Opinion

The ethics of health care explained: Am I my brother’s keeper?

A patient waits in the hallway for a room to open up in the emergency room at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston on July 27, 2009. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-KRATTENMAKER-OPED, originally published March 15, 2017.

(RNS) To invoke an enduring biblical question: Are we our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers?

We can thank, or curse, the wrangling over Obamacare “repeal and replace” for shoving the question in our face in the most illuminating and uncomfortable way. Especially the part of the health care law that requires everyone to participate by buying coverage or paying a penalty — a key to generating the money needed for the insurance system to work but, in the view of opponents, an affront to our personal freedom.

How telling that a recent CNN poll finds Americans evenly split on the current Obamacare requirement that people who forgo coverage pay into the system through a penalty, also known as the “individual mandate.” Fifty percent oppose removing the current requirement; 48 percent favor removing it. Factor in the poll’s margin of error, and you have a tie game.

It’s a classic dilemma; a tough call. It frames the never-resolved question that goes to the heart of our society’s idea of itself as a moral, Christian nation, or at least a Christian-influenced one. What obligation do we have to our fellow citizens — the vast majority of whom we do not know and never will?

If you don’t need or want insurance, some ask, why should you have to pay for other people’s coverage?

I know people who think this way, and they resent having the government obligate them to pay into the system.

Understanding that many Americans struggle and pay a high cost under the Affordable Care Act, we cannot really blame some for holding this position. But responsible citizenship compels us to take a broader view.

By its very nature, insurance depends on those without immediate need helping those who receive service now.

If you are a lucky and careful driver and you never have a car accident, you’ll end up “wasting” thousands and thousands of dollars on auto insurance by the time your driving days are done. You’ll have helped pay for many other people’s repairs while receiving no service, or refund. How unfair!

Not really. The system would have been there for you had you needed it. And no one could say in advance whether you would.

Turning to health care, let’s think about a healthy young American who works out, eats the most nutritious foods, and has not darkened a doctor’s door for years. At first glance, it’s not his problem if some people are old and in need of medical services, or if some don’t “take care of themselves” and find themselves sick much of the time.

But, again, there’s more to the story. If Mr. Young and Healthy does end up sick, or gets injured while pursuing his vigorous lifestyle — a distinct possibility on his next mountain-biking adventure — he will probably land in a hospital emergency room. And he will receive care whether he has the means to pay or not. Someone is covering that cost for him: the insured patients who essentially subsidize E.R. care for the uninsured and, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians, E.R. doctors themselves.

So it goes. Those of us who are healthy are prone to exaggerate our invulnerability to illness and injury and the degree to which our virtue has contributed to our good health. We ignore the fact that sooner or later, we all get sick; we all find ourselves in need.

We can see our mutual obligation in at least two ways. One is idealistic: the view that we have a moral obligation to those who are less fortunate than we are. We might see this as a religious obligation. Jesus and the prophets made few things plainer, after all, than the moral imperative to be generous, and to care for those Jesus called the “least of these” — the people who are most in need.

Or if you prefer a pragmatic frame and, like most, are not wealthy enough to pay for hospital care and expensive treatments out of pocket, you can ask yourself this: Were you there for your fellow citizens when they needed you and, if not, why should they assist you when you get sick or hurt?

Are you, as the Bible frames it, your brothers’ keeper? Maybe it’s smart to consider the flip side, too: Are they going to be yours?

(Tom Krattenmaker is a writer specializing in religion in public life and is communications director at Yale Divinity School. His new book is titled “Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower”)

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Tom Krattenmaker

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  • If these people who feel that healthcare is not a right, then let them tell parents of sick children they cannot have medical care, or that their elderly parents have used up enough resources. Then they can go around to hospitals and doctors offices and tell people that since they cannot afford healthcare they must go home and suffer. If they could any of this, would they not be considered monsters? Well by cutting off healthcare they are doing the exact same thing, except they are the lowlife cowards who hide behind politics to do it.

  • Funny, but I suspect that the people who are claiming that “I shouldn’t have to fund other people’s healthcare” are not going to be giving up their own health insurance and going it alone.

  • God created men and women in the image and likeness of God. Abortion is the taking of a life which is human from the moment of conception. Abortion is not health care and should not be funded as such. Assisted suicide is also not health care and should not be funded.

    From chapter 2 of the Didache [produced as early as 50 A.D. to as late as 150 A.D.], (Roberts-Donaldson translation for Presbyterian publishing house of T. & T. Clark ) “You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born…”

  • A reasonable and thoughtful argument, though I admit I feel a bit squishy about the constitutional aspects of the mandate despite the opinion of the SCOTUS.

  • so you would have us deny children and elderly potentially lifesaving healthcare because of rumors of the possibility that abortion and/or assisted suicide is covered? speck/log thing comes to mind.

  • What if we get to opt out of other group efforts such as paying taxes for national defense and its military industrial complex, social security, police, public education, roads, etc.? There would be chaos. We pay taxes including for services we do not need or want personally. . As far as mandates go, we are required to care for our children by feeding, watching them, sending them to school, etc. In some states adult children are still responsible for elderly parents in need.

    Are we going to have a society where people are denied medical treatment if they cannot pay? Currently, we give everyone emergency medical care and either the individual, his insurance company, the government, or the hospital covers the cost When the costs are absorbed by the hospital, it passes costs to a combination of those who can payout of pocket, the government, or insurance companies.

