Discussing
A Christian Creed on Health-Care Reform from Sojourners

Nathan Bierma

Bubmiller
August 18, 2009

I have to disagree with any evaluation of the bible that places the group above the individual. I don't think that any "health care reform" that makes doctors slaves to the system or takes by force money from one person to give to another is a biblical system. The kind of health care reform being discussed is just that. It requires people (through their taxes) to pay for the health care of another. That is an obligation only God can impose on an individual. Our current health care system is a far cry better than any reform proposals currently being discussed. The only effective health care reform will be one that encourages and enables individuals to help their fellow citizens, not one that forces it. Our obligation is first to God, who will in turn equip us to help others.

Mebertoni
August 18, 2009

Their are several problems with relying on individuals to independently aid their fellow citizens to obtain health care. First, the need for accessible health care in our nation is too great for any individual to make a serious dent in it. Second, there isn't an infrastructure among Protestant churches to attempt to serve that need. Third, even if there was an infrastructure, the mindset in far too many Protestant churches is one of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" - more American than Christian. In contrast, there is a mindset of collective social responsibility as well as an infrastructure in the Catholic Church, but even there the need far outstrips the available resources. And finally, let's not dismiss the effects of sin on the human heart and conscience. If left to their own devices waiting for God to inspire and "equip" them to help others, most Christians will service their individual greed and selfishness. Too many American churches practice a gospel of consumerism and capitalism while glorifying individual rights and blissfully dismissing the needs of "the least of these" in their communities. This message plays well to our sin stained hearts. In a perfect world, one would have no need for government assistance with things like health care, housing, and food. But in this tainted, dysfunctional world that we live in, we need government to step in and address those needs that we're unable or unwilling to address as individuals.

Guest
August 18, 2009

While I agree with the beliefs outlined in the preamble above, I disagree in the notion that pursuing health care reform is the appropriate response to God's commandments for us. It's only human that we would take this position.<br><br>The Israelites demanded a king, because they wanted to be like all the other nations. God didn't favor this, although he gave them a king. Then Israel had a long and mixed history of kings, all of whom fall short of the one King who seeks a relationship with us.<br><br>Likewise with government, I take the position that less is better. By imposing our views on the group, we're more likely to mix the ill feelings people have with politics with our faith. And that very situation is the reason James Madison pushed the Separation of Church and State. It was for the Churches' sake, no the governments' sake. On this topic, James Madison describe it like this: "We are teaching the world the great truth that Governments do better without Kings &amp; Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government."<br><br>With this in my mind, I second bubmiller. A stronger approach is an health care reform that encourages and enables individuals to help their fellow citizens. Not one that forces it.

PipPopper
August 18, 2009

Should the trends continue (<a href="http://tiny.cc/hbUYe)" rel="nofollow">http://tiny.cc/hbUYe)</a> no one is going to be able to help anyone. The average family of four will have $32,000 in medical expenses by 2019. This isn't about forcing generosity, but demanding justice and curbing greed as ordained by God in Romans 13.

Gaylapostma
August 18, 2009

And how's that working for your country so far? I suggest that you look at who is opposing health care reform. I'm guessing it is mostly people who already have health coverage and don't need reform. What about the millions who have no coverage?<br><br>A Canadian who loves universal health care in this country. There may be problems, but no one goes bankrupt and no one goes without care.

Bubmiller
August 18, 2009

I fundamentally disagree. I don't understand how one can be so dismissive of the individual and yet expect incredible things when those same flawed people are called a "Government". One of the reasons of this nation has seen the greatest prosperity for the greatest number of citizens is the freedom we have enjoyed and have come to take for granted. Once the Government has a foothold in our health care, they have the ability to control every aspect of our lives in the name of what is good for Country/Government. Shame on the Church for creating the gap Government is filling.

