[the following is a revisited look at observations and comments I made 2 years ago on the healthcare bill]
I’ll admit that I am not an expert on public health, government operations, or economics. So I’m not going to talk about what I don’t know. I’m not qualified to evaluate this bill. I invite others to do that. But if the extent of your knowledge about this new bill has come from chain emails or infotainment personalities with an axe to grind, think again before mimicking what you only assume is trustworthy. And I will say that this here article is in no way a defense of the new H.C. bill. It’s a treatise on how to better talk about it even though you know very little about it.
So before we begin, let’s consider a few things. The best place for Christians to begin is their Word of God.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”
“Gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat…according to the number of persons who each of you has in his tent… And they gathered some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat.”
“Pure and undefiled religion is this, to look after widows and orphans in their distress and keep oneself unpolluted.”
So we know the Bible teaches that we should not hold all of our earnings to ourselves, but let the economically downtrodden be able to glean from our excess. Of course, they also should be willing to work. Given. After all, “he who is unwilling to work, neither should he eat.” But some who are willing are unable to. Keep that in mind. Because often they are mistaken as the unwilling.
And now a parable of Jesus retold in a modern setting related to our subject of today:
A certain man was walking down the road, having not a car to drive, suffering from a preexisting condition that prevented him from finding affordable insurance through the providers he came across. He collapsed from his condition on the side of the road.
And a professed Christian passed by the injured man and said “clearly this misfortune befell him because he did something bad. Like the earthquake victims.”
And another professed Christian passed by the injured man and said “oh that poor guy. I’ll pray for him. I’m so blessed.” And he went on his way.
Then a liberal radical communist stopped and said “I will drive my comrade to the hospital and give from myself according to my ability to him according to his need” and he put him on his insurance.
Now, the above tale should would shock some people. Take care to notice that the first two men were professed Christians, but not active ones. The tale I reconstructed also assumed that this radical commie could afford to put the man on his insurance, and isn’t just an armchair marxist but an active one. A real Christian would at least drive the man to the hospital, even if he could not afford to put this man on his insurance. The story is merely meant to illustrate a hypocrisy among SOME–not all–professed Christians. It is not meant as a defense of communism or anything of that nature, nor a defense of the bill.
The purpose of my application of the parable is to address the problems that the bill was created to solve. In a land where so many taught Christ as King, and put their trust in the money that bears “in God we trust”, they trust the system of money-dealing that has only exasperated the struggle to help the sick and needy. The cost of medicine has become too high. Had that problem not existed, we might not be having this debate. So no matter what the bill does or does not do, the fact is that there has been a big problem and that many have come to the conclusion that some kind of intervening legislation was needed to help resolve it.
So no matter what time and condition we are living in, a Christian should be willing to pay a sum to ensure that their neighbor may be taken care of. That being said, this does not mean, of course, that any legislature passed that raises taxes in an effort to take care of more people will succeed. To give liberally (and yes, I mean liberally) must also be paired with discretion. And a tax is not really a giving, but a taking. A gift is not a gift if it is extracted from me once a year and I don’t know what is done with it.
As a Christian I prefer that individuals and communities provide care for those in their community. For me to merely put some dough in an envelope once a year and just expect a shapeless body of rule to represent me and make broad decisions about how that money will be used is unsettling.
I do not object to socialist policies, when they work decently. Everything we are taxed for by the government and rendered as a service in return is socialist (using the term as an adjective). Public roads, public schools, a non-private police force—all socialist.
Socialist medicine can be successful. Scandinavia provides us a few examples. Granted, their healthcare systems have issues, but that point is irrelevant, because our system has issues too. Canada’s healthcare is socialist. “But people in Canada are comin’ to America to get healthcare,” you say. That is true, and a valid point. But a)it’s not a mass exodus of people as if the system is broken, and b) many Americans are going to third world countries for health care because ours is too expensive. All systems have their flaws.
So I fully believe healthcare reform needed to take place. But here’s where I will offer a critique of this bill based on what I do know:
Firstly, Obama promised Americans he would not raise taxes on those making less than 200,000$. This bill makes that statement a lie. For every lie a leader tells, the less reason he gives me to trust him, whether he says he did not cheat on his wife while at work or he said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It also doesn’t help when a leader pulls a stunt like Pelosi did: “We have to pass the bill in order to see what’s in it.” No, you don’t take a pill to see what it does.
Secondly, I do not believe socialism is right for America, not necessarily because I have a low view of socialism, but because I think America’s populace has a low view of economic responsibility. Here are problems I see at work that exasperate this public health problem:
-privateers taking advantage of people (from greedy pharm. companies to greedy insurance men to sellers of toxic products)
-individuals not taking care of their bodies (America’s obesity rates—need I say more?)