    There are two models for universal health care either the single payer plan such as in Canada or a combination of insurance coverages mandated such as in Germany. Perhaps an income tax on all gross income should be imposed which one can opt out if covered by a qualifying private insurance plan. We generally accept a tax on wages now under social security because we see the benefit for ourselves and those close to us.

  • Let me similarly ask you: Would have us deny children and elderly potentially lifesaving healthcare because of rumors of the possibility that abortion and/or assisted suicide will NOT be covered?

    Conceived in Rape and Other Exceptions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrYOj3iwskk

    The babies in the womb are our brothers and sisters too and the apple of God’s eyes!

  • Is it “charity” — the sacrificial giving to help someone else in need — when I am forced (taxed or fined or otherwise penalized) by threat of the civil government? It is not. If I am really to be my brother’s keeper, it must be a decision based on love, motivated by my true desire to help another person in need. But when someone “puts a gun to your head” and forces me to love someone, you have lost your argument.

  • Jesus placed that gun right to your forehead when he said love god and love your neighbor. Not to do so is a sin, which means you get to go to hell.

  • Yes both are. Human beings. No human being has the right to murder another human being because they are “unwanted”.

  • The issues as I see it revolves around these points:
    1. People need health care. Beyond quality of life, for some it is a matter of life and death.
    2. Many of the sickest people are unable to work and hence unable to provide for their own insurance or health care.
    3. There are some who would willingly live off entitlement subsidies their entire life and not seek to become self-sufficient who are entirely able to do so, but the existing system enables them to remain dependent on the system.
    4. There are many who are exceptions to #3 who need to be dependent on the system to live.
    5. All human beings deserve life. We are in this together.
    6. People who work in health care have to make a financial living. They have bills to pay just like the rest of us.
    7. People who work in health care spend a big chunk of their lives in training and many incur much debt to pay for that necessary training and hence need somewhat bigger incomes.
    8. Some people in health care take advantage of the fact that health care is an essential commodity and are perhaps making too much money.
    9. Is # 8 a major cause of the expense of health care?
    10. Can our economic system sustain itself (considering our continued borrowing and need to increase our debt ceiling once again) while adopting the burden of paying for the health care of all American citizens?
    11. What is the impact on the quality of health care (availability of resources etc…) for very sick people when we expand health care to all people with the government subsidizing it. Can we afford to provide the same level of care that really sick people now get or would we have to have some kind of valuation system to ration health care.
    12. If a waiting list/ration system was required, would it be ethical to allow those who can afford it to pay for different insurance programs that would say allow them to get a knee replacement sooner rather than waiting for it.
    13. If #10’s answer is no, can we adjust our economic system. What would we have to give up? What risks would we entail (say to national security)?
    14. Could we ethically create a system that supports those who cannot support themselves (ever), that supports those that should be able to support themselves but can’t for a reasonable time so that they become self-supporting, that spreads the burden fairly in such a way that the impact is not overly painful for any family?

    American citizens should not in my opinion have to suffer and die because they are too sick to work and pay for their insurance. Nor should American citizens who can work be receiving long-term financial support of various kinds when those funds could be used to help people become self-sufficient and help those who cannot help themselves.

  • You know what, Ace – if the bill were being held hostage because of the noise made by the self-righteous conservatives, I’d tell my rep to sign it to get people covered. Then fight the legality and illegality in court.
    My expectation of YOU would be that you financially support all programs designed for poor mothers and children that are forced into situations because of the arbitrary rules you supported because of your own beliefs.
    But, of course, you won’t will you . . . You talk a good game, but don’t put your money where your mouth is. Also, the gender issue comes into play, you are a fella and have no idea what you are expecting of a woman.
    As for assisted suicides, all that I have heard is scare tactics from Obama care opponents — there has been nothing concrete showing where it is covered.

  • Nowhere did the author say that. But I will. We need the kind of universal, single payer health care system that civilized countries have. Health insurance differs from life insurance in that it is cost effective only if all of the healthy people participate in it. (Life insurance rates the pool of users.) Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are too selfish or too short-sighted to voluntarily participate. So, yes, it needs the force of a national law to make it work.

  • I understand what you are saying about a mandate but healthcare providers are required/mandated to give care regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. If they can’t pay, the government ends up doing it – which is you and I. So, in my opinion, it comes down to – you can pay for your own care or make me pay for your care. Most states have mandatory car insurance – you have to get it whether you need it or not — how is this different?

  • Actually, I volunteer a few hours 1 day a week at an agency where every single person including the head person is an unpaid volunteer. It is funded entirely by donations (no government funds). We give free diapers, wipes, formula (yes, even to those who get WIC – but not enough), breast pads, baby food and cereal, sanitary pads, gently used clothing and shoes, coats and jackets, toys, and brand new stuff in a layette to women who sign up with us at least a month before their due date. We serve pre-born to size 5 or 6. We serve moms and dads and grandparents or others with custody and the people come from different cultures, ethnicities and religions. Nor do we income qualify or ask about legal status. We also provide referrals for services we do not provide. A drop in the bucket, I know, but better to light 1 candle than curse the darkness. I also work 42 hours/wk paid regular employment (not connected with my volunteer job) and take a class 1 day a week. And you?

  • I think I understand how you feel. However, the people I meet who are the proveyors of this type of reading and thinking about the Bible are the same people who do not think health insurance to provide healthcare for all is the moral thing to do. Me thinks we must follow Jesus in all things we think, do, and say. I do not think that Jesus would want a healthcare system where the rich get wonderful care and the poor get next to or indeed nothing. Where the poor are demonized. And where we lie to ourselves about the poor and believe our own lies. “If you did it to the least of these you did it unto me”. “Judge not and you shall not be judged”. “Love one another as I have loved you”. I missed the Bible verse where Jesus told us to be self-righteous. Just my thinking.