Rick
August 18, 2009

While I generally agree with Jim Wallis’s statement, I have questions about implementation and process. I am not one of those privileged with a great healthcare plan. I am in a state pool of hard-to-insure people. I was employed by a company that went out of business...if they had stayed in business I could have kept my insurance under a COBRA plan but they went bankrupt. It’s quite expensive and has a very high deductible because I have had health issues in the past. <br><br>That being said, we have just dumped trillions of dollars into the stimulous package, and financial instituition rescue. This would be the third strike, another trillion dollar package that cannot break even or pay for itself. I don’t want to doom my country or put everyone out of work in a real 21st century depression. I admit that I do not understand these plans very well, but I resent the fact that Republicans were ignored and this plan was rushed through. This is a huge deal that affects everyone and needs to include both political parties. Someone said president Obama spent more time selecting a dog for the family than putting together this plan. I also resent the fact that anyone who disagrees or has questions is marginalized, vilified and ignored. The whole idea that we are suppoosed to turn in anyone to the governmernt who sends an e-mail in opposition to the plan is a very scary notion. <br><br>So I am not against reform, I would benefit as well as millions of uninsured people. But I would like to see a bi-partisan effort. I would like to see the Congressional Budget Office sign off on a plan that will not push us into financial ruin. And I would like to see adequate time for all opinions and questions to be considered without denigrating the questioners. Maybe “death panels for the aged” is a groundless fear, but let people ask their questions and express their fears, no matter how unwarranted. Let there be some respect for the common people, we all have to share this country.

Againali
August 18, 2009

I find it hard to elicit sympathy on a doctor who uses pens from Zoloft, mouse pads from Ambien, and gives away purple stress "squeeze balls" with the Nexium insignia imprinted on them...all while accepting a catered lunch Monday through Saturday for him/herself and the entire office, courtesy of the drug salesman of the day. No one--and I mean NO ONE---is going to tell me that doctors don't get kickbacks from these companies. When my doctor only wants to diagnose me by process of elimination ("...Let's try this drug for two weeks; if that doesn't work, we'll try this other drug..."), instead of sending me for proper testing in the first place, he is getting something out of it. And the insurance companies seem to have no problem paying for all these meds, and don't question it. I know way too many people addicted to opiates because of continual prescriptions filled for Vicodan, written out by their physician and honored by their health insurance company. I'm sorry, but this is corrupt and it has to change.<br><br>I know all doctors do not participate in these practices. Unfortunately, they are the majority here in NY. As for doctors being "slaves", I'd rather have my doctor be accountable to the system than holding hands with the insurance and drug companies who rape his patients on a daily basis.

Bethanykj
August 19, 2009

I was considering a post that I'll now leave alone asking a related question: as I am becoming less confident that reform will solve the serious problems with health care access even if it improves the situation, should the church step in and help people who need basic care but can't afford it?<br>I am still writing my representatives in support of a public option, but even if that passes, there will still be health needs in our communities.

Jimmme
August 19, 2009

We as a people should be ashamed that we can get excited and write legislation on every little thing, but somehow look the other way re: millions of us who struggle getting health care. This petition isn't proposing any specific legislation, only that something within our collective power should be done. I agree that the "public option" is dangerous, but there are other options that can lower prices, and increase insurance availability to poor people.<br><br>But I will not sign this petition. I was tired of a Christianity tied to Americanism and the Republican party. So I began reading Sojourners hoping for something different, only to learn they are as guilty being the imperial church ala the Democrat party.<br><br>Why do you think there is no mention of "from the womb" to old age, rather they quote Isaiah re: infancy? What's wrong with including prenatal care and treading the fetus. That was not just an oversight. Just like those affiliated with the Republicans, everything Sojourners does reflects the Dems. Too bad. Had this mentioned fetal treatment I would have gladly signed this petition.<br><br>Also, our decisions should have nothing to do with government--that happens to be the tool--rather it should be based on the Word of God.

