Thursday, July 19, 2012

Living the Love Command: Health Care

continued from yesterday
...Another issue that has embroiled the United States in recent years has to do with whether the government should orchestrate a system that provides health care to all Americans as much as possible. Such laws are incredibly complex and involve multiple angles. For example, there is the question of whether such a system would break America financially and thus inadvertently cause far more harm than any good it might do. There is the question of whether the United States government would administer its part of such a system efficiently, or whether such programs tend to turn into cumbersome bureaucracies.

But there are also some philosophical and theological questions that are often raised for which we have clearer answers from the values of Jesus. Would Jesus object to a tax on me that would benefit others? Certainly he would object to an oppressive tax, one that did harm to me and especially one that primarily functioned to make someone else rich. But the New Testament unanimously teaches that believers should pay taxes (e.g., Mark 12:14-15; Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:13) and unanimously discourages hoarding personal wealth.

At the very least, Jesus would commend those who give to others who are truly in need. “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). Surely a normal person, the person Jesus has in mind, would want medical help when he or she needs it. Giving so that others might have medical help is thus very much in keeping with Jesus’ values.

Most of us are not the sort of expert who could speak authoritatively about whether a particular law might be a good one or might be effective to provide health care to all people. But the initial bias of the Jesus follower will inevitably be that if it were possible for me to contribute in such a way that more people would have health care, then my spirit will want to do that. The bias of a Christian toward the goal is not ambiguous—it is toward helping others in need. Only the way in which that need might best be provided might be ambiguous for the Christian.

Although we shouldn’t have to provide further support, the New Testament is full of instruction that unequivocally endorses this attitude. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4). “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10).

There are other questions of course. Even though this is the attitude Christians should have toward helping others, should a Christian support forcing those who do not have the mind of Christ to contribute to the help of others. I personally believe that God grants a good deal of freedom to others to disobey his will. He will set the world straight eventually, but for now he largely lets us self-destruct with our own selfish and sinful behaviors.

The case is different when my selfish behavior and freedom hurts someone else. So God surely would want me to stop a murderer from exercising his or her freedom to murder. So at what point does providing for the health of others, including saving the lives of others, move out of the realm of God’s allowance for personal freedom and move into the realm of moral obligation? At what point do we fine the priest and the Levite for not helping the mugged Israelite, and make it a law to be a good Samaritan?

The end of the whole discussion is that specific legislation will be complicated and will require the expertise of many to determine whether it is advisable or not. What is clear theologically is that Jesus would have supported a system that provided health care to those who did not have it. He would have spoken harshly to those who resisted it for selfish reasons, just as Matthew 25 speaks to those who could have helped the hungry and thirsty, but chose not to do so. The spirit of Jesus is clear, even if we might take different positions on how to work out those values.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Enablement versus empowerment, the government cannot arbitrate whether a particular individual will "use" the system to better themselves or enable themselves. But, it does look like the government is leaning toward enabling those that do not want to better themselves with the recent welfare reform.

A similar argument could be used for "acts of mercy" or "works of service".....should we be concerned about whether we are enabling or enobling? or is it up to the individual recieving such subsidies to decide for themselves?

Human nature tends toward abusing the system, if there isn't accountability, that is why the Founders put in "checks and balances" in government where it concerned the "power structure of government". Where we draw our lines, are our own personal values and commitments. It is no one else's business! Government doesnt allow for "the personal", it makes it a "public good", where choice is annihilated!

John Mark said...

I would love to see someone spell out in layman's terms how we got to where we are--or better yet, where we realyl are. Specifically, when did health insurance become a necessity? Are there alternatives for those who literally cannot afford insurance and whose employer does not provide such--I'm thinking of Medi-Share and other similar programs.
Are the truly poor, the welfare class denied healthcare, or is it more likely the underemployed who have a burden (My health costs are basically taken care of, but once when I was in a low paying job--low enough to qualify for food stamps low--I had to pay 10% of my salary to participate in the insurance program offered by my employer. It was a decent program, btw.)
If i contribute to health care for other people, what kind of health care will be provided for my tax dollars; will it be better or less than what most of us are used to? When you ask about Canada and GB it seems that you may get totally different opinions on quality of care....hard to know what is true.
I have other questions, such as how does this implicate end of life care decisions, when the greatest expenses are often incurred, or how should my conscience answer the questions of the government forcibly getting into the contraceptive business.....which is more about ideology than health care IMHO. I know many who rejoice at the thoughts of health care for all, who seem, in my opinion, blissfully unaware of some of the hard decisions that will have to be made as a result of this.
As for your basic premise, of course I am my brothers keeper. In a huge, diverse, complicated healthy world we live to do the best for the most is a difficult place to arrive at.

