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Wednesday, 04 January 2006

Politics, Religion and Universal Healthcare

category_bug_journal2.gif Having resolved never to blog about religion, I’m treading in deep water today. But in the political climate of the Bush II era, it's hard to avoid and anyway, having toned down my original draft of this post, I think it's fairly tame.

For anyone who cares to know, I am nominally Jewish. Not that I do much about it. I light the Hanukkah candles for eight nights, not so much from religious belief, but because they are pretty and I like the story that goes with the holiday. I fast on Yom Kippur – again, not from religious conviction, but because I think it’s a good idea, now and then, to do something that reminds me of my connection to the family of man through the ages.

And I light yahrzeit candles on the anniversaries of the deaths of loved ones because I like setting aside a day to remember each one of them.

Beyond admitting to those little rituals, my beliefs are my own and I would be more comfortable if more people – especially politicians – kept theirs to themselves too. Either way, it seems to me that the most profound - and simplest - reason for religion is, at its best, to remind people of faith that the God they worship requires them to do the right thing – privately and publicly.

All religions subscribe to this idea. It’s not necessary to my point, but it’s fun to read some of the versions of the Golden Rule (or the "ethic of reciprocity" for you scholars):

Buddhism: Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.

Christianity: Love one another as I have loved you.

Confucionism: What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.

Hinduism: One should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated.

Islam: Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you; and reject for others what you would reject for yourself.

Judaism: You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.

Zoroastrianism: Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others.

There is even a secular/humanist version: Treat people the way you'd like to be treated.

Boring, huh, in their sameness, but it has been the agreed-upon code of conduct - in the ideal, anyway - for mankind since at least 3200 years ago (the Hindu version) and it pretty much covers, in its short directive, all human behavior.

When John F. Kennedy ran for president of the U.S. in 1960, there was a concern that a Catholic could not be elected. Some who opposed his candidacy lectured that his first allegiance would be to the pope rather than to the Constitution, and the Democrats played down Kennedy's religion as much as possible during the campaign.

Forty-five years later, that seems almost quaint. Religion in general, though Christianity in particular, was an issue in the 2000 and 2004 presidential election campaigns. Our born-again president, with the consent of a large portion of the electorate (20 percent of whom gave unenumerated “moral values” as their vague reason for voting for Mr. Bush), has done more than any other in our history to poke holes in the Constitutional wall between church and state. Some other elected officials preach that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that our government's policies should be guided by those tenets.

Leaving aside the serious political issue of separation of church and state, it might not be a bad idea to ask those politicians to follow their belief in those Christian tenets - in their professional behavior, not law. In Matthew 22:35-40 of the King James New Testament, Jesus says,

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

You don’t have to believe Jesus is the son of God to agree with that. But if you are Christian and particularly if you are an elected official who wears that religion on your sleeve, that passage – including the part that says “as thyself” - would seem to require that you create legislation for a universal healthcare system.

All federal employees, including the president, vice president and all members of Congress have access to healthcare (FEHBP) for themselves and their dependents which the conservative Heritage Foundation describes thusly:

“The FEHBP and Medicare both are large programs run by the federal government, but the similarity ends there. The FEHBP is not experiencing the severe financial problems faced by Medicare.

“It is run by a very small bureaucracy that, unlike Medicare's, does not try to set prices for doctors and hospitals. It offers choices of modern benefits and private plans to federal retirees (and active workers) that are unavailable in Medicare.

“It provides comprehensive information to enrollees. And it uses a completely different payment system that blends a formula with negotiations to achieve a remarkable level of cost control while constantly improving benefits and enjoying wide popularity.”

Can any Christian legislator morally accept better healthcare coverage than he or she provides for all Americans? Can any Christian legislator, then, not create legislation for universal healthcare that works at least as well as his or her own?

It might be a good idea for all of us to remind elected officials and candidates for federal office who insist on using their Christian faith as a campaign tool that, in exchange for our votes, we require them to live up to Matthew 22:35-40.

RELATED POSTS:
Healthcare is a Human Right
The Universal Healthcare Tradeoff
The Right to Healthcare - A Dissent
Bipartisanshp and Healthcare


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 03:11 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

No one can twist the words attributed to Jesus around better than today's Christian conservative politicians. That's the truth. If Jesus didn't want them to have better healthcare than you or I, He wouldn't have given it to them. Or something.

I saw this on a blog somewhere. I could not find the source, but I do not take credit for it. I will pass it along and especially as I write to my Senators and Representatives.

"Politicians, like diapers, have to be changed frequently - and for the
very same reason."

