The Moral Core of the Health-Care Debate

By Jim Wallis 8-20-2009

With all of the shouting, the fear, and now what often looks like hatred -- we are in danger of losing the moral "core" of this health-care debate. That core, quite simply, is that many people are hurting from a broken health-care system. They include the 46 million who have no health insurance, but also the many who do but don't get what they need and simply can't afford good health.

Yesterday afternoon, Sojourners and a broad coalition of faith-based organizations hosted a conference call to confront and offer an alternative to the fear. The 140,000 people of faith who called in are proof that our country is desperate for a message of hope and that it is the faith community that must lead the way. President Obama joined us on the call and recognized this role when he said on the call, "Time and again, men and women of faith have shown what is possible when we are guided by our hope and not our fear." It is high time to put that hope to work.

The call was a clear picture of the depth and breadth of the unity in the faith community around the moral principle of accessible, affordable, quality care for every American -- for all of God's children. Local pastors told moving and compelling stories about their own parishioners and people they minister to every day-showing the critical need for health care reform. Melody Barnes, domestic policy council director, answered questions about some of the ins and outs of the president's plan and addressed cost issues, abortion, and conscience protections for medical workers.

We were reminded of the people the policy is meant to serve through stories about those without coverage, those who have lost coverage, and those who are worried they will no longer be able to afford the good coverage they currently have. It seems that everyone has a story, even those with health insurance, about struggling to keep up with costs, concerns about losing coverage, or being unable to afford needed care.

Most importantly, we heard from faith leaders across the country who are taking action on health-care reform in their neighborhoods, churches, mosques, and synagogues. Rev. Adam Hamilton of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas will host a forum that will include medical professionals, ethicists, and insurance executives. Lay leaders are joining together to write op-eds and letters to the editors in Missouri, and a Catholic congregation in Colorado is hosting a documentary screening and discussion night at their church.

These actions might not get the press that carrying semi-automatic rifles to one of the president's speeches or telling a Jewish congressman that he is supporting a "Nazi policy" do, but that does not mean they aren't effective or needed. Just because fear makes a good press clip doesn't mean that we should give up our hope.

We are calling on people of faith to carry on the healing ministry of Jesus by making sure your political representatives understand that the faith community will be satisfied with nothing less than accessible, affordable health care for all Americans, built on a solid financial foundation.

People of faith need to be the steady moral drum beat driving the debate and keeping our politicians accountable. This is a critical and long-overdue opportunity to fix a broken an inequitable system which must not be derailed either by powerful special interests or by those, on any side to just want to score political points. It is up to all of us to make sure that doesn't happen.

Visit Sojourners' health care Web site to listen to highlights of the president's call last night and download resources on the health-care debate: This page will continue to be updated as the debate moves forward.

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