What Would Jesus Do… About Health Care?

An interesting debate has been started on the Jackson Sun website. The newspaper’s editorial page editor, Tom Bohs, wrote a column asking why so many conservative Christians are opposed to health care reform. He writes:

There are plenty of people who are perfectly happy with the system we have. Their argument is: Why tamper with a system that 80 percent of the people find adequate? It’s a good question. The answer is: You wouldn’t tamper with it unless you care about what happens to the other 20 percent of the people. So we are back to our basic moral dilemma. Should American citizens be entitled to adequate health care coverage with the cost borne by all? It is interesting to me that the one group we have heard almost nothing from on the moral question of providing everyone with adequate health care coverage is churches. Imagine, churches not wanting to address such a basic moral question. They address every other moral issue of our lives, why not this one? Who is asking: “What would Jesus do about national health care?” We can pretty much guess what he would do about everything else, what about something this important, especially to the least of his flock? I don’t mean to be irreverent, but I detect weak political knees here on the part of churches since many of their members are decidedly conservative, and conservatives are the chief opponents of health care reform. Opposing them could well be felt in the Sunday collection plate.

(Read the entire column here.) Bohs’ piece provoked a response from Brad Green, a teacher of theology at Union University. Green lists a number of traditional conservative arguments against health care reform: 1. Government is inept 2. Loss of individual freedom 3. It violates the Constitution 4. Government abuses power Green concludes:

So, what would Jesus do? Jesus would (and does) command people to repent of their sins, care for the poor, the sick, the lame and the down-trodden. And Christians are commanded to do the same. But is a Christian then obligated to call for increased federal power and a massive expansion of the federal government’s role in controlling or managing America’s health care industry? Probably not.

Such an expansion of federal power is not even legal, since the U.S. Constitution does not grant the federal government such power. What Jesus would not do, it would seem, would be to encourage those in power to break the law without good reason, and the proposals currently being discussed would – if enacted – be illegal since the U.S. Constitution does not grant the Congress the power to enact such legislation. Those calling for massive federal health care legislation are making two key errors. First, they are being imprudent in naively calling for a radical and dangerous expansion of federal power. Second, and perhaps more serious, they are calling for their elected federal officials to violate the law of the land, and to violate their oath of office, by clearly and unabashedly taking one more step in the destruction of the very Constitution they have sworn to uphold.

(Read Green’s full article here.) Once again, I’m not going to wade into the details of health care reform. But what I find so fascinating about Green’s response is that he appears to be saying that Jesus wouldn’t do anything, “without good reason,” that might violate the U.S. Constitution… even if it might help the poor and save lives. Apparently Jesus was okay with defying the Roman Empire, but the American Empire is beyond divine critique. And if the Constitution, rather than the Bible, is the final authority of matters of life and faith, then I wonder if Green thinks Jesus supported ending slavery and granting equal rights for women–both of which violated the Constitution as originally written. Green illustrates what bothers me so much about the union of evangelicals and political conservatives–it make God a servant of a political philosophy. Green may have legitimate reasons to be against the proposed health care reform bill, and there may be good reasons for Christians to be opposed to the bill. I’m just not sure Jesus’ advocacy for the Constitution is one of them.

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