Last week, gun control, so why not health care this week?
Let me begin with one complaint that really doesn’t have anything to do with faith or Christianity: why is it that health insurance is treated differently than other forms of insurance in our lives? There’s a question that goes something like this, “Why should a healthy 20-something year-old shop for insurance coverage when s/he will actually be paying for care for an older, unhealthy person?”
Compare this to other forms of insurance, like homeowners insurance. I keep my house maintained, my furnace is “tuned up” and things like that, and my house is located in a place where it is not likely to fall off a cliff or be subject to other random acts of destruction, so why should I have homeowners insurance? Why should the money I throw into the system be used to pay insurance claims to those who live in far more precarious situations? And what about all of that money that I’ve contributed to the auto insurance industry when I’ve never had a speeding ticket or an accident?
Why is health insurance treated differently than other forms of insurance?
But, now on to the strange intersection of the health care debate and Christianity, and the uncomfortable mixture of Christian theology, the Bible, and social policy. Somewhere in his ridiculous 21-hour speech, Tea Party hero Ted Cruz offered an fascinating view on “What Would Jesus Do?” when it comes to health care:
“It is disheartening to know that the nation our forefathers built is no longer of importance to our president and his Democratic counterparts. Not only that, we are falling away from core Christian values. I don’t know about you, but I believe in the Jesus who died to save himself, not enable lazy followers to be dependent on him. He didn’t walk around all willy nilly just passing out free healthcare to those who were sick, or food to those who were hungry, or clothes to those in need. No, he said get up, brush yourself off, go into town and get a job, and as he hung on the cross he said, ‘I died so that I may live in eternity with my Father. If you want to join us you can die for yourself and your own sins. What do I look like, your savior or something’ That’s the Jesus I want to see brought back into our core values as a nation. That’s why we need to repeal Obamacare.”
Really? What Bible is Mr. Cruz reading exactly?
I don’t want to get too caught up in the mix of religion and social policy since I think that good, faithful and thoughtful people can come up with wildly different views and opinions. I do not believe the Bible provides a definitive Christian outline for what we should do in the 21st century regarding health care and health insurance for the United States.
But, I am troubled by the wanton disregard for the complexity of the Bible and how to treat the sayings of Jesus that people like Mr. Cruz display. Mr. Cruz doesn’t even remotely get close to one of the seven statements of Jesus on the cross, as offered in the various Gospel accounts (and not one of those individual accounts containing all seven statements). Mr. Cruz displays a recklessness in discussing Gospel accounts of how Jesus interacted with and talked about the poor and the destitute. Although Christians ought to be guided by biblical principles and the teachings of Jesus as we have them (written by human beings, many years after Jesus walked the earth), Christians should recognize the limits of biblical teaching, especially where lessons are difficult to understand and sometimes even contradictory.
In his own way, Mr. Cruz shows the emptiness, and callousness, of some forms of modern Christianity in the U.S., where faith is subsumed under patriotism. Christianity calls for the opposite to be true. Our faith—in all of its complexity—should be primary and our allegiance to Christ above love of country. Christ and the United States are not the same thing. Faithful Christians ought to be able to recognize this fact and to wrestle with it honestly, displaying the courage to live by a complicated faith that is difficult to follow. Has Mr. Cruz, for instance, sold all of his belongings as Jesus instructed in Matthew 19:21? Perhaps the first to go should be his copy of Green Eggs and Ham. Or whatever Bible it is that he is supposedly reading.