  • The money for subsidized health care is not going to the weak and needy. It is going to the most powerful and richest country in the world, who will then let faceless strangers decide what to do with it. Also that money is not given out of charity or compassion, it is given from the fear of imprisonment or other punishment. I fail to see anything remotely Christian about either of those things.

  • A problem which only exists if you support forced birth.

    If you believed in freedom, capitalism and personal choice, then you would have no problems with insurance covering abortion. After all, it is not your insurance policy, nor a benefit you will seek. Insurance companies have no problem with it because it is a net gain for them. A fiscal decision on their part. It doesn’t impose on them.

    Why the hell should you have any say in what other people’s insurance plans cover?

  • It’s not murder until one is born. It is the right of a person to make decisions concerning what goes on in their bodies. Your opinion as to why they make such decisions is irrelevant. Nobody is answerable to you for such decisions.

    Your pov is dependent on the notion that a women must seek your approval on personal decisions.

  • From a Biblical perspective, Jews were not called to take care of the needs of non-Jewish communities. They could offer hospitality, but the tithes and offerings were all meant to take care of the Jewish people, with certain allowances for travelers and foreigners in their towns.

    For Christians, Paul instructed early churches to support other Christians (2 Cor. 8) and NOT to support or feed the idle and lazy, including widows who didn’t meet certain qualifications. He also made clear that families (not the church) were the first means of support.

    If we were a ‘Christian nation’, perhaps singer-payer advocates would have a basis for their arguments. However, most single-payer fans are very uninterested in practicing the other tenants of Christian faith.

  • Hey Ben my friend. Jesus also said, ‘Freely you have received, freely give.’ Paul taught, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.

    Christians should be generous towards the poor and those in need. But should they be forced by government to fund programs that make drug companies and hospital executives extremely wealthy? What if a Christian decides he would rather help fund programs to eliminate disease and hunger in Africa or Asia instead of paying to treat non life-threatening conditions in the USA? Does he get to make that choice?

  • How about a nice rational and secular justification for healthcare as a right:

    People unable to receive necessary healthcare become a public hazard. Something which affects the entire community. People become unable to work. It promotes the spread of ailments which are easily treatable, turns minor maladies into potentially debilitating or fatal ones. Undermines public sanitation. Runaway healthcare costs are a major cause of financial distress.

    It’s not simply a matter of charity or looking out for one’s neighbor, it is ensuring community health. A society which does not waste efforts unnecessarily.

  • You argue we should risk the safety of Americans to bring in refugees from areas that spawn terrorists, but you so easily discard a human being because he/she is unborn. You probably rationalize your decision claiming it isn’t human, its just tissue, its just a clump of cells, but regardless your inhumanity to humanity is showing.

    What a bunch of tragic mean animals the human race can turn out to be when it devours its own young.

  • Good questions, Ed.

    What about Christians being forced by government to fund programs that make defense contractors and oil executives extremely wealthy? What about Christians being forced to fund programs that allow corporations-are-people to pay far less taxes than actual-people-are-people? What about tax exemptions that allow certain denominations to accrue billions and billions inroerty essentially tax free?

    I’m not disagreeing with you, only pointing out that it’s always a question of whose or is getting gored. Personally, I would like a simply check box on my tax forms which allow me to designate percentages of my taxes to go towards certain goals. Not one dime of my taxes would go to defense contractors or corporate welfare.

    And then congress would actually be representing me.

  • You just didn’t look in the right place to find those passages. Someone who disagrees with you on that will surely be able to show you a biblical justification.

  • Which is about as likely as being hit by a meteor. We have taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees from such places. If you were talking about a credible threat, you would be able to substantiate it with something besides crap analogies used in election campaign material. You are more than willing to see people discarded and killed for not being American. All over phony unsubstantiated threats.

    You are more than willing to discard and attack born people because you don’t approve of their lives. For all your bullshit concern for the unborn, there is outright hostility to those already born. You seem to think all women must answer to you in all things. You do not respect them as people.

    So pardon me if I don’t think much of your sense of humanity. You really don’t seem to have any. You only care about life to the extent it makes you sound like a self righteous windbag.

  • Here’s how it is, all you communists who think the govt has a right to force free people to buy a product. In the context of Christianity, charity demands of each person to help others in need. It is a moral imperative. Charity must be voluntary.Using govt to force people is against charity.
    Using govt to force the purchase of any product is tyranny. It is unAmerican. It is morally reprehensible.

  • Those who purchase a product for themselves are not obligated thereby to subsidize others who wish to do so. No one, not even a morally challenged communist, would suggest that about someone who bought a new suit. You are grossly out of line.

  • Health care is NOT a right, no matter how much you would like it to be. In order for something to be a “right” it must be inherent to each individual. It cannot depend on others to provide it, i.e. “freedom of speech”. To grant “rights” that require another person to give their labor, is to enforce slavery. It is morally untenable and abhorrent to a free society.

  • There can never be a moral argument that forces work on some and calls it charity.

  • The national defense is one of the enumerated powers of the govt under the Constitution. However, prior to the atrocity that is obolacare, no one was refused medical care. Why? Because it was against the law in every state for ERs to turn away patients. There is no moral underpinning for your position.

  • Let’s be clear. You speak of “forced birth”, but forebearing an act of murder is not being “forced” to do anything. A responsible person who doesn’t want a child should not have sex. Once you have taken part in the procreative act and a child exists, THAT CHILD HAS A RIGHT TO LIVE. You have no moral right to murder. Nor to force others to financially facilitate murder.
    You do well to mention hell. That’s exactly where your opinions will lead you.

