially responsible for, even if it means chronic illness or death not to receive.

If you want that to change, so be it. Go vote. But understand that this is the reality. Right, wrong, doesn’t matter. Reality.

Ethnicity

I’d like to define ethnicity in a very simple way

Not a task I think I’ll succeed at, just something I think is necessary

Ethnicity at it’s most basic level can be broke into 2 parts:

Ancestry
&
Culture

Ancestry being who our parents were. Usually where they are from geographically is an important part of that.

Culture being traditions, norms, customs, mythology, and so on. These are passed to us by our parents, usually passed down from their families over multiple generations.

One bit of nuance here; we all have a tendency to intermingle our ancestry with our culture. We believe that the cultural norms and so on are inherent aspects of our ancestry and biology, which is not true (if you want proof go to a library, a lot of thorough research has been done on the subject).

Often this intermingling turns into a form of ethnocentrism. My ancestors are better than yours. Because my culture is better than yours. And how do I know that!? Because my ancestors say so!

So there you have it
My attempt at a simple explanation

Ethnicity = Ancestry and Culture

The biology of where we come from
And the myths we tell ourselves about who we are. Often those myths tell us what our biology and ancestry means, and often what those myths tell us about our biology is inaccurate

True love is not the kind of thing you should turn down, don’t ever turn it down

Christians get it so wrong about marriage and the LGBTQ demographic.

2 people wanting to commit to each other and spend their lives together isn’t going to destroy marriage

Plenty of other things do that

A mother and father who decide not to get married. Their jobs don’t give them health benefits so they avoid being legally connected to keep state Medicaid benefits. And they both have to work to make ends meet. Just enough work mind you; not too much or they lose the benefits

That destroys the institution of marriage

Individuals treating their spouse like garbage. Beating them, degrading them, abusing them in every way conceivable. And then we as a society heap guilt on the spouse that chooses to leave that situation. Making them feel like a failure; like they’ve failed God.

That ruins the institution of marriage

Defending powerful politicians who have affairs or abandon their spouses. Politicians from any side of the aisle. Defending them out of fear that your side will lose its position of authority and influence if you become vocal and critical

That destroys the institution of marriage

Marriage is a manifestation of the greatest commandments

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” -Matthew 22:37-40

Marriage should be the most intimate example of that love

The clearest and most ideal model for us all to follow in our relationships with others

A relationship that is

Always uplifting
Never abusive
Always compassionate
Never cruel
Always forgiving
Never exploitative
Always restorative
Never disparaging
Always humble
Never arrogant

Show me a relationship like that and I’ll be looking at everything a marriage should be

I could care less
what the individuals look like
what the individuals’ sexual orientation is
what pronouns they use

I don’t care what kind of tree the fruit grows on, just that the fruit itself isn’t a poison to the people who grow it

I’m certain that God doesn’t care either

(the title of this post is from an Avett Brothers song)

Bearing fruit is a ridiculously common Christian metaphor. It’s in the Bible a lot, though I do think it gets overused.

Even so, it IS a good metaphor, so I’ll use it again.

When it comes to marriage and other relationships, you’ll here a lot of people talk about traditional marriage or maybe Godly marriage. I say, be critical of those who disguise their words in tradition and authority and ask yourself this; when you look at a relationship how does it effect the people in it? The people influenced by it? Does it bear good fruit? Or bad fruit?

Because every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

Ancestry: built on graves

I’ve come to the painfully obvious conclusion that most people don’t understand how DNA & ancestry work. The way you inherit genes can’t be expressed by fractions or percentages. That’s just not how your genes work.

For a brief breakdown check out these links

If you want a better understanding of the subject more broadly

I would recommend reading these books

Here’s the reason I have this on my mind

Because it’s currently a hot topic, I’d like to talk about Native American ancestry

My family genealogy records a First Nation ancestor born in the Mohawk Valley 8 generations ago. She married a Scottish immigrant on the Canadian side of my family. The side that were Imperial Loyalists during the Revolutionary War.

This small part of my family history gives me these specific takeaways:

First; I would never call myself Native American. Since this First Nation ancestor and Scottish ancestor had children they passed down a Scottish/British identity. Combine all my other European ancestry and you forge the identity I was raised with, which is thoroughly Euro-American. The experiences that Native Americans have struggled with affected that woman generations ago to some degree I’m sure. But not so much for her descendants. Definitely not for me.

Second; this ancestry isn’t meaningless. I’m glad I know about it and I should think about it. We should all think about where we came from and how we came to be in the circumstances we’re in.

And third; this part of my ancestry and the circumstances of my life have a dark connection. Thinking back on this woman and trying to imagine what she went through in her life is a powerful reminder that my comfortable and stable life is built on graves. All the advantages I’ve had as an American are the direct result of a long, slow ethnic cleansing.

My native ancestor should always motivate me to support the modern communities that my other ancestors oppressed

To support the communities still being devastated by the exploitations from which my stability derives

It’s true that my parents always worked hard for me and I appreciate that

Same with my grandparents

But I can never escape from the fact that all my advantages have an underlying foundation in exploitation.

