Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Healthcare and the Church

When I started this blog, I had intended to address political topics once in awhile.  I obviously haven't done that.  I used to be a political junkie of sorts, but I've grown so weary of trying to keep up with the current debates and legislation.  Politics will never save us, obviously, so it's hard for me to continually devote time and energy to the process.  Still, I think it's important for Christians to be engaged, thoughtful citizens.

But one doesn't have to be paying much attention to politics to know that the healthcare debate is a-raging and will continue for some time.  I honestly don't know what to make of the mess.  Our current system is broken, no doubt about it, but I don't know the best way to fix it. 

My husband is a nurse practitioner whose patients are generally low income and usually do not have health insurance.  It saddens me to hear of patients who have treatable medical conditions that go untreated because they can't afford to buy the medicine, have the procedures done, and so forth.  Thus a treatable problem deteriorates into even more severe medical issues.  Then it's only a matter of time until they have a heart attack  or a stroke or some other severe medical event that lands them in the E.R. (or they attempt suicide because they can no longer endure the pain.  It happens far more regularly than we would like to admit.)  I don't think anyone would dispute the fact that preventative medicine is far less costly both in terms of money and quality of life.

I've heard conservative Christians put up a lot of resistance to Obama's healthcare plan, but I haven't heard a lot of alternatives offered.  I don't want to debate the pros and cons of nationalized healthcare.  I do want to know why we accuse Obama of trying to covertly fund abortions by withholding healthcare from the elderly, but we don't seem to give a rip about the fact that every day, in our communities, children don't check-ups when they need them, adults don't treat their diabetes because they can't afford it, and immigrants get abysmal care just because they can't speak English fluently.  Churches could find lots of ways to minister to their community in the healthcare field-- host health screening clinics, help fund non-profit clinics to low income families, help families pay for medicine and doctor visits, teach community health classes, pay for someone to get their cavities filled, and so forth.  In general, I've seen Christians rally together to help support someone in a time of a sudden medical crises (cancer, car accident, etc.), but there doesn't seem to be a lot of thought going into ministering to people in preventative medicine.  

Obviously, this is a big charge, but it's one I think the church could handle.  Our community hosts a huge dental clinic once a year-- they use the sports arena, and dentists from around the area volunteer to see people for free.  They treat what they can at the arena, and more serious cases are scheduled for follow-up.  The place is filled to overflowing with people who couldn't afford to see a dentist all year long.  

I just get so frustrated that we either 1) keep waiting for the government to save us or 2) criticize the government every time it attempts to help the people we are content to ignore.


Frances D said...

It is sad that the very people who claim that they are Christians are not a very loving people except to people they like. I have argued with many that Jesus changed the 10 Commandments to 2 and that is really enough to make us better people. I grew up in the church in the Philippines because my mother made sure we did. She was this loving person, who was very strong and she was a very generous lady who would literally give the shirt off her back. I always thought that Americans were a generous people. But in the last few years, I see some segment of the populace who are mean-spirited and unloving and yet they always take the name "God" in their speeches. I am truly ashamed of this. My mother died 6 years ago and I stopped going to church. I did not like what I heard when I went. I saw the selfishness of people's attitude who only thought of "me" instead of their fellowmen. I hear "hate this group", "hate that group" and I am disappointed. Jesus was definitely a passionate "socialist" I feel and yet people attack Pres. Obama and call him every name in the book. This people who say the name of the Lord and yet are mean-spirited.

The health care debate is done with lies from the right that sometimes is laughable if only it is not tragic. Tragic because people believe these lies just because they use the name "God" as if God is on their side.

The 2 Commandments Jesus gave was "Love your God with all your might and love your neighbor as yourself". My idea of that is that if you love your neighbor, you would not steal, kill, etc. But now "who is your neighbor". Isn't it the people of the world?

E. A. Harvey said...

Frances, thank you for your comment. It is indeed sad that many who claim the name of Christ are unloving towards people who are not like them, or who have a different lifestyle from them, or who are in a different political party than them.

I do think Americans are, on the whole, very generous (how else could so many non-profits stay afloat?). I've come to the conclusion, though, that when Christians seem unloving towards certain groups of people, they don't think they are being unloving. In fact , they think they are being loving by showing some type of "tough love." So they think they are being loving by not giving hand-outs to poor people, because those people need to "learn how to stand on their own two feet." They condemn homosexuals because they are "sinners who directly violate God's commands." Yet they don't see that in their effort to maintain a standard of morality and ethics in our society, they have become much like the Pharisees, who try to keep the letter of the law, but miss the spirit of the law. You are right-- it can be summed up in the 2 greatest commandments-- love God and love people.

I think the remedy for this situation is for Christians in America to disentangle their faith from their politics. We often mistake what God really says for what our political inclinations prefer. It's messy business. God calls us to love and give sacrificially, and what God expects of us is not always (not usually) politically expedient.