I’ve spent a lot of time in my scholarship of religion observing the spiritual practice of imprecatory prayer—calling down curses, terror, and even death on those you see as God’s enemy. Those who use it look to scripture—particularly Psalm 55, 58, 68, 69, 83, and 109—for models of how we can ask God to destroy God’s enemies (who, of course, also happen to be the enemies of the one praying).
Most Christians probably agree that praying for our enemies’ death is un-Christlike. After all, Jesus instructed his followers, in direct opposition to Old Testament scriptures, to pray for their enemies, to give them your coat if he demands your shirt, to walk an extra mile with them; oh, and he prayed, at his death, for God to forgive them. So, yeah, it is rather un-Christlike, to pray for death and suffering for others. (Of course, most Christians also support war and the death penalty, even though they don’t think Jesus would, and they support torture—the chosen method of death for their Savior—at a higher rate than non-Christians.)
But I’m going to do it anyway. I’m starting with Mitch McConnell, but I’ll make it to every single Senator—real “workers of iniquity”—who, in the middle of the night, voted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Today is Lamar Alexander, tomorrow John Barrasso, and eventually, I’ll get to Todd Young. I hope, in 51 days, every Senator—all Republicans—who voted against it is as dead as Jehoram (Cause of death: “thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.”)
Question: Is it worse to pray that God would kill the 51 Senators who are working to harm children and the poor? Or is it worse that 51 Senators are willing to kill 45,000 Americans a year45,000 Americans a year because they love ideology more than Americans? Above, Senators McConnell (the least popular member of the Senate), Alexander, Barrasso, and Blunt, who are in my prayers this week.
These cowards did not wait, as some Republicans wanted, until a new plan was in place because they have no desire to implement a new plan. They know the tremendous financial cost of blowing up Obamacare, but they are doing it because they do not care about the cost, and they are lying whenever they say that they want to bring government spending under control. They only care about one thing: maintaining a system that affirms the wealthy as good and the poor as bad. And when you are bad, you deserve death.
Without the benefit of a trial, they sentenced Americans to death. They know it. They don’t care. Or, rather, the death of the poor is their goal because, in their Social Darwinist dystopia, the poor deserve it. These are people who cheer for the death—“Let him die!”—of those without health care coverage.
They strip young people of health care benefits because they believe young people are lazy and so deserve to die. Republicans will never take responsibility for their role in a financial system that insures that an increasing number of young people will never be as well off as their parents, so instead they call Millennials “whiners” and “special snowflakes” who won’t work hard. Get them off their parents’ healthcare and let them die.
They do not believe that women’s lives are, very simply, harder than men’s, and that hardship is worsened by unplanned pregnancies. Women who need birth control to avoid pregnancy and abortion—let them die.
People with pre-existing conditions? Their bad luck to be born with the wrong genes. Let them die.
But something even bigger was murdered in the middle-of-the-night vote: a sense of citizenship that says we have common cause and that, no matter our political differences, being an American means you care for other Americans, for their health and safety. Republican Senators revealed that they neither want to make America great nor that they are for “America first.” But this is not new.
In 2012 oral arguments at the Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act, Justice Alito, capturing Republicans’ disregard of citizenship, wondered why “a young, healthy individual” should be forced to “subsidize services that will be received by somebody else.” The implication was that this was unfair. As a young, healthy person, I am the target for Alito’s argument. It should appeal to me.
But only if I think fairness is about “getting my fair share”—and never giving more than what I take. And if I think that way, I’m a pretty awful citizen. In fact, I’d dare say that a person who thinks like this isn’t a citizen at all.
It wasn’t so long ago that even Republicans could agree that most of us sometimes—and the luckiest of us all the time—could, with pride, give more than we take. We would “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Now, we are encouraged even by our Supreme Court Justices to live with a fear that somewhere, someone might need us, maybe even in a way that requires sacrifice. And we should look upon them not with solidarity but with resentment.
But reality is that I receive benefits I can never pay for from my fellow citizens. The clearest example is the wages we pay to police, firefighters, and those in the military. No wages can compensate them for the risks they take, and the fact is, we don’t even try, which is why so many in our military live in poverty. But many of us benefit from the work these people do—a benefit I do not adequately pay for.
Please understand: the same avarice and solipsism that underpin the logic of the ACA repeal will eventually be used to undermine every publicly-funded endeavor. This is the thinking of warlords, not lovers of democracy.
To Alito’s question—“Don’t you think it’s unfair to pay for services you don’t receive?”—the answer isn’t “Let them die!” It’s “I’m proud to care for my fellow citizens.” As a young healthy person with no direct benefit from the ACA, I’m proud to help young people, poor people, and people with pre-existing health conditions afford insurance. It may surprise Ben Carson, but most of us want a government that works for the benefit of the citizens. And it’s not just because one day I AM going to be old and sick and likely unable to pay for the cost of care. It’s because, right now, it is my duty as a good citizen to care for others.
If you think it’s wrong for me to wish death on Mitch McConnell—and not just wish it, but to ask God for it—then you surely must think it is wrong for McConnell and others in Congress to attack the basic premise of our social contract: that we insure that each other can live.