John Mark said...

the word healthy in the last sentence doesn't belong...and I apologize for other typo's

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is true John Mark that there are consequences, as well as limits to what is feasible. But, it doesn't sound like politicians like to limit, because they just might offend the group that might elect them into office! And they might be illegals, as it doesn't seem to matter anymore!

There are definately concerns over what constitutes a "right" to healthcare. Those that do not take responsibility for themselves burden the rest of us, as hospitals must pass on the costs...Doctors have oathed to serve the public's needs, but have to protect themselves from their own mistakes.

We have fed "the beast" of dependency, instead of valuing self-reliance and productivity. Our society was not made to survive apart from individual initiative, and self responsible behavior. Therefore, is it any wonder why we have elected representatives that cowtail to the "vote moniter" and those with money to get re-elected, and do not consider the future of America?

Healthcare cannot help but enlarge our national debt, as government gains more and more power over our choices, and pocketbooks. Shouldn't Christians be as concerned about self responsibility as some seem to be about "the poor", the outcast, etc.? Isn't such a social program a means to further political ends that justify depedence on government?

"Moral" means government, "others", or boundaries? Is "moralty" about authority, love or law? Our government defends all of these, as moral, as this is what the law does in a Constitutional Republic. It protects the rights of others, irregardless of our opinions, convictions or persuasions. This is what grants "free speech" and liberty of conscience....unfortunately, healthcare under government will limit conscience, as to definitons about "life", as well as liberty as to self responsible behavior...Government officials will decide based on a costs analysis, just as health insurance companies do now!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And Federalizing the program, undermines Cosntitutional limits and over rides Congressional oversight, as well as granting the Feds more power to TAX for bail out of "special interests".

Jim Schenck said...

I think the issue about the current health care debate is on the appropriate role of government.

No argument, Ken, that we are to live and love one another. But should that love be meted out through the government or through the church? And granted, the church has dropped the ball. My concern is that the we are giving over to the government duties that should be the church's.

As a practical matter, our taxes will go up, as anything the government touches becomes more expensive. That will leave less in Christians' pockets to do their own charitable giving. I wonder how, long term, this will affect missions, non-profits, etc...

Anonymous said...

I think the comments in this post that continually show the selfishness of today's mainstream Christianity answer your question. Basically, take care of yourself and deal with your own problems and don't ask or expect any help or support, you're obviously a failure who deserves nothing. How you can abuse healthcare is beyond me. As a person with no healthcare coverage, I'm so glad my life isn't worth jack crap to my fellow "Christians". I wouldn't want to be an enabled and dependent moocher on your precious tax dollars which apparently I don't pay either, would I?

And contraceptives are a healthcare issue, hate to tell you, John Mark. But then again, it's for the health and well being of women, so who cares?

This is why people are leaving the faith and the church in droves. Sane people anyway. People who can warp Jesus' words to such a idiotic degrees of selfishness and to the worship of consumerism and Ayn Rand ideology can keep their so called "religion". Their hateful voice is louder than the truth and love of a faith they claim to belong to.

John Mark said...

dear anon: I have been on the dole in various ways, perhaps you missed that. I'm not now because of the grace of God.
I am concerned about women; I don't think our culture of abortion has left women better off than they were 50 years ago. I don't expect you to agree with me...
I don't know where you make the connect with Rand; I am far from perfect, but I find her worldview reprehensible.
The only way to find out if universal healthcare will provide the most good for the most people without bankrupting the nation is to implement it. Even then, long term results will require long term observation and evaluation.
I am skeptical; though I would agree that our current system is far from perfect--I'm not educated enough to really know how to 'fix' it.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I do not claim "faith" anymore.
"Church" is a social group or club that propitiates their own version of "truth", whether doctrinal or practical. And most within the Church have long ties with family tradition, college connection, or mission driven endeavors. It is no different than any business endeavor, or social society. These are natural and normal group identifiers. You, yourself, have proven this true with your comment!
I think it better to be honest about where people are (self interested) than to pretend and delude oneself about "selflessness" or to practice "self denial" and then we can be honest about our own interests and negotiate our differences. Self respect demands such behavior, otherwise, one is ignored or used by the "biggest", "toughest", or "most powerful" guy. I believe in a "right to work" position, not a union (collective) negotiating personal differences.