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tv   Religion Ethics News Weekly  PBS  September 26, 2010 9:00am-9:30am PST

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coming up -- the mississippi doctor who is also a nun says the poor people she serves are like family. >> the feeling of responsibility? >> no. the feeling of love. >> plus popular evangelical speaker and writer johnny er ericks erickson, a quadriplegic. her reflections of suffering and fate. >> sometimes healing doesn't come, and you have to live with it. and when you do, you really do learn who you are. major funding for religion and ethics news weekly is provided by an indianapolis based private family foundation,
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dedicated to its founder's interest in religion, community development and education. additional funding by mutual of america. designing customized and individual group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. also by the henry louis foundation and the public corporation for broadcasting. >> welcome. i'm bobabernathy. at the u.n. general assembly obama warned more blood will be spilled if an agreement cannot be reached. he also looked for a time when a sovereign palestine would be welcomed at the u.n. the president's address came only days before the moratorium on settlement construction in the west bank was set to expire. meanwhile, the united nations human rights counsel
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said israel violated internatnal law in a deadly raid last may. the report called the raid brutal and disproportionate. israel charged the report was biased. also this week, there was renewed support for the u.n.'s millennium development goals. the effort to reduce world poverty and disease by 2015. u.n. members pledged more than $40 billion to help combat maternal and child mortality over the next five years. religio religious groups welcomed the new pledged but at a discussion, singer urged churches to send a stronger anti-poverty message. >> which is really if you're not doing something substantial for the poor, you're not living an ethical life. >> also this week, pope benedict 16th spoke fondly of his recent trip to britain to crowds
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gathered for his weekly audience at the vatican. the pope says the trip confirmed for him the ancient nations of europe have, quote, a christian soul. during the four-day visit, benedict urged more faith in public life and warned guests of aggressive secularism. despite a number of protests, the vatican called the trip a success. the state of virginia executed the first woman in that state in nearly a century. theresa lewis was put to death by lethal injection on thursday evening for planning the murder of her husband and stepson. capital punishment opponents including the catholic church worked to overturn the death sentence. many argue she should have been exempt from the death penalty because she was mentally deficient. both the u.s. supreme court and virginia governor bob mcdonald denied appeals that they block the execution. a popular mega church preacher is at the center of a
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series of high profile lawsuits filed this week. bishop eddie long, head of the new birth missionary baptist church outside atlanta has been accused by three young men of coercing them into sexual relationships. the plaintiffs, now in their 20s, say long gave them expensive jewelry and took them on lavish trips. bishop long denies the charges. in the past, he has preached against homosexuality. the first of the changes required by the new u.s. health care law went into effect this week. even as public and political opposition to the law remains strong. we have a report from correspondent sala gonzalez on a clinic for the poor in rural mississippi. it's run by ann brooks, a remarkable woman who is both a medical doctor and a catholic nun. ♪ ♪
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>> reporter: the mississippi delta, it's a place associated with cotton fields, peaceful bayous, and faded communities where blues music was born. however, the delta is also home to some of the poorest and most medically vulnerable people in the country, like these seasonal cotton pickers who work 12-hour days but get no health insurance. when people in this part of mississippi get sick or injured, often the only place that will help them is a small, no-frills health care clinic in the delta town of tutwiler. >> this is probably going to feel cold, so get ready. big breath, all the way down. >> reporter: its director is dr. anne brooks, a physician and catholic nun who has spent nearly 30 years healing and helping the delta's poor. >> we do what we can with what have. there's a saying of george washington carver that i've always loved, "start where you are with what you have, make something of it, and never be satisfied."
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and we are not satisfied. >> reporter: dr. brooks, a florida transplant, came to the delta in 1983 when many in the area still lived in sharecroppers' shacks. when she reopened this then-shuttered clinic, it still retained segregation-era waiting rooms-one for whites, the other for blacks. >> maybe the circulation in your heart isn't as good as it ought to be. >> reporter: in the decades since, dr. brooks has put down deep roots in the delta-an area, like the rest of mississippi, with some of the highest levels of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in the nation. >> i feel like i belong here, and i feel like these are my family, and when you have family folks, you love them, and you take care of them, and that keeps me here. >> reporter: a feeling of responsibility? >> no, a feeling of love. >> reporter: one challenge dr. brooks and her small staff face is treating people who have no private or public insurance. with about one-in-five people in the state without coverage,
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mississippi has one of the highest levels of uninsured in the country. >> you can come here when you don't have insurance. and they'll see you. they never turn you down. >> reporter: veronica phillips is here today because of a lump in her breast. >> my kids they have medicaid but i wasn't able to get it because i was working at the time that applied for it. they said i made too much money and i was only making $600 a month at mcdonald's. >> reporter: that's what you were making? >> yes, and they told me i made too much money. >> without them i don't know what we would do. i don't know. >> reporter: without this clinic? >> yeah. >> reporter: john and gail herren are visiting the clinic to check on john's skin cancer. they lost their insurance when john lost his job in 2003. >> it scares you. it scares you to death. you don't know what to do, where to turn. you live and die, it's either you die or you live, and you've got to figure out how to go about it.
