Saturday, 29 August 2009

You don't love God, if you don't heal your neighbor.

I suppose that it had to happen sooner or later. The US and British political issues are so different that it was only a matter of time before the bubble of my patience burst and I'd weigh in on matters of politics.

One of the most heated debates lately has been on the issue of healthcare. The US has a pay-for-care system in which one buys, or an employer provides, health insurance. The UK has a system in which the National Health Service guarantees healthcare to all, without cost. Barak Obama is making it his business to move the US toward the UK model, and it's been a thorn in the side of some, for a variety of reasons. Various facts and figures are bandied about, and I've read a blog recently that quotes statistics that 37% of voters support his model, and 57% oppose it. Not surprisingly, 62% of Democrats support it, while 87% of Republicans oppose it.

Further to that, I've been stunned to discover that there are many who profess the Christian religion who are opposed to changes, and that baffles me more than anything else. Pardon me if I appear to oversimplify this, but didn't Jesus say that the greatest commandement was to love God, and after that, to love your neighbour as yourself? Matthew 22:36- 40 has it:
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
"The second [greatest commandment] is...thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". There's even a song about it - composed by one Carl Story. In part, it reads as follows:
There are many people who will say they're Christians
And they live like Christians on the Sabbath day
But come Monday morning 'till the coming Sunday
They will fight their neighbor all along the way.

Oh you don't love God, if you don't love your neighbor
If you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
If he gets into trouble and you don't try to help him
If you don't love your neighbor and you don't love God.

In the Holy Bible, in the book of Matthew
Read the 18th chapter and the 21st verse
Jesus plainly tells us that we must have mercy
Then a special warning in the 35th verse.
So according to this, what would Jesus do about healthcare? Well, let's take a look at his ministry, according to the Bible. He threw out demons. He cured the blind, made the mute speak, put a spring in the step of the lame. He even cured leprosy, and according to the Bible, he didn't just wave his hands about or tell them to be better, he showed enormous compassion by actually reaching out and touching him. Yes, according to Mark 1:40-45, he "Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man" and he was cured. Not only that, but he did it for free, and in the case of that one leper, he asked that he keep quiet about it, and not tell the whole world.

Now I'm not a Christian, though I have read the Bible many times over, and my understanding of Jesus' ministry was that he sought to do good things for no reward, and that he encouraged his followers to do the same, and in the same way. Compassionately, without prejudice and as a part of a Christian work.

So, here's the thing. I see supposed Christians opposing a publicly-funded healthcare system, a system which to my eyes, demonstrates a compassionate Christian love for neighbour. And it mystifies me.

The only thing I can think is that these people (who, I assume have paid health insurance already) don't see any social obligation to help those less fortunate than themselves to have the same. Where, I ask, is the Christianity in that? Surely, according to their Master's own words, they should take the view that "these people are our neighbours and we should love them as ourselves, if we are claiming to love God".

Maybe you may think that I'm oversimplifying this, but it seems so simple to me. I don't understand. Maybe these folk should prayerfully review these few verses, reflect on the tale of the Good Samaritan and then take stock again.

I would have no problem with paying less to the insurance companies (who think not of their neighbours but of their investors), and paying a little more in taxes. But then, I'm not a right-wing Christian.

Cross-posted at Everything2


Anonymous said...

You have made some excellent points, but have missed one. The British healthcare system has a cost - it is not FREE as you say. It is very high taxes to the wage earners of the country. They pay into the system with every paycheck.

And I agree with you that Christ would have us to come along side our fellow humans and help them in their time of need, whatever the reason. But Christ said nothing about the government being in control of the process. He spoke to people, not governments. In the past 40 years, this country has done everything it can to remove Christ from all venues. How in the world can you think that bringing Him in now is right? We have done such a good job, that I would not blame Him if He kept His backed turned away from us.

Americans are the most generous of people - when there is a disaster somewhere, they are the first to offer help - consider the tsunami disaster in the Phillipines. I know other countries helped, but the first on the scene was the US.

I have no problem with "health care reform". The US already has single payer system established in medicare - change the requirements for that, let individuals buy it. But to force individuals to have insurance that may not want it, to pay for services they may never choose to use is what is wrong with the NEW policy being proposed. If a person loses their policy, their only option will be the government one - that is no option, that is a mandate. That is the problem I have with this HR 3200.
In addition, no where have I heard how PresBO plans on paying for this. The country is so far in the deficit, that it will take until my ggg grand children have all died before it is paid for and that is only if no more debt is incurred.
You have made some good points, but I beg to differ. And this is coming from a first gen American of British parents and who had family members living in England die because of the poor quality of care they received in the system.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this thoughtful commentary. My brother is a right wing Christian and dead set against socialized medicine. I'm a liberal with Christian leanings who can't understand the viciousness of those who oppose helping the less fortunate. My partner is on SSI disability and Medicaid. He is gradually returning to health, thanks to a number of expensive medications. But he can't go back to work because his pre-existing conditions would prevent him from getting health insurance and that would mean he couldn't afford to get the medications that keep him healthy. National Health Care would let him return to being a productive member of society.

wertperch said...

Well, of course the UK system is not free. It's paid for through taxation, the same way that the police and fire services are.

Another friend of mine, who is a staunch libertarian and Republican, also took me to task.

No system is perfect, and I read that you've had "family members living in England die because of the poor quality of care they received in the system." I don't doubt that you've had people die under the NHS. People do die, even under the US system. But at least in the UK, the survivors are not left with potentially crippling debts.

Further, no-one in the UK goes bankrupt as a result of heathcare, neither is anyone turned away because of a pre-existing condition. These situations, whilst they may appear to be rare, exist. No, the UK's system is not perfect, but neither is the US for-profit system perfect either.