Blue-letter Theists: An Open Letter

I wrote a letter to my congressmen last week. It is my first attempt at affecting the political process, although I know full well that it will be read by an aide, deleted half-read, and that I will receive a reply along the lines of “Thank you for your input. Lolz!”

What I am enamored with is my coining of the phrase “Blue-pencil Theists.” I feel that it encapsulates modern day Christian conservatism, which expurgates the Bible to justify a partisan political agenda in true Pre-Enlightenment fashion. Blue pencils were once commonly used when making corrections to a manuscript. The term has since become a metaphor. A blue-pencil theist is a selective believer in expedient doctrines of moral convenience. With one broad stroke, the blue pencil abolishes the red-lettered, Biblical teachings of Jesus Christ. What remains is purple prose and legalism that can be hurled like barbed invective. It is the antithesis of Red-letter Christianity, an emergent movement that is itself a refutation of politicized evangelicalism. As with the legal concept of “blue pencil doctrine,” God’s covenant is rendered only partially enforceable. I’m trying to think of a good example . . .

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The complete letter is as follows:

My name is Derek Kagemann, and I am a constituent in Indiana’s 9th District. My attitudes regarding these matters represent our household of four.

Last year, police arrested a student at Bedford North Lawrence High School for plotting a shooting. We are fortunate that students and officers cooperated to avert this crisis, but flagging a landmine does not equate to clearing the minefield. Three years ago, the CDC ranked Indiana as the worst state in the country for bullying. State legislation now requires schools to report bullying, and so, many schools in your district now obfuscate these incidents by haranguing students who report a problem. This pervasive culture further disenfranchises students. In 2014, teenagers in Lawrence County murdered a man and stole money and guns from his home. The means and motive are present for a school shooting. It is a question of when.

Please take action to enact gun control laws. There has to be a point when Republicans start valuing life outside of the womb and interpret the 2nd Amendment as a collective, not individual, right. If not, could you please ask your colleagues to stop referring to themselves as “Christians.” Explaining this discrepancy has become embarrassing for those of us who try to emulate Christ’s example. May I suggest “Blue-pencil Theists” as an alternative. If you guys are going to parse the 2nd Amendment into two separate clauses then at least start regulating our militias, because the proliferation of anti-government, white supremacist militias is nearly as unsettling as mentally ill teenagers with the right to bear arms and discharge them in a public space. Much like a blatantly out-of-context Bible verse, it seems like the first half of that amendment is not enforced as fervently as the half that validates our worst impulses.

Secondly, I recall naively conjecturing as a young man that cutting a criminal’s hand off would be an effective deterrent to crime. The counterpoint to that argument was that anyone missing a hand would then be deemed a criminal. Veterans and machinists who lost a hand performing an important service would be regarded as pariahs. We face a similar dilemma with the present opioid crisis. The media is quick to cite a drug epidemic, and our president has suggested a Duterte-esque death penalty approach as a solution. I am glad that my perspective matured with age, because chopping off hands and heads is a solution best reserved for Conan movies and third-world dictators.

What I see now are insurance companies using this crisis as an opportunity to stop covering medications that are vital for the well-being of those with legitimate pain conditions, like crippling rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and cluster headaches. Like the aforementioned hand-less veteran or machinist, these people face a social stigma based in chronic conditions that drastically diminish their quality of life but have few visible symptoms that would validate their disorder in the eyes of a layperson. I have been shocked to discover how many of my neighbors with legitimate medical conditions are now struggling to pay for medicines that doctors are increasingly unable to prescribe. These people don’t want to take pain medicines, it is not a moral failing on their part, and treating pain that would otherwise leave them disabled or drive them to suicide is not part of a cycle of abuse.

Contrary to Ben Carson, poverty is not a choice or a state of mind. A person saddled with a disabling condition gifts those with talented hands cause to practice their vocation. The former party is tasked with suffering the human condition, while the latter party is burdened with the moral imperative of humbling oneself in service to the needy. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:45, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Please remember that what you do for the least of your constituents determines your legacy as a politician, as well as your worth as a human being. We find an avenue to escape poverty only when afforded human dignity as a foothold. That fundamental value, upon which our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is contingent, is steadily being eroded. Things that you take for granted — getting out of bed, urinating without pain, having functional limbs — are overwhelming obstacles in the daily lives of people that you represent. It is easy to take that for granted.

Thank you for your time.

Best Regards,
Derek Kagemann

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