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you don't know. >> i don't think you broke anything. i think what you've done is rip up the ligament. >> reporter: in order to keep her clinic afloat, dr. brooks often gets by on private donations and whatever small amounts of cash patients can afford to pay. >> 70% have no way of paying for their care. sometimes we can figure out a way they can give us $10, $20 maybe. but they don't have income. they are not working because they hurt, or they are sick, or whatever. >> reporter: as she heals bodies as a physician, though, dr. brooks also says she never forgets her responsibilities as a nun and that she's also here to provide a measure of spiritual care. >> you know, the patients that i have are very prayerful people. i'm listening to somebody's lungs. i am listening to the breath of life. so i pray for my brother or my sister while i'm listening to their lungs. they don't know it. sometimes they need to know it. sometimes i tell them, especially if there's trouble in the family or trouble in their
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heart. it's just something that i do personally. >> reporter: and what does that do for you? >> well, they are my brothers and my sisters, so it does a lot for me. >> reporter: however, dr. brooks says that despite her prayers and best efforts she often can't provide the kind of care her patients need. >> if i have tried here, here, here, here and here and i've come up zip, then there isn't anything else i can do, and that's very disturbing. very disturbing. >> reporter: and that happens. >> sometimes the patient dies. sometimes the patient's life is shortened. we do what we can, and when we can't we keep trying. >> reporter: you might think that mississippi, the poorest state with some of the worst health care statistics in the country, would be a champion of national health care reform like that passed by congress and signed into law by president obama. but you'd be wrong.
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the magnolia state who think that particular cure is a lot worse than the disease. chief among them is mississippi republican governor haley barbour. he argues health reform will put a burden on small businesses. >> for many, many small businesses in america, the tax put on them by the government under the obamacare bill for not having health insurance will be more money than they've ever made. >> reporter: governor barbour also believes it violates the constitution because it will require americans to obtain health coverage. the governor has joined a lawsuit of republican attorneys general seeking to declare the law unconstitutional. there are also concerns in mississippi over the increased numbers of people, like those at dr. brooks's clinic, who will qualify for medicaid because of health care reform. medicaid is the government insurance program for low-income individuals, whoseost is shared by both federal and state governments.
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>> we're anticipating an increase in the neighborhood of, a potential increase of 400,000 beneficiaries. we've got about 625,000 beneficiaries now, but it will be a significant challenge for our state and i suspect many other states to fund the expansion of medicaid. >> reporter: richard roberson is an official with mississippi's medicaid office. although the federal government will pick up most of the tab for expanding medicaid, roberson says the cost to mississippi's taxpayers will still be enormous. >> we're estimating through 2020 is about $1.6-$1.7 billion coming from the state. >> reporter: and can mississippi handle that? >> that's going to be the challenge. >> reporter: mississippi's leaders say they prefer tort reform and cutting waste in medicaid as a way to bring health care to more people. >> mississippi is essentially a benchmark for health care reform. >> reporter: critics of governor barbour, such as roy mitchell of the mississippi health advocacy program, fear mississippi's republican leadership will try to sabotage the implementation of health care reform through
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foot-dragging and backpedaling. >> what we should be doing is working to implement programs that expand coverage rather than being on the defense all the time. i think you could say that health care reform is not successful in this whole nation if it's not successful in mississippi. >> reporter: why? >> well, i you can't implement health care reform in mississippi what have you accomplished, when the need is so great in mississippi? >> reporter: back in tutwiler, people like the herrens say they don't follow the national debate over health care, but they do insist some kind of change is necessary. >> this is america. you know, we should have some type of medical coverage, some type regardless of if you work or not. >> some kind of-not total, but partial, anything to help you. one day you got a job, you're doing good, you're okay.
