This post has been cross-posted with MFSA's blog, found at http://www.mfsaweb.org/.
Yesterday was the Prayerful Witness on Health Care at the Supreme Court building, and the staff of the Methodist Federation for Social Action made it a priority to be there. Yesterday (March 26) through Wednesday (March 28) the Supreme Court will be hearing challenges to the Affordable Care Act which, when fully implemented, would prevent insurance companies from charging women higher premiums than men and would ensure that access to healthcare is not determined by socioeconomic status.
This was my first time attending a witness event, so I have to admit that I was nervous as we approached the crowds. I didn’t participate as fully or as loudly as many people did, including my fellow staff members, but just having the chance to be there and to observe and reflect was the highlight of my day. I loved having the opportunity to watch hundreds of people stand up for what they believe is right and to ground it in the faith that is such an important part of their lives. Two things occurred to me as I listened to the speakers and watched the crowds sing and pray together.
The first thing struck me as I watched counter-protesters start to congregate and listened to arguments begin: it is so easy for us to fall into the trap of polarizing issues when there is so much that we could be agreeing on. I don’t think that anyone would argue that some people shouldn’t have access to healthcare, but we get sidetracked about controversial things like abortion and contraception and all progress gets suspended. This isn’t to say that the issues that divide us aren’t important—we wouldn’t be so defensive about them if they weren’t—but it struck me that even among people of faith we are quick to jump to disagreements rather than starting from a point of connection. As we get closer to what could be a particularly divisive General Conference I think this will be more important than ever.
The second thing I realized is how important it is just to show up. So much of the power of a witness really does lie in numbers, in people who show up to say that real people really do care about this issue. The decision made this week in the Supreme Court and the decisions made at General Conference this summer are going to affect countless lives in very real ways. Every person that decides that she or he doesn't need to show up to be seen and heard around the issues that are dear to them makes it just a little bit easier for those issues to be glossed over.
Whatever issues are near to your heart at General Conference or just in your everyday life, I hope that you find the strength to show up and talk about them. I hope that we as the Church can find the humility to start from a place of oneness and to share honestly our hopes and fears about our future. I hope that, wherever you are, you are fully present.
Heather Kramer is a second year Masters of Divinity and Masters of Theological Studies student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC., where she is also the youth minister at Dumbarton United Methodist Church and an intern at the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA). In her free time (ha!) she tries to read, work for justice, and blogs at The Story I Find Myself In.