Thursday, October 15, 2009

Observations on the Health Care Argument

I posted a link on Facebook for people to petition the Democratic Congressional leaders on behalf of the Public Option as part of health care reform. (Yes, some are afraid they're going to abandon it.) So, though I just post these things for people who would want to follow up if they want or to ignore if they don't (I even said that in the post!), some people can't resist commenting/arguing. And the comments seemed to go on and on, and all while I wasn't looking. So, here's a few observations that are specific to comments already posted there on my Facebook wall. Feel free to read. Or ignore.

  1. Jesus died in a political execution. To claim he had no interaction with the political systems of his day is not only to miss that fact, but also to miss the fact that he borrows not only the words but the program of the OT prophets. See his statements in the synagogue in Luke 4, for instance. A thorough study of the concept of the “kingdom of God” will also lead to the prophets and to concepts of justice and mercy.
  2. “The poor you always have with you” was not a social program but an observation about the continual injustice of political (and perhaps economic) systems.
  3. To observe that the present system can be abused, and to argue that a reformed system might or will also be abused, is not an argument against reform.
  4. To argue that we can’t get a perfect system is also not an argument against reform, but better understood as a warning that the process will likely take a long time and go through several stages.
  5. Since capitalism is a conscious effort to eliminate ethical input into the economic system, and Marxism is an effort to put ethics INTO the economic system, it can be argued that Marxism could (if truly employed – which it has never been) is more ethical than capitalism. So, to label a reformed system as “neo-marxist” isn’t an argument against reform of the health care system to make it more ethical. It plays well in Oklahoma as a scare tactic, of course.
  6. As James pointed out, we’re already paying for health care of people who don’t have insurance. But putting some insurance regulations in place has the intention of keeping the costs down for everyone. It will not be free to anyone, except those who are verifiably unable to contribute. The intent of the program is to have everyone contribute and everyone benefit. Certainly good stewardship is important, but from a Biblical perspective no stewardship that excludes justice for the poor would be called “good.”
  7. If we exclude WWJD from the argument, then, yes, we end in moral relativism. I think Harold is right about that. If we don’t have divine input into our ethics, then we’re just making it all up, and then the strong get their way and Mao was right: “truth is found at the end of a gun.” Oh – but that’s pretty close to what we have going right now!
  8. Speaking of stewardship: Jesus statement about giving to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s needs to be understood as the best gag Jesus ever pulled, since Jesus knew, and his opponents there SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, that in reality none of this stuff belongs to Caesar, but it all belongs to God. So Jesus walks away unscathed -- no doubt scratching his head and wondering how his good Jewish opponents could have missed that one. Now, since it all belongs to God, we have to think pretty carefully about what we do with it. I don’t expect our government to be Christian in any way, shape or form, but I do want it to be more just.
  9. Final comment on justice: while we tend to define it as “getting what one deserves,” in the OT prophets (and even in the Psalms) “justice” is equated with taking care of the helpless: the widows, the orphans, the aliens. So, in essence “justice” in the OT means “acts of mercy.” See Isaiah 1:17, for instance, or Psalm 71:1-4.


Sammie said...

I'm glad you allow and respond to comments on the subject. I've seen so much one-sided debate by people who delete opposing comments. It's just so healthy to allow people to balance the discussion.

Lucky said...

Well said. I am embarrassed and nonplussed by the failure of the "Christian" rhetoric in America to move beyond name-calling and fear-mongering.

Governments are not evil because they are socialistic, communistic, monarchic, capitalistic, democratic, republican, oligarchic, imperialistic, or theocratic (though fascism, I would argue, must always be evil, but that argument is too long and familiar to repeat here); governments are evil because human sin corrupts them.

In a way, we should thank God for that. Human sin is the result of human choice, and human choice is the prerequisite for both goodness and love, since neither could exist without it. Thus governmental corruption, which seems to be the concomitant of power, can be said to be the dark side of love and goodness.

Humans are political beings, we cannot change the fact that our action and inaction have political consequences. We must, therefore, strive to act responsibly and justly in the political realm.

From my perspective, though, we must always be aware that human government suffers from the same sin that is the choice of humanity, and that, though people may be redeemed, forgiven, and freed from sin, the same cannot be said for earthly governments. Earthly governments are a consequence of our sin and evidence of our separation from God's kingdom.

As political beings, we cannot abstain from political action, but neither should we expect any political body to be good, except the Kingdom of Heaven, where we claim our citizenship.

Then again, that may be the Swine Flu talking.

chip said...

Amen. I'm more interested in living out (and out of) God's polity than any other. But given the fallen state of the world, we have to do this in battle against systemic sin and personal sin. Can we work to make our world a little more just? To refuse to do so would be to cut our ties to our neighbors. It would be to try to live the Christian life "in splendid isolation," which doesn't seem to me to be the choice Jesus made or would have us make. Not that you were arguing for that -- just thinking out loud on the keyboard.

And the rhetoric has some people genuinely concerned. My own parents were (and may still be) convinced that Obama is instituting "death panels" and that they'll be told to just go ahead and die rather than have the government pay for their care. And they know I voted for Obama and that I'm in favor of health care reform. Hopefully I convinced them that their fears are misplaced and are the result of fear mongering that has been funded by the health insurance companies. I hope. But the fact that they believed that -- that there are people out there proclaiming such outrageous lies -- infuriates me. Sometimes makes me want to go back to the law of Moses so we could stone the liars. I'm sorry. I repent. And I'll have to do it again tomorrow.