-lazy people who actually could work and chose not to (“I have a condition: I can’t work without a migraine”)
-irresponsible doctors (not all docs, just the irrrsponsible ones)
-a lack of benevolence from church groups (we could do better and we know it)
Thirdly, I believe that the government needed to legislate changes to healthcare in the interest of protecting the public, but I’m inclined to agree with Ron Paul, who knows his constitution, when considering whether the US government has the right to write the kind of legislation that just passed:
Ron Paul’s Statement
“The fundamental hallmark of a free society should be the rejection of force. In a free society, therefore, individuals could opt out of “Obamacare” without paying a government tribute.”
He has a point. It’s a mandate. By definition, if you refuse, you will be punished. Christ said that this was how the kingdoms of the world simply operate, they use force. But it is not to be so with his followers. So I cannot endorse the legislation as wise on that account. You cannot compare this legislation to car insurance because a)Only those with cars have to buy the insurance, whereas being alive is now a prerequisite for health insurance, and b)Car insurance is mandatory because you can accidently hurt people with your car. You can’t accidently hurt a person with your blood pressure or lungs or gout problem.
However, what Christ said about paying taxes tells me that I am to pay them regardless of how they are used. If he said that we should “give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s” in a time when idol worshippers extended an unholy empire across half the earth and held gladiator tournaments, then it would be just as true today. It doesn’t mean that earth kings will use the money wisely, but that they are set in their place to render services and we as “sojourners” in those kingdoms must pay what is due. However, Jesus himself, though obliged to pay an unreasonable or abused tax, was still critical of bad policy (the incident with Peter and the temple tax in which he indicated that those who should be exempt should be exempt).
With that in mind, consider the words of Stephen Colbert:
Now, the most obvious surface critique of this statement is the assumption that if we do not like a bill by a government that mandates tax increases for universally applied healthcare system, we must not care for the poor. I think very many are motivated by that sentiment. But I know all kinds of people who serve the poor and prefer to do it themselves, or for their community to do it. They do not trust our government to attempt it. This being Colbert in one of his more personal moments (when he’s not being his mock personality). He is a Catholic himself, part of a religion that historically seeks to work alongside governments in delivering social justice.
But I think his statement was more about how we perceive the role of the Church and the role of the state in the affairs of the world. See, many believe that America is a Christian nation in a covenantal sense, that somehow the founding architects made a pact with God to create an exclusively Christian nation. That’s an idolatrous lie, as many of the founding architects were freemasons, and a few of them were agnostics. But if it were true, then we would have to accept this truth: If America is a nation that requires itself to create only laws that enforce Christianity, then this applies to all things. If we should mandate Christian sexuality through martial law, then we must also mandate Christian charity through martial law. We should make people go to church.
Do you really want that? What did Jesus say about how the kingdoms of the world work? They do things by force. Christians do not. When these kings place force upon us, sometimes it is because we have done wrong, and sometimes it is because of our faith. In Israel’s history, when the people forgot God with their ways, he allowed other nations to oppress them and institute unfair laws. But at least those nations protected them, because while God punished them he still cared for them.
So, consider the possibility that if this bill be an unconstitutional, not to mention unethical, application of force, that it is in part a punishment for the failure of a people who, though professing faith in God, failed to apply his love to the poor. People are forced to purchase insurance, and that is unethical. It is also against our very Constitution.
So, has it been that Babylon placed this yoke upon us because of our own disobedience? Is it proper for me to call this legislation persecution, or is it a natural consequence of our culture’s failure to place our values in the right place? These questions come to my mind in such a time, and I do not have the answers.
If so, then let us take on this yoke until something is resolved. If you do not want to purchase insurance, then so be it. Pay the fine, however unethical it may be, and move on. God is in control.
Here are things that may worry you, as they do me, assuming Mitt Romney is telling the truth:
It is even more certain now that future generations will have to pay the price of irresponsible decisions made by this generation.
The federal government now stands between me and my doctor, and not to the side.
And, because I do believe in hope (and its audacity), I’ll try to point us to what is good about the bill, assuming Obama is telling us the truth about these things:
The penalty fee is only for those who do not get insurance.
Seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs.
Each state gets to design their own set of plans, though I’m sure there are mandated guidelines.
Healthcare provides will no longer be able to discriminate based on pre-eexisting conditions.
Healthcare providers can no longer jack up your rates because you get cancer or something.
Now that this bill is signed in, I sure hope these things are true. If the big bandaid is coming down on us, it better heal well.
But, as I said yesterday, if only we were as concerned bout our taxes bein used to bomb children as we were bout payin for other peeps’ opiates.