  • Let’s be even clearer, your use of the word “murder” is incorrect, inflammatory and irrational. One has to be born to be murdered.

    A child is one who is already born, and can exist without being attached to another human beings biological systems. A fetus exists entirely at the will of its mother and in her body. She has the right to make any decision concerning what goes on in her body.

    Your argument against her having sex is just your self centered disregard for the woman’s existence. She doesn’t lose her rights and autonomy because you don’t like her decisions. She is not answerable to you. Nobody has to care or meet your approval for such things. S1utshsming doesn’t grant you rights over others. Plus self righteous nabobs like yourself don’t actually give a damn about real solutions to the situation, easy access to effective contraception. It’s all about treating children as a punishment for sex and imposing your will on women.

    It’s not your body, it’s none of your business. You mistake having an opinion with having a say. Your sense of humanity and decency is a sham. You don’t care about actual lives, just feeling superior to others.

    At least you are more honest about your hostility to women then most fetus worshipers. Many pretend the woman doesn’t even exist in the issue.

  • Health care is a right in 75 plus countries. It is a Christian obligation as with most religions to help the sick and the poor. All rights have evolved over time whether freedom of religion, free speech, universal voting, due process, freedom from slavery, education, etc.

    The constitution was set up for the general welfare and to create a more perfect union. The drive to universal health care is an evolution toward that constitutional goal. The document was not handed down by God, but is an 18th century document developed to protect the property and civil rights interests of the upper and upper middle class of the time. It has evolved some over time through amendments, laws and court interpretations to include more rights or expand the understanding of a right. The ACA or Obamacare is a step in the right direction that has helped millions of people including people near to me.

    When an ER treats someone who cannot afford the cost, who do you think ends up picking up the costs? Everyone else who has insurance, can pay out of pocket, medicare (government assistance/ insurance), etc,

    People who cannot see this evolution of rights and responsibilities of a society toward its members should try living in the dark ages or be a member of a very poor country as a refresher course.

    The argument against taking from someone else’s labor to pay for mutual health care is weak. All insurance programs work on the principle of mutual assistance.

    The value of one’s labor is determined by so many factors other than if a person puts in a full work week with an honest amount of labor. Are the wages artificially inflated or depressed? Perhaps the person has mental or physical limitations? Are there circumstances beyond a worker’s control? Of course, there is the whole question of those who inherit, marry or someone how obtain wealth and income by other means then the labor they perform. If my parents, my spouse and my children’s health care is assured: I may have freedom to work or take a chance on a better suited job for me and my family. Also generate some income to help society pay for policing, national defense, regulation of commerce, infrastructure, etc. etc. etc.

  • I think we have more agreement than usual here! I don’t like the idea of corporate welfare, be it farming or Planned Parenthood. Businesses and organizations should stand on their own. I understand that a society may want to encourage charity, but I’m not going to protest if we remove tax exemptions for churches, colleges, libraries, PBS, foundations, etc.

    I do think our country has enemies and we need to defend it. I suppose we could build a completely government-owned military operation (like the Soviets did), but that might well be less-efficient and more expensive than contracting with private companies for planes, ships, guns, ammo, etc.

    I think we can both agree that some of our tax dollars end up in places we detest. I think the only way to fix that is to elect people who agree with our standards, and right now the Right seems to have the upper hand.

  • IF they choose to buy insurance, not because they are FORCED to.

  • You can prattle on for eternity. Rights cannot be defined as goods and services as these must be provided at the expense of another.Therefore, it is a philosophical impossibility no matter how much you demand otherwise. A country or person who refuses to acknowledge reality will pay a steep price indeed. Ask Venezuela, where the communist dictator declares many “rights” which cannot be fulfilled.
    The United States was built on self-reliance, not entitlement. You are living in a fool’s paradise, if you believe your ideas can overthrow reality

  • One needs only be alive to be murdered, however much you wish it weren’t so. Sex is procreative and has no other function. This has nothing to do with MY approval. This is by God’s own design. You elevate your own will over God’s. Just like Satan.

  • Murder is a legal definition. Born people are murdered. As much as you would like to pretend a born baby is entirely indistinguishable from a fetus, biology tells you otherwise. For example a mother of a baby can leave the baby in the care of someone else while she eats, sleeps, goes to the bathroom. The same is never true for a fetus.

    But then again what good are rational appeals and information when your whole POV is dependent on treating women as your chattel property. A fetus is a person, but a woman is not.

    Most importantly, religious freedom means I and everyone else, don’t have to give a flying crap what you think God’s will or God’s design is.

    As for Satan, evidently Satanists have a stronger sense of morality than you do. Go figure. 🙂
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/03/17/the-satanic-temples-never-be-hit-in-school-again-billboard-has-been-vandalized/

    https://thesatanictemple.com/about-us/tenets/

    -One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.

    -The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.

    -One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

    -The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to
    offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another
    is to forgo your own.

    -Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the
    world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our
    beliefs.

    -People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.

    -Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in
    action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should
    always prevail over the written or spoken word

  • Murder is FIRST the concept of the taking of human life. Killing a child in utero is murder. God does not abide by man’s law.
    Your love for Satan is evident. You are, unfortunately, being led to a fearful end if you trust in evil. Your rebellion against goodness can only lead to pain and sorrow in the end.

  • I couldn’t give a rat’s posterior what you think God wants, nor do I have to.

    Religious freedom is wonderful!

