It wasn’t very long after their introduction that Stephanie Phillips and Juliet Vedral realized they were long-lost soul sisters. Except in one major area: Stephanie is a Republican from a red state and Juliet a Democrat from a blue state. Well, this was an unwelcome wrinkle in the metaphorical traveling pants that formed the basis of their sisterhood. After much sackcloth, ashes, and prayers (on both sides) for the other to realize the error of her ways, the Soul Sisters decided to take a cue from their shared faith and seek a common ground. This is the first in a series of dialogues they’ve chosen to call “Everybody’s A Little Bipartisan.” (Just saying).
2:01 PM Stephanie: You’re red. am I interrupting?
Juliet: Nope! Ready to go!
Stephanie: I guess the first thing I would do would be to quote Taylor Swift: Mitt, “Why you gotta be so mean?”
2:24 PM I think David Brooks was gracious when he didn’t attack Romney as a person. His appraisal of Mitt as a kind person actually made me realize there’s a similarity–I think–between Romney and McCain: they have both moved to the right since winning the nomination, even though it fits neither of them too well. Seems awkward and clunky because they’re actually both pretty moderate.
2:25 PM Juliet: I find that really frustrating. In order to be elected, you need to appeal to the worst of each party. Although, I think for Democrats, if you can be more moderate, you have a better shot than appearing too liberal.
2:26 PM Stephanie: That’s true, at least in this election cycle where we have a Democratic president and all the Republicans think we have to counter him with the most conservative candidate possible.
2:27 PM Juliet: After hearing Rick Santorum’s comments about not attracting “smart people” I was kind of offended and saddened on behalf of my Republican friends (like you). In other words, it seemed like he was boasting that “we can only win with the ‘dumb people’ who won’t ask critical questions.”
But let’s talk about that major issue, the 47%. As a progressive, I support the existence of a safety net, but there need to be ways to give people the dignity of earning a paycheck.
2:34 PM As someone receiving unemployment insurance…and who in the past has had to use Medicaid…these programs are not cushy. They are dehumanizing. There may be kind and decent people who work for them and administer them, but you are still treated like a criminal for using government services.
2:35 PM I could see how, over time, that just makes you give up and say “well fuck that. I’ll just keep getting my check and live my life” because you feel hopeless and beaten down.
2:36 PM So, those programs are not long-term sustainable solutions.
2:40 PM Stephanie: I would be interested to hear more about your perspective on how you’re treated as a recipient. It makes me think about how I treat the patients/parents at my workplace, which is a pediatric dental clinic that is about 90% Medicaid. And I have to tell you (uh oh, is my mic on?), the attitudes some of these parents have…and it may be a reflection of that “fuck that” response you mentioned…it just burns me up. There is a sense of entitlement from some, and a real appreciation from others–but mostly entitlement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to interrupt a mom who was on her iphone to explain treatment about her child, or try to find a dad who left his child in treatment so he could go to Starbucks, or who ends the appointment by walking out to his luxury SUV. I’ve been yelled at and threatened. and I don’t want to be all, “woe is me,” and I hear you and am obviously talking about only part of that population, but there is legit frustration on both sides because it is a very imperfect safety net.
2:41 PM Juliet: Believe me, I know that people game the system.
And I know that not everyone uses that money appropriately.
2:43 PM I think what cuts to the heart is that you feel ashamed for having to be…poor and maybe you feel a little defiant. To protect yourself.
That’s my assessment–not necessarily based on extensive interviews.
2:44 PM I think that there need to be programs that enable people to find their potential and work.
2:45 PM It’s not just to provide taxpayer relief, as much as…every person has a purpose and is made in the image of God. So every person has something that they should contribute.
For their own dignity and God’s glory.
2:46 PM Not to glorify work. But I see the dignity of it and how, until I did TWR, I was feeling pretty shitty about myself.
2:49 PM Stephanie: That’s what David Brooks said well too–people need motivation and ambition. And a comment like the “47%” remark does not provide that. But neither does an entitlement system that provides fish rather than classes on how to fish. It’s why I love programs like Habitat for Humanity, that provide houses for the working poor. I know some people can’t find work, but I think it’s important to recognize people who are trying. Ambition cannot be provided solely by government. but some individuals need help finding it.
Juliet: The message behind Mitt’s comments is what I believe the problem really is.
We have a culture in America of seeing poverty as a sin or a crime.
Maybe that goes back to our Puritan roots. Those wonderful, witch-hunting roots.
Anyway, my point is, we view poverty as evidence of something wrong.
And in light of the “welfare state” we also see it as evidence of laziness and criminality.
Because I am evidence that you can play by all the right rules and still find yourself on unemployment for over 6 months.
