Recently President Obama rallied the "Religious Left" to fight for his health care overhaul, with the spiritual - and PC - call to arms: "We are our brother's - and our sister's - keeper." 

Which leaves me wondering: While a government response to a national crisis - say, an attack on the Pacific Fleet - is sometimes the obvious solution, is it kosher to claim that a thousand pages of increased control and oversight by an already monolithic government is somehow a religious/spiritual battle?

Does it make spiritual sense to rush such legislation through unread, short-circuiting the debate process?  Is it ethical to mischaracterize those with specific, serious questions on beginning and end-of-life issues as miscreants?  And is it morally correct to neutralize the opposition by using the language of sacred scripture to make political points?

Ironically, the Brother's Keeper epithet was first framed as a negative:  When God asked after Cain, Abel - fresh from murdering him - answered "Am I my brother's keeper?"  But, hey, we were only four chapters into history, and we still had a lot to learn. Today any Christian worth his salt knows that where God is concerned, the right response is a resounding "Yes!"  After all, Jesus told us so Himself, through stories like the Good Samaritan and imperatives like "Love Your Neighbor."

Through the years, I've met many Brother's Keeper Christians whose walk - much bigger than their talk - led them into adoption, foster care, soup kitchens, Special Olympics, hospitals and hospice.   A quick Google reveals several groups borrowing the Brother's Keeper name for practical projects like rounding up free furniture for those in need http://www.mybrotherskeeper.org/ and making sleeping bags for the homeless http://thesleepingbagproject.org/.

Compared to a government program costing trillions, these efforts may seem small and insignificant.  And yet - especially as I consider the past year of my life - I am convinced that when it comes to charity, small is scriptural and personal outshines political. 

Last summer our family began a financial/lifestyle tumble that landed us in territory I hadn't seen since I was a little girl - a territory where turn the heat to 60 and forget the AC, where new clothes and fast food are no longer options, where you use odds and ends stamps to make postage.  A territory where you finally are dependent - at least for a while - on the compassion of others to get you through.

When we returned to renting after 20 years of home ownership, the silver lining was that my husband could finally have the knee replacement surgery he'd put off for six years because he couldn't take a month off work.  Complications led to five more surgeries and nine months without his income.

Adding to the financial crisis was our unusual family situation:  though we are senior citizens, we have five children under 17 at home, including four with disabilities, three of whom we adopted in our younger and more well-to-do days, our way of giving back.

While between the two of us, we could manage, by November, without my husband's help, I was crushed and desperate. I went to my doctor for help.  She gave me a sample of anti-depressants but I never took them.

Instead, God intervened.  He sent a veritable army of brothers and sisters in Christ to help us.  Families with six or seven kids marched in with full-course dinners.  Neighboring churches showed up with coolers full of frozen food to stock our freezer.  Firewood appeared from nowhere and teenagers came and stacked it.  Homeschool moms collected hand-me-downs to keep my growing boys warm all winter. A small private foundation paid a month's utility bills.  Unexpected packages arrived and out tumbled gift cards and spiritual books and handmade presents.