I’ve had “Write a Blog Post” in my task manager for a week now. I have a few ideas brewing, but nothing substantial enough to post today. Instead I’ll offer a few things that other people have written!
Andrew Jones (aka Tall Skinny Kiwi) re-posts a snippet from a series he did in 2003 called Postmodern Truth:
“if you can change
the way you process information
then we have a message
either God is not able
to speak to you in
need to go back
to the drawing board
and yet if we are honest
we have too much investment
in our drawing board
to rethink it
Geoff Holsclaw, one of the pastors at Life on the Vine in Chicago, has some challenging advice for those of us who want to make a difference, change the world, etc: When Pushing the Envelope, Don’t Destroy the Letter. Here’s an excerpt:
“Because letters written on hearts are from Christ, the ministries and individual which pushes the envelop in the name of Christ must take care not to destroy those letters in the process. Our zeal is no excuse for running over people and communities. So, when you are pushing the envelope, be sure you don’t destroy the letter.”
You know that “Serenity Prayer?” Yeah, that one. Well, Michael has posted a much more theologically robust version of it that I quite like (ht: Halden):
Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, grant me:
the serenity to know that all will be reconciled in Jesus Christ,
the courage to participate in the change you are bringing,
and the wisdom to remember that ‘be realistic’ is not one of your commandments.
I found the video below really insightful. What do you think? (ht: Jonathan Brink)
Mervin Koehlinger says
As we turn more and more of ourselves over to the government, are we becoming less and less dependent upon God? And if we can depend on the government to take care of us, are we giving up our chances to show love when a brother is in need? Are we throwing away opportunities to care for the sick, feed the hungry, help the homeless, etc.? It seems to me that the Church has to some extent abdicated its responsibilities in these areas and the government has had to take over where the Church has failed. I sometimes feel that we are a long way down a road from which there is no turning back. As you might guess, I have questions but no real answers.
I think its a pretty simplistic explanation with several logical fallacies. If this is really how it works, we should abolish all industries because they are driven by the profit incentive. Why have any business incentive at all? Let the government take its 2-3% off everything and lets see how that works. And the fact that it touts medicaid as an example of how government works well is pretty laughable. And the post office?!? And the federal government does not run local police forces…so this is another bad comparison. History has shown that certain things are done well (economically speaking) by governments. Applications of force has been one of them (army, police, etc.) So even from a person on the street, these thoughts are off base in tying them to healthcare. If you look at economic theory, they are even more baseless. And as someone who works for an insurance company, I know that most companies do not deny coverage for people because they are greedy. They do it to keep premiums affordable for the majority of people. Its not a stab in the dark. Its math. Its really smart actuaries that figure out what risks can be dispersed. If everything was covered, no one could afford it. Actually, the governemnt currently actually has laws that KEEP insurance companies from covering too much, because they woudl become insolvent!
I don’t know everything, Ben. But this is a very simple and inadequate economic analysis.
I do agree that the video is insightful. It shows me people have a gut reaction that is ideologically based in a disbelief that business has any suitable role to play. This is a sad, negative way to look at the the market.
I am not saying the government cannot play a helpful role in the healthcare industry. But to make it appear like its SO OBVIOUS that they should take it over completely because it will be cheaper and a better product is just too simplistic. They could have done a much better job giving the issue a fair shake. And by laughably referring it to “socialized” is just a psychological trick I have seen people employing lately to poke fun at anyone who does not think socialization of the market is a good thing. This too, by definition, is a logical fallacy. Don’t make me go get my college logic book to name which one it is. I was a freshman, I didn’t start studying til I was a sophomore 🙂 But in all fairness, I can’t say I know what role government should play…and I have no ideas on how to address the problems in healthcare. Hopefully, I’m not just a cynic, (one who can evaluate the cost of everything without seeing the value of anything) but truly would like to hear some better ideas than this.
Ben Sternke says
@Merv: It’s interesting to me that we lament our inability to trust God when government steps in to solve a problem, but we don’t tend to associate having an insurance policy with an inability to trust God. I’m not saying we should, in the name of faith, eschew all insurance or government help, just that whether it’s an insurance policy or a government policy, it’s kind of the same thing.
@Dan: You have a lot to say on this issue! I do agree that the “tone” of the movie is a bit snide, but I think one important point is that there do seem to be moral ramifications to the profit motive when it comes to health care, because of how crucial it is for the normal functioning of human life. Because of this, it’s an issue worth thinking through. There are precedents to governments stepping in to disrupt markets on moral grounds (slavery, for example). I’m not saying health care is like slavery, just that there are moral ramifications to the question that aren’t there in other kinds of industries. Thanks for your thoughts.
Hey, a book you might really enjoy is Nation of Rebels, by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter.
