Public option? Blue dog Democrats? Mandates? Subsidies? Obama’s Waterloo?
Are you following all this? Do you care?
For a generation, the religious left has railed against the influence of the religious right on public policy. Has the left taken the separation of church and state arguments too literally? Shall we not allow our faith to inform our political judgments? Shall we allow the perplexing minutiae of complex legislation to cloud our moral judgment?
Hold on, it appears that there are voices from the left, crying from the wilderness. Steven Waldman, the editor of Beliefnet, suggests:
During Republican administrations, the religious right flexed its muscle around issues like abortion and judicial appointments.
As the religious left grew in importance during the election, it was unclear how they would attempt to exert their influence.
It looks like the first big test is health care. They were non-existent players in 1993; this time, they’re trying to have a big impact.
Jacqueline L Salmon, a Washington Post staff writer, adds:
In recent weeks, hundreds of clergy members and lay leaders have descended on the offices of members of Congress, urging lawmakers to enact health-care legislation this year. With face-to-face lobbying, sermons, prayer and advertising on Christian radio stations, the coalitions are pressing the idea that health care for everyone is a fundamental moral issue.
Maybe its ok, maybe we need to stand up and be counted, maybe we should allow our faith to influence our politics. To borrow an overused and trite expression, “What would Jesus Do?” Minister, lawyer, and author Oliver Thomas suggests (thanks to Pastor John Shuck for the quotes):
Mixing church and state might be inexcusable, but the influence of religion on our political views is inevitable. Accordingly, the First Amendment does not prohibit laws that reflect our religious values as long as those laws have a secular purpose and effect. So it is curious that, until recently, little has been written about the moral dimension of the health care debate. The focus has largely been on how to pay for insuring 46 million uninsured people in America and whether to provide a so-called public option. At last, religious leaders are stepping forward to explain what our Scriptures and religious traditions have to teach us about the most important domestic policy issue to come before the Congress in recent years.
The answer, it turns out, is a lot. Not directly, of course. Our Scriptures were written long before talk of deductibles, pre-existing conditions and single payers. But indirectly, the Christian, Hebrew and Muslim texts have much to say about the quality, availability and affordability of health care. …
Such "care" extends to health care. The legendary Jewish scholar and physician Maimonides listed health care first on his list of services that a city should offer its residents. …
Christians find similar teachings in the New Testament. One of Jesus’ most famous parables is about health care. A Samaritan traveler happens upon a seriously wounded man lying by the side of the road. The Samaritan attends to the man, dresses his wounds and pays a substantial sum for his care and recovery. Jesus ends the story by telling his hearers to "go and do likewise." …
For Muslims, the Holy Quran contains multiple admonitions to attend to the needy. …
Nevertheless, Cigna insurance executive turned whistle-blower Wendell Potter testified recently that the insurance industry fearing competition is engaged in a campaign to scare Americans away from any sort of public plan.
In truth, says Potter, America’s nearly half-century-old Medicare program has proved itself an efficient choice. Administrative costs of Medicare? Less than 5%. Of the private plans? Closer to 20%, according to Potter.
Jesus admonished his disciples to be as innocent as doves, but he also warned them to be "as wise as serpents." Let’s hope Congress can be the same.
As Thomas suggests, this is an issue for all people of faith, and The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is clearly on board. The following video is of David Saperstein, “the most influential rabbi in America” according to some. The article from which this video is copied also references the speeches by “Dr. Sayyid Syeed, National Director of the Office of Interfaith Relations of the Islamic Society of North America; Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK – A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; and Rev. James Forbes, President and Founder of the Healing of the Nations Foundation of New York and Senior Minister Emeritus of the Riverside Church.”
A few weeks ago, a retired pastor in my church preached eloquently in favor of universal health care, but he also was sensitive to appearing to sound pro-Obama or pro-Democrat. Maybe that’s the hangup for some religious leaders – supporting a cause is one thing but a party is another. Yet, if the GOP continues to be the Party of NO! and the voice of the pharmaceuticals and the insurance companies, more concerned with scoring political points than solving a problem, this administration and the Congressional leadership appear to be the only ones listening, and they are the direction we should funnel our voices and our support.
Finally, if you want an incisive view of the complexities of the debate, check out the New York Times op-ed piece of Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Krugman supports the Democratic plan in Congress and suggests the Blue Dog Democrats who are not yet on board jeopardize the basic structure of health care reform.
Stand up and be counted.