A Christian Thinks About Health Care Reform

I am struggling.

I’m going to write about it. It’s bound to offend some people, if they read it, because I think people are easily offended when it comes to this sort of thing. I’m trying to prepare myself for the inevitable self-righteous tracts that are going to appear in my comments. I can’t adequately explain how much I dread confrontation. Maybe that’s why I write a blog instead of a newspaper column. And yet, I do write a blog, and here I go opening myself up for confrontation again!

Then again, no one ever said that faith was supposed to be easy.

My struggle stems from what seems to me to be a discrepancy, illustrated below.

venn

This is everywhere I look – the newspapers, television, web publications – but the main place that I see it is among my many acquaintances on Facebook. I live in a conservative part of the country, and many of my friends and relatives have conservative politics and religious backgrounds. They are, I understand, the Religious Right.

What I don’t understand is how the Religious Right exists. It just makes so little sense in light of my understanding of Christianity.

Before I go on, and in the interest of full disclosure… I’ve been around teh intrawebz long enough to know that the first attack I’m going to see, assuming anyone reads this, is an attack on my credentials. I can’t claim formal training in theology (then again, neither can any of the people likely to flame me) but I can say this about myself:

  • raised as a Christian, attending Protestant churches
  • attended weekly Sunday School throughout my childhood
  • baptized
  • have been a member of two different churches (due to a move)
  • serve as a liturgist at my church
  • have been approached multiple times, and have entertained the notion, about entering the ministry
  • college educated (and not at some fancy-pants liberal private college, either)

Back to my point. See, from my perspective, all I can see is an entire population of people suffering from crippling cognitive dissonance. These are otherwise-intelligent people who are declining to actually read the legislation, who are blindly believing whatever their favorite talk show host or email forwarder tells them, and who are totally neglecting their biblical calling in pursuit of the protection of their own personal financial security.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" 1 John 3:17

"…’The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.’" Luke 3:11

Health care reform seems like a very simple issue to me, from a spiritual point of view. People are suffering. For some of these people, that suffering is a consequence of choices they have made. For others, it is through no fault of their own. Regardless, there but for the grace of God go we, right? Who here is qualified to throw a stone? And we all are in danger, because we live in a system that is designed to profit from our pain. Any one of us could have a medical issue that might not be covered by our insurance; any one of us could lose our job and be unable to get insurance due to unemployment or a pre-existing condition; any one of us could fall ill and be dropped from our insurance as a result. It happens every day, to essentially blameless individuals who just get caught up in bad luck and a bad system. If we are good people, if we are Christian, then we have a responsibility to try to fight that suffering, to try to keep one another out of danger – even if they’re in that position because they screwed up.

"The second [most important commandment] is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these." Matthew 12:31

One of the arguments I’ve seen, from people who are putting enough time into it to make real arguments rather than just calling Obama and Stupak babykilling socialists, is that it’s just not the government’s job to be doing this stuff – that the Bible tells people and churches to take care of one another, but not the government. Okay, I’ll give you that. It’s an argument. E-x-c-e-p-t, what exactly is the government, then? Isn’t the government us? A government of the people, by the people, for the people? The Bible even tells us that the government is established as an agent of God. It can be hard to remember that particular admonition when the other Party’s guy is in office, but I think it’s pretty high hubris to think that we can even begin to understand all of the mysterious ways in which God works.

If we believe that God is omnipotent and has a plan for all of us, then how can we not believe that every vote cast, every official elected, is a part of that plan? And if the government is of and by the people, and is – through the people – an agency of God’s will, then why is it wrong for the government to act in a Christian way? (Speaking of which… aren’t the people making this argument, the same people who think prayer in school and “under God” in the Pledge are important? How can you disapprove of the separation of Church and State when it suits you, and uphold it when it suits you, and not know yourself for a hypocrite?)

Now those same people are online, joining Facebook Groups like “Defy the Healthcare Mandate!” and calling for lawsuits and legislation that will drain states’ treasuries, cause hardworking parents to make the choice between food and medicine, and sign death sentences for poverty-stricken children and senior citizens nationwide. They’re hollering about the reform’s audacity in forcing them to pay a tax or in forcing them be insured (which makes me wonder what they think about car insurance). They’re saying that they’re going to refuse to pay the fines, that this is proof of the government’s inherent evil. I keep finding myself wondering if they can think over the sound of their own voices shouting.

"This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." Romans 13:6-7

"Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?" Isaiah 10:1-3

Another interesting tidbit I’ve picked up is that some religious groups believe that their material wealth on Earth is a direct reflection of their worth in God’s eyes, and that they feel that wealth is rightfully and righteously theirs, not to be shared with those deemed less worthy via Divine Bank Transfer. I wonder what perversion of the Gospel led them to that idea? Isn’t it the poor who are blessed? What is it that the love of money does?

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10:25

I just don’t understand how you can claim membership in a faith that carries Christ’s name, and not see the irony in willfully discarding so many of the teachings that Christ held dearest to his heart. I don’t know how you can think it is the Christian thing to do to encourage others to act in selfishness and disdain rather than in love and compassion.

"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:19

I do have to remind myself that the picture is not as bleak as my Facebook feed, or the following (moderately snarky) diagram, suggests:

venn2

After all, there is a Religious Left – and just because we don’t prioritize being loud, doesn’t mean that we aren’t here. The Religious Right is noisy, but they’re not the majority. Fortunately for Christ’s work in the United States, there are many, many people out there who fall into the turquoise and green sections of that Venn diagram.

"Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17

"And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10

Maybe we are wrong. But I would rather err on the side of mercy than on the side of personal profit, personal security, or personal pride.

