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Is it Christian to be against universal health care? April 7, 2010

Well, actually the issue in this country is NOT about health CARE but health INSURANCE.  Some would say I’m just playing semantics but there is a big difference.  We already have health care in this country and have had it for quite a while.  If you walk into any hospital in need of urgent care, you will not be denied simply because you cannot pay.  We value human life in this country, even Christians who oppose universal insurance coverage.  Before addressing the question at hand, it’s important to recognize that difference.

Many have asked me the question, “What would Jesus do?”  Let’s explore that for a minute.  What DID Jesus do?  He was here on earth for around 33 years and had the power to heal anyone.  Yet, upon His death and even after His ascension there were still sick people on the planet.  He could have instantaneously healed everyone for all of eternity or at the very least he could have ensured some sort of health coverage for all people but He didn’t.  We could wax eloquent all day as to why.  Still, if He had then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

I’ve thought about how to answer this question without delving into the practicality of the matter and strictly addressing the spiritual aspect but the two are so closely tied (meaning, one leads to the outcome of the other), that it’s impossible to separate them.  So with that in mind, we’ll walk through this both realistically and theologically.

I want it known, too that I’m speaking from experience.  I have a pre-existing condition and was denied insurance coverage so I’m not just blowing smoke or being insensitive and unsympathetic.  In fact, I do not currently have health insurance.  Stories like mine are not being told.  I have other Christian friends who are like me or have children with special needs (down’s) who are against this bill.  I’m also not among the “wealthy” that I’ll mention later.  I’m very possibly in the lowest tax bracket so I have no personal motivation financially for my opinion.

Is it terrible that health care costs are so high? Yes, but we live in a fallen world.  Does that mean we should do nothing?  Of course not.  But again, government involvement is not the answer.  There are tons of nonprofits and churches ready and willing to step in and help.  It is our Christian calling and duty to do just that and the government hinders that mission by weakening our accountability and shifting the responsibility to a larger, less personal entity.  It eliminates the relational component of benevolence that’s a vital part of spiritual growth.  (ie. “I don’t need to give anymore.  My taxes do enough to help the poor.”)  Darren Duvall, a friend of my husband’s,  had this to say about the relational deficiency of universal health insurance in respect to helping the poor:

“The net effect of supporting expansive social safety nets is that you don’t want the poor to be with us because you don’t want there to be poor. The means that achieves that admittedly noble end is the taking of taxes from people you don’t know and the delivery of those funds, plus whatever is borrowed from the Chinese, to other people you don’t know but believe you are serving in this manner as some sort of anonymous holy office with the Federal government as your proxy.

I’m not entirely sure how those people are supposed to grasp that you’re doing this for the glory of God. It’s not God’s name on the envelope that the check comes in, and there are as many progressive atheists and agnostics claiming credit for government largesse as there are progressive Christians, so who’s to be believed? I guess you can say, “The poor are being served either way, so shut up,” but given the remove from the people you’re namelessly, facelessly serving every payday by deduction, I question whether as a Christian paying your taxes is anything other than rendering unto Caesar, which doesn’t really get the same emphasis in the New Testament as actually serving the poor with your own two hands. And I’m absolutely sure that having a government entity handle the redistribution of wealth is not a lesson to the unchurched about how much God loves them. That doesn’t save souls, it ends up being a process intended to save incumbents, and that’s a rather petty process to try and drag God into, in my opinion.

Basically, the justification for demanding Christian support of government social programs strikes me as a dilatory and rather roundabout way of offloading individual responsibility for acts of charity onto the state. What’s more, it clouds the work that the people of God should actually be doing. I think charity has gotten a bad name, in the Rugged Individualist concept of the American character nobody wants to have to receive it and it’s seen as demeaning or damaging to self-esteem to need or receive charity. It’s so much neater and cleaner if they get a check in the mail like any other government contractor. But that is hopelessly impersonal, and service is always supposed to be personal and relational. Fine to support whatever you wish to support. Just don’t tell me that I have to support it as well.”

Practically speaking, there were and are already government programs in place to help with medical coverage.  Incidentally, speaking of costs, these programs are nearly bankrupt.  Why should we expect universal health insurance to be any different?

Some have referred to this as “free” healthcare. It is NOT free.  You can’t get something for nothing save the grace of God.  In fact, if anything this bill will INCREASE the cost of health care while simultaneously more and more people suffer financial hardship due to other factors facing our country right now (most, if not all, caused by government intervention).  How is this any more ethical if people lose their jobs, homes, then subsequently face starvation?

