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Category: Politics

Health Care Reform Bill

[ 2 ] March 25, 2010

Like many of us I have strong political, social, and religious opinions.  These rise from how I think, how I feel, and what I have learned in my life, and hopefully opinions that reflect my faith as a Christian and pastor.  I would, of course, have strong opinions about the health care reform bill recently passed and the process that led to it being signed into law.

Now let me first offer a quote from Paul Brown, a Duke University Graduate school student:
“Sisters and brothers, our unity is grounded in Christ—not in the details of health care reform,  as a Church that includes both Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush as members, we are free to disagree on various social issues, but remain united in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.”

What Connects the Church is our relationship with Jesus Christ and our commitment to serve Him, uniquely at first Methodist; “Making disciples of Jesus Christ, who will love God, love others, and serve the world!”   Which ever side of this recent process each of us may light on, and the few that might wander somewhere in the middle, nothing changes when it comes to the mission of the Church and nothing changes when it comes to our responsibility to love God, live His way, and serve Him in the world.  I pray that we always reflect Jesus Christ in grace, understanding, and even forgiveness (both receiving and giving).

  • Personally, I think that people who can take care of themselves should.  Self-respect and personal responsibility is a Christian virtue.  A person, family, and even a nation are strengthened when this virtue is highlighted and celebrated.
  • Secondly, I think a Christian society should somehow care for the poor and the disadvantaged, the elderly and the children. A society that neglects the least, the last, and the lost in their midst, especially in a time of affluence has abandoned a Christian virtue that is as core as Jesus’ basic teaching.
  • Thirdly, I don’t believe that political process are the way the Church has been challenged by biblical faith to change the world.  We change the world by making courageous, compassionate, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

I also think, because of the Christian underpinnings of America, that these virtues are core to what America is about, even to what it is to be an American, values that have set this nation apart since its inception, and even in our most difficult times won out, such as overcoming the depression without chaos unlike many other nations, and addressing Civil Rights clearly and decisively even though belatedly. Programs of Social Security and Medicare have long provided help for the elderly during the seasons many could no longer care for themselves.  When we add, as I think, that the United Methodist Church is the most American of churches, this idea of caring for the least, the last, and the lost, and yet also living in courage, self-respect, and personal responsibly (called personal holiness) define who we are.

The United Methodist Church itself has taken no denominational stand on this particular health bill. Only General Conference can speak for the denomination. Our last conference was held before even the beginnings of this Bill.

But one of our Boards, The Board of Church and Society (we have boards for everything) has spoken for the Bill.  This board can operate independently as many of our local Churches do, which it has done in this case.

The United Methodist Church did go on record through our General Conference in Fort Worth, (a body of representatives from every Conference and State who meet every 4 years) as saying, “We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care!”  But there is no detailed description of what this might look like though reasons that all Americans should have access to affordable health care are given in abundance.  This Methodist representative body votes in a similar fashion as does the Nations representative body.  I sometimes agree and sometimes I don’t.

To give an illustration about differing opinions of Methodist Christians:  there are 44 Methodists in the House of Representatives, 18, all Democrats, voted for the Bill; 26, Democrats and Republicans voted against the Bill.  My guess is that this proportion represents the nation’s division and probably the members of most national Church bodies.

Mike Ross, a United Methodist congressman  who voted against the bill said, “There are parts of the bill that are good, including much needed health insurance reforms and making health insurance affordable for the uninsured, on the other hand, many parts of the bill cause me great concern, like telling people they must buy health insurance or be fined, cutting Medicare by more than a half-trillion dollars, increasing taxes and forcing businesses to provide health insurance to their employees.”

Laura Richardson a  United Methodist Congresswoman from California voted for the legislation saying, “While this legislation does not include an comprehensive full public option, as the House of Representatives preferred, it is a giant step forward in beginning the reform of our nations current neglectful health system.”

Rep. Marion Berry from Arkansas said, “health care reform must be deficit—neutral and must be fully paid for by squeezing out more savings from the pharmaceutical manufacturers and private insurance industry instead of cramming down hospitals and other providers and taxing Americans!”

Some of my thoughts:
I am glad we are talking about Health Care Reform.  I have been a part of the journey of many families with health care needs in our Church who found themselves in dire straights when it came to health emergencies, sometimes with no place to turn, and often in that situation through no fault of their own. Something had to eventually give in the spiraling cost of health care and insurance and access. In our own Central Texas Conference clergy are aware we have an impending crisis ahead because of the rising cost of health insurance.

I think the US health care system is amazing, again having journeyed with other families and my own, our Physicians, hospitals, and medical staffs are compassionate, competent, and second to none. We live in a country that cares about the hurts of others and our medical people and providers are representative of that.

I am unhappy about the abortion language, or lack of abortion language in the Bill.  The bill was passed without this being processed through a legislative body absolutely clarifying that Federal Money, our money, will not be used for abortions.

I, like many, are disappointed (whoever is to blame) that this bill was not bipartisan, has become divisive, and polarized the American people as well as our Government representatives. Anger and mistrust has ensued that can only scuttle the very care for the least, the last, and the lost that everyone on both sides wants.  It is the only major bill of its kind in history, including Medicare, social security, and the civil rights bill that was not bipartisan.
I am disappointed in the speed this bill was pushed through the system.  I am chair of a task force that is redesigning thee simple structure of our Central Texas Methodist Conference.  This will take at least two years.  Our Church just completed simple strategic planning that took 3 years.  How can a health care bill of this Nation Changing and people impacting magnitude be put together, examined, approved, and put into play in what is absolutely an unreasonable amount of time. No one seems to be sure how it is going to impact all of us.
There has not been sufficient study of the economic ramifications of this bill, ramifications on the health care industry, physicians and medical providers, businesses, Churches, families, the tax payer, the nation itself, and the future of the next generation.  This seismic shift in health care is too important to have myriads of uncertainties that may have unintended consequences.

