by Jamie Utitus,
Guest Blogger, nj.com

I have to admit, I am intrigued, maybe even star struck with the Nuns on the Bus. Lead by NETWORK’s Executive Director, Sister Simone Campbell (I imagine her actually driving the bus and I smile), the Catholic sisters made me feel like I’m not-so-alone for being a Christian while also being vehemently opposed to Republicans war on America; more specifically women and civil liberties.

Just recently they put this up on their site:

“As Catholic Sisters, we must speak out against the current House Republican budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). We do so because it harms people who are already suffering.

The Ryan Budget would:

Raise taxes on 18 million hardworking low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and big corporations.

Push the families of 2 million children into poverty.

Kick 8 million people off food stamps and 30 million off health care.”

I remember watching Sister Simone Campbell during an interview where she, more or less, was denouncing the Republican platform, but the overwhelming feeling that I walked away was, warmth and love. She was not denouncing conservatives and condemning them to hell, there was no hate or mudslinging. She was incredibly smart, and incredibly focused on the poor and needy in the U.S; not hateful or hysterical.

I walked away shaking my head, almost in disbelief while muttering, “Amen. Amen? Amen!” Hallelujah, the poor and the needy. This was what Jesus called us to do.

NETWORK, a Catholic National Social Justice Lobby and Nuns on the Bus went on a 9 state tour to spread the good news-as Catholic Sisters, they stand with people in need and to be witnesses for economic justice.

I used to struggle with my Christianity. I loved Jesus, but I hated admitting that out loud. I was a closet Christian. I’d much rather come out as gay, than as a Christian. Many of my friends were gay. Or atheists, or gay atheists, or Jews or Muslim. When people say the words, “I am a Christian,” people tend to think of Harold Camping predicting the end of the world.

So, I cannot tell you how much it meant to me listen to Sister Simone Campbell and to witness her and the NETWORK lobby for America’s impoverished and most needy. They had me at hello. At the tippy top of the Nuns on the Bus site it reads: Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to earth’s remotest end.” (Acts 1:8)

When the federal government cuts funding to programs that serve people in poverty, the sisters see first-hand the effects in their daily work. Simply put, they see real people suffer.

When you, or maybe I should say “I”, think of nuns, I think of the Catholic Church. I think of them voting anti-abortion, anti-birth control, and anti-gay marriage.

So, where do the nuns stand on issues that the Vatican considers ‘crucial’ like abortion and same sex marriage? Well, they’ve been very busy focusing on social injustices and feeding the hungry. Too busy according to the Vatican. Church leaders accused the nuns of promoting “radical feminist” ideas for spending too much time on social injustices and challenging key teachings on homosexuality and male-only priesthood.

“To me, it’s quite puzzling that our work with the poor, which Jesus told us to do in the gospels, would be the source of such a criticism,” says Sister Simone Campbell.

Take note how Sister Campbell omitted same-sex marriage in her mention of the Gospels. She did this for a reason. Jesus came and said many things, but not a one about homosexuality.

He was very clear, however, about serving the poor. Social injustices made him angry, so angry he would flip over tables and lose his marbles and put the church leaders of the day in their place. He was also very clear that you cannot serve Him and serve money and wealth. The party that claims to do all things in His name, happens to be the wealthiest. And they propose to pass legislation to keep it that way.

The sisters are sticking with Jesus, with his call to all Christians, to serve the poor and the needy. Amen!

A right wing conservative Christian called me a socialist because of my support for Obamacare. I’m fairly certain she, literally, believes Obama is the antichrist. I responded, “Then I believe Jesus and his Pops were socialists too. I feel warm and cozy knowing I’m in such good company.” This sent her over the edge, I was an abomination to Christianity and was indeed going to hell.

But I’ll be in some good company. Even some sisters, like Campbell, have gone against orders from the bishops and supported Obama’s healthcare reform law and mandate. Sister Campbell says she believes the Vatican targeted her group because of their support for healthcare reform. “They like it when we just do service, but don’t have thoughts, don’t have questions, don’t have criticism,” Campbell says. “That is a real challenge in a political society, when we have to do a deep, nuanced analysis in order to know the way forward for this, for the common good.”

Sadly, this is the year of 2012, the year of the Presidential GOP Platform to Wage War on Women, I guess it is no surprise that the sisters would be targeted as well. My heart bleeds for these sisters who seek to serve the church and do God’s will, but I am honored to stand in solidarity with such noble creatures. All too often I am associated with Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, and yes, even the occasional Harold Camping, for being a Christian.

As Women Rise Up Now had previously mentioned, by last count, the 112th sent only 54 bills to the President, 14 of which were to rename post offices (the latter of which is ironic since one of the main items this Congress failed to do was come up with a plan to restructure the struggling U.S. Postal Service). They also failed to take any action on the economy (despite having the President’s proposed jobs plan in their laps since last year) and failed to come up with a federal response plan to the worst drought this nation has seen since the Dust Bowl. Instead, they chose to spend their time-Trying to block the Affordable Care Act, obsessing about birth control coverage, and trying to limit abortion rights.

As a Christian, I worry about the hungry, the impoverished and it pains me to see Congress, and Presidential Platforms hiccupping over birth control. People call me a socialist for wanting all people, especially children and those with pre-existing conditions to have access to healthcare. As a Christian, it’s the heart of who I am. As a woman who has Multiple Sclerosis, it’s at the heart of who I am.

I cringed watching Ann Romney speak about her MS. The fact that she wants to be the first lady to a party that opposes health care for all, pains me. How convenient that she opposes Obamacare and could buy an entire hospital just for herself. She will never have to worry about her $8,000 a month infusions not being paid for so that her legs will work.

I understand that some religions are truly against same-sex marriage. My religion is not. Some, for religious reasons are wholeheartedly opposed to birth control and abortion. I understand and respect that. Don’t marry same sex couples at your church. Don’t have an abortion and pray for those who do.

If you are against something for religious beliefs, I support that. Our constitution supports that as well. It pains me to see the right claim to represent all Christians. Then they get indignant that not all Americans have those beliefs. We are a pluralistic country that represents many different beliefs, some of those beliefs being non-belief.

So indignant that they vow to take back ‘their’ America and pass legislation that will amend the Constitution to define a marriage as one man and one woman. Romney wants to do away with birth control altogether. On August 1st, Rep. Mike Kelly’s compared women receiving expanded heath care coverage, which includes a mandate that requires insurance plans to cover birth control options, to the attacks of Pearl Harbor and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Really?

The most frustrating part for me, as a citizen and a Christian, is wondering why this party, who must be well-schooled in how this whole U.S. Constitution thing came to be, all of a sudden, feels entitled to take down the wall between religion and nation that our forefathers’ took great pains to resurrect. It’s there because they understood, and experienced first-hand, the dangers of mixing the two.

I’m very afraid for our country. I pray for guidance. I pray for the sisters and the work that they do. But more importantly, I pray that you have the right to choose to pray or not. I pray for your right to choose birth control or to have an abortion. I pray that same-sex couples know that there are churches in this great country of ours that celebrate and welcome them. And I pray that our government stops deflecting from the biggest, most significant issue at stake-the economy.


12/17/13 Editor’s Note – If you love the Sisters and their work, please read this short article about the upcoming documentary about them and a small way that you can participate, here.