Last Sunday, I walked out of church as the pastor was warming up for the sermon. I had dragged myself from bed after only three hours of sleep. We piled into the van and went to church, expecting to receive the Word of God. It turned out that catching up on my sleep would have been more satisfying. The pastor was on his soap box … again!

Finding the right church has always been difficult for African Christians in America. It has become even more so since a black Democrat was elected President of the United States. A comfort zone for many is the 'black church,' but it's not for me. Even then, the Valley of the Sun is not littered with them. We manage with the best available, which is invariably a 'fundamental' church, and hope the pastor checks politics at the door. We found one and we made it our home church for years. Then things fell apart.

The pastor, Dr. Gary Kinnaman, retired after 25 years pastoring the same church. He started another ministry of mentoring pastors. He is having a ball doing it. Those he left behind are not having such a great time.

Before Pastor Gary left, two pastors (husband-and-wife team) were hired. They were pastors of a smaller church in another city. Rather than let go of it, they had the brilliant plan of a merger. From Word of Grace (our church) and City Church, we got City of Grace located in two different cities. Rather than the merger, the outcome seemed/felt/sounded like a hostile takeover. We left … and that's how we ended up with Pastor Tom Anderson and his Living Word Bible Church, incidentally, my husband's old church.

Anderson is a fundamental Christian. That means he is Republican and supports the American war in Iraq and everywhere else. He is a pro-lifer and probably member of the National Rifle Association as well. He hates President Barack Obama and everything that he represents. Unlike Pastor Kinnaman (who checked his politics at the door), Anderson has no qualms turning his pulpit into a soapbox. That was what he did on Sunday, the day that the US House of Representatives voted on the healthcare reform bill.

He started his usual rant about the bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama. I walked out because I don't do politics in church. I hold a doctorate in political science, and teach as a professor of government. I check both the degree and position at the door when I go to church. I expect pastors to do the same. The church and state were separated for a reason.

On the specific issue, I find it puzzling that fundamental Christians such as Anderson are this strongly opposed to a law that extends healthcare insurance to 32 million Americans. That opposition has now gotten viral with violence and threats of violence against Democrats in Congress. Offices of House Democrats have been vandalized. A brick has become the new symbol of political protest as Republican wingnuts (crazy extremists on the fringes of politics and society) on the internet incite people to go on a vandalism spree at offices of elected Democrats. A particularly hateful message was left on the voicemail of a House Democrat by a woman who sounded righteous in her hate for a law to extend healthcare to society's poor and vulnerable. The home address of another Congressman has been posted on the internet.

Another wingnut on the internet is sending out messages to 'real Americans' to prepare their arsenals and look around them to identify neighbors they can trust. What are the criteria for trust - opposition to healthcare reform? What happens to those whom they can't trust? We are the only black family on our street. We are not just black but we are 'foreigners' (regardless of the fact that my husband and children are American citizens). If those who should know better are inciting this level of hate, what hope do we have that the average Joe Sixpack will not direct his arsenal at my family since he can't reach President Obama?

These are really scary times.
I've listened to the reasons why Republicans oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. One is that it is unconstitutional for a federal law to make it mandatory for people to have medical insurance. Provision for public health and safety is state responsibility. However, constitutionalists have argued that since the Act mostly regulates commerce (activities of insurance companies), the federal government has the constitutional mandate to enact it.

Another reason for the opposition is that the reforms will be expensive. The Congressional Budget Office (not beholden to any party or government in power) has gone through the document and reports that the Act will reduce the national deficit by $143 billion over ten years. Besides, as hospital administrators have pointed out, it costs the tax payers more to care for the uninsured, who by law, can't be denied care at the hospital. A visit to a doctor's office for preventive care is cheaper than an emergency trip to the hospital.

Republicans also argue that the Act gives government control over people's healthcare. The insurance companies are already in control! Here's my example. We renew our medical insurance every year. Our insurer, United Healthcare, finds reasons to increase the premium at each renewal. Last September, it not only increased premium but also the co-pays (payments for each visit to healthcare providers). Our co-pay for doctor's visits went up to $15 from $10 and for Urgent Care, from $20 to $40. A trip to the ER used to cost $75 as co-pay; now it is $125.

Shortly after the new premium and co-pays started, I received a letter informing me that my insurance would no longer cover Clarinex, the only medication that works for my allergies. I was advised to ask my doctor to prescribe a cheaper alternative. I had tried many 'cheaper alternatives' - Claritin, Zyrtec and Allertec - and none worked. I have since run out of Clarinex. If want more, I'll have to shell out $225 for a month's supply. Whether it's the government or insurance company, someone is controlling my healthcare. I choose the government.

To be continued.

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