Enter any Christian church in the United States on a Sunday and you are likely to hear each of the verses highlighted in this article at some point throughout the year. Each verse extolls the teachings of Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Each verse speaks to the compassion followers of Christ should learn, embrace, and practice in their daily lives. Listening to the policy changes being presented these days in Washington, DC., it is hard to believe that 91 percent of our Congress as well as our new president Donald Trump identify themselves as Christians.
Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” It is important to note that the second half of this definition requires some action to be taken. It is not simply a feeling of empathy with someone who is suffering: it invokes a need to do something. It is not simply “I feel bad for the hungry.” It entails, “What can I do to provide food to this hungry person.”
Yet the ideas proposed by both the White House and the majority Republican Congress in the last three months do just the opposite. Here are some examples that follow a related verse from the New Testament about compassion. Judge for yourself whether the proposals match the verse.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Trump Health Care Act
This act, which fortunately failed to even be considered by the House of Representatives, would have rolled back Medicaid expansion in the states that had previously chosen this option under The Affordable Care Act (ACA). That expansion allowed states to add to the Medicaid rolls people who earn up to 138% of the poverty level which is $27,725 for a family of three. The Republican backed health care bill also proposed changes to the tax credit component of the ACA which would hurt those who are “older, lower-income or live in high-premium areas such as Alaska and Arizona.” The ACA mandate that larger employers provide health care to their employees would also have been eliminated. Finally, the Republican bill would have increased the penalty for being old by allowing insurance companies to charge seniors five times the cost for younger people versus three in the ACA. It doesn’t take a policy wonk to see that the changes would not have “comforted those who are in any affliction.”
But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17)
Trump Tax Changes
The likely tax reform plan (considering Trump’s ideas as well as other Republican Congressional proposals) would reduce the current structure of seven personal brackets ranging from 10% to 39.6% to three: 12%, 25% and 33%. Do top income earners really deserve the largest break? Taxes on dividend incomes would also be lowered, again, benefiting those who have excess income to invest, not the poor referred to in the verse above. Eliminating the 3.8% “Obamacare tax” would benefit the wealthy as well. As CPA Andrew Martin, managing partner at Martin & Associates, a tax advisory based in Las Vegas said, “It is clear wealthy people hate paying this tax.”
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit. (1 Peter 3:8)
President Trump has instituted a plan to deport illegal aliens, even those who came here as children. Twenty-five year old Francisco J. Rodriguez Dominguez was brought illegally to the United States when he was five years old. Supposedly based upon a misdemeanor for a DUI, he was picked up by ICE agents in of Oregon on March 26, 2017. Based upon the outrage of Oregonians and others, he was released on bond from detention on March 27. This was a person who showed all the attributes in the above verse. “Rodriquez Dominquez helps run a food pantry at the Latino Network, a community organization, and coaches a soccer team at an elementary school.” The policy to deport him and others like him shows none of those attributes.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
One of the deepest cuts proposed would be to the budget governed by the Senate’s Labor-Health and Human Services-Education subcommittee. The possible $7.26 billion reduction to its budget primarily would be accomplished “by cutting grant funding (such as mental health program and spending to the National Institutes of Health) and by eliminating programs like AmeriCorps.” More than 80% of the NIH’s funding is “awarded through almost 50,000 competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state and around the world.” What could be more compassionate and giving of comfort than to help people who suffer from mental illness? Unfortunately, religion has contributed to a perceived dichotomy between physical health and mental health which has led to the opinion of many that many mental health issues are the fault of the person who is ill.
It is truly unfortunate that Congress does not take to mind the adage, “Practice what you preach.”
Karen L. Garst, The Faithless Feminist