  • Not according to any laws on the books.

    I am so sorry to hear that you only consider sex for procreation. That must be a bummer for you.

    But its good to see I am entirely correct that fetus worshipers have no interest in addressing the most obvious solution to reducing the need for abortion: easy access to effective contraception. But its not about looking for solutions to problems. Its about acting like a self-righteous malicious nabob to others. Attacking women for its own sake.

    See my prior comments about religious freedom. I don’t care nor have to care what you think God wants. Neither do our laws.

  • Then I can demand that my tax dollars no longer fund something that I cannot afford to use? Healthcare is most definitely a right, or do you hold to those who would like nothing else than see the populations decrease because humans are nothing more than a virus on this world?

  • As opposed to forcing the rest of us to pay for it because…

    Wait for it….

    They don’t have insurance, and our laws generally speaking don’t permit for dying in the street.

  • All of the things Jesus told us are for us to embrace BY FREE WILL or they are of no effect spiritually. Govt redistribution is theft, not charity.

  • Self reliance doesn’t fix potholes or keep us safe. Dig your own well for water, dispose of your crap on your property, don’t ever seek medical attention, don’t work for anybody and stop using the internet.

  • So you do not believe in rape or incest; you are the all knower of Gods will and judgment; and I had better stop have sex with my husband because I am 70 years old and pretty sure I am no longer procreating. Sex is pure pleasure and love now and you knowing God’s will and all that means we can’ t be engaging in that activity anymore. You are a wonderful Pharasee and Jesus was always so pleased with their self-righteousness.

  • I have to admit you have a point, though before the mandate past practice felt more indirect, and was thus “invisible” if not without impact. Unlike some younger adults, when I was young I sought health insurance because it was necessarily cheaper than the alternative, that seems less true today.
    At the same time, can we inquire about a host of other programs and costs that we would rather not fund either directly or indirectly. Many oppose defense spending and would rather see funding for social programs, and how do we measure the efficacy of any of these? Purportedly, that is why we elect representatives to parse these issues, though it seems they do a much better job of representing themselves than the bulk of the citizenry.
    My boat is still split on the question of the constitutionally of the mandate irrespective of how the present SCOTUS views it.
    I’ve just taken note that I’m rambling, so I will close. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

  • How does rape or incest change the right of a child to its own life? I’m sure Jesus is thrilled with your “love” that proclaims children disposable for people’s pleasure. Immoral harridans like you are the reason America went off the moral cliff in the ’60s. You are a sophist and a egotist.

  • Trot out that old false argument. 99.9% of abortion is not rape. And incest, unless rape, is still consensual. How do either of these things morally justify a death sentence on a third party, praytell?

  • That is why we have society. We exchange goods and services VOLUNTARILY, not at gunpoint. People like you should go to Venezuela where the govt generously gives other people’s property away and confiscates the property of those who don’t give up the fruit of their labor. Now the bakeries have been seized and the owners jailed. But there will be no more bread. This is where your ideas lead. EVERY time.
    So declare that people have a RIGHT to anything, and you will find that thing disappear. No one has a right to the life and labor of others. Justice must be done. And God will see to it.

  • It is the ONLY workable basis for a society. It is the reason America prospered in the last century, until the effects of the “New Deal” and the “great Society” created the ever-expanding dependent class and destroyed the family in the name of “compassion.” You leftists will never learn.

  • A better option is to put the federal govt on a strict diet, where it performs only those functions authorized by the Constitution. Taxes could be slashed and the states could develop programs according to the priorities of their citizens. We all would have more money with which to help the causes we approve and there would be far more transparency and less graft by wealthy corporations who are basically using OUR tax dollars to lobby for federal largesse.

  • Scandinavian countries, Canada, along with many other nations seem to be doing well by anyone’s standard and they provide health care for their citizens. Health insurance for all in this nation can be provided. Yes it may curb the abundance of decked out SUVs and McMansions with unused rooms, curb eating fast food and a Military with an annual budget ten times bigger than any other nation. But there are plenty of resources in this country. If we are in danger of a dictatorship, it is not from the left.

  • Excuse me! Will you please READ what you wrote? You are a communist, nothing more nor less. It isn’t up to YOU how I spend my money, what house I choose, what car I drive, or where I eat! The ONLY purpose of the federal govt is to protect the citizenry from crime and invasion. As long as communists keep bantering about “rights” that they can only secure through theft, we are all in danger of living like the poor Cuban people, who have suffered for 50 years under a totalitarian govt run by people like YOU who think you have the “right” to determine what is best for everyone else. For an “observer” you take an awful lot of liberties with other people’s freedom.

  • If I am a Communist, then you are a Nazi of the most extreme kind. My thinking is what will support a modern economy with its inter-dependencies. A well regulated economy that assures its members a basic set of supports and safe guards allows more individuals to achieve their full potential with a safe environment, education, and legal rights. The examples you give are extreme situations. I seriously doubt many modern Cubans would go back to the crushing poverty that was life for most in pre-Castro Cuba, but would rather move on to an open social democratic state that would provides more economic opportunity while preserving a right to basic health care and a free education. You need to move out of the McCarthy era mind set and see a greater world that successfully mixes the best of capitalism and social democracy. The 18th century fantasy of self sufficiency you have never existed.

  • Actually we contribute a lot of things “at gunpoint”, in a compulsory fashion. Taxes which pay for society’s infrastructure are not exactly done willingly. People pay into liability insurance to spread our risk and risk to others for our efforts. Individuals simply aren’t going to contribute towards keeping a society functioning just on voluntary actions.

