Moral Priorities: Healthcare

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  October 8, 2016

            Jesus commanded the disciples, among other things, to heal the sick. He went on to say that when we care for those who are ill, we care for him. Throughout his ministry, he offered opportunities for healing and wholeness, and intentionally went out of his way to be a hopeful, compassionate, and loving presence for those who were ill. Healthcare matters to Jesus!
            Traditionally, the church has taken this matter very seriously. As early as the Third Century, Dionysius of Alexandria wrote that those Christians who exceeded in love of God, did so by caring for the sick and dying even to one’s own peril. He understood such a burden as necessary for faithful Christian action and practice.
            Over the centuries, as medical knowledge increased and the early vestiges of the modern hospital developed, it was the church who led the way in creating and running healthcare delivery systems. Most of the great healthcare institutions and delivery systems have their origins in this time. In addition to building great hospitals, churches also took the lead in cultivating schools of medicine where doctors could be trained for the healing arts.
            Over time, private industry and modern healthcare insurance came to dominate the hospital and healthcare industry. Given the strain on funding sources churches faced, along with the profit-centered business models private industry brought to the healthcare system, most of the church-funded and controlled healthcare delivery systems across the nation willingly relinquished control to private industry. (It is noteworthy that in Carlsbad, both of our local long-term care residential nursing facilities retain their strong and blessed church association.)
            Fundamental to the Christian approach to healthcare that dominated most of Christian history is the biblical fact that humanity is created in God’s image and called “very good.” As the image-bearers of our Creator, the church understood that providing the means and access to healthcare and healing ministries, in addition to faith and prayer, are indispensable aspects of authentic Christian witness.
            Tragically, as modern, profit-driven corporate control has dominated both the healthcare and insurance industries, the church has lost much of its mission for providing, and advocating for quality healthcare, faith-centered health, and compassionate care that is afforded to all God’s children. Making matters worse, the concept of providing access to healthcare in the United States has become such a polarized topic that the message of Christian witness gets quickly lost in vicious argument over government spending, partisan rancor, and economic bickering.
            Yet, a fundamental reality remains. When a person lives in a country with the most sophisticated and technologically advanced healthcare on the planet but cannot have genuine access due to medical problems, inadequate funding, or restricted personal income, it is a moral failure. When one’s quality of health care is largely determined by the quality of one’s employment, it is a moral failure. When insurance has more say over one’s ability to seek healing than doctors and patients, it is a moral failure. When genuine efforts to bring equality to healthcare are thwarted by politics, it is a moral failure.

            Assuming we truly wish to call ourselves a Christian Nation, as many Christians very strongly advocate, and assuming that as Christians who have the sacred obligation to shape our national moral grounding, it is time that Christians reclaim the sacred call to bring healing and wholeness to our land. Healthcare is not a privilege for the blessed few who can afford it, but a human right that belongs to those created in God’s image and called “Very good!”