Harry R. Jackson, Jr.
The plight of the poor has been a major bone of contention in the healthcare debate for months now. The morality of various approaches has also been hotly debated from all sides of the political universe – left, right, and middle. A recent statement I made at the National Press Club regarding abortion and what I called “a form of genocide” within the black community has sparked a great deal of controversy among clergy. In fact, I have been labeled by some African Americans as unconcerned about the needs of the poor.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I have a great deal of concern for the poor. I take the scriptural admonitions to take care of widows, orphans, and the impoverished in our midst very seriously. In fact my convictions and beliefs on healthcare are clearly spelled out in the book Personal Faith, Public Policy – which I co-authored with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Center. Time will not permit me to share our entire healthcare chapter with you, but allow me to share, briefly, my background and position.

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Growing up in South Avondale, the inner city of Cincinnati, Ohio, I am inextricably linked to the experiences and struggles of working class families. The lack of medical coverage among the working poor has escalated since the days of my youth. This lack of access to coverage is often most acute in communities of color, like the one in which I grew up. Healthcare reform is in a state of emergency, and I believe that the Obama administration’s goal of ensuring access to health insurance for those without it is an important and necessary one.

It is my stance that the community and the Church have a social and moral responsibility to play an active role in caring for the sick and the elderly. Jesus told us to care for the “least of these” and that’s what we are called to do. Non-governmental organizations such as Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Charities, and the local church itself have a unique role in meeting the needs of their respective communities. These groups have an understanding of the needs and goals of their neighborhoods, in real time, and can adeptly act to address them. The government’s role should be to assist in making it easier for the system to work, not control it.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

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.