Saturday, September 12, 2009

Christianity and Health Care Reform


When I was teaching Spanish at a high school in Tallahassee, I took time to teach a lesson on poverty. I used "If the World Were a Village of 100" to get my students to think differently about the world's population and the distribution of resources. The whole idea behind reducing the world's population to 100 is to make the numbers more real, and hopefully, more empathetic. It's easy to ignore the poor on the other side of the world. But if you lived in a village with them, if they were your neighbors, wouldn't it be harder to ignore their poverty in contrast with your wealth?

Apparently, that depends. I asked my students if they lived in such a village and they had enough to eat (because, as Americans, of course they would) would they share it with those in the village who did not?

"That depends." one of my students said.
"On what?" I asked.
"It depends on why they're poor."
"Why they're poor? Would that matter?"
"Yeah, I mean, if they're poor because they're lazy and don't want to work, I'm not going to share my food with them."

This was disturbing to me. My student was 16, maybe 17, too young to be so cynical already. I imagined that his parents talked like this at the dinner table. That when his young mind wondered why there was such iniquity in this world, his parents told him poor people are poor because they are lazy. It couldn't be because they were born poor, because their parents were poor, because the system might be working against them, because they hadn't been born into privilege like my young student had been.

Cleary, he had never asked himself why he wasn't poor, or what he had done to deserve a car in high school or wondered if college was in the realm of possibilities. Of course it was.

I wonder what kind of conversations his family has at dinner now. Health care reform has suddenly become the emotional topic for conservatives. Tea parties and town hall meetings, I've never seen them so excited about our nation's health. Except that we all know this isn't really about health.

But I want it to be. I want them to be called out on the hypocrisy. Most of these people call themselves Christians. Most of them talk about this as a Christian nation, that the Republican Party represents "Christian Values." They call Obama a Muslim, as an insult, and cry that Christians in America are being "persecuted." But the question "Why should I have to pay for someone else's health care?" has a very Christian answer: Because it is the right thing to do. Christ
told us to do it.

As a Christian, these people anger me. They are misrepresenting my faith. I don't understand how we could possibly be reading the same Bible. Is there some special Bible out there just for Republicans who don't want to hear that Christ has demanded of us that we take care of each other? People who call themselves Christians are actively lying in public, they are denouncing any responsibility to the poor, sick and uninsured of this nation - as if it were God's commandment. They are disrespecting our democratically.elected.president. as if God Himself told them "It's okay, he's a Muslim anyway."

The Republican Party hijacked American Christianity a long time ago. So much so that when I tell people I'm a Christian, I also want to tell people I am a Democrat, just so they know what kind of Christian I am. As strange as it may seem to many, I understand letting your spiritual views form your political ones. It's just that my Bible isn't the Gospel of Wealth and my God isn't the one that "hates fags" and told Bush told to start the War on Terror. The Christ I believe in is the one that tells us when we take care of each other, we really take care of Him. Christians asking why they should pay for others' health care need to re-read this passage and then try and defend their current position:

The Book of Mathew, Chapter 25

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


Katie said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Heather. I'm proud of you!

Sally said...

So true! PS I posted this on my FB :)

Kathryn said...

Hi Heather, I really appreciate your blog. I shared it with my family and friends who are christians and who have been hijacked during health care debate! Thanks for your honesty and thanks to Sally for posting it!

Anonymous said...

Democrats suck too..

Why do we have(as christians) to belong somewhere..

We have to carve our own niche

Katy said...

Heather, I share your beliefs that you stated so eloquently. I have often struggled with the hypocrisy of conservatives holding their pocketbooks so tightly yet spouting Christian values. Thanks for your post!