Monday, August 17, 2009

Who Would Jesus Deny Because of a Pre-Existing Condition?

I've said this in different forums and posts before but not dedicating an entire post to it but I think it's time given the rage from the right-wing (who are predominately Christian) about providing a public health care insurance option for Americans.

When I think of the many times I read about the "works of Jesus" in the New Testament I think of a long-haired, bearded, toga and sandal wearing guy who went around healing the sick, raising the dead and feeding the hungry. Sounds like a communal hippie if you ask me but seriously did he charge for his healing?

Did he deny healing the lame because being deformed is a "pre-existing condition?" No and are you kidding??? Now I don't believe in Christianity (though some of it is worthwhile) or that Jesus was anything but possibly a historical figure. However, I wanted to raise some issues revolving around Jesus due to so many anti-health reform conservatives being Christians.

So since they are pulling out all the stops I'm using the "Big Guy" against them because well, I think the J.C. would be on the side of health care for all. I plan on using some of their own Bible scriptures to underline my point. First, though I thought that this was an interesting article and angle to the health care debate. I have to agree with most of it. It's from Beliefnet:

"Yesterday, Ed Schultz posed a question on both his radio program and his MSNBC show: Where is the religious community on health care? Ed, a Christian who admits he is not a regular churchgoer, sees the issue in pretty simple terms. Jesus healed the sick. For free. Period. Why aren't churches out on the front lines arguing for a compassionate government that will care for the infirm, ill, and dying? After all, don't these same people understand that America is somehow a Christian nation? Hey, Ed, I'm a fan. And since I was driving to the beach, I listened to you for two hours get more and more heated--and take some pretty heated calls--on the issue. I was with you, buddy. But I think you missed a thing or two. Let me help you get the religion story straight.

First, many mainline and liberal churches are on the front lines with this issue. For example, the Episcopal Church's policy office issued an alert to Episcopalians to contact their members of Congress and has tried to answer questions regarding the current legislation. And they aren't the only ones. Most American mainline denominations have policy offices working on this issue (and some have for quite a number of years now, around SCHIP and other health concerns). In addition to denominational efforts, on August 10, cooperating groups across a theological spectrum kicked off "40 Days of Health Care Reform" campaign to rally faith communities to support new health care policies. There are lots of Christians--mainstream, mainline, moderate, liberal, emergent, and progressive ones--who care about healing as a social and spiritual issue.

Second, and I say this quite ruefully to you, Ed: mainstream religion is of little interest to most of the media. Ed, while you may be quite supportive of the Episcopal Church or the 40 Days Campaign, you really wanted to know where James Dobson, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and Franklin Graham stood on health care. Ed, you wanted to know about the leaders of the conservative evangelical community--the big TV preachers and religious right political types.

I can tell you where they are. They are hiding. Some people think that evangelical opposition to abortion is keeping them away from the health care bill (the abortion issue is a factor worrying some Roman Catholics). But I think that many conservative evangelicals are using abortion as a way to duck addressing the issue. In Washington, religious leaders know that abortion is pretty much off the table in regards to the health care bill. The Hyde Amendment will keep the government from paying for abortion (as long as the Hyde Amendment remains in force) and private insurance companies will--or will not--pay for abortion as their policies dictate. As you rightly pointed out, Ed, abortion stays status quo in the current discussion.

The real thing keeping these leaders from speaking out is that large segments of their audiences suspect that President Obama is the Antichrist, the long-predicted evil political leader who will usher in a universal socialist state, complete with a false religion that will doom untold millions to eternal damnation with "666" stamped on our foreheads. "Becoming Russia" is code language for these fears--whether overtly or intuitively understood. In other words, Ed, this isn't a health care debate. This is the Apocalypse.

The most chilling aspect of the apocalyptic fever gripping the Bible Belt right now? I can't think of a time when American fundamentalists believed that the Antichrist was the President of the United States. Typically, fundamentalists have identified the Antichrist as someone outside the United States--Hitler, Stalin, Gorbachev, or Saddam Hussein to name a few recent candidates. A few fundamentalists thought Bill Clinton might be the Antichrist, but he was more often seen as the "forerunner" the real bad guy, a kind of wicked John the Baptist-type preparing the way for the big apocalyptic show. And for whatever perverse reason, Barack Obama is seen as the real thing. Some Christians have turned inward for the Antichrist; President Obama is the darkness (and I mean "dark") within.

