Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Love Your Neighbor

Recently, in my little town, we were asked to vote about an additional tax that would bring public transportation to our town, connecting us with the nearby city where many people work. The tax would have amounted $120 per year for a $200,000 house.

Now of course, if you have read my blog in the past, you realize that I am not particularly unbiased where public transportation is concerned. For a substantial part of the year, I take the bus to work, although I drive to get to the nearest stop. So I am a believer in the importance of the city bus.

What is impossible not to notice when I do ride the bus, is the number of people who, unlike me, have no choice. This is, in fact, their only means of transportation. Many of them have to transfer routes, wait in the rain, and spend more than an hour getting to a place that would probably take only 15 minutes if they could drive a car.

Some of the people on the bus have lost their driver’s license for one reason or another. Some are simply unable to drive because of physical or mental disabilities. Some are too young to drive. But what is characteristic of nearly all of the riders, is that if they want to get to work, school, a doctor’s appointment, or even the welfare office, the only way to do it is via public transportation.

Enter the Tea Party. Worse yet, enter the local Tea Party pastor. Yes, I did say pastor.

Just days before the election, one of our local pastors who identified himself as a co-organizer of the local Tea Party, wrote a letter to the editor of our paper. In it, he urges voters to “vote no on this request.” The reason? Affirming the proposal for public transportation would “increase the size of government and taxes.”  He asks, “If we are fed up with the size, growth, and cost of government elsewhere, why would we vote for a government-run, tax-funded public transportation system?”

Well Pastor Tyler, perhaps because we care about those around us who do not have access to transportation without such a system. Unless of course, you are proposing to organize your parishioners to provide such a system to those who cannot get their children to the doctor, are unable to find reliable transportation to work, or even are unable to find a way to get to church on Sunday.  And maybe you would be on the top of the list of those willing to spend several hours a week driving the elderly, disabled, and others who cannot drive to their destinations.

Not that I’m cynical, but I doubt that our good pastor thought that far. After all, doesn’t everybody have a car or relatives to take them where they need to go? And if they don’t, isn’t that their fault? And why should I pay for them to get to work? Wouldn’t I rather complain about all those people on public assistance who are “too lazy” to get jobs and just ignore the reality that without transportation, they can’t work?

I wonder whether the pastor thought about how the non-Christian community would view a church that is so myopic that they cannot see the most basic needs around them. I wonder how the church's message of “love your neighbor” sounds to those people. I have a pretty good guess.

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