The disrespect of good – and of God

Crazy Faith Ministries

The state of Michigan will no longer provide free bottled water to residents of Flint, in spite of the fact that the city’s water supply is still seriously contaminated with lead.

Flint agreed in 2017 to spend $87 million to replace the problem pipes and city and state officials have said that they expect to replace pipes to some 18,000 homes by 2019. This entire debacle began in 2014, when the state switched the water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which has been known to be filthy for some time. Its filthy water, flowing through the old pipes of the city, caused the pipes to corrode, which resulted in lead and other contaminants peeling off the walls of the pipes into the city’s drinking water.

The water is so bad that residents have been using bottled water – provided free up to this point – for everything from bathing to cooking to drinking. The replacement of the contaminated pipes has not been completed, and with the cut-off of free bottled water, city residents do not know what they are going to do.

While the health of all Flint residents is in peril from this water, there is grave concern about how the discontinuation of the free bottled water will affect the city’s most vulnerable residents – mainly children and the elderly.

To add insult to injury, Flint residents have been forced to pay water bills for water they cannot use.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, residents who have been unable to pay delinquent water bills have had their water turned off. Forty percent of Detroit’s residents live in poverty and many of them have been unable to pay their bills; the goal of shutting residents’ water off is to get people on payment plans, city officials say.

Many residents of Puerto Rico are still without power, seven months after Hurricane Maria hit the island.

In these instances, and so many more, the needs of the poor, many of whom are people of color, are being ignored. There are no longer any television cameras and few news reports. The people are fighting for their human rights and rights as American citizens, but the odds of being heard are stacked against them.

Too often in this country, the poor are seen as leeches – as poor only because they are lazy. The narrative is that if people are poor in this country, it is their own doing. There is little incentive for the power structure to do something constructive – like, perhaps, provide jobs – so that the people can live lives of dignity.

But we all know people who are working two and three jobs and still cannot make ends meet. One of the unspoken tragedies of the water crisis in Flint is that many of the residents who will become ill because of the tainted water will be unable to get the health care they need because they don’t have health care and cannot afford out-of-pocket payments for doctor’s visits and medicine.

As the very rich continue to enjoy great prosperity, the suffering of the masses is increasing. It all feels like a disrespect for good. While people will be unable to get free bottled water, members of the current federal administration are living lavish lives, using the government’s funds to pay for their extravagancies. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, for example, has used federal funds for everything from first class air travel to a sound-proof office to an extensive security staff, even as he slashes regulations that were put in place to save the environment and Americans whose health and welfare are affected by, for example, tainted water and polluted air.

What is happening is a blatant disrespect for good – done by people who would probably argue that they believe in God. This disrespect for good – and for God – is not a new thing; the desire for wealth and power has long inspired people to marginalize the need for good and God. What people in power want is more power – not understanding that their power would increase exponentially if they supported and incentivized the masses, not disembowel them with policies which only make their lives worse and cause them more suffering.

The concept of good – and subsequently the concept of God – is being minimized and disrespected on a regular basis. The powerful worship power – not the power of good and God, but instead the power of themselves and their capacity to take advantage of “the least of these.”

And if we who see this happening remain silent, we are complicit in their pain and suffering.

Rev Dr. Susan K Smith is available to preach, and give workshops or hold seminars on the issue of how religion and politics have been ineffective in destroying racism. To book her, visit revsuekim@sbcglobal.net, or visit http://www.crazyfaithministries.org.

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