I agree with most of Dan’s comment. And i’d add that “government” is too vague. i’d be content with socialized, universal health care managed at the county or city level and perhaps subsidized by fed or state funds. but i don’t want it run by the fed, or even really by the state. too big. some things just don’t scale. besides by keeping management local and decentralized, you get some of the benefits of market forces, which primarily require decentralized spending decisions and can work ok even with centralized funding. many social services (fire, police, library, etc) already follow this model.
last, why single out health-care as an industry in which it is morally questionable to have profit motives? no one singles out housing, exercise, clothing or food like that, and those are equally (or more) essential than health care. why is the government suddenly so focused on getting health insurance for everyone when it doesn’t even guarantee housing, clothing and food? i don’t get it.
Ben Sternke says
Really good point about lots of “industries” having moral ramifications behind them, they are all essential kinds of things. It’s not that health care is somehow different from those, just that it’s what everyone is talking about now.
Jason Coker says
Ben – I love this sort of rambling post.
Dan & Nathan – I agree the film is simplistic (and even fallacious at some points), and I’ve criticized it elsewhere, however the problem of profit-making in a critical-care industry can’t be so easily dismissed. This is an issue that touches on the moral hierarchy of need. We generally accept that Government steps in when people’s lives are critically endangered, and it can be argued that health care is about being in critical need. My grandfather died sooner than necessary because an insurance company stalled approval of his treatment. It was a profit-based decision and he died to protect someone’s profit margin, plain and simple.
Housing, food, and clothing are industries that are normally within the realm of abundance in American. Hence, they normally function well within the profit-making marketplace. However, that marketplace does, by necessity, create inequalities that threaten people’s lives in a critical way, and whenever these necessities are lacking to the point of creating critical need, Government does step in amid these industries too – here in America and abroad.
Of course, there are already such programs for healthcare too, and in my mind a major issue here is whether or not we should create a single-payer system with the government providing sole coverage, or whether we should simply be expanding the existing scope of government subsidized health care and offering people that extra choice. Either way, it’s not a simple issue.
What I’m really interested in is whether the church has an obligation to support universalized healthcare as the people of God who are called to embody a foretaste of God’s perfect eschatological future – a future, that promises people will live to a ripe old age and not die prematurely (Isaiah 65:17-20).
Ben Sternke says
Jason, thanks for chiming in – your last question is really what I am wondering about lately. I think there are all kinds of “social” issues that Christians would need to rethink if we would take the church seriously as a foretaste of the kingdom, from healthcare to war to global poverty…
Nathan Bubna says
Jason, I don’t think the food/hunger issue is nearly as in hand as you suggest, especially when you consider how crucial it is to health. Not only do many people in our country often go to bed hungry, what food they do get is often junk. The cheap calories are all heavily refined and processed sugars, flours and low-grade vegetable oils with a large dose of preservatives and food colorings. Poor people often eat such junk because it is the only thing they can afford. It’s also often the only thing sold conveniently to them. These are often the same people who can’t afford health insurance, who then go bankrupt or without treatment when they inevitably get sick.
I have no fundamental objection to health care as a social service, so long as private options can coexist. This is fundamentally how libraries, police and fire work and work well. (Yes, even fire has private components; the govt does not distribute extinguishers, alarms and sprinkler systems.) My concern is that such health care/insurance should not be set up at the federal (or even state) level. I don’t care if the feds and states partially or fully fund them, so long as they don’t run it. It’s not their job constitutionally, and such massive bureaucracies are equally massive magnets for inefficiency and corruption. Keeping decisions very decentralized will allow the people on the ground to have proper influence and maintain a degree of market forces to keep the large providers (Big Pharma, etc) in some measure of check.
And let’s not disregard the great work the church *is* doing in healthcare. Most hospitals in my town are church charity in origin and do provide a great many services for free or reduced cost to those who need them. My own family had a significant amount of debt forgiven by Legacy Emmanuel, who also even offered spiritual/emotional support in the wake of my son’s death. More could be done, yes, always, but please do not let the whole system become “managed”. Room must be fiercely maintained for local people and local organizations to make loving decisions, or else the fight for justice becomes a mere fight for bureaucratic “fairness”. In an “industry” as deeply personal as healthcare, the question of scale is more essential than ever, and i would argue that small, local management is much more important than the questions of funding or of socialized vs free market.
Jason Coker says
Nathan – Oh no, it’s definitely not “in hand.” I certainly didn’t mean to insinuate that. I know all too well that there is a significant hunger problem in the U.S. My only point was that there is a precedent for government managed programs and subsidies for providing food, clothing, and shelter. I don’t pretend these programs have solved the problem.
Mervin Koehlinger says
I agree with your comment on insurance. And there are alternatives, such as several Christian organizations that link people to help pay each other’s medical bills. It seems to me that is the way it should be among God’s people. Just Google “Christian health insurance”.