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next day you're out of a job and you don't have insurance. you get sick, and there you are. >> reporter: as for dr. brooks, she says that when it comes to the political fight over health care reform, she's simply too busy tending to the people of the delta to take part. >> other people can make words and can make noises. i've got other things to do. they don't include being political. i can't take care of it. i can ignore it. i can keep on truckin'. >> reporter: you do what's immediately before you, the job that's to be done here. >> yeah. >> reporter: and that's enough. that's enough for a lifetime. >> that's right. more than one lifetime. more than several lifetimes. >> i think you're doing real good. >> reporter: the people of the delta who have become dr. brook's extended family over the decades are grateful for her dedication. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," i'm saul gonzalez in tutwiler, mississippi.
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♪ in other news, a team of government and university of colorado scientists reported this week that their computer models suest h the red sea could have parted 3,000 years ago. that white area represents water being pushed back by a 63-mile-per-hour east wind blowing 12 miles an hour. creating a land bridge where moses could have escaped from the army, just as the bible says. on our calendar this week, the seven-day jewish festival over the feast of tabernacles come to an end. jews recall their ancestors'wan
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desert. right after that, another jewish holiday begins, marking the annual completion of the reading of the entire toro. and this past week they observed the death nearly 500 years ago of the founder. hundreds travel from india to pakistan to mark the anniversary with visits to shrines. and now a special profile of joni eareckson tada. the hugely popular evangelical writer and speaker. she's a quadriplegic that leads a faith-based ministry to other disabled people. this past june she was also diagnosed with breast cancer. kim went to tada's headquarters in northern los angeles county for a candid conversation about disabilities, suffering, and faith. >> reporter: joni eareckson tada
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is a woman of many talents. she's a bestselling author, an acclaimed artist, and an internationally known advocate for people with disabilities. paralyzed for more than 40 years, tada is one of the longest living quadriplegics on record. she endures chronic pain, and just a few months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. tada says it's her faith that keeps her going. >> boy, when jesus said in this world you will have trouble, he wasn't kidding. in this world there will be trouble. perhaps the gift of this cancer and pain and quadriplegia is that it forces me to recognize my desperate, desperate need of god, and that is a good thing. >> reporter: tada was an active, athletic teenager. then, at the age of 17, she broke her neck in a diving accident in the chesapeake bay. her spinal chord was severed, and she became paralyzed from
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the shoulders down. she has limited arm motion but can't use her hands or her legs. immediately after the accident, she was angry and depressed and begged friends to help her commit suicide. ultimately, she says she found peace when she committed her life to god. >> god is that big, and he's that good, and his grace is that sufficient. >> reporter: tada wanted to help others with disabilities and in 1979 began a ministry called joni and friends, offering support to disabled people and their families. >> disabilities are on the rise. autism, alzheimer's, there's not a cul-de-sac in america that's not impacted somehow with a family who has a child or an elderly parent with a disability. oh, there you go! >> reporter: because of her efforts, tada was appointed to the national council on disability. she worked for passage of the landmark americans with
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disabilities act, passed in 1990, which sought to make america more accessible. ♪ god gave us hands, a gift of love to share ♪ but she feels more is still needed. >> you can provide for the curb cuts, provide for the elevators and the ramps and the braille and the tty machines, but it's going to require a change of heart in our society. >> reporter: joni and friends provides resources to help local churches reach out to people with special needs and their families. the goal is to help disabled people find dignity and purpose in their lives. the ministry holds family retreats around the country and has begun special sessions called "wounded warrior getaways" for armed service members injured in combat and their families. joni's husband, ken, knows all too well the toll disabilities can take on a family. he and joni married in 1982 and have become mentors for other couples living with disabilities.
