We ain’t rats, we people!

“We ain’t rats! we people!”

A person in my neighborhood said that to me. This person was venting, or maybe lamenting (is vementing a word?), about the way people are treated. It seemed to this person that most of our societal institutions, from healthcare to government, treat people as experiments instead of as people. We are lab rats to these institutions, they were saying.

“We ain’t rats! We people!”

With all of the debates we have going on right now in our culture it seems like we have lost sight of the fact that we ain’t rats, we people. Hear any politics argument and eventually someone will make reference to some theoretical problem or large groups of people. The debate over whether transgender people quickly turned to debates about process, effectiveness, and the eleven thousand who already serve. There was very little acknowledgment that we are talking about real people with real lives who might be actually known as friends, families, and loved ones.

Healthcare was another one. The debate centered around numbers and whether millions will actually loose insurance or not, what the consequences of that for the market are, and whether those 20 million will affect the midterms. It centered around medicaid cuts and talked about whether we could afford medicaid any longer. Rarely, however, is there any acknowledgment that we are talking about real people with real lives.

If we are honest, Church folk are not exempt from this problem. Baptism does not mean that one is immune to thinking about “those problem people over there.” I hear more talk in the church about “those people” than I do anywhere else. The list ranges from millennials to people on welfare. “Those people” get thought of as a theoretical problem to be solved instead of actual human beings. The church often forgets that “we ain’t rats, we human.”

The problem I had with these debates was that these people are real for me. People who need medicaid to get by are not just some abstract number for me. They are real. They are my parishioners whom I’m in honest relationship with. Policy proposals that sound far away are very near to me.

So as debates over healthcare and everything else continue. As the the church continues to wrestle with what it means to be changing and exist in a changing world. If you, dear reader, feel lost in all this  then let me give you a good place to start.

Remember that people who are a part of the medicaid program are real people, not an abstract.

Remember that people who are transgender are real people first, and not a problem to be solved.

Remember that the opposite side from you is a person and not an issue.

Remember: we ain’t rats, we people.

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