I was speaking with a young person the other day, and the issue of healthcare came up. She rolled her eyes, blew out her lips, and said, “Why are we wasting so much time talking about healthcare? Why don’t we do something really important?” My response was, “What’s more important than health?” She said, “Well I’m fine, and so are all my friends. People think too much about problems. We should be more positive.”
Looking at this young, robust, healthy adult, I realize once more how contextual and personal our opinions are. For me, there is no question of the importance of health care. I believe everyone should have it, no matter what. I believe it is a civil as well as spiritual and cultural issue, and I am befuddled by arguments based on who “deserves” care. I also hate it when it is reduced to an economic issue. Or a “big government” issue. Or an insurance corruption issue. Or any other issue than that we have the means and methods to care for everyone, but we lack with will, the compassion, and the desire. I find it remarkable that the United States leads the world in so many other areas, but when it comes to taking care of her own the U.S. is a dismal failure. Watch this video. I love it, and I hope that regardless of your political leanings you can find both entertainment and value in it:
Who doesn’t deserve care? This is a huge question for me. In fact, it is the question that keeps getting lost in all the posturing and pontificating. I tuned into a couple of the town hall meetings and was disgusted by the amount of selfish, fear-drenched opposition based in misinformation and political fabrication. I acknowledge that the fear is real, but it is fear of the wrong things. Fear of losing what we have so that those without might have some is misplaced fear. (Yeah, it’s an awkward sentence, but it says what I mean…) Fear of being taken over by “big government” isn’t a legitimate fear, either. Fear of not having enough should actually make us more sensitive to the plight of the poor, not less. No, the real fear for me is the crystallization of a society based on competition, factionalization, privilege, entitlement, and selfishness. I’m afraid that civility, compassion, community, and kindness are endangered species. I fear that trust, respect, generosity and common decency are being replaced by anxiety, secrecy, stinginess, and Joe Wilson-like rude antagonism. My great fear is that Jesus has left the building — that Christians have decided they don’t have to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” when it might cost them a few dollars or a small measure of inconvenience.
It would be different if this were a problem too big to solve. But it’s not. The inability to create a universal health care system is one of will, not resources. The bright and talented men and women serving our country in Washington have more than enough smarts to make this work. But as one of my Republican friends commented to me, “If this happens it will be a disaster. It will send the message that Democrats are problem solvers, and it will make Republicans look bad.” Finding a solution to make everyone look good isn’t even on the table. We can only think in terms of winners and losers, not partners.
How can we come together to make the world a better place? United Methodists have made global healthcare one of their four primary focus ministries. How can we not be involved in this discussion? No, I don’t mean Church and Society or our Council of Bishops. I mean every Annual Conference and every local congregation. The United Methodist Church en masse should be writing letters, emails, making phone calls, and volunteering to work for healthcare reform. Okay, perhaps the current proposals aren’t great. They won’t get better if everybody just takes their respective balls and goes home.
What are we waiting for? Something more important to come along? It may not matter what comes along in the future if we can’t learn to take better care of each other now. And the “each other” I am talking about isn’t just family and friends, neighbors and congregations. I am talking about the poor, the marginalized, the ostracized, the oppressed, the lost, the suffering, and the victims. I’m talking about our brothers and sisters. I’m talking about the Christ, for what we are willing to share with the least of these is what we are willing to share with Jesus.