People of Faith and Health-Care Reform
Sojomail - August 13, 2009
I wanted to make a point that humanitarianism is not a crime, and water’s not littering.
- Walt Staton, of “No More Death,” convicted in Tucson, Arizona, for littering after leaving water bottles for immigrants along trails in the desert. (Source: Los Angeles Times)
People of Faith and Health-Care Reform
Every so often, the issues at stake in the public debate become so clear and compelling, so alarming and disconcerting -- or both at the same time -- that I feel a need to speak out in a more personal way.
It's happened before around the 9/11 attacks, the war in Iraq, and the consolidation of power by the Religious Right after the 2004 elections (which was when I released God's Politics and began a 50-city book tour).
The issue that compels me to speak out today, and to send this personal column, is the moral drama surrounding the health-care debate.
I have a dear friend named Janelle Goetcheus. She is a doctor and a modern-day saint, and the moral conscience of health care in Washington, D.C. Janelle is a doctor to the homeless, the undocumented, and the vulnerable poor in the nation's capital. She is the founder of Christ House, a medical facility for the homeless who are too sick to stay on the street; it is a ministry of the Church of the Saviour. We were talking about health-care reform the other day, and she said, "People don't seem to understand that this really is a life-and-death issue. People who have good health insurance will live and live longer; those who don't will die and die sooner."
We have a health-care crisis. The health-care system in the U.S. is sick and broken, 46 million of God's children are left out with no health insurance coverage, and 14,000 more are losing their coverage every day. Without change, costs will continue to go up, and we all will pay more and more for health care -- without reform.
President Obama has made health-care reform his top domestic policy priority, and Congress is slowly moving to embrace a plan. But as members of the House and Senate went home for their August recess, the opposition forces to reform have mounted a ferocious offensive.
We have a democracy crisis, with right-wing forces trying to prevent and destroy a civil debate with their "mob rule" campaigns. Fueled by right-wing conservative talk-show hosts and funded by special interests in the health-care industry who are afraid they will lose money if the system is fixed, a vicious campaign to defeat health-care reform has begun. The "storm troopers" of political demagoguery, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, have mobilized their followers to disrupt town meetings and defeat comprehensive reform by yelling louder than anybody else. The campaign tactics include lies, intimidation, character assassination, verbal abuse, and even mob behavior against members of Congress trying to conduct town hall meetings on the issues. In some places violence has broken out, and it has been threatened in other instances. Their approach seems to be to confuse and scare people, shout down the reformers, and disrupt the town meetings -- to prevent a serious, honest, and civil public discussion about the best way to fix a broken system. There are also now some stories of left-wing groups organizing to confront these disuptions. Left-right shouting matches and confrontational tactics will not create the civil discourse we need, and could finally sabotage need health-care reform.
E-mails tell seniors that the reforms won't cover them, assert that vulnerable people will be excluded from the system, and that Christian doctors and nurses will be forced to perform abortions. Pastors are telling me stories of distortion and fear; elderly parishioners are asking them, "Will I die under the new system?"
There are difficult and complicated issues involved with truly reforming the health-care system, and there isn’t even a bill yet. It will take the best efforts of our legislators and the best attention of our <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />
Simply put, we must stop them from doing that. The faith community must protect the nation's civil discourse from the clear threat of demagoguery.
The country needs a good, honest, and healthy debate on the best ways to reform the health-care and insurance system, but fix it we must, and in a way that includes all who are now left out.
It's time for the faith community to unite around the moral imperative of health-care reform, defense of the most vulnerable, and support for moral conscience in a comprehensive reform of the health-care system.
It's time for the faith community to confront the distortions and lies that are being told. It's time for the ministry of "truth-telling" and to surround the nation's discussion of health care with fervent prayer.
It's time for the faith community to practice nonviolent tactics of reconciliation and resistance against those on either side who would threaten the public debate with intimidation, fear, and even the threat of violence.
It's time for the faith community to make its voice heard -- loud and clear.
So I am personally asking each of you to do some very important things:
1. Make it a point this August to talk to your representatives in Congress and your senators (or their staff). Tell them that as a person of faith you want serious and comprehensive health-care reform that covers everybody. They need to hear from you!
2. Write letters of support for health-care reform to the editor of your daily newspaper, or write an opinion-page commentary yourself.
3. Plan study, prayer, or Bible study groups on health care in your congregation for September. Use the new resource for congregations that we have helped to create.
4. Encourage your pastor, rabbi, or imam to preach a sermon related to healing and health care on the last Sunday of August. There are resources on our health-care reform Web page.
5. Pray without ceasing that the nation will not lose its soul at this critical moment.
The faith community has an important role in this growing debate -- in the name of truth-telling, fairness, and social justice. Let's lift up our voices on these fundamental moral issues.
A special note: Next week, on Wednesday, August 19 at 5 p.m. EDT,
Sex Without Shame: Somewhere between the demonization of sex and the “sexual revolution,” there is a higher way. That way must be informed by the positive affirmation of sexuality as God’s good gift, on the one hand, and on the other our capacity for the sexual exploitation of each other, as Keith Graber Miller, chair of the Bible, religion, and philosophy department at Goshen (Ind.) College, writes in this month’s issue of Sojourners.
Three Moral Issues of Health Care: “On a personal, national, and global level, the physical well-being of all God’s children is close to God’s heart and should be close to ours as well,” writes Jim Wallis in his column for this month’s issue of Sojourners. Read why Wallis believes the faith community must lift up the concerns of those who have no lobbyists on Capitol Hill or PR firms with slick advertising campaigns promoting their interests.
Health-Care Reform: Check the Facts
More Than Beer-Bottle Diplomacy
With the Health-Care Debate, Let's Begin with Honesty
Weaving Networks from Iowa to Zimbabwe
To Whom Much is Given
My Experience of U.S. Health Care as a Recent Immigrant (Part II)
A Place at the Table
An Open Letter On Health Care to Conservative Christians in the U.S.
Letter to Congress on Health Care
Palin Bad for Dialogue
Now that a Wise Latina is a Supreme Court Justice ...
Speaking Truth in Love
My Experience of U.S. Health Care as a Recent Immigrant (Part I)
Who Lit The Fire Under the Right-Wing 'Populists' Against Health-Care Reform?
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