Like many of you, I have watched the painful footage of congressional town hall meetings where ordinary people divulged their most personal and private health information in a collective effort to convince their representatives to mend-not-end the benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act. Such imagery is quite difficult to view and impossible to forget.
I just do not get what is exceptional about US social and political systems that require citizens to essentially beg their political leaders, in public forums, to protect and improve legislation designed to provide potentially life-preserving and life-extending medical treatment to those who cannot obtain such treatment through their own resources alone. Furthermore, I am amazed at how the curators and guardians of such systems frequently benefit from uncritical and unchallenged acceptance of their stances by many who identify as being adherents of Christianity.
While I hold no monopoly on what constitutes authentic Christian faith, I firmly believe that there is no legitimate theological cover for political leaders, many of them people of faith with significant if not unfathomable wealth, and their supporters to strip vital health coverage from the most vulnerable of their constituents.
Along with telephone calls, email notes, and tweets that call on Congress to protect medical insurance for all citizens and especially the most vulnerable – steps we must take today, I think it is time for more of us Christians to make as part of our ministries the engagement of legislators, their staffs, and the public itself in the study of scripture, as somehow, the biblical Jesus, who through his love/justice world view, healed the sick, upheld and extended dignity to the poor and marginalized, and challenged and condemned unjust social practices and political norms, has been repurposed.
In the minds of many political leaders and scores of their constituents, the mission of repurposed Jesus is to a. preside over the “mind your own business” code of social conduct that allows for looking over or past the suffering of others while attending to our own affairs; b. usher “believers” into heaven when they die while calling them to just be nice, self-focused, risk avoiding people while on earth; c. serve as the holy defender of the social and political privileges of the powerful few while maintaining the invisibility and irrelevance of the masses; and d. confer the titles of blessed, wise or “favored” on those who gain wealth and power through the humiliation of the poor domestically and globally.
While our nation sincerely needs deeper and more honest political conversations on health care and other critical matters, I think that those of us who understand and, by God’s grace, attempt to live the love/justice dimensions of Christianity, as modeled by Jesus himself must take swift, clear and decisive steps to articulate and add to the conversation the good news about Jesus as Savior who has the power to transform individuals as well as the systems that influence their lives. We must share the good news about biblical Jesus as caring liberator of oppressed, silenced, hurting, and despised people. It is the love/justice-oriented ministry of this Jesus that anchors and animates the ministry of his followers to stand up for laws and policies that enable all people to receive full access to the resources they need to live out their God-given potential. Health care is one such resource. Thus, the health care debate is not merely a political concern; it is a theological issue as well. God loves all of humanity and is therefore is a stakeholder in this debate.
Political ideologies, as important and impressive as they may be, possess limited redemptive and transformative properties. However, those of us who function as clay jar carriers of the redemptive and transformative power of God made known through Jesus Christ, know of God’s limitless capacity for caring and God’s unending willingness to extend compassion. Inasmuch as the elements of care and compassion have been absent from much of the health care debate with costs most often occupying the center stage, I believe that Christians must now join with partners from other faith traditions in speaking up and speaking out our collective convictions about God’s love/justice vision for humanity. As we do this, we will recognize that there is a social and political wilderness all around us that is crying out for a voice of care and compassion. Now, right now, is our moment to be that voice. Let us use this day to demand that our lawmakers commit their energies to efforts that will ensure that every person who needs health insurance may receive it in the most affordable and accessible ways possible, without having to beg and make themselves vulnerable at town hall meetings.