This week I was shocked by the news that a long list of “progressive” ministers came out in support of the administration’s healthcare plan. They claim that universal health care is a moral issue. Their belief is based on a very superficial social, moral, and economic analysis. Contrary to their assertion, the Church has never historically viewed healthcare as the government’s responsibility.
The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that: The modern concept of a hospital dates from AD 331 when Constantine, having been converted to Christianity, abolished all pagan hospitals and thus created the opportunity for a new start. Until that time disease had isolated the sufferer from the community. The Christian tradition emphasized the close relationship of the sufferer to his fellow man, upon who rested the obligation for care. Illness thus became a matter for the Christian church.
Europe’s first medical schools came out of the Church. Not surprisingly, most cities still have hospitals that are attached to the faith community. The involvement of people of faith in this arena is both historic and pervasive. The development of hospitals in America followed a very similar path as the Christian community helped establish infirmaries that developed into hospitals. Although no biblical directive about modern health care, many Christians believe that concern about healthcare falls under the general principle of “loving your neighbor.”
With the community in mind, I would advocate a healthcare system that responsibly reaches out to the poor and needy. Unfortunately, the administration’s proposals (as it now stands) would result in lessening the overall quality of care. While this sounds acceptable in theory, it is impractical. The delay or denial of surgery or treatment for some patients would become a death sentence.
Five years ago, a friend of mine named Arnie developed a deadly form of brain cancer. He was given less than six months to live with no real chance of survival. Yet faith, the current healthcare system, and several of Washington DC’s elite surgeons beat the odds. Under what some derisively call ObamaCare, Arnie never would have been given the chance to attempt to beat the odds. Even though Arnie was a dental surgeon in his mid-fifties, his care would not be viewed as a “wise investment.”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.