Thursday, May 21, 2009

TALKING AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE

I've shared these thoughts publicly on why affordable health care is a critical spiritual issue

ACROSS FAITH BORDERS. I was recently asked by the folks at Sojourners if I would consider participating more directly in a developing initiative among various ministers and congregations across the nation to advocate for affordable health care for all Americans. As I see this as a nonpartisan public policy issue with critical theological and ethical ramifications, I agreed to do so.

RADIO SPOT. On Wednesday, I recorded a radio spot that will air on Indiana radio stations over the next week. You can listen to it and learn more about the Faithful America initiative. I did not speak for the congregation I serve, but from the real urban context of congregational and community ministry in which we are engaged.

PRESS CONFERENCE CALL. I also participated on behalf of Faithful America, Faith in Public Life, and Sojourners in an hour-long national press conference call today. The following is the statement I shared. The full conference call can also be accessed at http://www.faithfulamerica.org/:

"As a pastor of an urban congregation in Indianapolis, I see the toll that
inaccessible and unaffordable health care has on families in our congregation. I
know parents who put off medical attention for their children as long as
possible and then rush to the emergency room because they can't afford basic
preventive or clinic care. These parents do the same for themselves--letting
illnesses become chronic before they get help. It seems to me that the economic
cost to everyone is much higher this way, to say nothing of the physical and
emotional cost to children and parents. This is not an exceptional situation. It
is the norm for many low income working households we serve. This is the same
America that pays hospital executives, insurance administrators, and physicians
top dollar and offers concierge health benefits to those who have the means to
pay. This is why I am advocating for accessible, affordable, equitable health
care for all now. The health care and health insurance system as it currently
exists in America is neither ethically defensible nor spiritually sound. We can
and must do better."

INDY STAR BLOG. Following the press conference call, I was contacted by an Indianapolis Star reporter, Bobby King, who posted a piece about it on a StarNews blog called "Thou Shalt."

Here's the comment I added to the "Thou Shalt" Blog at IndyStar.com:
"Just a note that there is very much a diversity of opinion within our
congregation regarding health care reform and the involvement of government in
it. As I speak to this issue, I do not speak from any official position of
our congregation or the Free Methodist Church. But what seems to be common
threads are: (1) quality health care needs to be accessible and affordable for
all and (2) access and affordability of health care is an ethical and spiritual
issue, one that confronts us as individuals, households, congregations, and as a
nation right now. If we follow the principle and pattern of Jesus, we will
respond with compassion for the sake of the healing of our neighbors."

SPEAK OUT? OR STAY SILENT? Given the real health and economic realities many folks within our congregations and our neighbors in the broader community are facing (including filing bankruptcy due to medical bills), it seems to me to be morally contemptible to stand on the sidelines and say and do nothing (which is, in actuality, a decision to promote the status quo) than to try to bring discussion, understanding, and advocacy on this critical ethical and spiritual issue.

RELIEF? OR CHANGE? If Christian pastors and Christian laity continue only or primarily to provide relief and words of comfort and consolation for neighbors who are being waylaid by the current expression of the health care industry, we aren't being true to the spirit of the Gospels or the teaching and ministry of Jesus. We have demonstrated in the past our readiness to stand up with slaves against the slavery industry, to stand up with women against unjust traditions, and to stand up with the poor against abusive industries and public perceptions. It seems like standing up with more and more neighbors and friends who cannot afford or access quality health care is a no-brainer for pastors and caring Christians.

Happy to talk about this with anyone.
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May 2 Follow-up: I was quoted in the Washington Post today regarding this -- at this link.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

2 comments:

  1. Sojo was wise to ask you to be a participant. You have an important voice/perspective.

    ReplyDelete

Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.