Thursday, October 01, 2009

Of Gnats, Camels, and Health Care Reform

I think I understand why political conservatives are antsy about health care reform. I understand their fears that this is socialized medicine, that it is federal encroachment into their lives, that it means that the government is taking their hard earned money to support an unproved program in order to protect the health of those who have failed to get reliable affordable health care. They fear that government involvement will only disturb the delicate balance of care and cost that only the free market should be allowed to mess with (and mess with they have). I disagree that their fears are fairly reflected in what is being proposed, but I understand the fears.

I agree that when liberals say health care is a right and not a privilege, that they can't back it up Constitutionally, just as conservatives can't back up the "right to life" (by which they mean, of course, the "right to be born," not the "right to keep living healthily" or the "right to abundant life"). But Constitutional silence should not dismiss decent human compassion and practice.

I have no desire to defend any specific health care bill or its particulars. The President has laid out reasonable principles regarding reform: That the reforms should bring down costs, increase access, promote choice, and be deficit-neutral. I also believe that a plan that gets more people protected will reduce the amount of money hard-working people are paying for the care of those lazy or stupid other people.

I think I understand the politically conservative view. What I don't understand is why Christian organizations are opposing health care reform. I don't understand why, according to the Washington Post, conservative Christians are increasing their support of Christian organizations in order to oppose health care reform. I don't understand what is Christian about opposing health care reform. Where in the Christian Bible does it say, "Thou shalt not provide health care? What in Christian history is a precedent for opposing the assurance that all people can get affordable care when they need it?

I know that some Christians talk about the idea that "the church" should be caring for people, not the government. They are half-right. It is our Christian duty to care for those in need. And if Christian individuals, congregations, and organizations were doing so, we would have no need for any other health care. But in the absence of such Christian action, when the vacuum of need is sucking the health and meager wealth of some (and the general wealth of us all), the least Christians could do is support any other entity that is doing their duty for them. And further, I see nothing in Scripture or in Christian tradition that prohibits Christians from doing their duty THROUGH another entity, such as government.

And then there's abortion: our postmodern example of straining at a gnat to swallow a camel. Don't get me wrong I am pro-life. But if done right, health care reform is all about being pro-life, even though it does not prioritize unborn lives over already-born lives. And the President insists that the health care reform he supports does not allow money for abortion. I am in favor of language that would give such assurances.

But suppose those measures are not passed. Will conservative Christians oppose any health care reform that would save us all money, stop the bleeding of the economy, cover (nearly) every American, give citizens greater control over their own health care decisions, and save countless lives--just because the abortion measure doesn't have their preferred language? Are unborn lives the only ones that matter?

If already-born lives matter as much as unborn lives (and according to the Bible, I think they do), just what is the Christian justification for opposing health care reform?


nashbabe said...

I oppose THIS way of doing things. I think most Christians, even we beleagured evangelicals, want to do some things. Not this.

In some ways at least in my opinion this is setting up a straw man.

tdadpete said...

nashbabe, your point is well taken. But my frustration is born of the gathering of opposition to a solution with no alternative solution being proposed. At this point I'm not crazy about the reforms on the table, but as a Christian who is also at the mercy of congressional processes, I support this reform over no reform. And I am saddened by Christians whose only energetic message seems to be "not this." I simply don't see anything Christian about that message.