What would Jesus say about health care reform?

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A member of Congress recently requested use of our church to have a town hall meeting on health care reform. Given the boisterous nature of some of these gatherings, my initial thoughts had more to do with the health of our building than health care for people who need health care.

While I was preparing to respond to this request, I was asked this question: “Would Jesus back health care reform?”

This seemed to be a much more interesting question than whether or not our place of worship could be used to host a discussion about health care.

Of course, if a town hall about health meeting were held in a Christian church, no doubt someone would invoke the name of the one in whose honor the building had been constructed during the meeting. People love enlisting Jesus as their celebrity endorser for their position on some political or policy position. I can imagine hearing someone saying that the church where the meeting was occurring was built to celebrate someone whose work included providing access to health care. For many people, Jesus was their health care.

Then I can imagine another speaker countering that statement by saying that even Jesus did not heal every sick person – to affirm the notion that not even Jesus believed that heath care is not a right enjoyed universally. Another speaker might say that this is not a religious issue and injecting Jesus into the debate violates the principle of separation of church and state. In agreement, another speaker could assert that it was inappropriate to even have the town hall meeting in a religious institution. I can foresee the potential for this town hall meeting becoming a debate about religion — and missing the point about health care entirely.

That diversion may have already occurred among some people. Assertions that the proposed health care reform includes “death panels” and “government sponsored abortions” are aimed at inciting groups that oppose abortion and euthanasia. Their opposition is largely religious in nature.

Proponents of the current health care reform legislation believe they are responding to a “moral” imperative. This, too, has a religious tone because our sense of morality is shaped in large measure by our religious beliefs. And there are people that sincerely believe that it is immoral for a nation with such vast resources that allows almost a sixth of its population to live without access to the medical care and resources that are critical for maintaining a quality of life. Without such access, one can argue that people with health care cannot truly pursue the happiness that we describe as one of our unalienable rights granted by our Creator.

So what would Jesus say?

I will not join the chorus of very suspicious presumption and assign a position on a political issue to Jesus. But we can be informed by what Jesus said and did. Jesus did heal some very sick people who had no other resource to which they could turn. And Jesus told a story about a man who helped a stranger from another ethnic group who had been attacked and left for dead. He told that story when someone asked him who he should consider his neighbor. Jesus insisted that anyone we have a chance to help is our neighbor and we should want for our neighbor what we have and want for ourselves. Jesus taught that we should love your neighbor we love ourselves.

As one great philosopher said: “Let a word to the wise be sufficient.”

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