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Posted: September 2, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Health scare: WWJD?

Are we a nation that measures the human worth of individuals based on their ability to pay? It’s time for those who are religious and oppose single-payer national health care to tell the rest of us how, literally in God’s name, they can do so. Have they traded their Biblical beliefs for political philosophies? Are they now serving two masters, and is Mammon winning out over the other? What would Jesus do? Would he care who paid for a child’s expensive operation, would he say, "I’m sorry but if the government pays, it’s a sin?" After all, what is this government that has become the bane of so many conservatives and has caused them to be so frightened? Isn’t this a government of the people, for the people and by the people — the "people" in question being you and me? You are the government, like it or not.

Haven’t religious conservatives harped for years about this being a Christian nation? Wouldn’t it be a good time to prove it, or is denying care to the sick and afflicted what you mean by Christian? I’m not implying that you believe the government itself should be Christian as in a theocracy, although I’m sure there are many who wouldn’t mind it being so, but rather I am positing that if the majority of people within a nation are Christian wouldn’t it seem logical to assume that they would want their taxes being used for Christian purposes? Remember it’s your money that operates your government and yet most, not all, but most religious conservatives don’t blink when it comes to spending their tax money on war, but when it comes to providing health care to millions of their fellow citizens, they become enraged — and that my friend is what is so incredibly perplexing.

I can’t imagine Jesus standing on the Mount, preaching…"trillions for war, not a mite for health care." Are we a nation of selfish war mongers in a dog-eat-dog society, mixing our religion with Darwinian thoughts of survival of the fittest? Perhaps you believe that the churches will all of a sudden pass the plate in order to pay the health care costs for all those who are not covered by insurance or those who are under insured. I would encourage you to take a good look around. Building bigger and better "sanctuaries" seems to be the main agenda of most church planning committees. I know that a small percentage of offerings will go to feed a few families with dented cans of corn here and there at various times of the year, but let’s be honest, it’s not a main focus of the vast majority of churches these days. Some money will go to win souls overseas and the poor will be told not to worry, there will be pie in the sky, by and by.

So, here we are, back to you and your government. Will you continue to listen to those on television and radio that would cause you to act in such a way as to disobey your Lord’s admonition to do unto others or to love your neighbor? Or, will you instead help those in need even if it means using your tax money to do so? Are you so selfish as to say, I don’t want to pay taxes in the first place; I believe it’s every man for himself. Therefore, why should I be my brother’s keeper?

Let’s face it, with jobs going overseas and companies not paying living wages, we as individuals can’t effectively help anyone suffering with illness and catastrophic health care costs, even if we wanted too, and the churches can’t seem to raise the money for such things, so where is the money going to come from? Will people stop getting sick? If you ask a man with cancer, "Sir, do you care where the money comes from for your treatment," will he say, "Just make sure it doesn’t come from the government?"

Ask yourself the same question: if your family member — a daughter or son, mother or father, sister or brother — needs treatment and without it they will suffer or worse yet, die, and you find yourself without private insurance or your insurance company has weaseled its way out of paying, will you care at that time if government covers the cost? Of course not, it’s your money and you’ll thank God for it. Many people talk about family values, what about valuing human life? It’s the greatest lesson we can teach our children. Has money become so important in our society that it means more to us than human compassion? Do we love it now so much that we are willing to debate the costs of someone’s life?

Finally, we simply need to remember that real power rests in the hands of the people — you and me. Is the government perfect? Of course not, no human institution is ever perfect, but it is the only organization in place that can meet the needs of millions of people. And don’t worry; you won’t lose your freedom if a child is treated for leukemia. Government isn’t going away no matter how hard you click your heels and wish you were back in Kansas. So maybe it’s time religious conservatives realize that our government can and should, in fact, be used in ways that benefit all of us, especially the least among us.

James Howell Haygood Jr. is a resident of Covington.

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