Despite what some may say, there is not a “Christian” position in the health care debate. There are Christians who support the legislation passed by Congress last night, and there are Christians who oppose it.
(Full disclosure: I supported it, and did a little happy dance at 10 p.m. for all my friends with preexisting conditions.)
While an individual’s religious values will certainly factor into his or her perspective on this hot-button issue, the diversity of opinions within the faith community should make us pause before claiming God is on one side or the other. The true “Christian” (or Christ-like) response to health care reform is not a particular position, but an attitude—one that preserves the holiness of the Kingdom of God by keeping these things in perspective:
Allegiance—As followers of Christ, our first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, not to any kingdoms of this world. Jesus spoke on the topic of the Kingdom of God more often than any other and repeatedly drew a contrast between the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of God (John 18:36, Luke 22:25-27). He taught that the Kingdom of God is not won through military conquest, but through humility and love. We grow it not by exerting power over others, but by serving others. It does not need riches or political clout to succeed, but works best among the marginalized and poor. The Kingdom of God is a holy, radical, and alternative kingdom that can thrive in any political climate, event those most hostile to it. (Just look at the first Christians!)
If our allegiance is to the Kingdom of God first, our passions are not subject to the rise and fall of our preferred political party. The Christian response to health care reform is to show deference, self-control, and a continued commitment to serving the poor and the sick, regardless of whether the government helps or hurts the process. Reacting to this decision with too much despair or too much hope signals a lack of perspective and a misplaced allegiance.
Fellowship—Among Jesus’ closest disciples was the first century equivalent of a Jewish right-winger (Matthew, the tax collector) as well as the first century equivalent of a radical Jewish leftist (Peter, the zealot). Historical records show that these two groups hated each other. And yet Matthew and Simon worked side by side throughout the ministry of Jesus, for they had discovered a higher calling, one that transcended the highly-charged political climate at the time. The Christian response to health care reform is to show respect and love toward those with whom we disagree. When we allow our political differences to disrupt our unity as Christ-followers, we essentially proclaim our allegiance to earthly kingdoms over the Kingdom of God. It places our commitment to Jesus below our commitment to a political party.
Peace—Some disturbing remarks I’ve heard from tea-party folks compel me to remind Christians that even in the context of one of the most oppressive, cruel, and unjust governments in history (the Roman empire), Jesus taught peace, not violence. If anyone was justified in taking up the sword against tyranny, it would have been Jesus. But instead, he subjected himself to the cross, saying, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place" (John 18:36). Early Christians stayed true to Christ’s teachings about enemy-love and chose not to fight against their persecutors, but to be martyred instead. It is an insult to Jesus Christ and to the very real persecution of his earliest followers for Christians in America to suggest that the health care decision calls for a violent, revolutionary-war-style response to the policies of the Obama administration. I pray that my conservative friends avoid the hateful speech coming from the most extreme opponents of the bill.
Love—Although I feel strongly that health care reform works in favor of the sick in this country, it would be a disaster for me and other progressives to rely exclusively on the government to care for those in need. Both liberals and conservatives should continue to work side-by-side, volunteering in health clinics, supporting single moms, helping with preventive care, and speaking out against injustice so that the world will know we are Christians by our love, not our political positions.
What do you think? Is there a “Christian” response to health care reform?