2:59 PM Stephanie: you know, I despised socialism all my life–then I moved to NYC and lived paycheck to paycheck. and I walked down Park Avenue and thought, “couldn’t you spare a little dough for a poor dentist?” I feel that one of the inevitable consequences of capitalism is tension between classes as we live side by side in such differing conditions. but there needs to be a “we” mentality that isn’t socialism–because I could never condone that and all of this rides on my approval–and I think that’s what the private sector (read: CHURCHES) have done such a shitty job taking responsibility for. if you look at the cross, you cannot NOT help your fellow man. meanwhile, we’re watching msnbc and fox news instead.
3:00 PM Juliet: Ha! Excellent point!
I hate that we’ve conflated “we” and “us” and working together with socialism.
And I hate that the church has appropriated capitalism as “Christian.”
3:01 PM At least the American church.
Because you see in countries like Great Britain–after WWII, they had no choice but to band together and work that shit out.
3:06 PM Stephanie: The early church looks pretty socialist from where we stand–sharing resources and money, pooling everything–while also embracing “capitalist” ideals of individual contribution. I mean, even John Donne, a poet and godly man, was all, “No man is an island.” cut to modern-day america, where we’re all, “Yes he fucking is. now excuse me while I bake a pie for the church potluck.” there has to be a change in mentality, and it has to happen at the individual level. No president or government program can do it. I guess you and I are just going to have to take it on. Damn. Cancel my massage.
3:07 PM Juliet: As Christians, I believe that the heart of the problem is always…well, our hearts. And our inherent selfishness. Jesus gave everything away. The early church shared everything (cut your hair, hippies!) But something about American Christianity always smacks of selfishness.
3:09 PM Stephanie: I blame Joel Osteen and his shit-eating grin. We equate success with being blessed. I learned in New York that being “broke” doesn’t mean being punished.
Juliet: I add Kenneth Copeland to that. And Oral Roberts. I blame the idea that America is somehow exempt from the rules of nature, law, etc. Yes, we’re a great country. But our shit stinks too.
Stephanie: This is awkward, because mine doesn’t.
We are victims of our own success. It even permeates our view on suffering, etc–philosophical issues–we avoid discomfort at all costs, while children in Africa play happily in the dirt. We don’t know what hardship really is.
3:14 PM Juliet: Our concept of suffering is so skewed.
“Suffering” in America is often not getting our way.
As though, we’re entitled to get what we want.
3:16 PM Stephanie: WORD. There is an entitlement mentality across income levels. But really, it bums me out when I see poor people just walking around in plain daylight near my neighborhood. Couldn’t they go somewhere else?
Juliet: I hear you can catch poverty through saliva. Like mono. I mean, that’s what happened to me…
3:18 PM But seriously, I do think that if we as Christians believe what we claim to
That nothing here is really ours
That all of life under the sun is temporal and meaningless
Then why aren’t we living our lives that way?
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s because whatever, it’s not even yours.
You could lose it all in a day. So better to invest in what will never fade or rust or be taken from you.
I think Jesus blessed the poor because he knows that they will always be treated like criminals for being that way.
Like “blessed are you, because one day, it will all even out”
3:21 PM Like in heaven (don’t want to commit heresy, nitpicky Calvinist readers)
Stephanie: Wow. That is insightful. and sad. I feel like we should be way more brokenhearted about this. We live as Americans first, Christians second. Draping our churches in American flags and endorsing candidates from the pulpit. I went to a church that had this huge patriotic program on Memorial Day weekend and I was so conflicted. I wanted to honor the vets and celebrate them, but I thought it felt like an inappropriate venue. Like, let’s talk about Jesus here and save the flag-waving for the bbq after, how ’bout it?
Juliet: What irked me about the Value Voters Summit was the way they were trying to recruit churches to participate.
As though those of us on the left do not have morals (we do)
As though American values are Christian values (some of them are, but a lot of religions share those values too)
It was off-putting…am I less of a Christian because of some of my views?
3:26 PM Are you more of a Christian for some of your views?
When really the question is…what is a Christian?
As you pointed out, it’s not American first, Christian second.
Stephanie: I can’t answer that until I know how you feel about abortion.
Juliet: And I need to know your feelings on the death penalty.
What is distinctly Christian about us?
It’s both sides.
3:27 PM It’s not either/or.
Republicans want equality and to promote justice.
Democrats also want healthy families.
3:28 PM We were purposely not given an analysis on 21st Century American Politics in the Bible.
Because we are meant, I think, to prayerfully wrestle with these things, in community.
O3:29 PM And show how it’s possible to disagree with love and respect.
Stephanie: True. In cities, you’re forced to do that. Not so much diversity elsewhere.
3:3 PM Except for those poor people who occasionally wander by…
3:31 PM Juliet: Well, it seems that you and I actually agree on this!
Stephanie: That’s weird. are we doing it wrong? There should be more yelling.
Like what you’ve read? What topic should the Soul Sisters cover next? Tell us in the comments!