    People use you should go to that great anarchist libertarian paradise of Somalia. You can do anything you want with no government telling you what to do and no obligations to contribute to a functioning society.

    Forget what Jesus said about showing concern for the poor and downtrodden. Christians have loads of excuses for not taking his word when it comes to treating others. What is one more?

    How about this, we contribute towards things like public assistance and health insurance pools because the hazard to the general public is too great otherwise. Saying eff them, let them die (as is your position), created problems for others. Especially public health and sanitation.

  • Do you really want to live in a society where people step over diseased bodies to get into their homes? Dodge the mentally ill who do not have their medications, see children who can no longer be cared for abandoned? That’s the sort of society you want? Because that was the ancient world. I thought we’d moved beyond that, I thought a burgeoning Christian society helped change that, because it wanted a more humane society. (Yes, I realize this is a complicated story.) And of course pure selfishness contributes to the idea that if I, a perfectly healthy young person, am suddenly stricken in body or mind, I have contributed something to that support myself should that happen, and my countrymen have decided to care about me as they would themselves — and thus collectively we provide a safety net for one another.

  • Fine then. You and your family just care for the needs of the Christians. The Syrian ones. The Palestinian ones. The ones in S. Sudan, Nigeriam Uganda, Ghana, Liberia and Ethiopia. The ones in Macedonia, Ukraine, Albania. The ones in India. (Who are mostly Dalit, the poorest of the poor.) The Latin American ones. The ones in Appalachia and Detroit. The ones living in your community’s homeless shelter. Go ahead and make sure they aren’t idle and lazy, but if they are sick, or too mentally ill to work, or children or can’t find work — consider them your responsibility. If you are not broke when you are done with that come back, the list is longer.

    Otherwise I’ll consider this just excuse making.

  • Paul’s idea of Christ differs greatly from the message of Jesus. And I take the message of Jesus to be more authentic for Christianity. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a foreigner is the one to help the man, after his fellow citizens fail to do so. Jesus’s message as to what is necessary to be a good human being goes beyond neighborhood lines, beyond nation and religion.

  • Rugged Individualism is, in fact, a complete rejection of ethics (and here you are on a religion news site). It places value only on advancing one’s own interests, no matter the cost to others. The other who does not make a sharp bargain or who is sick or weak is regarded as having no value and thought worthy of discard and death. Such extreme lack of regard for the other negates community and society. It preaches an outlaw way of life where the strong simply take from the weak and kill them if necessary.
    You should do some reading. Here is an excerpt from Richard Hiers, Women’s Rights and the Bible: Implications for Christian Ethics and Social Policy (Pickwick Publications 2016):
    ‘[I]t may be appropriate to mention that something like rugged
    individualism is said to have been at the root of the brutal anarchy,
    characterized by rape, murder, civil war, genocide, and the nearly total
    disintegration of what had been the emerging nation of Israel that
    obtained during the latter part of the Period of the Judges: “In those
    days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his
    own eyes.” ‘
    I would also direct you to Walter Battaglia, Ethics as Social Conscience (2007). You may especially want to read from page 247 on.

  • Your communist ideology gets in the way of rational thinking. Everything you state is not only wrong, it betrays a completely psychotic and warped mind. I’m not interested in the leftist “ethics” that brought you to this pass. Twisting scripture as you do to support your leftist beliefs is satanic. It is a sad state of affairs when such depravity is put forward as morality. It is not the American individualists who kill the weak, it is the communists who justify their predatory tactics by claiming that all of their injustice and greed is for the “greater good”. You should read Animal Farm.

  • You must think Jesus was a communist.

    To give you just the last two verses from the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke, Ch. 10:

    36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
    37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

    Unfortunately, society contains many who think only of themselves, not of others. They need to be compelled by laws not to harm the others. And so there are laws, and there have been laws for all the time that people have needed to work together for the general good, and that goes back at least to the founding of agrarian societies about six thousand to seven thousand years ago.

    As society has become more specialized (I cannot be all of the following: doctor, lawyer, farmer and machinist), contributions to the common interest had to be made in the form of taxes, from which specialized functions, e.g., hospitals and courts, could be funded.

    The Framers of the U. S. Constitution recognized all of this in the Preamble, which reads:

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution . . . ”

    They knew that a major purpose of government was to promote the general Welfare. They also recognized that Liberty should bring blessings to society and those blessings should be preserved and shared.

    What you argue runs counter both to Christian values and to the basic principles upon which our nation was founded.

  • Jesus was NOT a communist and he would never have agreed with you thieves and thugs.Hand over all you have to the “poor” if you feel this is right. But don’t try to blaspheme Our Lord by saying he advocated larceny from your fellow citizens. How low can you evil ones get?

  • I take it you object to paying taxes. Also unChristian:

    And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
    and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

    By the way, a Christian does not argue by insult. Jesus did not do so. I suggest you reconsider how you address people.

  • Do you have any idea how corrupt or incompetent most state governments are? Further, all the states depend upon each other for trade, environment, and the free flow of people and labor. I resent having to subsidize those states with inadequate education systems with all kinds of other subsidies.

  • Your premise is flawed. States are the govt closer to the people. If they are corrupt, how much MORE corrupt is the federal govt? Liberals such as you are completely incapable of rational thought. Your own comment contradicts itself! If you “resent having to subsidize those states with inadequate education systems with all kinds of other subsidies” then why are you so intent on the federal govt taxing and redistributing? I completely support the idea that each state should care for its own, with NO federal funds being doled out by Big Brother.

