Monday, August 20, 2012

JESUS AND UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

With election season approaching, thought I 'd throw out a political thought-bomb. Here's the idea. Sister Simone Campbell, a Catholic nun involved in social justice said "Healthcare for everyone is pro-life because thousands die because they don't have insurance or money to see a doctor...."

Fair-minded people, even among the rabid Religious Right will concede this is true. They will quickly lose sight of this moral issue, however, and say we cannot afford to pay for everyone's health care, because our government is broke already. Strangely, these same fiscal conservatives in Washington support escalating the military budget. My Christian right-wing friends claim what we have is "currently working." They say: "Everyone has access to healthcare, just look at any ER, overcrowded with doctor visits. Nobody can be turned away." Another common criticism of universal healthcare from conservativess is: "I don't like the idea of the government being able to tell me whether or not I deserve a procedure that could save or improve my life. Have you ever been to the Department of Motor Vehicles or a welfare office? I really don't want people like that running my healthcare." These same folks drive on the roads made possible by the government. They rely on fire and police departments and other government services if necessary.

Partisan politics is out of control. Divided we fall. We must step back from the rhetoric and look at the larger moral issue Sister Campbell is raising. At the root of the opposition to healthcare for all is a degree of selfishness. People who have healthcare want it the same.

Affordable healthcare will enable retirees to buy into Medicare at reasonable rates. My friend Jill Priddle in the healthcare industry says, "Also many families with children will have access to healthier lifes. This is not a socialized plan. It just makes it an Affordable Healthcare Act."

America needs to catch up to Canada and Europe and eliminate middleman insurance companies who deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. I was in Italy, at a Milan film festival where my film "Sister Aimee" was up for an award. I had an interesting experience while there on this issue. One of our filmmakers got sick and went to hospital in Italy and asked where the cashier was to pay. A nurse there at the desk looked at him strangely and said, "Italy is a largely Catholic country. As Christians, we believe it is immoral to profit on suffering. There is no charge." Those words rang in my ears ever since. "It is immoral to profit on suffering..."

My Christian conservative friends say there is no such thing as a "free lunch" or free healthcare and we the people cannot afford the burden. Strangely, these same conservatives will say theologically they believe in a God of grace and mercy who gives freely salvation, not because we earn it. They dismiss my Italy experience by countering that Italy is in serious financial trouble as we speak and is on the verge of financial collapse. Italy is technically a dying nation, they claim.

All these smokescreens of rhetoric continue to obscure the original question Sister Simone brings up. The question is: "Do people die in this country because of the current healthcare situation? In other words, are there people out there who are sick and don't go to a doctor because they either don't have insurance or money for a doctor?? And is that immoral and anti-life as Sister says?" Sister Simone was on Fox with O'Reilly, who barely let her get a word out. "Nuns on a Bus" are heros for standing up for the poor, but if you watch the O'Reilly appearance you will see how he bullied and ridiculed her on FOX News.

My hometown friend Marsha Price says: "The existing social programs in place have become absolutely necessary. They are safety nets for the poor. Obamacare is long needed and overdue. It's very misunderstood. It's main goal is to start shifting medicine from a 'for profit' machine to a REAL 'non-profit. It puts limits on the profit margins. The legislation demands that 80% of every dollar taken in actually goes towards providing CARE, not increasing profit. It is the first smack down for medical insurance companies EVER. You can't be denied for pre-existing conditions. This country can well afford 'national healthcare'. It's a stain upon us that's it's not already in place. Absolutely there are people who don't seek treatment or postpone treatment for lack of healthcare; then, when something becomes life-threatening they end up in an emergency room passing cost onto the consumers that could have been avoided... We are the ONLY 'first world developed' country that doesn't provide health care. It's long over due!"

My cousin Billy Tresky says "It's kinda of hypocritical to be Pro Life, or anti abortion (stereotype, single mothers or underpriviledged mothers who have them) then vote to cut off the funds that would assist them............YOU MUST HAVE THE BABY! BUT WE REFUSE TO HELP YOU NOW, THATS NOT ON US! As we argue about the "Affordable Health Care Act" and insurance........why aren't either parties going after the real criminals "The Healthcare Providers" who charge us insane amounts of money for simple procedures??????? Really to get 3 stitches for my lip costs me 960 $ WTF. If you ask me the whole country is being duped........Healthcare = le‚Äčgalized robbery, maybe we all wouldn't need insurance if the price of it wasn't a rip off in the 1st place."

My Religious Right friends have conspiracy theories. They say we will be forced to get the R.F.I.D. chip/mark of the beast that's in the healthcare bill. One friend of mine who believes the conspiracy says: "The RFID chip will go in your hand, and I'm sure you can guess which hand it's destined to go into. When the chip is implemented you will not be able to get healthcare without it. There are some states where some people have already elected to have the rfid chip implanted in them rather than carrying a bank card or access/welfare card. Eventually you will not be able to buy, sell, trade or get healthcare with out this chip. There are already hundreds of FEMA camps for those who will not comply. Our government has already brought in UN and Russian troops and stationed them outside Los Angeles as well as many other cities in California as well as Texas, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin, Colorado and Nevada as we speak. Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Obama and quite a few other Democrats and Republicans are working hard to push through the U.N.'s Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is a comprehensive guide to create a one world government under the new world order. The book of Revelation prophesied all these things would come to pass, and here they are."

