Separating healthcare debate wheat from chaff

How does a Christian sort out the wheat from the chaff in the current health care reform debate? In all the talk and sound bites, where can one reflect theologically on the nature of care, health, mercy, justice, and equity? Is is possible to find a moral common ground from which real progress can be made? More to the point, where is the theological reflection on what health means in light of Christian theology?

On the economic and policy front, 40 Days for Health Reform, which began with a conference call between President Obama, leaders of faith communities, has provided a study guide and reflection tool for individuals, small groups and congregations developed by PICO National Network and Sojourners Magazine with help from Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. They says the guide “is designed to educate and spark discussion and thought about how to live out God’s call for justice in our world.”

The guide includes biblical background, a status update on the state of U.S. health care, a look at past attempts at health-care reform, a helpful guide for understanding all the terms, options, and key choices in the current debate, a look at the role of the faith community and what values can shape our healthcare decisions, plus a list of what you and your community can do to promote health-care reform that makes coverage more aff ordable to families and serves the common good. We recommend printing out the guide for each person in your discussion group and allowing everyone time to read before the group meets. Th e resources here are a starting point for a further journey—where will the Spirit lead your group?

The toolkit is helpful is separating policy wheat from rhetorical chaff, and it describes the economics of the problem pretty well. But what about the theological reflection? What does it mean to care for another?

Steve Hayes at the blog “Khanya” asks the same question. He organized a synchoblog theological reflections and here is who took part:

Phil Wyman at Square No More (that’s me): Clowns to the Left. Jokers to the Right. Stuck in the Middle of the Health Care Debate

K.W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent: Christian’s Responsibility to Healthcare

Ellen Haroutunain: Christian Perspectives on Health Care

Steve Hayes at Khanya: Self-evident Truths and Moral Turpitude

Kimber Caldwell at Convergence: Is Health Care a Right?

Beth Patterson at Virtual Tea House: Baby Steps Toward More Humane Humanity

Liz Dyer at Grace Rules Weblog: A Christian Perspective on Health Care Reform

Kathy Escobar at Carnival in My Head: It’s Easy to be Against Health Care Reform When You Have Insurance

Susan Barnes at A Book Look: Carrying Your Own Load

Hayes writes:

What sparked of my interest in the topic, and my original post on it, which was my contribution to the synchroblog, was a statement I read on another blog, that said quite baldly, “universal health care is theft.”

The statement seemed such a complete antithesis to a Christian approach to health care that I thought it was important to try to think about such things from a Christian point of view, as opposed to political or economic points of view.

The statement “universal healthcare is theft” puts me in mind of another parable of Jesus. It is the story of the man who went from Jerusalem to Jericho and got mugged. A priest and a Levite passed, but offered him no health care. That fell to a Samaritan, who cared for him.

The point of the story, however, was to answer the question of a lawyer: “Who is my neighbour?”

At the end of the story Jesus says to the lawyer, “Who then was neighbour to him who fell among thieves?” and the lawyer answered “He who had mercy on him”. Jesus never answered his question, all he said was “Go thou and do likewise”.

Jesus turns the lawyer’s question around, because it is the wrong question: the right question is not “Who is my neighbour?” but “Who can I be a neighbour to?”

The question “Who is my neighbour?” comes from a mean, stingy, niggardly and ungenerous spirit. It is trying to establish the bare minimum that I can get away with.

And the statement that “universal health care is theft” springs from the same mean, stingy and ungenerous spirit. It seeks to justify stinginess, and even exalt it as a virtue. Jesus sdaid, “Freely have ye receive, freely give”. But the spirit of meanness and stinginess turns it around “Freely ye have received, so make sure that you can grab as much as you can and make sure no one else gets any”.

That is why the statement that “universal healthcare is theft” is the antithesis of Christianity. It is the attitude of the priest and the Levite, and above all of the lawyer, approaching it with the mentality of “Why should I do it?”

Health care is a hot topic in the USA at the moment, and in other places too. There are many different viewpoints, and there are many vested interests, and many different proposals. But before jumping into the fray and taking sides, as Christians we need to ask how we should approach the debate.

Rather than jumping in running before our feet hit the ground, we should be asking how we can approach it with the mind of Christ. Rather than saying that this option is good and that is bad, we should consider what criteria we are using for deciding which is good and which is bad. And theology ought to help us decide on those criteria, rather than getting lost in the contemplation of its own future.

Read the rest of his post here.

Download the toolkithere.

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