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6 thoughts on “A Christian Thinks About Health Care Reform

  1. :sigh:

    I’m not sure how I feel about it all. It’s an imperfect law at the moment, but a step in a general direction that I truly support. As one of the millions of unemployed, I’m paying out of pocket for my insurance – and at a premium, since it’s just little old me. But when I’m employed? My taxes will be the ones going towards covering others, and I run a serious risk that my health care plan will be stepped back in order for my employer to not be fined for having a plan that’s “too good”.

    I think that the problem is that everyone wants it *their* way. Conservatives don’t want to support abortions, (some uber conservatives probably don’t want to support birth control). The “Haves” don’t want to pay for the “Have Nots” – and I’ll identify myself as a bit of a hypocrite here, because I’m willing to pay for those who are here legally, but in a state that has an awfully large illegal population, I am NOT willing to pay for those who aren’t willing to go through the effort to legally deserve it.

    The way I see it, offering up the chance for all Americans to have BASIC tax-funded health care means that people seeking emergency, tax funded care will fall – reducing the costs in the long run. Because, you see, our tax monies still pay for that care – we just weren’t calling a spade a spade at the time…

  2. Bravo!!! At various points in reading this, I had to stop myself from scrolling down and typing “AMEN!!” in the comments before reading the whole thing.

    I’ve found it odd that individuals who share this same opinion are so silent. While people who are blinded by Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and all the other Fox News personalities are SO LOUD and SO WRONG. But yet SO LOUD!

    Very well-said, Kate!! I couldn’t agree with you more!!

    “AMEN!!”

  3. You’re not wrong – what you have said is based on the Word of God. I am so glad you have written because I too am greived by the Religious Right as a Christian. God knows at the core at the issue their concern is tax dollars and money; their hearts have waxed cold about life. They will not be able to fool Jesus, He knows the truth – He knows their hearts.

    You wrote so eleoquently and what really struck a cord with me is when you wrote the verse about how hard it is to enter the gate of Heaven – Jseus said few will find it. None of the claims of the Christian Conservative Right on Healthcare is biblical. But I tell you what the saddest thing is of all – the world is watching. Non-believers see our hypocrisy and they are so turned off at Christians now. The Christian Right because of their covetous relationship with money has soured the world’s perspective

    Yes, you will get plenty of hateful comments, and you will experience the wrath of people who you thought were your friend. Their lust and greed for money deep down superseeds your relationship with them. They will come up with all kind of excuses but God knows it’s all about the money. But Jesus will honor your stance for what is right. You are not alone.

  4. Bravo! Thank you for writing this! Although I have been raised a Christian all my life, most of my friends are non-religious and it is exactly for the reasons you stated that they look down on Christians. I feel exactly the same as you, and I myself have NO problem with my tax money going to those in need.

  5. I think part of the problem comes from the taboo called ‘separation of church and state’ (Sorry, you will have to excuse the single quotes. I would have used italics if I could have, but this plain text field just doesn’t like ctrl + i). People think that because religion isn’t accepted in the public sector that they don’t have to act according to their religious beliefs.

    There are individuals out there who are themselves all the time. They don’t change how they act, or what they do, depending on who is (or isn’t) around. If these individuals believe in Christ, they are the people who you look at and think, “Wow, I want to be like that person.” If these people don’t share your beliefs, you will quickly find it out, and probably try to avoid this person if you aren’t up for a challenge.

    I would argue that these individuals are the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time, people are too busy trying to make themselves invisible so that they can skate by comfortably. Most people want to skate through life without as much as a speed bump, and when things go wrong, they blame God.

    To steal a thought from C.S. Lewis, people think of God as a divine easy button. They only think about God when they are in trouble, and when they are, they call on Him to save them. I have found that these are the people who most likely will claim they don’t want any part of religion, because God didn’t help them out when they needed it. This is a bit backwards in my opinion. Were they there when God needed them to do something?

    But I digress…

    When people make a decision, it is largely situational. Because decisions are situational, people don’t view life as a Venn diagram. It is hard for some to see the commonality and context of situations. I think English majors have a leg up on the situation, because they read so much, and have been exposed to so many variations of the human condition.

    Without a common thread to ground you throughout your life, it is difficult to have that constancy to be one of those individuals who has direction and purpose. The thread runs through the bottom edge of many non-connected circles instead of through the middle of mainly concentric circles.

    This is the purpose of religion in my mind–to give direction and consistency to an otherwise disjointed experience we call life. If religion isn’t a guiding thread, then you won’t act consistent, regardless of the situation.

  6. Kind of new to this blog, but I want to chime in here on this.

    As a Christian I have a hard time putting Jesus on either side of this bill. Jesus was all about helping the downtrodden, the poor, the sinner, the widow, the orphan. Jesus is into losers of all stripes. About the only emotion he was able to muster for the puffed up and self righteous religious leaders of the day was scorn and anger. Also, when asked whether or not it was right to pay taxes Jesus responded that they should give to God what is God’s and give the Caesar what was his, so Jesus wants you to follow the laws of the land, just or not.

    That being said, Jesus, never once, threatened someones freedom to demand that they give anything to anyone. It was always about the heart. Government ultimately is about literally putting a gun to your head to ask you to do “x.” And if you don’t believe me, just don’t pay your taxes for a while. Men with guns will come and take you to jail.

    As an American I don’t like most of this bill. Not because I think socialism is evil, I don’t like it, but it’s not evil. I don’t like it because I think it was terribly crafted, will provide for an obscene amount of government intrusion, and will steeply raise the cost of health care. I’m not sure any of that affects me as a Christian. I believe in giving to the widows and the orphans and helping the poor. Me. A social safety net is necessary, and we have a pretty good one, but expanding the role of government into this large a piece of the economy just grieves my libertarian heart. Doesn’t hurt my Christian heart at all.

    BTW, I like your blog, I will be subscribing.

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