WHY: leaning left

I mentioned yesterday that I am in the final crunch before exam week and Christmas break. For that reason, I have not been able to research the Supreme Court’s decision on the Sebellius case and the health care laws. While I’m cautious about a number of things on both sides of the health care plan, I have certainly benefited from the system thus far and have some tentative hopes for it. That being said, I also have a number of concerns for not only religious reasons but economics as well.

I read an interesting article recently* and appreciated the moderate stance taken by the author, David Opderbeck. I also appreciated something he said which finally put to words the conviction I’ve been feeling regarding my theology about the health care system…


I wonder when “individual freedom” became the sine qua non for Christian social ethics about health care? It seems to me that Christians of all people should be willing to sacrifice some of their “individual freedom” in order to ensure that everyone, particularly “the least of these,” has access to health care.  In scriptural and Christian theological terms, true “freedom” is not libertarian license, but rather is the full participation of a person in God’s self-giving love.  And true “freedom” is never about isolated individuals – as God is a Triune community, so we as human beings can only be truly “free” in community.

Of course, even if we agree that Christians should be willing to give up some “individual freedom” to facilitate health care for others – or, perhaps better, that Christian freedom means moving beyond selfishness —  the question remains whether such care should be provided through government, through private associations, through Churches, through families, and so on.  There is a long and tangled tradition of Christian political theology on all of these questions – and, at least in my opinion, there is no simple right answer.

Finally! Someone was able to express much more eloquently than I can my concern with how many politically conservative Christians approach this issue. My struggle over the past few months has been discerning what Jesus calls us to in serving selflessly and giving to those among us who are in need–and how that plays into allowing the government to take control of health care to provide more access to care and medicine.

But I also wonder what the role is of the church–why have we not done more to help those among us find medical care, why do we so easily abdicate responsibility to the government (or why do we allow the need for government to play that role) instead of demonstrating the love of Christ by caring for people ourselves? The food pantry I attend has medical services during the evening session. I think that’s fantastic–while I’ve not taken the church up on that free service–I’ve watched many other individuals and families utilize that. Should there be other churches offering similar things? Could we use our benevolence funds for that? Perhaps if we did more we wouldn’t need the government to take such a large role in the health care system?

Or, as we watch the government take on that role, how should we react about our money being redirected? Especially as Christians, shouldn’t we remember that the money was never “ours” in the first place rather than grumbling as it’s taken away in taxes that provide medical care for the neighbours down the street? I don’t have a clear answer on this. I’m still processing all of it (and I of course have several reservations on what those dollars pay for in medical care–a la abortions). There are a lot of considerations here, and the Bible doesn’t speak very clearly on this issue…so we have to do a lot of formulating on our own based on some Biblical texts and based on our knowledge of the character of God (who we are to emulate) and the call or mission of the church…That’s a lot of thinking and theological development on this massive issue that is going to consume the country over the next several months and years.

What do you think?

*I know I’ve recently been citing Scot McKnight quite often as well as those who guest-post on his blog. He’s just had a plethora of worthy things to consider lately.


7 responses

  1. I think the rest of the developed world likes its universal healthcare:

    I also think some people here need to stop worrying if universal healthcare is ‘communist’ as one lady on tv claimed on election night.

    You can probably notice a pattern with the countries near the top of the life expectancy tables and universal healthcare:

    I am not even sure it is a religious issue, I think people have a right not to be taken advantage of by insurance companies when it comes to something as serious as their health.

    • I’m sure the rest of the world appreciates their healthcare and I certainly don’t think it’s communist!

      I think what concerns me is whether or not my taxes are going to be supporting a health care system that includes abortion. I don’t agree with that so, it’s hard to imagine paying for it. I’m also annoyed that Catholic groups might have to be paying for contraception–while I don’t have a problem with contraception myself, it seems wrong to make a religious group pay for something that they explicitly (and often) speak against.

      I’m also a bit frustrated with some of the system that involves fines for those who don’t have healthcare. I have a friend who works for a small business that currently does not offer health insurance to its employees (because they are a new business and can’t afford to do so). My friend can’t afford to pay for health care on her own, she’s barely making ends meet as it is. But if she doesn’t get health insurance, she’ll be fined for not having it… it’s a crap-shoot in a sense, because no matter what she does she’ll be hurt financially…and I thought the point of the health care bill was meant to help poorer folks?

      Granted, I haven’t had time to research much of the health care bill and so I don’t know much about it at all. So I’m speaking from an uneducated perspective, but those are my general concerns.

      • Indeed thats how it works in England, you pay x amount to healthcare based on your salary. If you don’t earn more than 10,000 pounds a year then you essentially get free healthcare.

        While I don’t personally have issues with contraception or abortions, I understand the people who do. But people are going to use contraception and have abortions whether you give them universal healthcare or not. I would rather give sixteen year old girls a chance after their abortion than take all their money AND leave them with the regrets they will have anyway.

        I don’t believe the current health bill goes far enough and the fining people is daft but it seems to start things on the right track.

      • Jonathan that chart is brilliant!

        In regards to abortion–I know women will have them whether or not there is universal healthcare and I’m not actually convinced that making it illegal is the best decision. Women would simply get abortions the same way they did before Roe v Wade. It seems like a better idea to provide women with decent facilities and care if they elect that option. As well, making it illegal doesn’t deal with the underlying problems. It’s more like treating a symptom than the real issue. That being said, I’m still not comfortable paying for my coworker or next door neighbour to have an abortion.

        My only other thought with the healthcare bill is the cost and need to raise taxes. I don’t mind raising taxes (we have ridiculously low rates in our country) but I’m pretty sure the general public won’t feel the same way. It seems rather contradictory that we elected a man who promised to lower taxes while at the same time promising healthcare for everyone–how are we going to pay for that? The national debt is already problematic, so taxes ought to go up but I just don’t see that happening at this point.

  2. I like looking at this US budget one because it goes into so much detail:

    Also seems to make it quite easy to see where the tax money can come from (60% of the whole budget is defense spending).

    Theoretically (this will never happen), if you bring the defense spending down to double what it is per tax payer in the UK (from my previous link its 6% so lets give America 12%) that gives the US about $150 billion a year to spend on defense. That shaves $600 billion off the budget. Take a third of that for healthcare and the rest for attempting to slow deficit growth and you will be able to provide universal healthcare to everyone with around double the percentage of the budget towards it that we have in the UK. As I said, this will never happen. Cutting defense spending is the best way to start that deficit coming down.

    Unfortunately the deficit is growing by the size of the whole tax input every year, so, um, I am not clever enough to solve that part of the problem.

    • My brother (air force pilot) might not appreciate that I’m a fan of cutting some defense budget stuff. But I think that should be done slowly and carefully…. you know, to protect those families that have invested in it (like my brother’s).

      I’ll have to start thinking a bit more about this. Maybe we can chat during the MLS match tomorrow? (joking)

      • Yeh I was using an extreme of cutting all that in one go (as I said, it is unrealistic). It would make more sense to cut down on recruitment and perhaps lower the retirement age a year or two as opposed to laying people off but I also suspect that staffing is not the bulk of the cost.

        According to the us budget link about between $160 and $170 billion is spent on wages so around 20% of the total spend, one fewer warship/plane/tank here and there and you have some decent savings.

        (on an unrelated note, I like the smiley face in your website footer)

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