Sunday, February 12, 2017

High-School Teacher in Tennessee Calls for Christian Discussion of Healthcare Coverage — and This Is Shocking News to Many Christians

To me the central message of Jesus Christ is pulling up the oppressed, the vulnerable, and the poor. You could apply that to a lot of things today. Black Lives Matter, people with disabilities, the LGBT community, the refugees, or health insurance. The central principle remains the same.

On Thursday, [Jessi] Bohon [a high-school French teacher from Cooksville, Tennessee] challenged her representative in Congress, Republican Diane Black, on the Affordable Care Act at a public meeting—and framed her personal support for the health-care reform in explicitly religious terms. 
"As a Christian, my whole philosophy in life is to pull up the unfortunate. So the individual mandate, that's what it does. The healthy people pull up the sick," Bohon said at the event at Middle Tennessee State University. Her concern? If Republicans repeal the ACA and offer coverage to people with chronic illnesses and pre-existing conditions via so-called high-risk pools—as several GOP proposals would do—they’ll have less coverage. "We are effectively punishing our sickest people," Bohon said, adding that Medicaid should be expanded so we can "make everybody have insurance." These comments inspired much of the room to all but explode with applause.

Olen reports that Bohon tells her that, though she is not a churchgoer now, she was raised in an impoverished family in Appalachia in which faith, translated into active concern for the least among us, played an important role — and "she is irked by politicians who say they are Christian but advocate for policies that don’t, in her view, reflect the faith's principles."

As Jack Jenkins reports, many Americans including churchgoing ones, are shocked at the suggestion that healthcare coverage has anything to do with morality or with Christian values — despite the fact that religious groups have offered strong support for the Affordable Care Act and for the principle that all citizens should have access to basic healthcare of high quality. 

So the question that really needs to be asked here, isn't it, is why so many American Christians appear to imagine that the question of providing good healthcare coverage for for all citizens is a question beyond the pale of moral concern and of the gospel message? How did American churches bring us to this point?

Where have American church leaders been as American Christians have arrived at this point? In what way did the constant attacks of the U.S. Catholic bishops on the Affordable Care Act, as it sought to extend healthcare coverage to citizens on the margins of American society, provide a "teaching moment" to American Catholics about Catholic social teaching with its stress on the preferential option for the poor and the right of all human beings to adequate healthcare coverage? What did the U.S. Catholic bishops teach American Catholics about Catholic moral values through these relentless attacks?

Precisely why are so many American Christians (white ones, notably) so oblivious to the moral implications of ripping healthcare coverage from millions of poor citizens — and so shocked that anyone would suggest this is a thing to discuss from a Christian theological and moral perspective? Who has been catechizing these Christians? Who has been preaching to them?

What have their Christian colleges been doing to teach them? Where is the intellectual class of American Christianity as this has been going on? Where have Catholic theologians been as their bishops have constantly, untiringly assaulted the Affordable Care Act?

How and why have American Christians arrived at this point — shocked to hear anyone propose that removing healthcare coverage from millions of poor citizens is an issue to discuss in moral terms? With Christians contributing to that moral discussion . . . .

These questions need to be asked.

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