The Common Good

The Affordable Care Act: Without a Vision, the People Perish

Image by Konstantin Sutyagin / shutterstock.
Image by Konstantin Sutyagin / shutterstock.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. ~ Proverbs 29:18

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act was remarkable in a number of ways. The vast majority of articles, blogs, and analyses focus on the political ramifications of the decision.

Is this a win for the Obama administration or fuel for the Romney campaign? Pundits have looked at nearly every political angle, from the upcoming presidential election to its effects on local politics.

While I appreciate the political analysis and the importance of political processes to the wellbeing of the United States, I believe that a majority of coverage has missed one of the most remarkable points of the ACA: It changes the vision of our national community.

I am not talking about the surprising decision of Justice Roberts to demonstrate the integrity of the court, but something much more surprising and foundational.

I feel called to offer healthcare in inner-city clinic setting and I also pastor a church in an urban location. In the communities where I serve, there are multiple barriers to quality healthcare, grinding poverty, and a staggering degree of educational failure.

What ties these things together is not only the economic impact upon the region, but the psychic violence and the resulting nihilism that pervades the community. There is an absence of hope that results from the inability of leaders to communicate and craft a vision of hope.

The ACA is not a perfect law or policy — even by President Obama’s admission — but what it does represent is an alternative vision for our national community. It is a vision where millions of uninsured citizens see themselves as participating in the opportunities for life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness because they can manage their health as opposed to being dominated by disease.

It’s a vision where the concerns and the needs of seniors and those often marginalized with chronic illness have the hope of living the American dream. The ACA represents a transformative vision by increasing access to and improving the affordability of healthcare for those who have never considered the American creed as a reality.

For Christians, I see this in the context of Acts 10, when Peter received an expansive Kingdom vision that was inclusive of those who were excluded from community for many different reasons. While the Acts 10 narrative is salvific in nature, it also speaks to God’s missional desire to bring those marginalized into life of God’s community.

Peter receives a vision that included eating meats that were previously considered unclean and was interpreted by him as the call and permission to see outsiders as potential insiders and members of the Kingdom. In order to do this, God had to challenge his community paradigms and confront his community prejudices.

This is the power of a prophetic vision. It empowers the marginalized and challenges the powerful. In the end, it raises the dignity and esteem of the entire community.

While we can argue the details and the economic viability of the ACA,  let’s not miss the power of vision. Hope, as Cornel West states, “gives us strength to keep struggling for more love, more justice, more freedom, and more democracy.” And these qualities describe the beloved community.

Dr. Michael Traylor is a pediatrician, child advocate and pastor of New Hope Free Methodist Church in Rochester, N.Y. He blogs at Virtual faith. Follow Dr. Traylor on Twitter

Image: Konstantin Sutyagin/shutterstock.

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