On Saturday when the House of Representatives passed the health-care reform bill and on Tuesday when President Obama signed it into law, many of us who have been advocating for health-care reform shouted "Hallelujah!"
For people of faith, there are two responses to anything that happens: Hallelujah and hallelujah anyhow. Hallelujah means: "Praise God." God is All in All. God is the Holy "Yes" to our prayers for justice. God is the Divine Sovereign. The word hallelujah is an imperative, a command, a sentence that reminds us of our duty to give God praise. The Apostle Paul writes that in Jesus the promises of God are always "Yes." And we say: "Amen" to the glory of God (II Corinthians 1:19-20). So our praise and our hallelujahs are our own affirmation on the things that God has done. It is recognition that God has kept God's promises. The relationship between us and God is: yes and amen.
Those of us who supported efforts for health-care reform and wanted this legislation give God the glory for a law that at long last codifies in the United States the concept that health-care is a right that governments ought to provide for their citizens. The law that President Obama signed is far from perfect, far from what many of us wanted, but it establishes the principle. Hallelujah.
For those who opposed this health-care reform -- hallelujah anyhow. You can praise God because God only knows the long-term effects of this law. Your worst fears may not come to pass. And when all of us put our faith in God, that faith stands in the space carved out by our hopes and becomes evidence of what we do not see.
Behind our various positions on health-care reform is a concern for the well-being of ourselves, our families, our nation and all of our futures. When we praise the God who says "yes" to his own promises, we know that those promises are for our good. We can rest in this confidence because God's love for us is complete, and as we grow in grace our love for the Other becomes more and more complete.
We know that not everything that happens is good. History is crowded with horrors. Where was the God of justice, the God of yes and amen when these horrors happened? No matter the horror, the Yes and Amen give us the strength to stand it. They give us grace to continue with gratitude and peace. Health-care reform is not a historical tragedy. Whether we like the legislation or not, whether we like the process of not, it does not presage the end of the world or the end of our liberties.
Some people who opposed the legislation have hurled invectives at people and rocks at buildings to express their anger. Some Republican Congress members have promised to run on repeal of some elements of the legislation, and some have promised not to work with President Obama and the Democrats on any other issues. This would indeed be unfortunate. Hallelujah anyhow.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.