Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thinking About God

Some thinkers discount rarified ideas of God as too vague to have any meaning. These ideas include "God as the Ground of All Being." "Ultimate Source of Reality" or "God as being itself." Religious people who hold such abstract notions are also quite comfortable using God the father, the mother, Jesus or some other personification of the abstract idea. Joseph Campbell was fond of saying he believed in God because he knew a good metaphor when he heard one. In the religious communities, Christian, Jewish or Muslim who have a belief in God find the metaphors of father, mother, Jesus as useful helps in worship and connecting emotionally to the abstract ideas. The metaphor is not God; it reminds us of deeper, broader views and abstract notions of God. The metaphors assist in worship, meditation, prayer and sacraments, which help relate humans to God often defined in quite objective and rarified ways


Friday, September 11, 2009

Health Care for Illegals

I am sorry that Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina was proved wrong when he yelled, “You lie” when President Obama said illegal immigrants would not be covered in his proposals for health care reform. Everyone who needs medical care in our country should have access to it as inexpensively as possible. Illegals harvest our crops, wait on our tables, clean our homes and mow our lawns. Many pay federal and local taxes. Our economy would falter without their work. What about the children of illegals born here? Are they also ineligible? How about health care for the millions of tourists who come to our country, fill our cash registers and become ill? They need good health care too. Our compassion as humane Americans must be extended to all who need medical care.

Robert Warren Cromey

San Francisco

Thursday, September 03, 2009

`Great Health Care Speech

"Mercy More Than Life"

Why is Universal Health Care "Un-American"?


Last week supporters of health-care reform gathered around the country, including in Austin, TX, where 2,000 people crowded into a downtown church to hear speakers talk about different aspects of the issue. Asked to speak about the ethical dimensions of health care, I tried to go beyond short-term political strategizing and ask more basic questions. This is an edited version of what I said.

September 02, 2009 "
Counterpunch" -- Is anyone else here having trouble with the fact that we are even having this conversation? Is anyone else having trouble believing this topic is really controversial? I have been asked to talk about the ethical dimension of health care. Here’s one way to frame such a discussion:

If an infant is born to poor parents, would we be more ethical to give medicine to that child so he or she does not die prematurely of preventable diseases, or would we be more ethical if we let the child die screaming in his or her parent’s arms so we can keep more of our money?

Or, let’s say someone who worked for Enron, and now is penniless, contracted bone cancer. I’ve been asked to discuss whether we are more ethical if we provide such people medicine that lessens their pain. Or would we be more ethical to let them scream through the night in unbearable agony so we can pay lower taxes?”

I can’t believe I am standing today in a Christian church defending the proposition that we should lessen the suffering of those who cannot afford health care in an economic system that often treats the poor as prey for the rich. I cannot believe there are Christians around this nation who are shouting that message down and waving guns in the air because they don’t want to hear it. But I learned along time ago that churches are strange places; charity is fine, but speaking of justice is heresy in many churches. The late Brazilian bishop Dom Hélder Câmara said it well: “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.” Too often today in the United States, if you talk about helping the poor, they call you Christian, but if you actually try to do something to help the poor, they call you a socialist.

Some of the other speakers today have been asked to address what is possible in the current political climate. I have been asked to speak of our dreams. Let me ask a question. How many of you get really excited about tweaking the insurance system so we just get robbed a little less? (silence) How many of you want universal health care? (sustained applause) I realize that insurance reform is all that’s on the table right now, and it can be important to choose the lesser of evils when that alone is within our power in the moment. But we also need to remember our dream. I believe the American dream is not about material success, not about being having the strongest military. The American dream is that every person might have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s amazing to hear Christians who talk about the right to life as though it ends at birth. They believe every egg has a right to hatch, but as soon as you’re born, it’s dog eat dog. We may disagree on when life begins, but if the right to life means anything it means that every person (anyone who has finished the gestation period) has a right to life. And if there is a right to life there must be a right to the necessities of life. Like health care.

I believe the American dream was not about property rights, but human rights. Consider the words of this national hymn:

“O beautiful for patriot’s dream that sees beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.”

Doesn’t that sound like someone cared about the poor? There are those who consider paying taxes an affront, but listen to these words:

“O Beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life.”

“Mercy more than life” -- have you ever noticed those words before? Supporting universal health care does not make you socialist or even a liberal, it makes you a human being. And it makes you an ambassador for the American dream which, in the mind of Thomas Paine, was a dream for every human being, not just Americans. As we struggle to get health care to all people, we may have to settle for the lesser of two evils, but remember your dream -- the true American dream, a human dream. Whatever we win through reform is just first step toward a day when every human being has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Rev. Jim Rigby is pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin. He can be reached at