Ever the Don Quixote, the National Council of Churches is determined that Americans WILL, despite their reservations, have health care reform. Accordingly the NCC has declared this “Nationwide Faith Call-in Week for Health Care,” and urges…well, you can guess:

Over the past year, millions of Americans have joined together in witness to the desperate need of children and families for affordable health care.  After decades of work, and a historic grassroots effort this year, advocates for national health care reform have come further than ever before toward enduring and meaningful change.

Congress, which had reached the final stages of passing health care reform legislation, is now at a standstill as the Senate leadership lost the 60th vote it needed.  In this partisan climate people of faith and others of goodwill join together to remind Congress of the moral imperative of insuring that none of our brothers or sisters are left sick or dying due to insufficient access to quality, affordable to health care.

Amidst the boilerplate I was amused to hear about “this partisan climate,” considering the only reason health care reform wasn’t passed in 2009 is that Democrats couldn’t agree among themselves about what to do. Anyway:

As Christians we believe in a kingdom of God, in which we each will live in fellowship and solidarity with others, and embody the healing ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We know that God will someday deliver us to this kingdom, and in gratitude for that promised act we work to embody its likeness in this moment.  Passage of  meaningful health care reform would be one such a testament done in faith and love.

This is about as theological as the NCC ever gets, and it shows. How passing a federal program of unimaginable complexity and doubtful efficacy, enormous cost and questionable constitutionality (and that will still leave millions without health insurance) would be bringing into existence a “likeness” of the Kingdom of God is anybody’s guess.

In this spirit, the National Council of Churches joins other faith organizations and allied partners in asking all to call their U.S. House representative and senators and urge them to act with courage and mercy by enacting health care legislation now.  Remind them that families are still struggling to access and afford health care.  As people of faith and their constituents, we still need and expect reform.

So call your congresscritters, because they are much more responsive to phone calls than election results that make them break out in a cold sweat. Anyway, here’s what in some ways is the most interesting part of this press release:

Members of Congress can be reached toll-free at 866-699-9243, courtesy of the SEIU Faith Initiative, or via the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. [Emphasis added.]

The “SEIU” is the Service Employees International Union.” It was Barack Obama’s single biggest supporter in the presidential election, spending $85 million to elect him and other Democrats. I don’t know what the “SEIU Faith Initiative” is, except that there’s nothing about it on the SEIU Web site, it doesn’t have one of its own, and the only evidence of it is the signature of someone named Cliff Frasier (“Faith Coordinator”) on a number of petitions and letters. I do know that the SEIU was in the middle of the attempted payoff to unions that would have exempted their members from taxes that lots of other Americans would have paid on “Cadillac” health insurance plans. I do know the SEIU been involved in unethical if not illegal campaign practices and coercive attempts at unionizing unwilling workers. Its members have on occasion used violence to stifle dissent and achieve its goals. Is this really the kind of “partner” that the National Council of Churches wants to be in bed with as it pursues its public policy goals?

UPDATE: I found out who Cliff Frasier is:

Rev. Cliff Frasier, of the United Church of Christ, is the Faith Initiative Coordinator of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU is the nation’s largest union of health care workers. From 1995 through 2004, Rev. Frasier served Presbyterian and UCC churches in pastoral and program positions. He is a member of The Riverside Church in New York City.

He’s a certified Obama worshiper, as excerpts from a piece of his at ArtDish indicates:

But Obama has already risen above the symbolic level and has entered into the iconic realm prior to taking the oath of office. We can almost surely say this even without the benefit of hindsight. He has joined the subset of Presidents whose images stand for much more than their cabinets and slices-in-time of American executive leadership.

Political icons are super-charged symbols that tell a story about public values. They are historically fixed, and as such are capable of informing new generations. Political icons are familiar to nearly all citizens, regardless of educational level. When ordinary people gaze upon them, little or nothing may be known about the subject’s original career but nevertheless citizens have ideas and feelings about what the image “means.”…

As Obama takes his place within the constellation of presidential icons, my argument is that his phenomenal lift-off was fueled, in part, by signifiers suggesting spiritual and even savior qualities. But this is not an adequate explanation. His talent in the form of charisma, intellect, organizing skill, and command of rhetoric must take most of the credit for his iconographic rise, in tandem with his shattering of racial-ethnic barriers – themes widely recognized. Even if, by some malignant fate, he falls from grace within the next four to eight years, I argue that these themes collectively will secure his image within the American consciousness in perpetuity….

The Harvard philosopher and aesthetician Elaine Scarry, in her book On Beauty and Being Just, theorizes links between aesthetics and ethics, implicitly challenging the Kiergegaardian separation of these two fields into an irreconcilable “Either/Or.” She argues that insofar as beautiful phenomena suggest the concepts of relational symmetry and reproduction, the experience of such phenomena presses us over wide arcs of time towards creating symmetry (“fairness”) within social relations.

Is it possible that Obama — in the company of precious few American leaders before him — manages to synthesize subtly in his person the aesthetic and the ethical realms? Is it possible that his iconic quality draws energy from such a synthesis, hardly acknowledged among the public but felt nonetheless?

Yeah, I know–gag me. But I’m sure he fits right in with the folks at the NCC. But while I could find out about him, still nothing substantive about the “SEIU Faith Initiative.” Must be an underground movement.

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