CurlyVal
August 19, 2009

I don't know all the details of the proposed changes to the American health care system, as I am Canadian.<br>However, I do want to remark about how much I LOVE the public health care system in Canada. (To be honest I think most Canadians love it too!) <br><br>My biggest resistence to ever moving to the states is your health care system...<br><br>PS I don't understand all these comments about God's concern for the individual, that to me seems very North Americn and not Christian. God's concern is for the community, He loves community! I think you'd be hard pressed to find scripture that promotes the individual over the larger community.

Nbierma
August 19, 2009

interesting. is that basically what the church already does when it comes to food and housing (for the hungry and the homeless) -- when the system fails, the church will (try to) provide alternatives out of compassion.

Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma
August 19, 2009

My wife and I are uninsured, despite working several (white-collar) jobs. While we could conceivably buy in to a plan, the cost is so great as to limit our ability to to do the work we feel called to. Anyway, we've been having a lot of conversations about the current health care debate; here are a few observations:<br><br>1) A common argument I hear is that those without health insurance are somehow personally responsible for whatever reason (laziness, poor decision-making, etc.). Bringing "personal responsibility" into the conversation is problematic on a number of levels (and a red herring that diverts the purpose of a discussion on health care). To wit: apparently, personal responsibility is only a problem for the poor, as the wealthy can be as irresponsible as they want to be and still have access to health care.<br><br>2) Another common argument against a government-funded option points to other countries' systems in an attempt to show how problematic they are. I completely understand that socialized health systems have problems and aren't perfect; however, our current free market health system is also incredibly broken. The primary difference, it seems, is that in the former broken system everyone has access to care. Therefore, it isn't particularly helpful to bring up all of the things wrong with socialized systems (which, quite frankly, aren't even being discussed much in the official conversation on health reform) while ignoring the brokenness of the existing system. We need to examine the inequities, wastefulness and dysfunction of our own system if we're going to propose solutions that might actually make a difference in people's lives--which is the point of reform, right?<br><br>3) It seems helpful and illuminating to examine the profit motive of our current system. Insurance companies' primary reason for existence is not, unfortunately, the health of their customers; their goal, by corporate charter, is to serve their primary constituency: stockholders. While the average premium paid to large U.S. health insurance companies has gone up 87% since 2002, the profits of the top ten insurance companies have gone up 428%. So ... who's benefitting there? And what is the incentive for insurance companies to change?<br><br>Just a few things to add to the already interesting conversation!

Jesuslovesjamie
August 19, 2009

As Christians we are commanded to Ephesians 5:1 "be imitators of God"; 5:2 "walk in love" 1 Peter 4:7- 11 Talks about in all things we do we do for the glory of God. When we bound ourselves to government in a way that makes us look to it as the provider of health, do we not take away the Glory that should be God's? Do we deprive the Lord the ability to show that He provides all things we need? Do we then start praising the Government for our good health; will we look to the Lord for salvation when the government denies?<br>1 Peter 5:6, 7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.<br>This reminds me of a people who was ruled by a judge; the people rejected the rule of the judge ( the government God set up ); they cried out to be like the other nations. We are crying out to be like the other nations, with out taking into consideration that this will limit our ability to say no to matters that disagree with our walk as Christians. God will allow us to have "the health care of the nations" but as the Isrealites desire put them under the tyranny of the whims of the King, it will bond us free Christians to tyranny of the Government.<br>I am married to a Canadian; I have never met a Canadian who did not complain about the heavy hand of the government tax system. My husbands Grandfather was denied life prolonging health care because of his age; he being the loyalist of health care ... died without complaining, this was the system he helped propagandized. My husband's grandmother was continually bumped to the end of the list for needed heart surgery, because of her age .... after many months and the hand of God keeping her alive ... her grandchildren screaming at the government, she finally received treatment. Under medicare in the states she would have received treatment immediately. Is this the health care as Christians we should make sure all people have access too? I was once a die hard government health care advocate, now I am a self pay patient... I have pre-existing condition that keeps me from coverage ... I know change would be great, change that will solve this problem not trade one problem for another. Please there are many plans out there that would take care of the people with out bonding us to the ... well read 2 Corinthians 6:14 <br>Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? <br>Do not let the Temple of God be bound to those who are not only unholy, but are God Hating!<br>Put your trust in God, He does provide.

Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma
August 19, 2009

jesuslovesjamie: I imagine both situations with your/your husband's grandparents had to be extraordinarily difficult for the family. Care for the elderly is often fraught with impossible decisions, inadequate resources and emotionally-draining experiences.<br><br>It's interesting, though, that you hold up Medicare as a better alternative than the Canadian health system in an argument against government-run health care. First, Medicare is a government-run health care system. And, second, it was created because of the failures of a private system that didn't want to provide insurance for the elderly. After all, the elderly usually require the most care and resources; therefore, they simply are not profitable (see my third point above).<br><br>So, the government is already providing health care to a segment of the population that is difficult/impossible to insure. Why not open that service to more folks who need it?

Llawhwsoj
August 20, 2009

Bethany,<br><br> There is a man by the name of Steve Chalk in London who is a strong advocate of such a role. The UK, as the media likes to remind us, has a single payer system but even with such a structure he is a strong advocate for the church being active in health care, in addition to more traditional roles like housing and food. I also share your concerns about a more moderated reform being unable to address the root problem (to say nothing of the unwillingness of politicians to address issues of health related litigation) and think you might find Chalk's emphasis interesting. You can see his congregation's website at <a href="http://church.co.uk" rel="nofollow">church.co.uk</a>

Rick
August 20, 2009

I don't think I would hold up Medicare as an example of how the Government successfully manages healthcare or talk about opening it up to insure more people. Medicare provides such great service by ignoring debt. The trust fund established to fund Medicare is about gone and it now faces 34 trillion in unsecdured debt. Depending on who you believe, Medicare will be bankrupt in either 2015, 2017 (Medicare Payment Advisory Commission) or 2019 (Obama). Alan Greenspan has identified it as the number one problem facing America. In a recent commentary in Investors Business Daily, Rep. Tim Penny (Democrat) and Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (Republican) note that Medicare costs 10.7 times as much today as its sponsors predicted it would, and more than 85 times as much as when the Medicare entitlement was first created.

Weet
August 20, 2009

I think trying to tie any specific political policy to the bible which is largely a spiritual text is fallacious. Obviously we all want everyone to have the best health care possible. I don't think anyone here wants to see themselves, their friends, or even people they don't know go without. The question of how we achieve that end is what matters and the Bible is of no help there. It's a strictly temporal matter.<br><br>No health plan will ever be without it's problems. What we really need is an analysis demonstrating what the real problems in our current system are and then debate over the best way to fix those problems. Right now all we have is push from the left and fear mongering from the right. I've heard zero helpful debate on the topic as no seems to have any real data. <br><br>The first rule of solving any problem is to figure out an objective. Right now I've heard zero concrete discussion about what our objective should be. In fact, I suspect a lot of the "disagreement" is simply a matter differing objective. Until we can all agree upon an objective with notable clarity we'll never be able to form a system to achieve that objective or determine it's plausibility. I suspect the answer to our problems will be something unique.

SiarlysJenkins
August 20, 2009

Rick has a good point. Ultimately, all health care delivered has to be paid for by someone. Legislators of all political dogmas are happy to set high and stringent standards for whatever they think is good and right and just, or will get them re-elected, but nobody follows through on the real costs. That goes for massive increases in the number of people in prison, it goes for Medicare (which is also funded by absurdly low payments to medical providers), it goes for child welfare laws, and all kinds of other things. It is better to provide a safety net for health care for those who can't afford it, but somebody has to stand up and point out, this isn't free. Either premiums pay for it, or providers pay for it in uncompensated services, or taxpayers pay for it. We need to be honest about how much we are willing to pay, how to distribute that cost, and what we are willing to forgo. I am sympathetic to the Sojourners statement, but cannot sign it, because it is sufficiently broad in its wording that it could mean many things I would not subscribe to. That said, insurance companies are making tremendous profits off of those who can pay, including government, and that seems to be the elephant in the room that Democrats won't stand up to, and Republicans won't cop to, because both are getting plenty of campaign funds from the obscene profits of that industry.

