CECIL BROWN: Some hear God saying do more for the poor and sick

In recent public statements, both Gov. Phil Bryant and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn have raised the issue of religion and how it affects their work in the public offices they hold. Gov. Bryant told a group of school kids that Christianity “shapes his world view.” He went on to say that his Christian faith leads him to oppose abortion and support the display of nativity scenes on government property. He has also opposed any and all efforts to create health care exchanges and has opposed Medicaid health insurance expansion.

Speaker Gunn said he opposes expansion of Medicaid health insurance coverage for the poor because, he argues, that his reading of the Bible indicates that “It is not the government’s job to take care of its citizens” and that “people should not look to the government for their provision, their dependence or their joy.”

I read these opinions and thought how different they are from how Christianity and the Bible inform my own world view. For the religious community, caring for the poor and the sick is a timeless obligation. And while clearly the church and the non-profit community have a role to play in fulfilling that obligation, I believe that the government, as a human institution created under the authority of God, also has a role to play. When we consider the expansion of Medicaid in Mississippi, for example, we are looking at an opportunity to fulfill Christ’s declaration that “these signs shall follow them that believe . . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark, 16:17-18) Certainly we cannot be like Jesus “healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people,” (Matthew, 4:23), but we can facilitate healing by offering health care to the hundreds of thousands of poor Mississippians who are currently uninsured through the expansion of the Medicaid program and a state-based health insurance exchange.

If, in fact, the government has no role to play in caring for its citizens, we would not sanction federal aid for hurricane victims. The federally subsidized flood insurance program would be totally privatized. We would abandon the federal school lunch program. There would be no need for the Mississippi departments of health or mental health. We would shut down Meals on Wheels and the federal unemployment insurance program. Medicare and Medicaid would be eliminated. All federal assistance for the creation of small businesses would be repealed. Obviously the people of this state and this country, through their elected representatives, have decided that these government programs serve important social welfare needs.

Certainly the Speaker and the Governor should look to their faith to help guide the important decisions they make. However, neither they nor any other humans are infallible. There are many people of great faith who believe that Christ clearly calls on us to serve people in need, and this government “of the people, by the people, for the people” gives us one more way to do so.

For many Christians, caring for the poor, the sick the needy is a duty that comes from God. For that reason, God’s people should not stand aside when we have the opportunity to extend health insurance to thousands of low-income working Mississippians through the Medicaid program and a state-based health insurance exchange.

Cecil Brown is a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from Jackson. He is a Democrat. Contact him at P. O. Box 1018, Jackson, MS 39215.

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  • Kevin

    Politicians use religion as a cudgel with which they can beat their opponents into submission. They also use it as an effective means of building a constituency, and I bet a few of them found their wives at church. It’s all political expediency. What they really worship is money.

  • the_rocket

    Here’s a better idea: How about you all keep your personal religious convictions to yourselves and govern by the law of United States? The rocket does not trust that voice in your head that you refer to as the holy spirit.

    • Guest Person

      Or we can point out the blatant hypocrisy of those political leaders who mislead others by selectively using their faith for political gain.
      At the end of the day we can collectively solve our country’s health care problem or turn it over to private compaines to rob us. If one wants to call it goverment run then fine.

  • 1941641

    Our nation was not founded on the Holy Bible nor the Christian Faith. Any elected state official, Gov. Bryant/Speaker Gunn, whomever, who quotes from the Bible to explain his methods and ideology for governing the people is way off base. Our Constitution is a Secular Document regardless of what you may have heard from Christian Revisionists/Fundamentalists.

    Governing the people of Mississippi according to an Ancient Times Bible in a Modern Day setting can, in my opinion, only be classified as utter and complete nonsense; take the Bible out of Government and place it in the Church where it belongs before it’s too late; tell the Mississippi Governor and Legislators to adhere to the Constitution in their governing of the people because that is what they are required to do; leave the preaching at home and in the church.

    Mississippi has the potential to become a model state, replacing the one that exists today and all for the common good.