This in not a time for silence

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(NNPA)—During the fierce battle with the Amalekites, when Moses raised his hands the Israelites won, but when he tired and dropped them, his enemies won. So Moses’ brother Aaron and Hur, a friend, stood with Moses and kept his hands raised until their side had the victory.

In this fierce battle over health care, African-American religious leaders must not only pray but also get in the battle and support their brother President Barack Obama so he will not become overwhelmed by his enemies and lose this battle and the war.

This battle is about health care reform, but the war is much greater. As Rush Limbaugh and the political right have made clear, the war is the defeat of the Obama presidency and the destruction of all avenues of help and prosperity for the poor and middle-class Americans.

In the president’s recent teleconference with religious leaders, he framed the health care reform battle as a core ethical and moral obligation.

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As someone invited on the call, I saw it as a call to “peaceful arms” for African-American pastors to include the health care issue in their sermons, to educate their congregations and then as peaceful warriors to move from the pews into the streets to protest the fabrications being whipped up by selfish extremists.

Attorney E. Faye Williams, president of the National Congress of Black Women, who is also a minister and a leader in health care reform said, “The role of religious leaders is to look out for their congregants. This is a life and death issue, which also affects pastors, especially those with small congregations. For example, recently I went to fill a prescription for eye drops. I don’t have prescription insurance. It costs $700. This took a big chunk out of my wallet, but I know many people who have to go without life changing and life saving medications. We are all in this together.”

This is not a time for silence. First of all, the conservatives are moving the focus from the main issues to the silly lane. Instead of focusing on taming the stranglehold that insurance companies have on our health care, the GOP is purposefully misconstruing President Obama’s health package with death panels, rationing end-of-life care and expanding abortions.

This needless noise and drama are aimed at burying the real issues:  47 million without coverage; 14,000 Americans losing their insurance daily; the Urban Institute states that the lack of insurance leads to 27,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. each year and medical bills are behind more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies annually.

In addition, men carrying semi-automatic assault rifles are showing up at town hall meetings, where local laws permit. While much of the worry has been correctly aimed at protecting the president, what about the safety of the rest of us from those who seem bent on raising the spectrum of terrorism against others exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.

This show of arms evokes painful memories of how terrorists took the law into their own hands, lynched thousands of African-Americans, murdered civil rights workers and chased Black politicians out of office during post-Reconstruction.

This is an excellent example of what happens when self-interest narrow groups gain a chokehold on public policy which is exactly what could happen if the president does not stand up to the massive financially armed lobby groups that are pressuring the Congress to cave-in to their selfish aims.

These lobby groups are hell-bent on forcing the president to back away from his promise to support an optional public governmental-sponsored health option that would create competition and keep big insurance companies “honest.” I would also like to hear stronger promises from the president that this anti-government bandwagon won’t eventually cut into the government-run Medicare program, a vital lifeline to seniors.I resent how these demonstrations are to some extent orchestrated and pushed by the insurance industry and other health care lobbyists that have a strong financial stake in maintaining the status quo. For every lawmaker in Congress, there are about six lobbyists pushing their health care priorities, according to a Bloomberg News investigation released recently. That’s about 3,300 registered health care lobbyists working Capitol Hill, to influence 100 senators and 435 representatives,

If the health care battle is lost, I fear the war might be lost as well. Programs poised to save the environment could crash. Big banks will continue to win, but homeowners will still face evictions and foreclosures. People will still die too young and too soon. Students will still graduate from schools where diplomas aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

All this means that people of faith, especially the religious left, must help President Obama stay strong and lifted up, while there is still time for victory to be won.

(Dr. Barbara Reynolds is an ordained elder in a Pentecostal church in Washington DC, a graduate of two seminaries, an author of five books and writes on religion issues for the National Newspaper Publishers Association.)

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