Politics is like sausage — it is best not to see it being made. ~ Otto von Bismarck 1869
I don’t know that I often agree with Bismarck, but it is usually really terrible watching American politics, even when it’s at its least contentious; the American political system usually either gives me a rash or leaves me needing a hug. Lately as a nation we are taking it to all new levels of insanity. The tone of American politics has devolved to a new low as terribly angry outbursts erupt in town halls across America not just over the usual budget battles or defense spending or even on whether to have a moment of silence for Michael Jackson. Now it’s gotten serious because we are going to decide how best to care for our sick our injured and diseased.
No better time for intolerance and hatred, and maybe just maybe even some good old American violence. It hasn’t been this exciting since the old civil rights days.
Nothing screams let’s take a gun to a town hall meeting more than a discussion on how to care for our nation’s sick people. Am I right?
No, this is not right — yet somehow it seems this is exactly where we find ourselves as a nation.
I suspect the current arguments are being driven more by the fears, needs, and greed of humans than by the hand of the holy sprit. At the risk of being insensitive towards other religions that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, I am going to focus on the Christians in the audience some of whom seem to be the most upset on how the government might address this issue. At the risk of being cliché I wonder what would Jesus do, or at least I wonder what would Jesus think?
It is time for us all to find the higher ground, let me remind you of the scripture, from the New Testament.
Bartimae’us, a blind beggar, the son of Timae’us, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 49 And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; rise, he is calling you." 50 And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him, "Master, let me receive my sight." 52 And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10 46-52)
The amazing thing about Jesus, that there was no co-pay, no out of network costs or no forms to fill out, just pure holy healthcare for this just a blind beggar. While we grapple on what we should do with our current system, with the battle of private healthcare insurance versus Obama-care, maybe we can remember this shining example of how it works under Jesus-care. I suspect on any compromise that we as Americans come up with, whether it be in any private system or any public option, the new system will likely be inferior to any care that Christ himself might set up. Just maybe we can try to aspire to the benefits of the Jesus-care system.
Here is another reminder of the word of Christ…
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? (John 3:17)
Much of the hostility in the debate it seems revolves around money, mostly over who is going to pay for healthcare reform and who is going to lose money when the reform passes. Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, doctors and many citizens could realize a real financial loss if real reform is passed. It seems many in each of the different groups are willing to throw the other to the lions to avoid any real sacrifice of there interests. By almost all estimates roughly 47 million Americans have no access to health insurance and it is a number that is expected to continue to grow under the current conditions.
Yet many remain unconcerned about this because it does not directly affect them yet. I really don’t believe this thinking is in line with the teachings of Jesus. When someone without insurance has a serious medical condition and they have no medical insurance or means to pay they may go bankrupt, and their house could go into foreclosure. They cease to have disposable income and stop becoming effective consumers. After this happens to enough people this causes the plant or business you work at may shut down or cut back and then you may find you have no insurance. (See the economic meltdown of 2008.) To fix this problem it will likely require compromise and sacrifice of all of us.
We are all interconnected whether we realize it or not.
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 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. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (Timothy 6:9-11)
The statement above from the bible that is attributed to Jesus just might have a huge relevance on the current debate on healthcare. Just how much of the argument in this arena is being driven my self interest or ambition? Fear of losing my benefits fear or that it will somehow cost me more? If this individual greed was the only greed related to this subject it would be easier perhaps. There is a huge amount of money at stake here healthcare by some estimates accounts for as much one sixth of the total economy. There are huge players who have huge stakes in this game. None are about to see there piece of the pie diminished without a fight. Money isn’t a part of the issue here for many it is the issue here. Affordable healthcare is secondary to many in this arena. Don’t believe it; take a look at some information what the top insurance executives by clicking here for 2004 to 2007 or here for 2008. Legislation in this arena will affect a huge part of our economy. There are millions spent by the health care lobbyists to defend their company’s ability to make the most profit as possible. If real reform costs them as much as one dollar they are going to fight it. I cannot help but wonder what Jesus would say about profiting off of another’s sickness. I can not help but wonder what he would say about reducing or denying coverage based on payment available. Somehow I doubt he would be for this.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. (James 3:14)
I can not even guess how many of the assertions made by either side are outright falsehoods misrepresentations or purposeful omissions but even if it is just one it is too many. It seems argument from either side has been defined by bitterness, ambitions and falsehoods. While I certainly don’t speak for him, I doubt Jesus Christ would approve of how many are behaving in displaying their anger on this issue. Here are a few things I think to keep in mind when protesting healthcare.
1. Jesus endured great suffering for you and died for your sins – It is doubtful he would like it if you are wishing great suffering or death on others.
2. Nazis killed millions in concentration camps – There is no provision for this in any of the health care reform proposed by either side. Leave the swastika’s at home.
3. If you think you need to bring firearm to a protest either to protect yourself or teach the other side a lesson, you probably shouldn’t go. We should be adult enough to have peaceful protests.
The only way we will do better as a country and improve this system is if we begin to find ways to have a rational truthful discussion and if we are open to possible compromise and sacrifice. We need to be respectful both for the ideas and the needs of others. For instance I agree with opponents of the public system when they say Jesus likely would not support federally funded abortions, and even though I am pro-choice I believe this would be a point I could concede. Compromise is part of the higher calling, provided we are looking to help care for those in need.
Remember our country exists perhaps at least as an indirect consequence of the life of Christ, after all many of the European earliest settlers came here to find freedom in how to worship him. Perhaps we are a part of his greater plan and this is part of a greater test. We have advantages as we are Americans and we have freedoms and opportunities that were not available in previous eras. From our drive for independence basic rights and freedom our founders created an imperfect nation that established a system with the means to improve itself as time went on. Our constitution is not carved in stone rather it is written on paper created with the unique ability to be amended and improved. This nation has withstood world war, civil war, the battle for civil rights Pearl Harbor and September 11th. Often only after great compromises and sacrifice by our citizens, has it progressed and improved through each challenge it has faced.
Our nation certainly can withstand a spirited healthcare debate and certainly can improve and advance the system we have. Whether we can do this in a civilized manner working towards a system that will serve a greater good of the people, versus divisive special interests and the greed of various individuals’ corporations and lobbing groups remains a whole other question.
Let’s go make Jesus proud of our nation.