Why do I believe this would happen?  In order to pay for this universal health insurance, government will increase taxes (in particularly upon the “wealthy”).  Officials would lead you to believe that the rich are greedy and that it’s their duty to help the poor.  While some certainly ARE greedy, does this mean they should be compelled to pay for others’ health insurance?  In my opinion, this is stealing.  They work for their money too.  What right do we have to take it from them?

Furthermore, why should we support a system that encourages others NOT to work?  After all, the less you make, the less you pay and the more the government provides for you at the expense of the wealthy.  In fact, depending on your salary, you may have more disposable income taking a lower pay grade.  What incentive are we giving them to excel?  Isn’t that a Christian virtue…to do your best at everything?  To do everything to the glory of God?

The truth of the matter is that it’s those “greedy” that generate jobs in this country.  What do you think is going to happen to their workers when their employers are forced to hand more of their money over to the government?  The end result, decreased wages and job loss.

Am I suggesting that government is inherently evil?  No, although I think our government is becoming more and more power hungry.  My wonderful and intelligent husband had this to say:

“The government has the capability to be a great force for good.  Unfortunately, it also has the capability to be a great force for evil. To the degree that we empower it for the one, we inescapably empower it for the other as well…and simply rely on the good intentions of those in power.”

I’d rather hedge my bets with the church and God’s people than hand over that responsibility to a government institution, let alone the loss of freedom of choice.

I’m not saying it’s unchristian to favor Obamacare or any other universal health insurance program.  I have many friends who feel very strongly that it’s the right thing to do.  They are fantastic people and I have no doubt that their heart is in the right place.  I just resent the judgment of those of us that oppose this bill as being unfeeling, uncaring, and unchristian.  That just simply is not true.

I welcome your comments.


9 Responses to “Is it Christian to be against universal health care?”

  1. stephaniesings Says:

    This is probably the longest article I’ve ever posted. Do you think I’m passionate in my view? 😉

  2. Justin Says:

    An excellent post, honey.

    P.S. thanks for the “shout out”;-)

  3. Connie Says:

    First of all you cannot just walk into any hospital and get treatment. I belonged to Kaiser and Kaiser hospital would not treat even emergencies that were not Kaiser members.
    For all of the talk of this not being a financial issue it is interesting how many times the wealthy were mentioned.
    Jesus didn’t heal everyone. Nor did he feed everyone. I think he meant to set an example. How wonderful it would be if people actually did care for the sick and poor. But the fact is most don’t.
    : ) take care

  4. Marjie Snow Almeter Says:

    You couldn’t be more correct in what you wrote. The government has to be stopped. For starters, the way this bill was voted in from the get go was unconstitutional. If “WE” the Americans have to abide by this health care bill, then so does everyone else in WASHINGTON, because as I see it now, they are exempt! I have many health problems as well, my husband makes enough money from his job to allow me to stay home. Is it fair that the government Tax us to death to support those who don’t want to work because they’re lazy? No, it’s not fair! I’m not sure if you read my post yesterday, but a dear friend of my husband & myself sent this to us in email, I will be doing this come November!

    “A New Political Party? Yes…

    Not Democrat, Not Republican, Not Independent.

    It’s called the “PISSED OFF PARTY” (or POP). Read on……

    This party is dedicated to vote every incumbent out of office in the next elections.
    If you’re Democrat, vote Democrat. Just don’t vote for the incumbent.
    If you’re Republican, vote Republican. Just don’t vote for the incumbent.

    We need to send a message to all politicians, that we’re tired of their B.S.
    If the country votes out all the incumbents, the new incoming politicians will get the message..

    It is simple. Nobody needs to change parties and let us face it; there is plenty of blame to spread around.

    A few good politicians will lose their job but they probably have better retirement and insurance then 95% of the American public, so don’t feel sorry for them.

    You’ve had to struggle for the last 5 years. Some of you have lost your job and may be working in some other sector just to feed your family. I guarantee you, none of them will suffer like this country has.

    If you like what’s going on and think this is a bad idea, – delete this.

    But if you’re fed up and think this is a good idea, then pass this E-mail on.

    If you really think this has legs, then a website and a blog could help get the word out.

    To All 535 voting members of the Legislature; it is now official: you are ALL corrupt :

    a.. The U.S. Post Service was established in 1775. You have had 234 years to get it right and it is broke.
    b.. Social Security was established in 1935. You have had 74 years to get it right and it is broke.
    c.. Fannie Mae was established in 1938. You have had 71 years to get it right and it is broke.
    d.. War on Poverty started in 1964. You have had 45 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our money is confiscated each year and transferred to “the poor” and they only want more.
    e.. Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965. You have had 44 years to get it right and they are broke.
    f.. Freddie Mac was established in 1970. You have had 39 years to get it right and it is broke.
    g.. The Department of Energy was created in 1977 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 16,000 employees with a budget of $24 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. You had 32 years to get it right and it is an abysmal failure.

