Health Care, Christianity and American Politics

faithbased_healthcareIā€™m angry. And I’m angry because I’m frustrated. As I write this, certain friends, members of my family, and people I know from church are in desperate need of medical care and they can’t get it. They can’t afford it themselves, and they have no insurance. They can’t afford insurance, and their employers (for the ones who have jobs) keep them in perpetual part-time or temporary status because the companies can’t afford to provide it. So these people are stuck in wait-mode. For months and years at a time. Sometimes in severe discomfort and pain, sometimes left in states of semi-disability, sometimes in life-threatening conditions, and the rest of the time left in just lingering fear that they might get sick or be in an accident.

Also as I write this, Washington DC is in the middle of a so-called Health Care Summit between the White House and leaders of Congress, and frankly, I think it’s little more than theater. The government seems to be hopelessly grid-locked in ineffectiveness. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or remain unaffiliated, as Christians what should our goal be? What should we do for those suffering among us? And what would our Lord do?

It’s hardly even necessary to ask “What would Jesus do?”. We all know it well enough. Jesus never preached about balanced budgets, or even lower taxes. He never mentioned market-based capitalism or the right to make a fair profit. What he did say was “I was hungry, and you did — or did not — feed me. I was sick, and you visited me — or not” — along with the appropriate blessing or curse: “Come, you blessed of my Father, and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you,” or “Depart from me, you cursed people, into everlasting fire” (Mat 25:31-46). That’s some scary stuff.

I’ve heard conservative religious people say that it is not the government’s responsibility to care for the sick, the poor and the elderly among us. They say that’s the Church’s job. Sure. But so far I’ve seen too little church involvement in dealing with this in real life — aside, perhaps, from preaching about how congregants should vote in the next election. Maybe as individuals we should pool our money, our tithes and offerings, to care for those who need help in our communities. Maybe in our churches we should create benevolence funds to help pay for prescriptions and food for those who worship with us. Too often we look the other way even when it involves people who may sit in the pew next to us, let alone people in our community who don’t go to our church. We — each of us, all of us — need to do something.

But even if we do pool our excess resources, most of us are living paycheck to paycheck ourselves. We can barely afford our own bills (well, aside from our Blackberry or iPhone plans and our morning Starbuck’s fix). Large scale help just ain’t happening that way. And since most of us pay taxes, it DOES then fall to the government to “promote the general welfare” (as our Constitution states). We get a voice and a vote, if even a small one, in how our money is spent. Sorry, but in my opinion, this is one area where the interests of the church and state SHOULD mix.

I’m an American. I’m even a capitalist. I believe in the “American dream” and in every one’s opportunity (and responsibility) to live it. But I am first and foremost a Christian. I give my time and my money where I can. But I can’t personally afford to pay for my friend’s needed MRI scan. I cannot foot the bill for that chemo treatment, or that back surgery. And my local church’s budget would be spent in a day to cover a neighbor’s hospital stay. But it seems no matter how little money I may have, my government has no problem taking its pound of flesh from me. I can’t escape the automatic tax deductions from my paycheck. So that gives me the right to demand that my government use my money in a way consistent with my values. My voice and my protest may gain little; my elected officials may ignore my wishes (and they often do). But if nothing else, I can insist that my representatives do SOMETHING to help those crying for help.

This means YOU, Congresswoman Mary Fallon. This means YOU, Senator Tom Coburn and Senator Jim Inhoffe. You all claim to be Christian — especially as you call for school prayer, banning gay marriage, and protecting my right to own a gun. Stand up now for your faith, and put our treasury to work for the desperate needs in our community. Do something good in the name of your faith, now if never again. Break the grid-lock, stop the stalling and stone-walling. Instead, break the chains of oppression, proclaim deliverance to the captives, and set at liberty them that are bruised.

I’m not a fire-and-brimstone kind of prophet, but the cries of hurting people reach the Throne of God. And you and I — as individuals, as the Church, and as Americans — will be judged for what we do next.

12 Replies to “Health Care, Christianity and American Politics”

  1. As on so many other subjects Steve, you’ve nailed this one squarely on the head. Hoping you won’t mind me sharing this to my wall. Try as I might, I can’t say it like you have. As always, thanks! šŸ˜‰

    [via Facebook]

  2. I admire the passion and the call to action, and , yes, I certainly believe the compassion you express is at the heart of Matthew 25. While the current system is clearly broken, we have to be careful not to rush into something worse. I know there are people suffering. But there are other horror stories too. My wife’s cousin lived in the UK and contracted cancer. he was in his 50s and they wouldn’t treat him. He just waited around knowing he was going to die without any hope. My father in law developed an aggressive form of cancer and a poor prognosis. he was in his late 60s. the difference was, he lives in the US. He received treatment and is thriving today. In the UK ( or canada, etc. etc.) he almost certainly would have died. The goals should be to increase coverage while controlling costs – but avoid rationing. Our system is too cumbersome, inefficient and bureaucratic. Increasing the role of government won’t solve that. I have too believe there is a way to cover the 12 million or so uninsured without total governnment intrusion ( at least more than already exists) and without adding trillions to the debt.

