Can we talk?
Sep 29, 2009 by Mark Young | 2 Comments
On September 28 and 29 at Denver Seminary, the Grounds Institute of Public Ethics hosted the Kent Mathews Endowed Lectureship on Social Ethics. The Grounds Institute of Public Ethics is designed to foster meaningful, respectful, biblically informed conversation about social issues of great importance to all of us. This year’s topic is healthcare.
The goal and tenor of the lecture series contrast sharply with much of the public debate about healthcare reform that we’ve endured over the past few months. Our goal for these two days was to foster a greater understanding of the issues in a gracious and respectful way. Why? Because we believe that truth ought to direct our public policy and that the fruit of the Spirit ought to characterize our relationships.
Frankly, I’ve been deeply disappointed by the way some Christians have chosen to participate in the public debate about healthcare reform. Disrespect for the president, shouting down elected representatives in town hall meetings, misinformation and hyperbole spread without regard for truth—are these behaviors that commend the gospel to our society and compel belief in our Savior? Don’t get me wrong: folks from all sides in this debate have acted shamefully at times. But aren’t we supposed to be different?
Two recent personal experiences illustrate my concern:
After attending a professional baseball game in downtown Denver, we joined the throng of happy fans (The Rockies won!) pouring out of the stadium onto the streets. On the corner of a major intersection stood a middle-aged man who was holding aloft a poster about healthcare reform. I don’t remember what was written on the poster but I do remember what he was shouting at the thousands of people passing by: “Obama’s healthcare reform is socialism. Socialism always brings oppression and death. Jesus brings freedom and life.” Sadly juxtaposing the president’s healthcare reform proposals and the gospel of Jesus Christ diminishes and confuses the gospel. Do we really want those who support the president’s approach to believe that they cannot believe in Jesus and be in favor of his proposal? Is rejection of the healthcare plan a condition for believing in Christ? Of course not. Yet, that’s the message our society hears through this kind of behavior.
A second experience: Driving alone this summer for several hours I sought something on the radio that would help me stay awake. I landed on a station that described itself as “Christian Talk Radio.” The show was hosted by a nationally known evangelical. Of course, the topic was healthcare and the host clearly did not agree with the president’s approach. During the time that I listened to the broadcast President Obama was called a socialist, a fascist, a communist and a racist; he was also compared to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao-Tse Tung, Hugo Chavez, and Kim Jong-Il. Admittedly, most of this language came from callers to the show, all of whom identified themselves as evangelical Christians. The host, sadly, did not refute or repudiate this kind of language. As I listened I kept wondering how 1 Peter 2:13-17 applied to what I was hearing. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”
I believe that we should have a vigorous national debate about healthcare reform and that we should do so on the basis of rigorous research and analysis. The needs are staggering and the solutions must be complex in order to address them adequately. Christians must participate in the conversation; our voice is needed. But we must engage with a bias for truth, compassion for all, and proper respect for everyone, including those that have been granted authority to govern. Does what I heard on that street corner and on that radio show meet those criteria?
This blog post is not primarily about healthcare. It’s about the presence and mission of God’s people. We must salt our society with truth and we must do so in a way that commends our Lord and compels all people to believe, even those who disagree with us on healthcare reform policy. Let’s make that pursuit our greatest concern as we live out the gospel in our world.