By Joe LaGuardia
This month will be an important one as Congress will debate healthcare reform. Each side will sharpen their rhetorical skills and crunch numbers with stats and polls. In the midst of all this hoopla, it is my hope that Christians are prepared to voice their convictions from a strong moral foundation that is both biblical and godly.
I must tell you that I deliberated whether to write on this issue; after all, there is no unifying opinion on healthcare in America, let alone in the Church. With all of this talk about healthcare though, I can’t help but to think that Christians should gain some sense of what God might have in mind for reform, even if they can’t agree on particular policies. So, here are several things I think you should consider when coming up with your own ideas about healthcare:
First, we must consider that the healthcare debate reaches into the very heart of diverse worldviews in the American public sphere. One worldview, for instance, champions free markets and the rugged individual. Everyone earns his own healthcare, presumably from an employer. Government should leave well enough alone and let the free market divvy up the benefits that each individual gains.
In essence, the private market will allow competition to blossom in the face of a large number of consumers. The forty-five million people who are uninsured should compete for jobs that offer healthcare plans, rather than have the rest of America foot their bills.
Another worldview sees things from a more corporate, or systemic, perspective. Each individual is not an isolated being, but is connected to the community at large. People are interdependent upon a web of care. When one cannot afford healthcare, everyone suffers. Each person is accountable to one another, even if it means sacrificing some tax breaks in order to enlarge healthcare options via a government public-option program.
Second, it would be wise for us to examine our values pertaining to economics and social justice. Again, there are two sides to this coin. Some value economic diversity and argue that redistribution of wealth is inherently immoral, whereas others argue that social justice—building a just society—means that caring for one’s neighbor takes priority. The government is either a bane of the market—taking from the rich and giving to the poor—or a source of promise, enacting legislation that forces the rich to spread the wealth in an otherwise greedy culture.
Third, we must ask ourselves how our reading of the Bible informs our values. Lots of people claim that their view is biblical; my only question is, “Which part of the Bible are you reading most?”
In the Old Testament, it is obvious that God held Israel—a nation with a centralized government under King David—accountable to care for the impoverished in its midst. Neglecting the needs of its citizenry was not option because the holiness of the nation depended on the equity of justice, healing, and reconciliation. The Torah saw to it that healthcare was a part of Israel’s national policy.
Yet, in the New Testament, Jesus’ program for salvation and redemption included the whole individual by the hands of another. When Jesus talked about being a good neighbor, he mentioned a Samaritan who helped pay the healthcare bill of a dying traveler. Jesus did not seem to expect the government to heal people; it was God who did the healing. It was in Luke’s gospel that Jesus stressed over and again that God called individuals—the wealthy in particular—to share their resources with the “have-nots” of society.
As you construct your moral foundation concerning healthcare, I only ask that you consider where you fall in these categories and where God wants you to be in these categories. I’m not looking for specific policies here, only the ability to think critically about how our ideas might stack up against the moral framework of God’s standards for a healthy nation.