Health Care, Christianity and American Politics

faithbased_healthcareI’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.