Like many Americans, I watched in dismay this week as the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act. I felt a further sense of dismay as hosts of conservative Christians praised a bill that will potentially cause 24,000,000 Americans to lose their health insurance and roll back protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Mark Green, a Tennessee senator, once went so far as to say that government funded healthcare turns people away from religion because it keeps them from turning to God for aid. Green said, “I think it interrupts the opportunity for people to come to a saving knowledge of who God is.”
I have heard from people celebrating the bill claim that, “The government isn’t supposed to take care of us. We’re supposed to take care of each other. People should get their help from church groups and the like.” This is similar to the response many people give to government welfare programs. I often hear opponents of welfare say things like, “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish he’ll eat for a lifetime.” While both of these answers sound good in theory, I distinctly remember life before the passage of so called “Obamacare.” I do not recall the time as a utopia of giving, a paradise where everyone supported their neighbor. I do remember crowded emergency rooms. I remember families desperate for healthcare, but with no means to pay for it. I remember people skipping necessary treatment because they were not covered or could not afford the expense.
I tend to agree with Christian blogger Jory Micah who recently stated, “Stop saying it’s the Church’s job to care for the poor, hungry, & sick when you know darn well that the Church alone cannot provide all that is needed; and even if we could, we wouldn’t.” I would love to be proved wrong, and as such I am offering the following modest proposals for the Church.
- A local masjid, Valley Ranch Islamic Center, has an on site clinic that offers primary care, internal medicine, women’s health, pediatrics, and lab service referral. According to the masjid’s webpage, they provide the service “to patients who have no other medical insurance available to them, or are not eligible for any forms of medical insurance.” The page also states that they provide the service, “regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, creed, or color.” I propose that every congregation with the means to do so follow the example of our Muslim neighbors and offer similar services.
- I propose a moratorium on church spending related to building expansion, and refurbishment. No new audio/visual systems, no new sanctuaries or recreation areas, no new construction. Congregations should willingly place a hold on all non-essential spending. Mission and aid work will still constitute essential spending. It is key to the Church’s purpose to act as the hands and feet of God on Earth). Instead, this money can be placed in a fund that can help with medical expenses for members and non-members.
- Members of the church should be allowed to specify that their tithes and offerings be directed to funds specifically set aside for healthcare assistance.
These solutions are plausible methods for the Church to aid those in need of health care assistance, though they will by no means reach everyone in need of help. If we aren’t willing to do this, perhaps it is time we stop with the platitudes and admit that we really have an issue with sharing God’s wealth with others.