In other words, Ed, don't expect any sort of rational discussion--or even biblical argument about a compassionate Jesus--to convince these folks. This isn't rational and sophisticated theology is out of the question. This is pretty much the worst kind of religion that can be imagined--apocalyptic fervor and biblical literalism stoked by the fears of racism and xenophobia--the sort of stuff that makes me think that the neo-atheists have a point. Wonder why the town halls are so heated? It isn't that religion isn't in the room. Bad religion--and lots of it--is present in the room. It just isn't the sort of religion that you or I approve of Ed. It isn't about healing the sick; it isn't about caring for the least of these. It isn't really about Jesus. It is about wide-eyed fear over the end of the world as some people know it.

And the only thing that can possibly speak to it is sane religion, the simple teachings of Jesus: Heal the sick, care for the poor."

TPJ:Would Jesus deny the lame because it was a "pre-existing condition?" Would he walk past the lepers because they didn't have money to repay him for a healing? Would he resurrect only the rich? I'm not trying to be sacrilegious or offensive here but simply raising an issue and argument that I have long thought about, which I think has a lot of merit. Matthew 25:31-46 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'" "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

Jesus healed everyone from a high ranking, wealthy, officials son to the poorest, voiceless lepers. He didn't just heal his followers as some Christian denominations do but all people. He didn't just heal the wealthy and gainfully employed but all classes regardless of ability to pay or reimburse him. That's pretty radical by today's standards, which makes me wonder with all the socialist labels being thrown at those of us who support universal health care reform I can't help but wonder if Jesus would be called a socialist too? By some standards one could at least argue quite convincingly that he was an egalitarian.

That's fine some might say but Jesus never said that some should have to pay more to help heal the masses. Really? What about, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:13-17). It was in response to those who wondered if they should still pay taxes to Caesar despite being followers of Jesus. Many scholars and clergymen and women interpret that to mean what this Catholic Minister said:

Despite their flattering words, they were trying to trap him, to force him into a no-win situation. Consider the circumstances. They are living under the iron boot of a brutal empire which filled the earth with its idolatry. Patriotic Jews longed to throw off the yoke of the tyrants. They prayed for an anointed king who would free them from the Romans as David had freed them from the Philistines. Anyone advocating collaboration with the invaders could not possibly be the hoped-for Messiah. No, he would appear as a traitor. But on the other hand, anyone preaching resistance to Rome would be branded an enemy of the Empire and would wind up suspended from a cross. So the Pharisees decided to put Jesus on the spot in front of the crowd. They asked him a question bound to get him into trouble one way or the other. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not?”

He transforms an attempt to make him look bad into a teaching moment recorded for all time, providing all peoples and ages with some very important food for thought. Government is a fact of life. Rulers, laws, police, taxes. What should a worshipper of God make of it? One thing Jesus points out to the Pharisees is that they participate in this societal infrastructure. They don’t live on a deserted island but are dependent upon the imperial system for everything from the food in the marketplace to protection from thieves. One rural community in the US recently celebrated their independence after seceding from the nearby township and its taxes. A few days later, they were unpleasantly surprised when the town trash trucks failed to show up. Jesus says we can’t have it both ways–if we benefit from secular society, we need to support the infrastructure of society. This can take the form of taxes, military service, jury duty, and informed, conscientious voting." -Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

TPJ: In addition, Paul made it quite clear the importance of paying taxes to the local government in Romans 13:5-7 saying, "Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.(NIV)

It boggles my mind then that so many Christians are hard-line conservatives when a lot of what Jesus did, said and taught was quite in line with modern day progressive thinking.

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2 comments:

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

HBW, some interesting comments showed up tonight. I thought you'd be interested.

One commenter shared this experience: treatment for breast cancer without health insurance.

And then there were the usual self-indulgent comments that went off on tangents while ignoring the real suffering of others. Comments about socialism, communism, the usual attack tropes.

About that person who suffered through cancer treatment without health insurance, I am thinking of the feelings of exasperation and hurt when the callous disregard of others hits them in the face.

Access to decent healthcare is a fundamental human rights issue, but the debate has turned into an action game, and it makes me wonder what kind of society we have become.

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

Octopus:

It makes me wonder what kind of society we've become too. I can't believe how stupid people are these days. They constantly surprise me.

I don't know how fellow Americans can be so cold toward their neighbors. This selfish, "Me-ism" is destroying this country.