Jesus and the Health Care Bill
It may cost us a bit more, but our nation has taken a compassionate step in the right direction.

This morning—the day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the health-care measure—I feel a sense of gladness. I am glad that millions of Americans, many of them children, will have access to health insurance. I am glad that people with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurance companies. And I am also glad that some effort is being made to curtail rising medical expenses, and that certain special interest and business groups will be held to a greater accountability, and that the growing gap between the rich and the poor might be slowed.

I am glad not because I am a Democrat or a Republican but because I think that Jesus, who seemed to take great interest in health issues, is glad. Looking back on his life among people like us, he often acted as a healer. He seemed to delight in curing diseases, restoring disabled people to wholeness, and rewiring damaged minds. You cannot divorce these encounters from the rest of his public ministry. Health-care was in his frame of reference.

My favorite of the Jesus-healing stories is the one where a group of men rip open a roof and lower a friend into the presence of Jesus. I love how the Lord flexed with the moment and used the healing to offer people a vision of holistic health: physical and spiritual. I try to imagine the freshly healed man rolling up his mat and heading out the front door, walking unassisted for the first time in who knows how long.

Then, too, I wonder about all the people (apparently including religious leaders) who had crowded into that house and who'd made it impossible for the man in his original condition of paralysis to get to Jesus in a more conventional way—through the front door. How does it happen that people rationalized, that since they got there first, the suffering guy outside should be left to his own devices?

All of my life I have felt torn between those Christian friends of mine who believe whole-heartedly in healing as a centerpoint of their gospel and those who pray (sometimes benignly) for the health of friends but end up signaling their uncertainty by stating the conditional "if it be thy will." Is there a third position that mediates between "it's-always-his-will" and "it's-probably-not-his-will"? Both extremes seem a tad foolish to me.

In my role as a pastor, there were many occasions when I laid my hands upon a sick person and prayed for healing. I confess that there were some times when I did it simply because it was my job. But in my heart I harbored doubt. Then there were other occasions when I felt a firm conviction about God's desire and ability to heal, and my prayers were filled with fervor and a faith that affirmed that God could do anything.

March 22, 2010

Displaying 1–10 of 98 comments

Andy Gosnell

January 05, 2014  8:07am

Our nation is going for sure in the right direction because people realize more and more what is important in their lives. But this will take time. Patience is the key

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Greg Kern

September 01, 2011  8:34am

I wrote an article with the exact same name, on the same Topic, but with a VERY DIFFERENT Perspective:

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April 23, 2010  7:26pm

Thanks for those boards and commissions they were really helpful.

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Tim (Random Observations)

April 23, 2010  7:44am

Gordon MacDonald's post above seems to represent a fairly serious failure to acknowledge the different stances on the issues, combined with an implied slur against his ideological opponents. I apologize that my response took so long to write.

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April 14, 2010  2:11am

I am an evangelical from Canada, and I and all the folks I know here love our Health Care system. It is serving us very well. As for the Disunited States of America, your hateful politics, polarization and cultural war is very unChristian in my opinion and such a poor testimony for Christ to the world. I wouldn't live there even if you paid me to do so.

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April 12, 2010  7:29pm

Sue said: "Lots of people don't like this new law because it doesn't go anywhere near far enough TOWARDS government control of health care (which would rein in costs)." Sue, you might feel better knowing that these boards and commissions have been included in the bill to ADD GOVERNMENT CONTROL and will really help to rein in costs: 1. Grant program for consumer assistance offices (Section 1002, p. 37) 2. Grant program for states to monitor premium increases (Section 1003, p. 42) 3. Committee to review administrative simplification standards (Section 1104, p. 71) 4. Demonstration program for state wellness programs (Section 1201, p. 93) 5. Grant program to establish state Exchanges (Section 1311(a), p. 130) 6. State American Health Benefit Exchanges (Section 1311(b), p. 131) 7. Exchange grants to establish consumer navigator programs (Section 1311(i), p. 150) 8. Grant program for state cooperatives (Section 1322, p. 169) 9. Advisory board for state cooperatives (Section 1322(b)(3), p. 173) 10. Private purchasing council for state cooperatives (Section 1322(d), p. 177) 11. State basic health plan programs (Section 1331, p. 201) 12. State-based reinsurance program (Section 1341, p. 226) 13. Program of risk corridors for individual and small group markets (Section 1342, p. 233) 14. Program to determine eligibility for Exchange participation (Section 1411, p. 267) 15. Program for advance determination of tax credit eligibility (Section 1412, p. 288) 16. Grant program to implement health IT enrollment standards (Section 1561, p. 370) 17. Federal Coordinated Health Care Office for dual eligible beneficiaries (Section 2602, p. 512) 18. Medicaid quality measurement program (Section 2701, p. 518) 19. Medicaid health home program for people with chronic conditions, and grants for planning same (Section 2703, p. 524) 20. Medicaid demonstration project to evaluate bundled payments (Section 2704, p. 532) 21. Medicaid demonstration project for global payment system (Section 2705, p. 536) 22. Medicaid demonstration project for accountable care organizations (Section 2706, p. 538) 23. Medicaid demonstration project for emergency psychiatric care (Section 2707, p. 540) 24. Grant program for delivery of services to individuals with postpartum depression (Section 2952(b), p. 591) 25. State allotments for grants to promote personal responsibility education programs (Section 2953, p. 596) 26. Medicare value-based purchasing program (Section 3001(a), p. 613) 27. Medicare value-based purchasing demonstration program for critical access hospitals (Section 3001(b), p. 637) 28. Medicare value-based purchasing program for skilled nursing facilities (Section 3006(a), p. 666) 29. Medicare value-based purchasing program for home health agencies (Section 3006(b), p. 668) 30. Interagency Working Group on Health Care Quality (Section 3012, p. 688) 31. Grant program to develop health care quality measures (Section 3013, p. 693) 32. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Section 3021, p. 712) 33. Medicare shared savings program (Section 3022, p. 728) 34. Medicare pilot program on payment bundling (Section 3023, p. 739) 35. Independence at home medical practice demonstration program (Section 3024, p. 752) 36. Program for use of patient safety organizations to reduce hospital readmission rates (Section 3025(b), p. 775) 37. Community-based care transitions program (Section 3026, p. 776) 38. Demonstration project for payment of complex diagnostic laboratory tests (Section 3113, p. 800) 39. Medicare hospice concurrent care demonstration project (Section 3140, p. 850) 40. Independent Payment Advisory Board (Section 3403, p. 982) 41. Consumer Advisory Council for Independent Payment Advisory Board (Section 3403, p. 1027) 42. Grant program for technical assistance to providers implementing health quality practices (Section 3501, p. 1043) 43. Grant program to establish interdisciplinary health teams (Section 3502, p. 1048) 44. Grant program to implement medicati

