A theological assessment of healthcare: The problem of government

Tue, 09/01/2009 - 3:25pm
By: Letters to the ...

Healthcare debate is at a fever pitch in our nation. Proposed healthcare bills designed to change the way individuals pay for health insurance, town hall meetings to discuss the same, and conflict over “socialized medicine” seem to be on everyone’s mind.

Is there a Christian position on these issues? Are there any guidelines for thinking through the national healthcare debate in a biblical way?

There is the danger of laying down absolutes where there is room for disagreement. At the same time a Christian worldview should inform believers in Jesus Christ in the critical matters of health, finances, citizenship, and government. The following is a modest proposal for thinking wisely, having truth-informed conversations, and making changes in a healthcare system laden with problems.

Perfect health was given to our first parents, Adam and Eve. The record of creation’s dawn is filled with hope and ideal conditions. There was no death, disease, influenza, infections, cancer, and no pain and suffering to be found anywhere. The human body had been created by God and it was declared by Him to be very good. A perfect environment promised the hope of a world filled with the worship of God and unending delight in paradise.

Perfect health was lost through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God (Gen. 3:6, 7). The hope of a perpetual paradise vanished. Satan was able to insert himself between God and Adam with an offer that wasn’t refused. God’s clear warning about not eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was brushed aside for the deception that Adam and Eve could be like God.

Eating the fruit did, indeed, transform the couple but not in the way imagined. Their bodies became impaled on the sentence of death. Death was the penalty of their sin. It was no longer a perfect world. Their health began to deteriorate. Pain and suffering became attached to conception. The aging process with its supporting cast of innumerable physical maladies became the plight of man.

Whatever we have to say about personal health, sickness, disease, and dying, the reason for it all must not be ignored. The penalty of sin is death. Every cold and sore throat ought to be reminders of cosmic issues. We are all dying and our sinful condition before a holy God needs immediate attention. A Savior has been given. What have I done with Him (Jn. 3:16)?

Relatively (compared to what it could have been) good health was promised to Israel as God’s witness nation to the world. During the time of the earthly theocracy, God demonstrated His omnipotent, sovereign control over Israel’s overall health (Ex. 23:25).

In addition to health benefits that were bestowed supernaturally (e.g., food from heaven, Ex. 16:35), there were measures the covenant people were to take. Obedience to God’s law would help protect the people of Israel from epidemic diseases that would threaten their survival (Ex. 15:26).

The health of the nation was implemented through conservation of natural resources (Deut. 20:19-20), through rest and relaxation (Lev. 23; 25), sanitation, and specific laws governing contagious diseases (Lev. 13).

All of these procedures, however, rested upon a base of individual morality and obedience to God.

Two lessons may be drawn from this. A nation can rise no higher in its view of healthcare than the moral character of its citizens. People who refuse to take proper care of themselves, fail to carry health insurance and then want others to pay their health insurance premiums have abandoned their responsibilities to themselves and others.

Secondly, those who are determined to live without the moral constraints of self-control, community responsibility, and self-sacrifice consign themselves to an increasingly complicated life.

The prevention component in a nation’s healthcare system is vital. Sickness and dying cannot be stopped, but there is more. A balanced diet, exercise, and avoidance of habits that erode personal health go a long way in cutting healthcare costs.

This emphasis is to be preferred over a plan based on rationing and denying care.

A Stanford University study reported to the Associated press reached the conclusion that, “... overweight, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, or even tobacco use were not as good an indicator of longevity as fitness. The study, involving 6,200 men – with or without heart disease – took progressive treadmill test results and found that the least fit had the greatest risk of early death.”

This does not deny that one’s family history plays a role in good health (chronic physical conditions can be outside of one’s control) but Americans must make a commitment to the prevention aspect of healthcare as much as possible.

It is the judgment of many that the United States has the best overall healthcare system in the world considering its size and population. We have a range of freedom and choices unparalleled in human history. However, some problems do exist and need to be addressed by a nation’s collective conscience of justice and compassion.

Catastrophic illnesses (e.g., long-term cancer care, spinal injuries, brain damage) need a financial safety net. The cancellation of health insurance during a personal health crisis needs legal attention. State legislators need the courage to address some kind of tort reform.