I understand my friend's conspiracy viewpoint, although I don't agree with the conspiratorial world-view. I've heard similar conspiracy theories for many years espoused from groups like the John Birch Society, evangelists like Jack Van Impe, and to some extent now some elements of the Tea Party. I wrote to my friend who believes the conspiracy theories :

"I think if you stepped back and studied both sides of all issues and take with a grain of salt what people tell you, you may discover that what you are hearing is not what is actually occurring. It's a bit difficult to go down this road of discussion because the type of propaganda that convinces a person that Obama is the Beast bringing us into a New World Order takes root in the brain at a powerful emotional level. Our brains are wired to find patterns in things, like when we were kids and we saw rabbits or ducks in the clouds.

Once we give over our minds to listen exclusively to sources that espouse the conspiracies it's tough to turn the mind off from going down that path. The truth is, there is no over-arching conspiracy with the Rothchilds or the Bildeburgs or the Rockefellers. Obama is not Satan and neither is Romney. They are both human beings who are a mixture of good and bad. They both have some good qualities and both have nice familes, wives, and kids, and they both have done some good things and some not so good things.

I understand why you think the Book of Revelation was written about Obama and the U.N. and everything going on, but the Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John while imprisoned on Patmos to encourage 7 churches in Asia Minor who were being persecuted by Nero. It is a book many misinterpret for political agendas, scare tactics, and to support conspiratorial worldviews in fundamentalist and Religious Right circles. My wife and I were both indoctrinated in the Religious Right conspiracy viewpoints when we were students at Jerry Falwell's university. We were younger and more gullible and it has been a journey for both of us to investigate the truth and find out that the world was more complex than that. You're a smart guy with a good heart and I challenge you to think for yourself & not believe everything you hear on Fox News or the Internet. Listen to all sides of debates and don't give in to those who try to use fear to influence your thinking. It would be easier if the world was simply divided into the guys in the white hats and the black hats but it isn't that way."

Let's reconsider the moral issue of people who are sick. Jesus says something like this to us (My loose paraphrase of Matthew 25) :

"One day I will gather the nations, separating them into sheep nations (caring countries) and goat nations (greedy heartless nations) To the goat nations I will say when I was hungry you didn't feed me, you told me I was a lazy bum who deserved to be hungry. When I was thirsty, you didn't give me a drink. When I was in prison, you didn't visit me. You said I deserved to be there and threw away the key. When I was sick, you didn't take care of me. You grilled me to see if I had insurance papers. I didn't, so you made me bleed and wait extra long in the emergency room. Then you reluctantly cared for me, and mailed me a bill charging me ten times what the hour visit should have cost. You told me to be responsible and get insurance, but when I did apply, they denied me for a pre-existing condition. After all, they said they were set up as a private insurance company to make a profit and if they pay out too much they won't make money.

Then the goat nations said, "Lord, when were you hungry? If we would've known we could've bought you something off the dollar menu at McDonald's. When were you in prison and what were you in for? It wasn't anything too bad, was it? And we don't remember you being sick. But hey, you said the poor we shall always have with us and beside I got my coverage so I like it the way it is. What are you, a communist, Jesus?? After all, I work hard to have my coverage and I earned it myself. These sick, poor folks want a free ride."

Then Jesus said, "As often as you did it to the least of these, you did it unto Me. Depart from Me. Take a time out in your room and away from the shrill political rhetoric and really think about whether you want to be a goat nation or a sheep nation that cares for the poor and oppressed." But the goat nation became further polarized, with talk shows in which people yell at each other and talk over each other and quote meaningless numbers and statistics while every day hundreds of sick people were in pain but wouldn't see a doctor because they didn't have the money and weren't covered."

To date, I believe on this issue the U.S. has been a goat nation. I say this as one who loves America, so I will say we are a good goat nation. In other words, we've done a lot of good things as a country too.

Let's put this on a personal level. Have you ever done something nice for someone? Encouraged someone in prison? Ministered to the sick? Showed compassion to someone? It probably left you with a good feeling of heavenly connection. Have you ever had a chance to help someone and didn't? If you're like most of us, you probably could answer "yes" to both being a goat at times and a sheep at times. We're all goats sometimes and sheep sometimes.

Even the disciples of Jesus denied Him. Peter said "I never knew Him," when Jesus was headed to die on the cross, naked, shivering sick. Yet as He died, Jesus said towards those killing Him "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Jesus loves and forgives us for the humanity of being good goats. But at a time in history when we have a chance to finally get a passing grade at the Judgment of the Nations found in Matthew 25 on this issue of our heart towards the poor, I hope more of my friends who are caught up as I once was in the silly brainwashing of the political and religious rhetoric will truly ask: "What would Jesus do?"