Selu’s Lessons for Senator Tillis

Did you see the video of the woman from North Carolina who called Senator Thom Tillis’s office for help? She has cancer and needs her health insurance:

“You are saying if you can’t afford it, you don’t get to have it and that includes healthcare?” she said.

“Yeah, just like if I want to go to the store to buy a new dress shirt, if I can’t afford that dress shirt, I don’t get to get it,” Tillis’s staffer replied.

“But healthcare is something people need, especially if they have cancer,” the caller said. Her voice is clearly stressed. You can feel her nerves and anxiety.

“Well you gotta find a way to get it.”

Some years ago, my son took me to meet his then fiance’s mother. A single mom raising up two daughters on a hairdresser’s budget. In other words – self-employed. She was dying of lung cancer at the time. This vibrant, beautiful young mother spent nearly an hour of our short visit on the phone in the waning days of her life, making a similar phone call, trying to get a medication her doctor ordered but which she couldn’t afford. It struck me then and stays with me today that nobody should spend one minute of their precious life arguing for healthcare. No one. Especially not in a country where taxpayers can afford to pay hundreds of millions in lawyer fees and golfing trips for that country’s president.

So how did we get here?

The answer is embedded in our mythology, those Bible Stories we tell our children. You know the creation story? God made man and man spent all his time hunting, but one day realized he was lonely. So then God put him to sleep and took a piece of his rib and made him a companion, a helpmate, but that helpmate wanted something she didn’t have, so she stole it. Then shared it with her companion, who then lied to God about the whole affair.

It’s a terrible creation story when you really think about it. I mean the whole thing is set up in a linear dominion structure of one entity ruling over another, where relationships from the outset are full of trickery and deceit, where everyone ends up cursed.

But this is the very foundational belief of our country’s mythology. An imported European mythology. A worldview that white men and women carried across the seas. The Native Americans have a very different Creation story. A very different worldview. A worldview that does not depend upon a linear dominion structure, but rather a circular one. In the Native American culture everything is connected. Every living thing has honor and dignity and worth.

Consider the words of Cherokee poet Marilou Awiakta: “When people call the Earth “Mother” they take with love … When they call Earth “It” they use her.”

Our foundational beliefs matter, as a people and as a nation.

Marilou Awiakta, poet/author, Selu: Corn Mother

When we buy into the patriarchal linear structure of one subset of people being imbued with the “God-given” dominion over another subset of people, the resulting society will always include oppression.

The design flaw is inherent. It has nothing to do with God, mind you. It has to do with the desires of some to rule over the others. Is it any wonder then that European men in positions of power would establish a patriarchal structure and import it across the globe?

Such a paradigm is totally foreign to many native cultures, including that of Awiakta, who was raised up Cherokee and Appalachian. The creation story she tells is not linear. It is circular: Kanati was lonely. Bored. All he thought about was hunting and sleeping in the sun. The animals were concerned so they sought Creator’s help. “Kanati is killing too many of us,” they said. “If he keeps on going like this, soon there won’t be any of us left.” So Creator grew a stalk from near the heart of man. Selu. She came into the world, singing. Kanati felt in harmony with all that lives. Strength and tenderness, tenderness and strength, balance in the human dimension, Awiakta writes.

Indigenous cultures the world over have a foundational belief system built on living in harmony with one another. A belief system in which they see a connection between humans and animals and Mother Earth. A belief system built upon mutual respect, honor and dignity.

The circle of life, if you will.

No man is an island mentality vs. a mentality of God made man to dominate.

What has all this got to do with the distraught woman calling Senator Tillis’s office?

Suppose instead of living in a society in which one political party believes they have God-given rights of dominion over others – women and people of color in particular – she lived in a society that saw the inter-connectedness of humanity? What if she were living in a society that honored all living things and treated each with respect and dignity and worth?

Because that is the choice we are facing come this election season: Are we a people who believe that God gave a subset of people the right to rule over others, to dominate them, to oppress them?

Or are we a people who believes God created us all equal, and that every living thing is imbued with honor and dignity? That our responsibility before Creator is to nurture and nourish all of creation? To treat one another with kindness.

No person dealing with cancer should be forced to beg for help from another human being. If we built a culture in which we truly understood the parable of Matthew 25, there would be no need for anyone to beg from another:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’ … ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Some call that Socialism. Jesus just called it The Way.


Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘ cause I need more room for my plasma TV. (Zondervan/HarperCollins).

State Senator Cal Cunningham is running against Senator Thom Tillis. You can donate to Cunningham’s campaign via this link. 


Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


AF Roger

about 2 years ago

Well... "disciplinary action" for an interaction that resulted in momentary bad PR for the Senator. But I doubt any thinking was changed, and without that no policy will ever change. At this late stage of the game of life (I'm 73), I find just about everything reduces to one fundamental question: How to be? How to be as a person, a community, a society, a nation? How to be on this ineffably miraculous patch of Creation? To all who might ponder those questions, I commend the life work of Thomas Berry. His final book, published in the year of his death in 2009, is a "Cliff's Notes" summary of his life's work. The title is The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth. I commend it to all adults and elders who ponder what we have created here and are leaving to our children and generations to come. Are we willing to recognize that perhaps our faith has saved us from hell but has failed to show us how to live, how to be? We might take a lesson from Subaru, the car maker that became 100% zero landfill in 2012. The policy that got them there? "WE ARE WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND." Amen.



about 2 years ago

This makes me want cry. How sad that our country has become so divided?? Some truly believe and act in ways that reflect in their belief in the interconnectedness of life. Meanwhile others while believe and act like only theirs are valuable? The heck what happens to anyone else.


Leave a Comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that.
Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.