Universal Health Care, A Faith Agenda
by Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly, retired
Scripture: Luke 9:2, 6: and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal … They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. [New Revised Standard Version]
The Lukan scripture speaks of the commissioning of the disciples of Jesus to ministry, just as Jesus, himself had ministered to so many. If we are followers of Jesus where else should we be except about the business of health and healing for all people. There is no evidence that Jesus turned anyone away who was brought to him for healing. For Jesus and for us faith and health are partners.
Ancient Hebrew health laws were not separate from the faith of the people. They were an integral part of the covenant relationship with God and with the community of faith. Jesus was Jewish, nurtured in the knowledge that religion and health went hand in hand. The concept defined not only the compassionate, merciful character of God as one who "forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases" (Psalm 103:3), but detailed laws for the wholeness of life in the community based on lover for neighbor as for self. (Lev. 19:18)
The ancient prophet Isaiah speak of One anointed by the spirit of the Lord God who would bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to captives, release to prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1-2) The prophet does so with the understanding of the unity of God’s human creature as body, mind and spirit. Human wholeness (health) has been from the beginning of Creation a part of the profound Hebrew grasp of the balance, harmony and unity of God’s SHALOM.
The Christian believes that Jesus is the Anointed One of whom the Prophet Isaiah spoke. We believe that it is not by accident that Jesus begins his ministry by quoting in the synagogue at Nazareth the words of the prophet, defining not only his ministry, but ours. (Luke 4:17-21) Later, when Jesus had cured many people of diseases, plagues and evil spirits and had given sight to many who were blind, the disciples of the imprisoned John the Baptist, came to see Jesus. They raised the question as John had instructed them, "Are you the One who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense in me." (Luke 7:19-23)
For Jesus there was no distinction between preaching good news to the poor and healing their illnesses. His ministry was more than a proclamation of the word of God, it was implementation of it.
Where else, then, as followers of Jesus should we be than in actively advocating health care legislation for all person? Health is not a marketable commodity, it is a right for every human being. Every major religion has some structure designated to deal with health and welfare of individuals. Together we see health as a justice issue. Faith in a Just God demands it.
Universal Health Care is a faith agenda! What we believe compels us to change old structures for new systems of compassion and care that will assure "universal access, comprehensive benefits, equity, efficiency and simplicity in financing, elimination of wasteful administration, and cost containment with public accountability" (See the Call to LOBBY DAYS, 1994, Interreligious Health Care Access Campaign)
Our country still displays the motto of our beginnings, "In God We Trust!" We must surely make clear the message, that God seeks to trust us! By faith we can be worth of God’s graceful presence and guidance in our efforts. Have faith! Take Courage! And take time to make a difference! Believing as we do, where else should we be? What else can we do?