Which Chair is More Important?

There has been quite a bit of fuss lately, and deservedly so, about the man who sits in the chair at right. As I have written before, I don’t find Rush Limbaugh and his particular brand of “entertainment” particularly compelling. I do believe that the biggest problem with Rush Limbaugh most likely lies in the liberal response to him – a deepening of an already polarized debate in America that causes people to become more and more closed-minded and obsessed about politics to the exclusion of other, much more pressing issues.

Chief among those issues, for me, is the man – or woman – who sits in this chair. I took this picture myself in an abandoned home that has been used as what has sometimes been called a shooting gallery. In the closets, rooms, and pantries of this home there are chairs like this one in front of tables filled with drug residue, spoons, cans, candles, and other materials used to shoot drugs. This house is not the only one like this in the city, and it’s not the only one I visit. I chose this picture because I find it particularly compelling. To get the full effect, you must remember that there is no power in these homes and so no lights, no heat, no running water. You also need to know what the rest of the building looks like.

The room with the chair in the picture above can be seen in the background of this picture, which doesn’t even begin to do justice to the condition of the property. The material on the floor used to be the walls and the ceiling, along with other household debris. The material on the stove is drug related, as well. Imagine you, your spouse or partner – or your child, in this home around midnight getting high: Complete darkness, complete cold, complete isolation from any hope of happiness. Then look at the man in the first picture again. Please tell me what matters more, the asinine rant of a talk show host or doing something to address the pain, hopelessness, and addiction that drives people to sit in places like this trying to ease their pain.

Of course, our society is blessed with more than its share of fools who will tell you that addiction isn’t a disease, it’s a choice, and so people choose to sit in homes like this one where they can just step over to the sink and get a drink of water – except that the pipes have been stolen along with the rest of the plumbing and this kitchen counter that sits just a few feet from the stove in the earlier picture shows evidence of more of the same pain and suffering.

Now please tell me how important hate peddlers like Rush Limbaugh, as well as those who expend all of their energy trying to depose people like him, are in the broader scheme of things. While you’re at it, please tell me why the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Churches have even a moment to spare from addressing real issues like this one to worry about birth control, or abortion, or who sleeps with whom? The truth is that you won’t find either of these asshats (Benedict XVI and Cardinal Dolan, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) or anyone who associates with them anywhere near a house like the one pictured above and so they have no idea what goes on in the real world. I suppose the message is that institutional religion these days has very little to do with the real world. It takes courage to step into the real world, and celibate males who spend their time in homes called “palaces” wearing dresses that cost more than most people’s house payments don’t usually count courage as one of their virtues.

Others would tell you the guys at the right are the answer, but we have spent decades fighting the “war on drugs” without any significant impact. The reason is quite obvious – as long as there is demand for anything, someone will find a way to supply the demand. Since addiction is an illness, the threat of imprisonment won’t impact it. Fifty billion dollars a year on a failed program. Who came up with such a foolish

idea, anyway? What kind of a paranoid, delusional fool would even consider such a bad idea?

Oh.

Forget I asked.

The important thing is that not only are the current interventions ineffective, they are enormously expensive. Imagine what we might accomplish if we took the fifty billion dollars a year flushed down the toilet that is the war on drugs and redirected it to treatment and employment programs. There would even be some left over to address the racist business practices in this country wherein most businesses have fled urban areas for the suburbs.

We might even get the Pope, or at least Cardinal Dolan, to pull his head out of wherever he keeps it long enough to take some of the money they are wasting on pointless, archaic issues of genitals and redirect it toward really making a difference in the lives of real people.

Not that I am giving you Evangelicals a pass on this. Instead of stomping around in public displays of self loathing or spending all of your money on steroids, you might just actually return to what used

to be the heart of the gospel. It’s asking a lot, I know, but consider these facts:

Allegedly, and unofficially, Eddie Long’s settlement with his accusers was for fifteen million dollars. An unconfirmed report indicates that Long is willing to let someone take over his ministry (which is kind of like taking over the job of the Captain of the Titanic) for a paltry three million dollars a month.

Just before the collapse of the PTL empire, Jim Bakker had to raise one million dollars per day just to stay afloat. Joel Osteen’s annual revenue is seventy-five million dollars. In 2001, the annual revenue of the Catholic Church in the United States was a paltry one hundred two billion dollars – and that number was down because of the sexual abuse scandal. Of course, they do have some expenses…

The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the end of 2011 was 1.29 trillion dollars.

Can we detect a trend? We have invested, as a people, a whole lot more money in charlatans – from Richard Nixon, to Pope Benedict, to Eddie Long, to Joel Osteen, to the Department of Defense – than in improving the quality of life for people in America, much less around the world. Make no mistake about it, this represents a moral failing for Americans. Remember this?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations
will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from
the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And
when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to
me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil
and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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