    You have FAILED in every “government service” you have shoved down our throats while overspending our tax dollars.


    Folks, keep this circulating. It is very well stated.

  5. Connie Says:

    Also, the wealthy who own large companies often are employing people for 37 hours a week, thus allowing them not to offer health care. This is greedy. And the tell them to work elsewhere is a ridiculous statement as people need jobs.
    It is a Christian virtue to do your best. But I don’t recall Jesus making it a prerequisite to be a Christian to be healed.

  6. Connie Says:

    of course there werent Christians then lol

  7. stephaniesings Says:

    Connie, if you don’t mind my asking, what treatment did you need? I’m asking because I’m wondering if it was considered urgent or life-threatening care.

    Also, were you referring to Kaiser Foundation Hospital? If so, I checked their website and they are a voluntary non-profit facility. That could be a contributing factor. Although, as a paying member of Kaiser, I don’t understand why they would not admit you. I think I’d become a member of something else. 🙂

    Here is a link explaining what I was referring to…

  8. stephaniesings Says:

    Also, I mentioned the wealthy because greedy or not, they are the backbone and creators of jobs in this country. I mention finances to make an ethical point. Thirty seven hours of work is far better than zero hours. Higher taxes on those employers causes the most suffering for the workers because of how it affects the employer. Companies are in business to make a profit. Profits are necessary to stay in business. If they cannot make a profit, they go out of business and ALL of their workers are unemployed. How does that benefit the employer or the worker? Is it ethical to leave families homeless and starving just so everyone can have health insurance?

    Again, healthcare is not the issue. The employees already have that. Rightly or wrongly, it is the company’s prerogative to offer health insurance or not. Some companies wouldn’t be able to stay in business if they did. My point is that ethically I don’t believe they should be compelled to hand over their hard earned cash. That is stealing.

    Consider the parable of the workers in the field. The ones who worked all day were payed the same amount as those who only worked an hour. What did Jesus say to those that complained that it wasn’t fair? “What concern is it of yours how another spends his money?”

    We, as Christians, are called to be good stewards…NOT to take money from those who have it to give to someone else. They alone are responsible for how they spend their money and one day will give a reckoning for it just like everyone else.

    As for the comment regarding Jesus not making being a Christian a prerequisite to being healed, I’m not sure I get your meaning. Mostly I agree with that statement. The one thing that gives me pause is the story of the Gentile woman in Mark 7:24-30. Ultimately Jesus did heal her. But why the dialogue? That’s not really the point of this article, though. That’s what I mean by not understanding what you meant. Could you explain a little more please?

  9. Stephanie,

    Although you and I have not met, it is pretty clear that we agree.

    Connie, is it being greedy to offer someone a job? The reason that employers may choose to employ people part-time or as contractors without benefits is that benefits on average add an additional 40% on to base wages. If an employer can only pay X in wages and benefits, a government mandate to insure all employees regardless of hours would necessitate a 40% cut in staff. Yes, the 60% who remain would have health insurance, but the 40% who are now unemployed would have nothing.

    Is this better than the current situation? I don’t know. But it does represent real-world choices, where the choice is not always right or wrong, but more often a choice between bad and worse, or two choices where there are balanced benefits and detriments and only time will tell which was the “right” decision. I find that many people on the Christian Left do not see the world in this way. Things are either good or bad, and rarely does someone from the Christian Left (or the Left, period, for that matter) consider the downstream ramifications of what seems to be unquestionably good at the outset, yet leads to unintended and detrimental consequences.

    The big plus of helping the poor and the sick at the personal or church level is feedback — you know whether your efforts are achieving their ends and if they are not you can adjust to a proper course. The problem with this large, society-wide program is that feedback is very hard to get, there are cheerleaders and detractors on both sides who are more than willing to filter the feedback to suit their ends. Will SEIU find fault with this system, ever? Only if a Republican gets into office and they can criticize it as being “underfunded”. Is Fox News likely to say how well it’s working? Don’t hold your breath.

    And so we embark on a giant and costly societal experiment, without the ability to really tell if it is going to work, much like the Titanic heading across the ocean trying to break the Mauritania’s speed record. I’m sure in other quantum universes, the Titanic missed the iceberg, but we will never know for sure. I do know that spending a trillion dollars blind and upsetting the current system will have costs and downstream effects that are unpredictable. My assumption is that it will not work as planned, simply because giant government enterprises do not tend to work as planned.

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