I am disappointed with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.  There was no effort put into representing the diverse views of all United Methodist Churches, Methodist pastors, and members of the Methodist family.  If the Board has supported the idea of access to health care for the least, the last, and the lost , that is to be lauded, but to support this particular bill from beginning to end without understanding the ramifications, this is unacceptable to me, as has been expressed by many Methodist Pastors, congressmen, and Methodists.

Final Thoughts:
In America we have the privilege of opinion, to speak our thoughts, to vote for those who represent us, to change our minds, to struggle together for the good of our country, the good of our neighbor, the good of our family, and the hurting of our world. We are a democracy. Thank you God!

In the Church we have the privilege of “Making disciples of Jesus Christ, who will love God, love others, and serve the world!”  This Health Care Bill at its very worst might raise our taxes and leave many of us entering a changed health care world that leaves us less choices and a country where Government has intruded into unprecedented areas, but at its very best might provide excellent health care for a child with a single mother, a person disabled through the onset of a debilitating disease, a family with an unemployed father, or anyone who has been limited from the best health care system in the world through no fault of their own.

An historic election comes to a close

[ 0 ] November 5, 2008

I was born in 1953 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.  He was newly
elected after leading the Allied Forces during World War II.  I was in Mrs.
Tanamachie’s 5th grade class when she came into the class room with tears in
her eyes to tell us that John F. Kennedy had been shot.  In high school,
during the height of the Vietnam War, it was shocking when the President
from Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson, announced that he would not run for a second
term even though he won his first election by a landslide. It was a scary
time as the Vietnam War continued to escalate and my brother and I were only
a couple of years from facing the draft.  I can still remember Richard Nixon
getting on the helicopter with arms raised in a singular gesture he often
used after his resignation as President. I still remember Jimmy Carter as
president who was broken by high inflation and the Iran hostage crisis.  I
have an image of Ronald Reagan standing before the Berlin Wall proclaiming,
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  I believe many of us can still see in
our minds George Bush standing at Ground Zero after 9/11 surrounded by
firefighters and police seeking to inspire a nation as, together, we entered
uncharted waters after an awful terrorist attack on American soil.

This morning we awaken to a newly elected President, Barack Obama.  What do
I think?

America began a great journey more than two centuries ago; a journey called
“democracy” — democratic ideals based in freedom.  When the call came from
many to make George Washington king or at least allow him to be president
for life, this magnanimous hero said no.  The people of this new country
would decide its most powerful leader by giving every American the right to
vote, regardless of economic class, rank, place in society, or education.
It  was  an  amazing thing to have a nation “by the people and for the
people.”  Most of the world felt that the common people could not decide for
themselves much less rule themselves.  They waited for democracy to fail.
But the Christian ideals that supported so much of American ideals, rejected
the elitism of most of the world and celebrated the intrinsic value of every
man.  During this season the major blot on this amazing (and I believe God
wrought and God inspired American dream) was slavery, which I believe was
and still is (they say there are still more than 20 million slaves in the
world) a stench in the nostrils of God.  Even after slavery was abolished at
the  cost  of  hundreds of thousands of lives in the Civil war, racism
continued. Even though African Americans were officially given the right to
vote in 1871, it took the 1965 Voting Rights Act to actually make it happen
(democracy at work).

When a soldier fights for freedom, whether it be on the beaches of Normandy,
the hills around Gettysburg, the heights of Bunker Hill, or on the road
between Basra and Baghdad, aren’t they fighting for men, women, young, old,
poor, rich, white, black, Hispanic, educated, uneducated, people of many
different opinions, yet all Americans, having the right to choose their
president?  In a sacred way, these men and women (who we will celebrate at a
special Veteran’s Day Service, November 11th at 7:00 p.m. in our Sanctuary)
fought for Barack Obama to be President, or whoever Americans chose to vote
for, have voted for in the past, and will vote for in the future.

It’s the unique American way, a way with a touch of Divinity that celebrates
the spark of God’s love for everyone.

Even though sometimes those I vote for win the election and sometimes those
I vote for lose. Even though our leaders sometimes fail us and other times
rise to the occasion, I am proud to be an American.  Not because of who our
president is, but because we have a sacred freedom to choose our presidents.
Just as we have a sacred freedom to choose Christ and the way of grace in
which He calls us to live.

I am a Christian, first and foremost.  My patriotism extends from my faith
with  a great amount of love for a country I believe has and does so much
good and a nation I also believe God can still use for a special purpose. I
will pray for our new president as I prayed for our last one and have for
all our previous presidents. I will struggle to teach people to embrace
Christian values, give their hearts to Christ, love their neighbor, grow in
Christ centered living, reach out to the least, the last, and the lost,
embrace  the Jesus Christ in courage and faith, and encounter Biblical
faith.

I will seek to be a blessing to my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my
church, each of you, and the America God has given me to love.  May God
bless each of us. May He use our Church to do great things in our world. May
America grow in greatness and positive impact in our world, and may God
bless, with great wisdom, the President-Elect, Barack Obama.