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now retired from teaching school, ken helps joni with the international component of their ministry, called wheels for the world, which provides wheelchairs and walkers to disabled people in poor countries. >> to give the gift of mobility to someone who has never walked before and to watch how it not only changes that person's life, but the whole family, that's been huge. >> reporter: in one ministry project, prisoners at a california penitentiary make special pediatric wheelchairs that joni and friends distribute around the world. tada herself has become a living testimony that a disababity doesn't have to be, in her words, "the end of the world." she has told her personal story countless times in speaking engagements and through the more than 35 books that she has written, including her newest one, "a place of healing." her autobiography called "joni" has been translated into more than 20 languages, and in 1980
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billy graham's worldwide pictures turned it into a feature film. despite the wheelchair, in fact, because of it, tada has been all over the world, and she's learned how to compensate for the paralysis. >> that's gracious. tada taught herself how to draw and paint using her mouth. music and art, she says, give her a vibrant creative and spiritual outlet. >> yeah, i do many things-mostly family retreats, working at joni and friends for others, but boy, my artwork and my music is something that comforts my own soul, that encourages my own soul. that's a blessing. since i'm dealing with more pain i work more now with pencil rather than brushes. brushes are just a little too heavy. pencils are lighter. >> reporter: tada is open about her struggles. just getting out of bed in the morning is a two-hour ordeal. a series of friends come in and help get her ready for the day. >> and there are many days, honestly, when i can hear my girlfriends come into the front door, and they're running water for coffee in the kitchen.
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i know they're going to be in my bedroom in a few minutes with a happy hello, and i just don't have the strength to welcome them, and so while they're still in the kitchen i'm praying "oh, god, i have no strength for this day, but you do." >> reporter: tada talks often about the reality of suffering, a difficult message in what she calls america's culture of comfort. >> we want to erase suffering out of the dictionary. we want to eradicate it, avoid it, give it ibuprofen, institutionalize is, divorce it, surgically exorcise it, do anything but live with it. >> reporter: even after all these years in the wheelchair, she says some fellow evangelicals still tell her if she had more faith god would heal her. >> but sometimes healing doesn't come, and you've got to live with it, and when you do you really do learn who you are. god uses suffering. he lobs it like a hand grenade and blows to smithereens these notions we have about our self and who we think we are.
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blows it to smithereens until we are left raw, naked, and we have to let suffering do its work. >> reporter: these days it seems like there is a lot of that work. after breast cancer surgery, tada is undergoing chemotherapy, which has siphoned off much of her trademark vitality. >> it is very hard to go on. i mean privately i've wondered, gee, lord, is this cancer my ticket to heaven? because i sure am tired of sitting in a wheelchair, and my body is aching, and i'm so weary. could this be my ticket to heaven? >> reporter: her motivation for persevering, she says, is all the people she's able to help. >> i need a reason to get up in the morning, and my big reason is to help other families like mine, other people with disabilities, other special
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needs moms and dads, to encourage them and strengthen them, to help them want to face life head on. >> reporter: she says she won't allow herself to spiral into doubt and despair. ♪ y-m-c-a >> i'm not going to go there. i'm not going to go there. i went down that dark, grim path when i was a teenager and first broke my neck and wanted my girlfriends to bring in razors to slit my wrists or their mother's sleeping pills or whatever. i'm not going to go down that path again. it's too horrible. >> reporter: ken tada says it's been hard watching his best friend go through so much. >> i've often had several guy friends of mine who i've said, you know, if i ever go to war i'd want those guys in my foxhole. the first person i'd want in my foxhole is my wife. >> reporter:r: the cancer has brought them closer to each other and to god.
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♪ i surrender all ♪ i surrender all >> yeah, we're depressed. if we didn't have god to turn to, i don't know. i mean, i certainly understand some of the other alternatives, but boy, i tell you, you know, you just kind of grab on wit both hands and just hold on as tight as you can, because that's the only hope. >> reporter: i asked her a question she's been asked over and over again, how can you just keep believing in a god that would let all that happen? >> i pray a lot, and i sing a lot. i sing g g beve to sing. there's something good about talking to yourself, reminding yourself of things you believed in the light but you're so quick to doubt in the darkness. and i've seen too much of the light to not choose the lord. >> reporter: i'm kim lawton in agoura hills, california.
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that's our program for now. i'm bob abernathy. there's much more on our website. there's also a gallery of photographs designed and built. you can comment and all the stories and sre them. video podcasts are available. and you can find us on facebook and follow us on twitter. join us at pbs.org. as we leavexr you, scenes from armenian orthodox worship service held at a 10th century cathedral in eastern turkey. this was the first service to take place at the cathedral since the time of the mass killings of armenians by the turks nearly 100 years ago.
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♪ an indianapolis-based private fa foundation dedicated to its founders interest in religion, community development and education. additional funding by mutual of america, designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're yourretirementcompany.com. also by the henry louis foundation and the
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