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  3. Stephen, exactly what sort of proposal are we looking for? We can all object to some of the things we’ve heard that were asked for, but what exactly do we want and how do we propose the government handle it?
    You are right, the government has no problem in taking our money but in this case, I for one, have no idea as to how they should spend in when it comes to health care. It is sorely needed, no doubt, but do you have suggestions for your legislators, other than to act, as to what they should do?

  4. organize and sponsor regular free clinics, where we can focus on both emergent, primary, and preventative care. similar to the model set forth by: i think we should either do something similar, or wholeheartedly support an idea like this.

    [via Facebook]

  5. We do a loving and caring ministry like the hospitals used to be run by the catholic churches back in the old days. I think giving people a chance to be healthy is a vital part of ministry.

    [via Facebook]

  6. I almost wrecked my car one day listening to a Catholic talk show. They were discussing the Health care issue and a caller asked why churches are not more vocal in this matter since they butt into everything else. (ok I added the last part). They answered that the church is only interested in making sure that everyone has access to healthcare which is not a problem in the US. UGH apparently the ER is enough access for Catholic Church as well as the other silent denominations. Plus it is better for their pocketbooks. Personally ER is not good enough, and from personal experience from the last 2 years some insurance providers are about as effective as having no insurance at all. I long for the day when the hospitals were run not for profit and medical cost comprised less than 5 percent of our GNP (I think it is approaching 20 percent now). There is no incentive to get anyone better or to keep people well as long as someone is making a profit off of healthcare (at every step). In my opinion everyone in the process has to give something up for the better of the country. Jesus being a healer would provide the health care.

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  7. @ Dean. Right now healthcare is 16% of the GDP. it is projected to rise to 20% in the very near future. the cliff is approaching rapidly, and partisan politics has cut the brakes.

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  8. what we don’t do is give it to the government to run. costs need to be contained and government aint gonna do that – not without drastically cutting back on services. Let’s start with tort reform and opening up the insuramce industry to true competition by getting rid of anti-trust exemption.

    [via Facebook]

  9. despite whatever poltiical stance that we have, i think that we can all agree that the system is broken, the question on the table is what can the church and followers of Christ do to help alleviate some of the pain that this broken system leaves in its wake. i have my opinions on tort reform (which is a part of the pie, but not the whole pie), anti-trust exemptions (which i agree should be repealed to allow competition across state lines), and other hot button issues regarding health care and health care reform, but as to not create a firestorm, i will reserve those opinions for another time. Jesus wouldnt legislate the issue, he would be in the trenches to help people at the most personal level. and since we are called to be his feet and his hands, should we not do the same? what are we doing presently? can we do better as believers?

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  10. I wish there were a simple answer but this is such a complex issue that affects so many people. Myself included… I honestly don’t have a clue as to what to do, other than marry a gay man who has good health benefits (j/k) or continue to pray God will provide a way for those of us who need procedures to get them. I totally believe in the power of prayer…but there simply has to be another option.

    For those of us without insurance, you literally have to be dying for an ER to do anything other than give you a band aid, a prescription, a sucks to be you and send you on your way. If I were having a child, rather than needing knee surgery there would be tons of help available though. (I’m not saying make unborn children go without either, but there has to be a better balance)

    I’m all for a public health care option if it makes good quality care available to people but I really just don’t have much faith in our government or how comprehensive that option would be.

    It’s sad but we live in a world where money speaks loudly and the majority of the good Dr’s will go where the money is. And can we blame them, really?

    It makes me sad that I live in a country where so many people go bankrupt, simply because they cannot afford basic essentials like health care.

    [via Facebook]

  11. Many churches use a cooperative method to deliver humanitarian aid, food, disaster relief, send out missionaries. I for one don’t mind the government using a cooperative method to disperse health care to the masses who don’t have it and stand to lose the pathetic little they’ve earned in the event they do become seriously ill. I would do that via increased taxes. I know, I live in one of the reddest tea drinking states in the country, but I can’t in good conscience let the governement subsidize my own health insurance then – with an almost indignant arrogance – complain if they want more taxes to offer at least minimal healthcare to the least of these….. Am I a commie-socialist? I don’t know. Are the churches who do this commie-socialist? No.

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  12. WOW! I love it! I wish I could plaster this on every bulletin board in every church lobby and every politician could read it! Well said!!!!

    [via Facebook]

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