SiarlysJenkins
August 20, 2009

It is true that government is staffed by individuals, who are more than fallible. In any bureaucracy, public or private, whoever you get on the phone has an infuriating tendency to firmly tell you whatever they personally believe to be law or policy, and slam the door on whatever you know or believe to be the legally proper resolution to a problem. I have that problem with medical provider and insurance bureaucracies now, and we would have the same problem with any government bureaucracy handling insurance or delivery of care.<br><br>I think we might get by with individual doctors providing family and primary care on a pro bono basis rather than a large government program paying them to do so. However, the sheer complexity and cost of the highly technical and specialized care that is hardest to get access to, and most critical in acute emergencies, unfortunately requires some regulation and prioritization in order to make them available to all who need them. Pro bono colonoscopies and stroke treatment are not going to cut it. Also, right now, the "free market" pushes so many doctors into specialties, and so many primary care physicians into high-rise office buildings next door to hospitals, that we don't have the bulk of our physicians in accessible community settings, where bubmiller's admirable vision would work.

SiarlysJenkins
August 20, 2009

It is not at all clear what portion of the population really oppose health care reform. It is clear that the loudest noises are being made by well funded commercials and events, funded by the largest corporations who have the most to lose if medical costs are brought within a reasonable framework. As noted above, the profits of the top ten insurance companies have gone up 428%. Those bloated profits are paying for the hullaballoo to create the impression that "the people" are rejecting any kind of reform which might reduce the volume of those profits.

carrie4him
August 20, 2009

I am excited about the Sojourners Discussion guide. I downloaded it and will be linking, sending, etc to my friends, family, and colleagues. As a nurse, I see first hand the health care discrepency that occurs and it is horrible. I also see the wrangling that is going on across our country about what heath care reform should and should not be. The discussion guide provides some great guidelines that should be the basis for reform. Those people that have health care and want to keep it, should be able to keep it. While those millions of people with no health care or crappy coverage should be able to purchase a subsidized health care program that is equal in benefits, including the inability to be denied coverage for ANY reason. Thanks for the posting--and I continue to love this site :)

Skeeder
August 20, 2009

I find the "creed" from Sojourner a little premature. To make a declaration trying to find ways to tack on biblical support to a particular belief or world view that someone has, as an attempt to rally people together to speak as one voice on behalf of everyone, is jumping the gun. Thanks, but no thanks.

Tom
August 21, 2009

A couple of quick comments relative to the above:<br><br>First, to say our current health care system is 'free market' is a gross mis-statement. In a true 'free market', the consumer considers thier own resources vs. the cost/value of a product, and makes a decision on what to buy and where to buy it. Most medical consumers today have no idea of the cost of the services they are consuming. For example, even though an MRI of my sore knee may cost thousnds of dollars, it costs me only a co-pay, so when my doctor suggests it, I don't think twice about having it done. No matter what business you are in, if the consumer is not the one paying the bill, cost will go up. Just think of you going out to eat on your own dime vs. being taken out to dinner by a rich uncle.<br><br>Second, You say that an insurance company's primary reason for existence is profit for shareholders, not health of thier customers. That's a misguided notion! Would you say the same about the owner of a grocery store? or a farmer? or a carpenter? While it's true in a sense that my paycheck is the reason I go to work every day, I firmly believe that most people go to work because God created us with a desire to produce something that's of value to society. Profits are not evil!<br><br>Peope today generally seem to believe that the driving principle of capitalism is to give individuals the chance to get rich. That's not true anymore than to say that the driving principle of socialism is to put power in the hands of the government.<br><br>Capitalism and socialism are simply two different methods of delivering goods and services, and an examination of the many countries that have tried socialism clearly indicates that capitalism does the job much more efficiently and effectively.<br><br><br><br><br>

