Bradley County Democrats dined on Republicans, at least figuratively, Monday evening at the 2013 Heritage Dinner at Bradley Central High School.
The featured speakers included the Rev. Edward Robinson of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, former 3rd District congressional candidate Mary Headrick and Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Roy Herron.
Herron spoke a little more than 30 minutes on health care, education and the divisiveness of Republicans.
Much of his speech was spent reassuring local party members they could be Christians and Democrats, in spite of what some preachers say from the pulpit.
“Some of y’all have heard that in your church,” he said. “I’m not saying that if you are Christian you’ve got to be a Democrat, but any time we try to squeeze God into our own little boxes and think we can tell God what God has to do and who He has to approve of — that’s heresy. That’s apostasy. That’s not biblical. It’s not scriptural and when they start telling us we’ve got to be in a particular political party, somebody’s not reading the Word. Somebody’s not got their prayer life quite on kilter.”
Herron, who graduated from Vanderbilt University with degrees in law and divinity, spoke like the Methodist preacher he is.
“Some of these folks think Jesus rode on an elephant and never got on a donkey,” he continued to the delight of the crowd of about 125 people. “Some [of them] think you spell God G-O-P.”
He declared that voting for President Barack Obama is not voting against the will of God as some churchgoers were told in all parts of the state in more than one denomination.
He said John 3:16 says that God so loved the world — “not just part of the world. It didn’t say the Republican part of the world. It didn’t say just those folks that look like me, think like me, love like me or like me. He said ‘the world,’ all of it.”
Herron chose another passage from Galatians Chapter 3 that says “we are all one in Christ Jesus. I’m not trying to step on anybody’s toes of a different persuasion. I happen to be Christian. If you happen to be Jewish, Hindu or Muslim, my arms are all the way around you and I embrace you and I do not intend to offend you.”
He reminded the audience that the U.S. Constitution begins with “We the people. ... It doesn’t say we the Republican people or we the people that look like me and it doesn’t say we the people who think like me. It doesn’t say we the rich. It says all the people.”
Herron said there has never been a sharper, clearer, more important distinction between Republicans and Democrats.
He said there were people of good will and good faith in both parties 50 years ago who worked together to move the country forward down the center of the road and not in a ditch to the left or the right.
“They were trying to move all God’s children forward in this country,” he said. “It has gotten now though that they (Republicans) are so extreme in Nashville and so extreme in Washington, that one of the worst things you can say about a Republican right now is to say they work in a bipartisan way.”
He said Tennessee has the opportunity to deposit $1 billion a year for the next three years with no state match required.
“All we have to do is deposit the doggone check and we get a billion dollars a year so working people in Tennessee can have health insurance and access to health care,” he said. “And the Republicans, because a Democratic president proposed it and a Democratic Congress passed it, Republicans will not cash the check.”
Herron said there are more than 300,000 Tennesseans without health insurance who could have health insurance and access to health care for their families under the president’s health care law.
After three years, he said the most the state would be required to pay is 10 cents on the dollar. But, the state has a 9.75 percent sales tax, so by the time the tax is collected and the multiplier effect from money circulating through the economy is factored, the state would still make money.
“What does that mean?” he asked. “Think about this the next time your friend says he or she is pro life.”
Next year, 1,000 Tennesseans would be saved if the state accepted the check, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, he said. The year after that, the number would rise to 2,000.
“They can tell me they are pro birth, but they cannot tell me they are pro life if they choose to let 1,000 people die next year,” he said.
Herron said the Republican Party is set on ruining the public education system in favor of virtual and for-profit charter schools.
“When they take all this money out of your public schools, two things are going to happen: Your public education system is going to go down, you’re taxes are going to go up and there’s no other way about it and that’s what is going to happen. That’s what they’re fixing to do to you.”
He ended by saying the “differences are clearer, sharper, brighter, between Republicans and Democrats than they’ve ever been. These are not your Howard Baker mainstream Republicans. These are your back alley, off in the right end of the ditch; they call themselves conservative, but what they’re doing is not conservative, it’s crazy. That’s what it is.”