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April 05, 2010  9:38am

I appreciate this column so much - thank you. But I am tremendously troubled by comments which reveal that many Christians would rather believe sensationalist rhetoric and then draw their boundaries accordingly, than know what they're talking about. No matter how many things have been done not only to ensure but to DEMONSTRATE that abortion is not funded in this bill, some Christians continue to believe that it is, so they can continue to easily demonize it. Some people continue to call it "government-run health care" when it is no such thing: it is merely a system to ensure that more people have access to privately-run health insurance. The only thing the government is going to run, is the insistence that we get insurance. Once the premise is assumed that the government is going to run health care (when it's not), the conclusions flow fast and furious: the terminally ill will be left to die and then we're having forced abortions! And if that's not enough, the assertion is then made that this is what's going on in Europe and Canada, when that is demonstrably untrue. Christians need to STOP IT. Our allegiance is not to a political ideology, it's to the Lord Jesus. Lots of people don't like this new law because it doesn't go anywhere near far enough TOWARDS government control of health care (which would rein in costs). I don't like the individual mandate, but it was the best that we could get if we were going to have to keep the whole thing in the hands of private insurance companies (they were the ones who insisted on the mandate). AND, it needs to be remembered that our government is US - it's not an outside empire. If we the people decide together to help one another get health care this way, that is not oppression or tyranny, it's how our system works. There's nothing wrong with dissent and political activity to change the way elections go next time if your side didn't win, but it's terribly disappointing to see Christians embracing talking points that aren't true and making accusations that are easy, but are false witness, in order to demonize the "other" party. And Rachel at #2, the fact that "where you're from" supporting this law alienates you from the Christian community, is a terribly sad commentary on the so-called followers of Jesus.

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chad m

April 04, 2010  6:16pm

very glad for your article. i am sad by all the comments that simply spout rhetoric based on guesses and junk they've heard on Fox News. i'm for the bill, and i'll admit, i don't think any of us know how this will REALLY change things. how can people say it is "government takeover" when there isn't even a public option? how can you say it's going to increase abortions when abortions statistically increased during Bush's presidency? it's seems to me all the negativity is really a lot of bull to cover up one essential complaint: "more of my money is going to be taken to help others." so, the simple question is, would Jesus want us to help others; to love our neighbor?

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April 04, 2010  2:31pm

While I certainly agree with the spirit of the article - i.e. that Jesus cared for the sick and so should we - here are a few things I find problematic: (1) His use of the Scriptures. WWJD is not a good hermeneutic principle. (2) Jesus did not heal all the sick or needy. This is a key point, as Macdonald's argument seems based upon the assumption that He did, even if it is an unspoken assumption. Jesus healing of the man lowered through the ceiling, and Peter/John's healing outside the temple, if understood contextually, were clearly secondary to larger statements of the Gospel that both narratives are trying to communicate (3) I find this statement hopelessly naive for a Christian of Macdonald's stature: "1. Any effort that is made to bring health benefits to more people (especially the weak, the poor, the children) is an effort with which I want to identify." REALLY? Would he identify with Marxism? What about faith healing tent crusades? We must love people with our heads, not just our hearts - otherwise, our efforts despite being well-meaning might actually perpetuate the suffering or simply waste enormous amounts of resources (i.e. the UN). (4) I find this statement disingenuous: "2. Anyone whose argument is based simply on the notion that we cannot afford making medical benefits available to more people does not get my ear. The fact is that our country—we the people—can afford it, even if it means that each of us surrenders a few more bucks that we would have spent on things for ourselves. We just have to conclude that compassion in the face of human need is a greater value than accumulating more stuff. "Who has made this argument? Who has suggested that the problem with the current health care plan is that it would prevent them from buying more stuff?!? No one has, and no one believes this. The argument is that government will actually be the wrong player to fix the problems that clearly need to be fixed in the system. (5) This statement is misinformed: "3. Any initiative that makes it possible for the common person to have the same access to medical science as the rich appear to have is one I want to hear about." This bill does not accomplish this. Gov't run systems destroy innovation - which is why wealthy folks in gov't run systems still come the U.S. when they need treatment. And, a larger problem is "equal access" for this bill includes, due to regulations that insurance companies will be forced to comply with, things like sex-change operations and viagara and other non-medical necessities. (6) This statement is also naive: "4. And any group that stands up on behalf of our physicians so that they do not have to fear frivolous lawsuits every time they make a diagnosis and propose a treatment is one I want to support." This bill does not help this at all. See:

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Bill Williams

March 30, 2010  1:46pm

How sad. From the tone of the majority of these posts–from both sides of the issue–I have trouble believe most of the people commenting here are Christians.

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