Not all malpractice lawsuits are without merit, but too many are attempts at using a jury lottery system to get rich. It is a known fact that many physicians order a wide range of tests, though often not necessary, in order to protect themselves from lawsuits.

Those with preexisting conditions should not be penalized with insurance costs beyond their financial means or insurance denial. The uninsured who incur medical expenses need some degree of accountability.

These and other issues beg for the attention of those who desire an equitable healthcare system. This does not mean that our present healthcare system needs to be replaced.

Changes? Yes. Another system? No. Is a government controlled healthcare system the answer? The evidence says a resounding no.

It is astounding how much freedom people are willing to give away for the sake of feelings of security. Those who propose some form of government controlled healthcare system is a case in point.

Many centuries ago the nation of Israel became weary of having an invisible king (God). In other words, they wanted more human government. They desired a visible king to act as God’s surrogate.

The mistake they were making was not in longing for a monarchial form of government (that will come one day when the Messiah will rule on earth) but rather it was the asking for a king “like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:19-20).

This is not an argument adopting a theocracy or a monarchy but rather a lesson in human nature. It is to our peril when we forget the “tendencies ... which are inherent in all government under sinful men.” (Alva J. McClain, “The Greatness of the Kingdom”).

Government for its own sake, burdensome taxation, political corruption, and totalitarian control are but a few of the natural drifts of human government.

As wisely noted by Alva J. McClain, “It is to the lasting credit of the founding fathers of our own American system that they regarded all highly centralized government with a deep and cold suspicion, holding that the less we had of it, the better off we would be.”

It is the judgment of this writer that any form of a nationalized healthcare system is a move toward “loss of liberty, economic distress, and political despair.”

Is there a definitive Christian answer to the healthcare problem in America? There is if one looks at the total picture through a biblical lens; the purpose of government, our founding documents, the value of personal liberty, justice and compassion, individual responsibility, the sacred value of human life, the sovereignty of God over the State.

We have good reason to be concerned about how government policies will treat abortion and end-of-life decisions. When the Supreme Court can find the right to an abortion in the Constitution and state legislatures can legalize suicide in the name of death with dignity, we have every right to ask hard questions.

Healthcare proponents must be prepared to answer the following five questions (mostly taken from The Heritage Foundation):

1. Can you promise me that I will not lose my current plan and doctor?

2. Will members of Congress enroll in the public plan?

3. Can you guarantee that government-run healthcare will not lead to higher deficits in the long term?

4. Will there be rationing of healthcare for patients on the public plan?

5. Can you promise that my tax dollars will not fund abortions?

All branches of government must have their feet held to the fire of public scrutiny. It has been pointed out by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., as reported in World magazine, that “buried in the 1,017-page health bill is language making it clear that federal standards would preempt any state law. That could put 200 state laws aimed at protecting life in jeopardy.”

These and the related issues of entitlements, end-of-life counseling and taxation are subject to the wisdom of Holy Scripture. Let the church speak with humility, compassion, and wisdom forged on the anvil of biblical truth.

Dr. Howard E. Dial, pastor

Berachah Bible Church

Fayette County, Ga.

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Submitted by Davids mom on Tue, 09/01/2009 - 9:13pm.

These are excellent questions and our legislators need to give us honest answers. . .not the corporations and special interest groups.

1. Can you promise me that I will not lose my current plan and doctor?
Read carefully,this may answer your question.
2. Will members of Congress enroll in the public plan?
An email said that Obama ignored this when asked. Read carefully – and make up your own mind
3. Can you guarantee that government-run healthcare will not lead to higher deficits in the long term?
This really needs to be hashed out in Congress.
4. Will there be rationing of healthcare for patients on the public plan?
A notorious analysis of the House health care bill contains 48 claims. Twenty-six of them are false and the rest mostly misleading. Only four are true. Check it out again
5. Can you promise that my tax dollars will not fund abortions?Read this carefully – and make up your own mind.

Submitted by allegedteacher on Tue, 09/01/2009 - 7:59pm.

Are you serious? What would Jesus do about nationalized health care?!?! Dr. Dial says he would vote NO. Good grief..

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