  • I’m sorry if the truth “insults” you. As to whether Christ advocates taxes, I would disagree with your interpretation of His words. You imply that whatever the state demands is due to it by default. I don’t think so, and I’m sure Our Lord doesn’t either.

  • Agreed…the Christian church should, from a biblical perspective, take care of Christians. And a ‘Christian’ should be defined by biblical standards, not by what people claim. When ‘so-called’ Christians don’t live according to Christian standards (honesty, sexual purity, gentle, sober, humble, ‘holy’ and in obedience to the commandments of Christ) then the obligation of the church is limited.

  • I see. So if you had been that Samaritan (a bit of a heretic himself, but whatever) you would have first waited for the guy in the ditch to wake up, submitted him to a test of his orthodoxy, checked his references to be sure his conduct had been appropriate and then made a judgement about whether or not to take him to the inn.

    Are children also to be submitted to this faith test? At what age will we seek to discern their appropriate beliefs and lifestyles?

    Can you remind me of those stories in which Jesus healed someone after first discerning their religious beliefs and then the appropriateness of their conduct. That healing of the centurian’s ear in the garden, can you account for that act, or did Jesus treat people differently than the way he expects the rest of us Christians to behave.

    You sir, seem to be the product of some very bad preaching.

  • Ah, now we get to the nub of it. You think that Jesus thinks that what you think is right. A rather arrogant position, but more common than one would like to believe.

    By the way, do you agree with Billy Graham that Jesus was a champion of private property and that he abhorred communism?

  • Jesus set the example to do good to everyone, and he did bless the SyroPhoenician women and other non-Jews as you mentioned. However, I think you will agree, there is a difference between paying a person’s one-time doctor bill and paying their health insurance for their entire life. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to feed the 5000 every day. In fact, he criticized the crowds for following him because they ate their fill. The Good Samaritan parable isn’t a story about the Jews should go to Samaria and set up a free hospital…it’s about helping those whom you may not like.

    The early church used offerings to send to Christians in Jerusalem where there was suffering. I’m sure there was suffering other places, but I don’t read where offerings were sent to help pagans.

    If I can help a stranger through a tough situation, that’s a good thing. But financing the lifestyle of a lazy person or a drug addict is probably not God’s will.

  • Since you are so logically challenged, I will spell it out for you. Jesus ABSOLUTELY endorses property rights and abhors communism. Also, as you lack basic reasoning skills, allow me to explain that EVERYONE who believes ANYTHING believes they are right and that their philosophical support is correct, else they wouldn’t believe as they do. May you come to understand the nature of truth before you meet God.

  • I will never understand how a Christian, who believes him or herself loved in spite of her sins, out of the free gift of God,(Eph 2:8,9) believes it then appropriate to limit compassion to the deserving. You seem determined to justify a life that is not the pattern of Jesus. Neither the concept of grace, nor the model of laying down one’s life sacrificially seems to have captured you.

    I’ll finish by quoting Micah Murray in a facebook post:

    “There’s a particular argument I see from a lot of Christians when it comes to using our tax dollars to meet the basic needs of our more vulnerable citizens, and it goes like this:

    “Paul didn’t try to get Rome to care for the poor. The Good Samaritan didn’t lobby for government healthcare. It’s the church’s job, not the government’s, to care for the needy.”

    “Four things:

    “One, Rome was a violent, greedy empire run by an egocentric maniac. If you want to claim that America is a Christian nation, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and hold yourself to a higher standard than a violent, greedy empire run by an egocentric maniac. Oh *, I’m talking about us now. Yes.

    “Two, there is a metric *ton more of people in the world than there were back in Jesus’ day. We’re a globalized, technological, postindustrial society. So the economic models of two millennia ago are going to bear little resemblance to what’s going on in our world today. You think you’re being clever by arguing for capitalism based on stories Jesus told, but really you’re just being an anachronistic *. Stop.

    “Three, read the Old Testament. The fire and brimstone prophets. The NATIONS are getting *ed up because the NATIONS failed to care for the poor in their midst. Not the church. Not the individuals. The NATIONS. Don’t talk to me until you’ve read Isaiah and Jeremiah.

    “Four, the principles hold: Protect the vulnerable. Feed the poor. Care for the needy. Heal the sick. From the very first pages of the Holy Book through the teaching of Jesus, that’s the theme that ties it all together. Play whatever ideological games you want to to deny it, but know that every time you do you are robbing your religion of whatever scraps of intellectual and moral integrity it may yet retain.”

  • I have no idea what makes someone believe that corporations can’t corrupt state politicians, (since they can, and do) or what makes state legislatures “more transparent” than the federal government. Nor do I understand why you think if the state governments take over some duties your taxes will be “slashed,” as opposed to transferred to state and local entities. Nor have you apparently thought about the difference between states. We are not all equal. Some states have more wealth to tax, more young people. To name but two differences. Some states are paying more to help cover other states. (Incidently, those would be the wealthier, bluer states,) Have you really considered what it means to leave Mississippi on its own? And I have no idea how people figure their charitable contributions are going to fill in the gap left by the government which is not running the world of 1500 AD, but a globalized, technological, postindustrial society. If environmental laws are different in Minnesota than in Iowa, shall Minnesota leave it to Iowa to clean its own rivers of Minnesotan pollution?

  • What you’re saying is that you are clueless. I agree. Of course ALL govt can be corrupted. That is why govt must always be used sparingly if the people will avoid being oppressed. However, the govt that is closest to the people is always more accessible and responsive. Regarding pollution, property rights law would provide the necessary recourse for any entity whose rights are violated.
    Your assumption that the year we live in is relevant is quite amusing. The United States is a compact between sovereign entities. It is not a realm to be ruled by the self appointed, leftist elites.