Rick
August 21, 2009

You’re probably right. I’m sure those fat cat insurance companies paid for the TV ads. However, it might be cynical to blame all the outrage expressed at town hall meetings solely on the corporations. I wouldn’t discount people’s real feelings of rage. <br><br>I live in an overwhelmingly liberal state in one of the most leftist cities in America, There are very few Republicans here and most of the noise in our town hall meetings consists of people wanting single payer federal health insurance. To publicly identify as Republican and admit you vote conservative is to risk getting your car keyed, risk losing business, risk having your name and address printed in an alternative newspaper (as has been done in Seattle) or worse. When you are surrounded by like minded people it becomes unimaginable that anyone could honestly hold different opinions. <br><br>Conversely, one of my best friends lives in Texas and I get many of the e-mails floating around about health care. Those people don’t need any mobilizing or organizing, they are truly upset by this healthcare plan and are opposed for philosophical reasons. They see it as being rammed down their throats by liberals, they are deeply suspicious of the government and believe those in power are trying to engineer a socialist state. I suspect most of the south is this way. America’s largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptists are vehemently opposed to the plan. In fact, I looked up a Southern Baptist resolution on the Clinton plan from 1994 and it virtually reads like some of the rhetoric you read today in e-mails. Last week I even heard a black minister from Louisiana rail against Obama for his liberal politics. <br><br>So despite the corporately financed TV ads, I think we should grant people the dignity of believing they have sincerely held opinions and not reduce the opposition to Insurance corporation conspiracies despite their active opposition. An issue this big affects all of America and deserves time, consideration and bi-partisan planning.

Helen
August 23, 2009

Matt 25:36 ... I was sick and you cared for me. -Jesus

SiarlysJenkins
August 24, 2009

I live in a state where margins are razor-thin, where neighbors can look out their doors during an election season and see signs for both candidates on every block, where 6% of the voters split their ticket between GWB and the only senator to vote NO on the "USA Patriot Act." I too would like to think that each individual is merely coming to express their individual concern. But I know politics doesn't always work that way. I would like to see a bipartisan effort. I would like to see a bill which incorporates almost EVERY proposal, and lets individuals pick and choose, rather than politicians from all over the political spectrum posturing that "The People want MY alternative plan." The People don't agree on anything, that's why a wide variety of options is essential. I don't think the Southern Baptist Convention favors choice any more than Nancy Pelosi does. I agree we have to get on top of the budget deficit in the next year or so, but I have no problem taxing the fortunes of those who have been making out like bandits in the era of deregulation, and nearly plunged us into another Depression. I also believe ANY option, public or private, should rely mainly on premiums to finance it.

SiarlysJenkins
August 25, 2009

That's funny. I thought the official Bible-believing End-Times fundamental (lower case) genuine patriotic Christian position on the United States is that our government IS the one annointed by God, which makes us DIFFERENT from other nations. So, if our judges, who are supposed to sort out problems among the people, can craft a decent health care system, how is that turning away from God?

Vickisue
August 31, 2009

Hi- <br>Do you really, love the Canadian System? I have been told by several Canadians and even my doctor who was a Canadian said that the system is really bad!! That people would have to wait years for a true family doctor.!! Maybe it is the area of Canada my doctor was from. So you comment really suprises me. I'm sure you would know if you live there - but the people I have spoken to (Canadians ) several who had health issues really do not like it. <br>And I think God does love the individual very much, that is why he sent Christ to die for us, each of us.

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