I benefit from crimes against the First Nations of this continent

It’s important that I never forget that.

That none of us do.

Foot note: I will mention that my aunt, who is amazing, is primarily responsible for the research into that part of my family genealogy. I can’t say that I’ve done the research myself. I am relying on her efforts. I don’t know why she would lie and I believe. But for the sake of being transparent the facts of my family history are not something I can claim as being certain.

Expectations

It’s never good when we expect a person to accomplish something that they never set out to accomplish

Them judge them by their inability to complete the unattempted task

It’s deliberately misleading to say that someone failed at a task they never undertook

My brother is writing a novel, so I shouldn’t expect that book to be a detailed factual history

My cousin writes music, so I shouldn’t expect those songs to be methodical genealogies

Even when there is some overlap, when a person tries to use another subject to better accomplish their task

The original task is still the standard we should judge by

A piece of fiction about a historical event is still fiction

A song about genealogy is still a song

I should hold these works to the standard of what they were trying to achieve:

An entertaining tale

An engrossing tune

Meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

The same for the Bible

The Bible is meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

It’s books were composed intentionally

It’s authors had specific goals in mind

To expect the Bible to accomplish tasks it’s authors never set out to accomplish sets it up for failure

When the Bible fails at such tasks, it hasn’t really failed at all

We have chosen to read it incorrectly

We have expected it to do something it was never meant to do

Not just by its human authors, but by God as well

If you believe in God

And you believe that God delivered the Bible to us deliberately

In it’s current form

Then approach the Bible with the assumption that we are meant to read it as it is delivered

If God wanted the Bible to be something other than a collection of books written by different authors over long periods of time

Then it wouldn’t be what it is today

The Bible is a library meant to help you know God better

The Bible does what a library does: illuminate truth by viewing the world from multiple perspectives

That is the task it is meant to accomplish

There is plenty of room for nuance here. For me, I may try to accomplish a specific task but it’s clear that I should have approached it from a different angle. In that case I failed to accomplish something that I wasn’t trying to accomplish, but probably should have. Many more examples I’m sure but I still stick by the purpose of this post; it’s important to approach the Bible for what it is trying to do.

Not what we wish it to do.

Also, just a side note, the picture of books that I used in this post is the Nag Hammadi Library. Which is not part of the Bible. But come on, those leathery tomes are cool looking 😎

Cultures

Biology is the story that nature tells us about ourselves

Culture is the story that we tell about ourselves

True that we often attribute our cultural story to some other force

A deity
Or deities
Sometimes our ansestors

But ultimately we ourselves are the ones who pass on those stories

That’s why they’re so variable from group to group

Even groups like Christians who have a book that records their story can’t agree on how to tell the story

And as a result you get versions of the story so different that it becomes difficult or even impossible to see them as one

We tell our story
We create our culture and renew it
We tell ourselves who we are

I want to make sure I am proud of the story I tell myself
I want to make sure the story I tell others about myself is a story in which I actually want to be a character

As a Christian
As a man
As an American

And not only the story of who I am
But also the story of who I want to be
The story of who I strive to be

Be sure to tell your story well

A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall

I’m not Catholic

And I probably never could be, regardless any changes made to their ideology or institutions

Though I do REALLY like the Maronites

Compelling history

Worth learning about

But I do have a suggestion that would change some of my feelings towards the catholic institution

Maybe even heal the bitter divides that the current and long running abuse scandals have created

One of the clear instructions that Jesus gave was disestablishment of institutions

He definitely did not like the idea of humans creating institutions and investing them with power

Did not like humans building their own traditions and claiming authority through that tradition

He believed in communities

Communities where the individuals look to each other’s strength to keep the community together, instead of power invested in one person or one office

Communities where the individuals tended to each other’s weaknesses so that everyone had the means to overcome them, instead of relying on authoritative positions and offices that have sole authority to render judgement

Lifting up the broken instead of casting them out

Supportive them in their struggle

Binding the community through compassion and forgiveness

Not institutional authority

In the catholic church the institution is old and running strong

But it’s a mess

The priests that run the institution are a mess

If they want to enact change; take the priests from power and put the sisters in charge

At least for a while

It may not make a difference I guess

More of an experiment

But at least it would be an attempt at something different

Since they’ve not been the agents of institutional authority

Maybe they will be able to institute the

Just look at the ongoing scandals and it’s clear

The current institution is not regulating itself

And new leadership is desperately needed.

That’s my advice

My informed opinion from the cross-sectional religious perspective

Put the sisters in charge

It would upend millennia of church teaching…which is why I could probably never be Catholic: I don’t mind upheaval

But maybe an upheaval like that would be what the institution would need to transform itself

Maybe under that new leadership it would become the community it should be

Community of self sacrifice
Community that lifts up without judgement
Community where the leadership takes responsibility for it’s failures

This is where I got all that junk I said about Jesus and institutions

Mark 7

Matthew 23

Luke 11