By Travis Monroe
Health care: no other two words have stirred up so many emotions as these lately. Some say health care is a right; others say it’s only a privilege. Some believe that there should be a government-run “public option”; others say it will only expand government control. But where should we, as Christians, stand on the issue? As people called to serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), how should we approach the millions of people who are either uninsured or cannot receive proper medical care?
The Bible doesn’t specifically say anything about health care. However, many Christians believe that proper health care is, as the Rev. Jim Wallis recently stated, “the will of God for each and every one of His children.” Wallis’ organization, Sojourners, recently produced an online guide to the current health care reform debate, which is available on www.sojo.net. The guide claims that, while the Bible does not have a detailed idea for health care, many verses suggest that it is important to preserve the health and well being of every person. According to the guide, “Jesus and His disciples demonstrate that sharing the good news and healing the sick are bound up together (Luke 9:6, Mark 7:32-35).” Sojourners proposes a “values based, common sense approach to health care reform,” which includes affordable health care, coverage for all Americans, a cost that is “broadly shared and placed on a sustainable funding foundation,” protection for poverty-stricken families, and religious liberty.
However, some fear that the government will only make things worse. Texas Representative Dr. Ron Paul is a vocal critic of Obama’s health care proposal, claiming that the government “simply does not have the money for a new, expansive, public healthcare plan.” A former OBGYN, Paul says that health care is between the patient and the doctor, and that health care reform will only increase the national deficit. “The leadership in Washington persists in a fantasy world of unlimited money to spend on unlimited programs . . . to garner unlimited control,” he says. “But there is a fast-approaching limit to our ability to borrow, steal, and print. Acknowledging this reality is not mean-spirited or cruel. On the contrary, it could be the only thing that saves us from complete and total economic meltdown.”
While both sides have valid points, tensions between the two are rising at a disturbing rate. Recent town hall meetings have escalated into shouting matches and sometimes violence. We see health care opponents carry signs comparing Obama to Adolf Hilter. In a Pennsylvania town hall meeting one audience member shouted at Senator Arlen Specter, “One day God’s gonna stand before you. And He’s gonna judge you, and the rest of your damn cronies up on the Hill, and then you can get your just desserts.” In Dartmouth, Massachusetts an angry woman asked Rep. Barney Frank why he supported Obama’s “Nazi policy” (to which Frank replied, “On what planet do you spend most of your time?”). In Tampa, Florida a crowd of angry protesters erupted into a fistfight outside a town hall meeting. And in Portsmouth, New Hampshire a man was spotted standing outside a town hall meeting with a gun strapped to his leg.
Fortunately, many are condemning the out-of-control protests, and are calling for a return to civil discussion. Evangelical leader Brian McLaren recently wrote an open letter on Sojourners’ blog calling on conservative Christians to debate and discuss the health care issue in a peaceful and courteous manner. “People are free to disagree humbly and respectfully with their fellow Christians and their government,” he writes. “But we Christians, it seems to me, have a high calling to be radically committed to integrity and civility, even (especially) with those with whom we disagree. God, after all, is merciful, generous, and kind to the just and the unjust’: How can we not have that same obligation regarding those with whom we disagree?” Indeed the Bible tells us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) Unfortunately, we tend to do the opposite; we’re slow to listen, quick to speak, and very quick to become angry. We puff ourselves thinking that our way is the right way, and any one who disagrees is just plain evil. But while we trade insults back and forth at each other, nothing gets accomplished. Instead the vicious cycle of arguing and name calling continues.
The Bible says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) Name calling and Nazi comparisons will not solve the health care problem. While we don’t have to agree, we need to at least listen to each other. We need to calmly talk about health care reform, and weigh both the pros and cons. The only way to solve any problem-whether it is health care, gay marriage, or any other issue-is through calm, respectful, civil discussion.
And we also need to pray. Pray for our leaders that they will make the right choices. Pray for those who are sick and cannot get the proper medical care. Pray for both health care supporters and opponents, that they may be able to discuss this issue with civility and respect.
And before we can take any kind of stand, let us first pray for God’s wisdom.
This article was originally published on The Jesus Manifesto and was reprinted with the author’s permission.
Travis has written for Relevant Magazine, Jesus Manifesto, and The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide, among others. He currently lives in Easton, MD. Visit his blog.