(8/16/09) — The work and teaching of Jesus offer important moral guideposts as we discuss how to deliver and pay for health care in America today.
New Testament scholars generally agree that the earliest traditions about Jesus emphasize four interrelated themes: Jesus preached and practiced free healing, free food, open tables, and safe space for marginal people....
...Health care for all is a Christian bottom line. It’s consistent with the preaching and practice of Jesus, and it’s inexorably bound to his understanding of God’s rules for the world. Reasonable, decent people may disagree on the best way to get there, but followers of Christ should stand united on the fundamental principle that everyone has a right to healing care.
Health care should be affordable for everyone. When Jesus sent his disciples into the world to heal and cast out demons, he told them to heal for free and to accept whatever hospitality families could provide them (Matthew 10:8–10). In America, there is broad agreement that everyone should receive treatment in life-threatening situations. That’s why it’s illegal for emergency rooms to turn away people who can’t pay. It’s good that people who can’t afford a doctor can get care in a crisis, but this way of doing things is not only dangerous for those who are sick and injured and often overwhelming for emergency room staff, it is also unnecessarily expensive. Everyone should have access to health care before small problems become costly emergencies.
Providers and brokers of health care should be well compensated for the care they give but should not expect to get rich in the process. In the ancient world, famous healers usually set up shop at home. The steady flow of pilgrims generated income for the healer’s household and village. Jesus chose instead to itinerate, to take the healing to the people who needed it: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,” he says, “but the Son of Man/the Human One has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58).
Health care needs to relieve stress and social stigma for the ill and their families. A system that socially isolates the sick and sends them into humiliating, crushing debt is un-Christian.
Reasonable, faithful Christians will disagree on the specifics of health insurance reform, but these seem to me to be bottom lines for disciples of Christ, for people who seek to be “a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world,” welcoming all to the Lord’s table as we ourselves are welcomed.
For more, see http://www.disciplesworld.com/newsArticle.html?wsnID=15672