Remember: Do not vote for incumbents!

Ronni,
This post is utterly perfect in its message.

What can I say, Ronni? When you're right, you're right!

I went to the Heritage Foundation web site and read up on the FEHBP and it seems like this program could easily be morphed into parts A and B of Social Security. It could be offered to all citizens and non citizens through the issuance of a social security number, required plan payments and any necessary subsidization. It should be worth a try. The Part D is a disaster. I am refusing to fill out any papers on this mess. I don't understand any of it and cannot afford any more money taken out of Social Security. I'd have medical care, but no money to eat on.

I love this post.

As a sidebar, though, and not related directly to your argument, I want to tell you about something I just learned: thinking of Judaism as solely a religion is a Christian construct. In fact your personal rituals reinforce this thesis. I am learning this from "Language in Jewish Society," by John Myhill (being a scholarly tome, it's heavy going.) Jewish identity is neither solely religious nor solely ancestral but a combination of both, and pre-dates modern aspects of identity such as citzenship.

Bravo, Ronni! Great post and info. When thinking about the present Administration, the word "selfish" always seems to come to mind. And "self-centered" follows closely.
Amen, I say.

I'm not a religious person; but my deep belief in God and my connection to him sustains me everyday. I HATE politics and ALL the self-serving crap that surrounds it. "Do unto others"....If ONLY that could be true. I would like some of these "living-high-off-the-hog" clueless politicians to experience, even for a short time, the trials of our poor...or even our middleclass society. How humanitarian is it to turn the other way?

Okay, so here's a little religious humor, not intended to offend anyone:

A man arrives at the gates of heaven. St. Peter asks, "Religion?"

The man says, "Methodist." St. Peter looks down his list, and says, "Go to room 24, but be very quiet as you pass room 8."

Another man arrives at the gates of heaven. "Religion?"

"Baptist." "Go to room 18, but be very quiet as you pass room 8."

A third man arrives at the gates. "Religion?" "Jewish." "Go to room 11, but be very quiet as you pass room 8."

The man says, "I can understand there being different rooms for different religions, but why must I be quiet when I pass room 8?"

St. Peter tells him, "Well the Catholics are in room 8, and they think they're the only ones here.”

Oh Ronnie, this is the best this year! And Sadie, the joke is wonderful. (I'd be in Rm. 8!)

Funny how you mentioned the worries about Kennedy being a Catholic. It was then a serious concern to many. I was thinking about that very notion a few days ago. And as I read today's blog I realized once more that today's rhetoric about our "fellow man" is empty. How have our leaders missed this simple idea. To balance out the whole thing, I'm taking Sadie's route: I think things would have been much different if the 3 wise men had been women who brought casseroles instead of the other! BTW, Happy New Year to all. Dee

Southern women know all about the healing properties of casseroles.

Great post, Ronni! The nailhead pings resoundingly!

I stalled on paragraph 4 to allow it to soak in. You are so right. How much improved this world would be if everyone could understand their religion in this simple way. I'm referring to your comments about religion being personal and rather than preached to others, demonstrated by simply DOING THE RIGHT THING. Great post, Ronni.

Ronnie, this was a superb article and I agree totally. Readers may enjoy visiting the website for The Oregon Health Plan at http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/healthplan/index.shtml
We in Oregon lead the nation in the attempt to care for all, but the Oregon Health Plan has been criticized and cut back by a Republican-led force in our state legislature. The chief architect of the original Plan, former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, M.D., (D) is considering running against the incumbant governor (D) on the health care platform. I hope he runs, and I hope he will be the governor once again because he was a star. Being a medical doctor (emergency room physician) he was all about the people and religion was never an issue with him. How inspiring.

If your brother still resides in the Portland area you are probably aware of everything I just wrote about!

Thank you everyone, for jumping in with your thoughts on this entire series. And thank you too, to those who've written about it on your blogs.

It is early still in the election year, and I will come back to this topic throughout the coming months as the campaign heats up.

For the meanwhile, I've posted the "manifesto" in the right sidebar and linked it to the first Universal Healthcare entry to help keep this in the forefront of all our minds.

I appreciate the joke (we need some laughs), and the mention of the salutary properties of casseroles, but I'll admit that I've never made a casserole in my life - unless you count macaroni and cheese. Perhaps, it's time I learned.

Ronni, you've hit the nail right on the head as far as I'm concerned, but I practice religion cafeteria-style and Dubya and gang would definitely consider me a heretic. There is no more separation of church and state anymore--and regardless of the religion the president or his adminsitration practices--I find this to be very, very scary.

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