Saturday, March 29, 2008

Correspondence with Wal-Mart

I First Heard of the Issue on MSNBC's Countdown on Monday:

I figured public pressure would mount this week to make Wal-Mart reverse itself. Then today on CNN:

Further research led to this Wall Street Journal article. The following is today's correspondence with Wal-Mart:

Via the customer comment form found on the corporate website (which limits a comment to 500 characters) -

Low prices are not worth it. I cannot and will not support a multibillion dollar enterprise that sues someone for all their assets beyond their last penny, disabled OR healthy. I'm sorry that it won't cost you enough to make a difference but the next time I cross your threshold will be when I hear that the WalMart or Walton Foundation has granted the Shanks family $1 million dollars and a public apology. News quote:"We wish our plan was more flexible." It's YOUR plan. Make it more flexible.

Wal-Mart's response (commendably only two hours later) -

Dear Charles,

When our associates, or their family members, suffer injuries or medical conditions which are the responsibility of others, our plan steps in to pay covered medical expenses so the associate and their families don't have to worry about their bills or have large out-of-pocket expenses. It is only after the associate or their family member receives a monetary payment from the responsible party, that our health plan becomes entitled to reimbursement.

While the Shanks case involves a tragic situation, our responsibility is to follow the provisions of the plan which governs the health benefits of our associates. These plans are funded by associate premiums and company contributions. Any money recovered is returned to the health plan, not to the business. This is done out of fairness to everyone who contributes and benefits from the plan. The Supreme Court's denial of the Shank appeal concludes all litigation. The Court ruled that the benefit plan was entitled to the funds in the trust account, which was about $280,000, which is all it requested.

Thank you,
Wal-Mart Customer Relations

My response:

Since your response is signed "Wal-Mart Customer Relations", you will forgive me that I do not have the opportunity to presume to address you by your first name in a business correspondence.

The fact that the plan is "entitled to reimbursement" does not change the fact that a previously loyal customer is equally entitled to make the choice to no longer support your business.

Subrogation exists in order to assure that expenses are not paid for twice. It is slick slight of hand to claim that a settlement needed to pay for long-term costs otherwise shifted onto the back of the public through Medicaid are a "second payment" of expenses paid by the insurer.

To exercise a right and to be in the right are two different things.

As Wal-Mart has chosen to exercise a right, I, too, will exercise my right to not support that choice and to direct others to information which will empower them to choose how they might respond to your corporation's choice.

As I exercise my right of choice, I will sleep comfortably assured that exercising this right is to be also in the right.

Rev. Charles B. Roberts

To the associate who reads this email:
It is not to you personally that I express my displeasure but to those above you who hold the power to do to you exactly what they are doing to Mrs. Shank. My prayers are with you and your fellow associates. Those who claim to be protecting you may someday come knocking on your door to take the food from your child's mouth or force you to choose to divorce your spouse so that Medicaid will pay more for your long-term care.

I'll update you if more transpires.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Examining the Repulsive

This past Monday I came across a Palm Sunday sermon preached by Kim Fabricious. The sermon makes reference to a painting I'd never before encountered.

Hans Holbein: The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb
(please click this link to enlarge and study closer)
I was viscerally repulsed by what I saw. It disturbed me deeply. I was feeling bad physically anyway because it was an MS shot day and, unbeknownst to me, my gall bladder was in the process of introducing its dark side to me in an attack that would lead to its removal this past Thursday. (I'm sure I'll post more on that adventure later.) The sermon, in general, and the painting, in particular, formed the core of my talks with my counselor on Tuesday. MS treatment side effects and the poisoning of my body by the then unrealized gall bladder disease converging with my Holy Week thoughts pulled me into the deep, dark, cold place between the cross and the resurrection. It is a profoundly sad place and Holbein's depiction of the body of Jesus in the tomb tears at me.
Reflecting on Easter worship I remember growing up Baptist, I struck me early on in my ministry that we did a good job celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday but, with the exception of whatever Good Friday songs there might be in that particular year's musical or pageant, we pretty much went from celebration to celebration without dwelling for a time on the signficance of the second day ... the day in the tomb.
Holbein's painting is immediately recognizable as a depiction of Jesus, his visible hand, his feet and side pierced, his mouth gaped open and his eyes staring blankly upward in death.
But the hand, the pierced hand by his side is locked in position that looks to us in our culture like one of the most common and crude gestures of our culture. How dare he?
Holbein painted this work in 1521 when a deep Christian symbology was at work. Michael Onfrey teaches us more about what is really at work in the significance of position of the hand.

...everything is symbol, allegory; everything says something other than its initial meaning; everything hides and reveals, speaks and is silent; everything murmurs to the ear that is capable of hearing. But who is still capable of hearing today?

The hand is no longer the hand, it is more than the hand; the middle finger is not the middle finger, but more than the middle finger. Namely? Within this allegorical configuration, each finger has meaning. The hand? The soul, the principle of life. The fingers? The opportunity for a spiritual exercise - a mnemonic technique inherited from the ancients. The thumb? "Give thanks."The index finger? "Strive to reach the light."The ring finger? "Suffer, regret."The little finger? "Offer, propose, show, present." And the middle finger, then? "Examine, weigh." A lesson in edification.