  • It is relevant what year it is, because a newborn couldn’t rack up a $2 million medical bill in 1850. And a hog farm with 40,000 pigs didn’t exist, potentially polluting private (and public) land through 5 states. There are 2000 of these large scale pig farms across N. Carolina alone. And when those farms cause dead zones affecting the fishing industry off shore — so easy to just sue (which?) farm upriver, right? Or farms in how many states? All of which have different laws. And various levels of corrupt state officials and lobbyist-influenced policies. To name but one matter which is a good deal more complicated than I think you realize.

  • Yes, you think that your superior mind grasps things that elude the rest of us fools, like the year we live in. The amount of condescending self righteousness dripping from your words is hard to quantify. I must reiterate, no matter how much you believe that your preeminent intellect entitles you to decide how to deal with every issue, we live in a Constitutional republic made up of sovereign states and what is strictly legal, ought, by rights, to be observed. Of course, if we do that, then leftists will find themselves with no one to boss around, and that can’t be right!

  • Another pot shot at me? Jeez, read your comments man. You’ve called me a leftist, a liberal, an elitist, “clueless” and with a voice dripping in sarcasm, a superior mind — none these are answers to any of the points I’ve made. Make a point, and let’s discuss.

  • It’s your lack of respect for your fellow citizens which indicts you as an elitist. I have made my point. The fact that you will not respond to the content of my argument, but instead claim victim status, only shows that you cannot engage on the issues. If you want to do so, then stop saying “ouch ” and address the argument.

  • I think we’re done. I’ve given you data, argument, that there are more health care costs, more complicated environmental problems. Or that “local” consigns us only to the resources at hand, which are not equal. The tax base of rural Mississippi and Silicon Valley are not the same. All of this points to the fact that “local” may not be able to deal with what we face now. I’ve also said that corruption is not merely a problem on the federal level — and rather than engage any of these things, you’ve accused me of something or other. There isn’t anything I can SAY about that, so we’re done I guess. You accuse me of crying “ouch,” which is exactly what you’ve done — only in a voice dripping in sarcasm. I’ve somehow disparaged your intellect or your education or something — I dunno. Whatever it is you’ve imagined. I’ve suggested your conclusions don’t take enough into account, and I don’t apologize for that.

  • I’m glad you’re “done”. Funny how, after being “done” you continue to defend the indefensible, communist party line ad nauseum. Do leftists EVER tell the truth?

  • So in your mind, all of western Europe, Israel and Canada are “communist.”

    For example:
    “Health care in Israel is universal and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory. All Israeli citizens are entitled to basic health care as a fundamental right. … Israelis can increase their medical coverage and improve their options by purchasing private health insurance.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Israel

    Seems important to leave this information here for others passing by.

  • I thought you were “done”. Leaving your scent-markers for future leftists is important tho, lol. And, yes, you are correct. Canada and Israel and most of Europe are communist today. Do you think rational beings shrink from acknowledging the truth?

  • Well, obviously we disagree on some things. I’ve read one of Micah Murray’s recent ‘Faith’ posts on his blog. I would not consider him to be the most mature of Christians. In fact, he admits so much on his ‘About Me’ profile, where he admits he’s ‘jaded’, doesn’t know if he loves Jesus, and confesses “I don’t have my s*** together.”

    I do have one additional question. As a Christian, whom would you trust to best distribute needed funds and services to the poor, the secular government, or fellow children of God?

  • I know we all sin, which is why we all need safeguards in place, whether we are government or church. One doesn’t have to look very hard to find fraud, waste and worse in church agencies just as in other organizations. Sometimes terrifying in their brazenness. And by the way, trying to slime a writer does nothing to counter his points.

  • Not intending to ‘slime’ anybody. The author admits, quite honestly it appears, that he is unsure about much of the faith. So why should one trust his teaching about faith? If I said, “I don’t know much about nuclear physics”, and then gave a lesson on nuclear physics…why should anyone give the lesson much weight?

  • If we discounted every Christian person who admitted doubts, we’d eliminate some of our best theologians and even exemplars of the christian faith. Mother Theresa, to name but one. Besides, this person made a theological case. It doesn’t stand or fall on anything about him. I don’t know him. You are not being asked to trust his word for it, you are asked to engage it, prove it or disprove it. But perhaps we’re done here. I don’t think you want to engage an idea.

  • I agree…we could go on and I could engage many points of the argument, but as Paul put it:

    But reject foolish and ignorant speculation, for you know that it breeds quarreling. And a servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and forbearing.

    May God bless you as you endeavor to follow Christ and obey God’s will for your life.

  • All the states with local control was a nice idea in the 18th century when people stayed in one place and the economy was mainly local. I have seen state, local and the Federal government in action. There are far more checks and balances within the Federal government and interest groups looking after the national government actions then at the state and local level. While I resent the subsidy, my nation is dependent on the outcomes of those local schools and the strength or weakness that state brings to the union. Therefore, it is necessary to lift the standards of localities that fall behind .

  • You need to go to another country. The United States has a Constitution that defines how the federal govt LEGALLY operates. Since you don’t like that, you think it’s your prerogative to declare it is wrong. But it isn’t.

  • There is more to consider than helping your fellow man. Anytime the federal government is involved in an industry, costs go up, service goes down, or both. A prime example of how poorly the federal government can handle the healthcare industry is the VA, where it can take months to get an appointment, and care received is generally of a lower quality than can be received in the private sector.

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