17 August 2007

God and Healthcare

I reckon that this will be controversial, but I'm amazed at the (pejorative adjective deleted) theology that's coming out of the US Christian blogsphere about what they call 'socialised medicine'.

Their main theological argument seems to be that God demands that people help others with a sincere heart. They seem to be arguing that medical care for the poor not be given by the State because this precludes giving 'with a sincere heart'.

Am I the only one who thinks that this logic leads inescapably to the theological conclusion that, 'It's more important to God that the well-off give with a sincere heart than that the less-well-off live a decent life'?

These people typically claim to be 'biblical', but you really have to wonder if any of them have read the Prophets. Are we reading the same bible??? Anyone who reads the bible and sees a God with a heart for the poor and oppressed is apparently creating a theology from their own subjective 'feelings' and is not genuinely biblical ('Give unto Ceaser....' apparently trumps the cows of Bashan). It makes me want to scream. It's like reading an apologetic for Apartheid.

I think that there is another entirely different question about how well State healthcare works. But even with all the problems in the NHS (and they are many), it's nothing near like the hyperbolic statements I'm seeing on US blogs.

The efficient delivery of healthcare is an issue that is separate from Christian theology; we might end up honestly disagreeing about what the best delivery system is. However, I wish Christians would stop making the argument that God puts the rights of the well-off to decide when and if they give to charity before the needs of the less well-off to live a healthy and dignified life.


DaveW said...

Darn well ought not be controversial, but I guess you are right about that too.

Well said.

Anonymous said...

After reading your blog I went to Ben Witherington's to read the comments and I see what you mean. I have wondered exactly what drives the thinking behind this theology, and really don't know. I find it amusing that those whose theology you're questioning make accusations about "knee-jerk reactions" when it seems that anytime "socialisation" in the United States is mentioned there is a "knee-jerk reaction" from these same people. I wonder if it's lingering effects of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. So when they say anything smacks of "communism" (which for many may equate to socialism) it equals Godlessness for Christians. Therefore, Socialised Heath Care must be bad. In talking to my more conservative friends, there simply is a fear of it.

I also wonder if it's a misunderstanding of what Jesus came to do. What I mean can be found in the responses one of the others had to you in which she questioned if it was God's will that unbelievers' money went to pay for health care for non-believers. Or something like that. Anyway, many Americans may view salvation in such an individual way that it is salvation of the soul rather than redemption of the world, including those evil powers that have intwined themselves in the health care industry. In my theology, God would want health care for non-believers so why should God not want money from the wealthier non-believers to help bring it?

As for your other point, I haven't a clue as to how even to begin a conversation about the proper form of health care and how it would be implemented. Perhaps I need to read up a bit more on it. I agree with Witherington that as Christians we have a moral duty to wrestle with these questions biblically, and I agree with you (and Witherington) that our starting point is not for-profit but with people.

PamBG said...

Will, it wasn't even just Ben Witherington's blog. I read another blog last night that finally kicked this off (I can't remember where as I was following a link). There was also a very long post on the 'Sojourners' blog saying much the same thing.

I don't know how to begin to address the practical issues either and I'm not claiming that I do. I simply find the theology utterly astounding.

I think that you are right about 'lingering McCarthyism'. Because the communist states of the 1950s were also militantly atheist, there seems to be an idea that any kind of government help for individuals is promoting atheism; which is just illogical.

crystal said...

I believe most liberal american christians would be for socialized health care - I am. This is one of the issues with liberation theology ... conservatives link liberation theology in Latin America with left wing politics and denounce both. I think social justice is a better way to fix these kinds of problems than charity, which doesn't empower those in need, but keeps the power with those who give.

PamBG said...

I think social justice is a better way to fix these kinds of problems than charity, which doesn't empower those in need, but keeps the power with those who give. (My bolding)

I agree with you and thank you very much for this comment on power. You've pin-pointed 'something' that was really bugging me but which I couldn't put my finger on. Absolutely right.

crystal said...

I can't take any credit. It was Leonardo Boff who wrote that the mission of the Church is one of justice, not charity :-)

PamBG said...

Crystal, I'm crediting you with the insight that 'private charity' puts power in the hands of the rich.