Consequently, the extended middle finger in Holbein's painting, as one might have imagined, has nothing to do with the phallic hand. At the epicentre of the work, Holbein is saying to us: "Look and conclude: examine."

The Race Speech from Tuesday

From Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish last night:
The latest CBS News poll on the Wright speech suggests that Obama scored well. 71 percent thought he did a good job explaining his relationship with Wright, with 24 percent saying a poor job. 63 percent mostly agreed with his views on race. The poll shows no real shift from the speech in voters' intent to vote for him or not vote for him. (emphasis mine)

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Context

Sour candy provides a jolt to the senses but does nothing to nourish the body. Likewise, recent soundbites of Jeremiah Wright shock our sensibilities but they have done nothing to nourish our understanding of the core message from which they are clipped.

Even within their context, the bites are hard to take but will you have enough courage to take time to hear them in a fuller context?

Is it not possible to love your country SO MUCH that you find it not only possible but necessary to look for and name her failures and shortcomings. Is it unpatriotic to recognize our weaknesses and work for a "more perfect union"?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Faith is a Risk

Faith is a risk, and discipleship demands that we learn to live with insecurity and uncertainty, setting out on a journey without a map, with companions who are as lost as we are, following a leader who is always way ahead of us, beckoning mysteriously, “Follow me!”, and then vanishing just as we arrive. God is mystery, ineffable mystery, naming a reality that we know, but the more we know, the more we are forced to un-know and rethink everything we thought we knew.

- Kim Fabricius' Palm Sunday Sermon

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Almost 4000

Please don't leave this post without clicking this link for the list.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

Obama on Education

About three minutes in, he really gets going.

They know. Why don't we?

Folks, the world knows what this (the church) is supposed to look like. Years ago in New York City, I got into a taxi cab with an Iranian taxi driver, who could hardly speak English. I tried to explain to him where I wanted to go, and as he was pulling his car out of the parking place, he almost got hit by a van that on its side had a sign reading The Pentecostal Church. He got real upset and said, "That guy’s drunk." I said, "No, he’s a Pentecostal. Drunk in the spirit, maybe, but not with wine." He asked, "Do you know about church?" I said, "Well, I know a little bit about it; what do you know?" It was a long trip from one end of Manhattan to the other, and all the way down he told me one horror story after another that he’d heard about the church. He knew about the pastor that ran off with the choir master's wife, the couple that had burned the church down and collected the insurance—every horrible thing you could imagine. We finally get to where we were going, I paid him, and as we’re standing there on the landing I gave him an extra-large tip. He got a suspicious look in his eyes—he’d been around, you know. I said, "Answer me this one question." Now keep in mind, I’m planning on witnessing to him. "If there was a God and he had a church, what would it be like?" He sat there for awhile making up his mind to play or not. Finally he sighed and said, "Well, if there was a God and he had a church—they would care for the poor, heal the sick, and they wouldn’t charge you money to teach you the Book." I turned around and it was like an explosion in my chest. "Oh, God." I just cried, I couldn’t help it. I thought, "Oh Lord, they know. The world knows what it’s supposed to be like. The only ones that don’t know are the Church."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Matthew 28:19

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Potential Excommunication Alert!!!!
I've been a lifelong, cooperating (albeit sometimes begrudgingly), Southern Baptist. I've been trained in Sunday School Board organized Sunday Schools and Church Training from nursery upward, educated in a Tennessee Baptist college and the mother of Southern Baptist seminaries to believe that believers are baptized by immersion, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit upon public profession of faith.
The Greek, baptizo, means to immerse, to cover completely in liquid. Baptizo is not to be confused with bapto.

The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptized' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptizing the vegetable, produces a permanent change.

Bible Study magazine, May, 1989

Ergo our practice of baptism by full immersion with ritual words revolving around the phrase "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
I am coming to believe that, while this practice certainly doesn't hurt in and of itself, it may be standing in the way of another, possibly more complete understanding of the command for disciples to be baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

To immerse also means to engage wholly. How can this definition inform our understanding of Matthew 28:19?

Does in the name of really mean simply that we are to use the words Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our ritual? Or might it convey something more rich and full?

We have come to understand that, in the context of scripture, names are given and often changed in order to communicate some aspect of role or character. For example, in Genesis 17:5 we read: No longer will you be called Abram [exalted father] ; your name will be Abraham, [father of many] for I have made you a father of many nations.

Could it be that Matthew 28:19 is a definition of what it means to be a disciple in addition to (or maybe instead of??) a direct command to perform a particular ritual?

Go and make disciples. Introduce all nations to God through His Son, Jesus. Model for them and assist them in engaging fully with and being totally absorbed by the character of God, His Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Oh. And if the ritual of immersing them in water helps in this command, that's OK, too.