By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
This week the nation waited to see if Congress would pass historical legislation to overhaul the health care system.
President Barack Obama has continually said that creating a comprehensive system of health insurance would be the signature agenda item of his administration.
However, the president’s proposals have met with strong opposition, mostly from Republicans who claim, among other things, that the country simply can’t afford to cover everyone.
Late last year both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed separate bills that would dramatically change the way the country handles health care.
Since early March, Obama has encouraged Republicans and Democrats to work out a package of fixes that would reconcile the House and Senate bills into one piece of legislation.
As the health care vote looms large in the public arena, folks throughout Northeast Mississippi spoke to the Daily Journal about how their religious faith shapes their view of the subject.
The greater good
Tupelo physical therapist Charles Bouldin believes the Bible affirms that “we are our brothers’ keepers.” That’s why he’s convinced that health care “should be afforded to everyone.”
Bouldin, a member of People’s Community Baptist Church, doesn’t like the idea of the government getting involved in medical procedures, such as stem cell research and abortion, but, “judgment belongs to God with the decisions individuals make.”
Insurance companies shouldn’t be allowed to exclude people due to pre-existing conditions, Bouldin believes, or to put caps on the amount of coverage people receive.
He likes the fact that “health care reform allows one to choose,” and he cited Joshua 24: 15, as the biblical precedent for people making wise, holy decisions.
Bouldin regrets that “politicians exploit some issues” in the health care debate for personal gain, but people of faith should care about “the greater good of all persons concerned.”
State not responsible
Dr. Kenn Beeman believes that the health care system needs to be reformed, but he’s opposed to placing control of the industry under the purview of government.
“The state is responsible for ensuring justice and providing for defense,” said the Tupelo physician, a member of Lawndale Presbyterian Church.
The church, he said, instituted by God, serves the civil function of being the chief instrument of mercy and compassion.
It is within this latter province, Beeman believes, that an effort to expand access to health care rightly belongs.
“Not even God guarantees us life or health beyond today,” said Beeman. “How, then, could it be construed that the state should be the ultimate guarantor of health care?”
The Founding Fathers codified a system in which, as Beeman put it, “the law of the land could not possibly stipulate some sort of ‘affirmative action’ to provide all citizens with life, health, happiness and prosperity.”
Rather, the Constitution upholds the principle that “no one has the authority to take life, health, freedom or prosperity from another.”
In a healthy system, Beeman believes, Congress and the courts would “ensure that the health consortia do not enjoy unfair advantage or monopoly or favoritism.”
A right from God
For the Rev. Richard Smith, the arguments about taxes and the high costs of universal health care “forget the issue of dignity.”
“The appeal is to greed,” said the pastor of St. James Catholic Church in Corinth.
“How much will your health care cost me? The argument appeals to a part of us that has little to do with faith and even less with the biblical heritage of the Hebrew scriptures or the example of Jesus,” said Smith.
Because all comes from God, Smith said, “I have to hold all with a light grasp, ready to accept that God can give me happiness in health or illness.”
Health care, he’s convinced, is a right, but not a right conferred by the state. It is a right that comes from God, and, therefore, “the dignity of each person demands that life and health be sustained, supported and protected.”
Caring for the poor
Faith plays a part in everything, according to Ron Davis, a member of White Hill Missionary Baptist Church, so the biblical injunction to care for the poor is his main reason for supporting health care reform.
“Mississippi claims that no child will be left behind in education, so I believe no person should be left behind when it comes to health care,” said Davis, who is studying to be a nurse.
Davis is bothered that a disproportionately high number of minorities and people in lower socio-economic classes do not have health care insurance. The hallmark of a compassionate nation, he believes, is the extent to which it cares for its least powerful citizens.
He’s convinced that health care is a right.
“If CEOs can make the outrageous salaries they make, there ought to be enough money to make sure all our people are healthy,” said Davis.
Utopia not possible
Cal Smith thinks America is doing a pretty good job of caring for its poor, at least when compared to much of the rest of the world.
The former Navy man has traveled around the world, and he said government oversight will never be a fitting substitute for a charitable spirit and self-moderation.
For Smith, a member of West Jackson Street Baptist Church, the words of Founding Father, James Madison, say it best: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government…(but) upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all to control ourselves and to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”
It’s because people abuse the system, Smith said, that so many have to go without health care coverage.
Smith doesn’t believe that the Constitution of the United States makes any provisions for benevolence, rather, the country’s founding documents ensure that nobody can be prevented from pursuing happiness.
Ultimately, Smith believes that those who advocate for universal health care, and for any number of other far-reaching “socialist” initiatives, think they create a kind of heaven on earth, a “utopia,” as he put it.
As far as he’s concerned, that doesn’t square with the Christian gospel.
“Socialism holds that if one suffers, we all suffer equally,” he said. “Most everybody believes that health care needs to change, but the implementation that’s being proposed won’t work.”
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a slideshow of people quoted in the article click view slideshow link above.