Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Health Care Reform

Last week I preached on Job. This week it's the blind man called Bartimaeus in Mark's gospel. Jesus healed Bart and he became a follower of Jesus. Job suffered, too, before his life got much better. He gave God the credit. Christians have led the way in health care initiatives in the past. Rodney Stark in his book, The Expansion of Christianity, says the growth of Christianity in its earliest days is explained by the sacrificial care during crisis times demonstrated by Christians for their neighbors. Throughout the globe, Christians were often first on the scene providing relief for human need by prayer and action, meaning in many cases missionary doctors and hospitals. Thomas Cahill in his book, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, comments that "humanists do not run leprosariums" but Christians have and do. St Francis and Mother Teresa are arguably much better testimonies to the reality of the Christian faith than countless sermons.

Given, then, the influential involvement of Christians in health care, why is it so hard to hear a Christian voice in the present debate. We know what the Republicans think. Or do we? Seems like we know that they think they don't like what the Democrats think. We know what the Democrats think. They think we need health care reform. We know what the insurance companies and their army of lobbyists think. The entire debate has become politicized and most Christians I have talked to have staked out their position along political lines.

What do uninsured people think? If they are healthy now, they may think I just hope I don't get sick because I don't know what I will do. If they are sick, they may be frightened or panicked. If they are elderly, they may not be able to afford the medications their doctors say they need. They may have a hard time finding a doctor who will take medicare. They may live in fear of getting sick, too.

Health care is expensive. No one can afford it. Even with insurance, serious illness and long term treatment can wipe out a person's savings. The health care reform debate is complicated. I don't pretend to understand it or which program is the best one.

There was no health care industry in Job's day and Jesus was the health care industry in his day. He told a story about health care reform. We call it the Good Samaritan. Helmut Thielicke, the German preacher/theologian of 50 years ago, said if you are the broken man on the side of the road you can think of plenty of reasons why every person should stop and help you but if you are the one passing by you can think of plenty of reasons why the broken person is someone else's responsibility.

We are blessed with a tremendous health care system in this country. We often take it for granted every time we go to the doctor and someone pays the bill for us. Millions of people have no access to that kind of quality care. You can find them in every community. They are the broken people sitting beside the road. What would Jesus have us do?

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