Posted by: gmscan | October 30, 2010

Christianity and Health Care

This week I’m writing from Waco, Texas where I just finished speaking at a symposium on “Human Dignity and the Future of Health Care.” The symposium was sponsored by Baylor University’s Institute for Faith and Learning. Here are some random snapshots.

We were welcomed by Judge Ken Starr, the new president of Baylor. I didn’t realize he had moved from Pepperdine but apparently he started at Baylor in June.  This should be a great collaboration. I don’t know Judge Starr personally, but people who do know him all say he is one of the warmest and most thoughtful men in America. Those qualities will fit Baylor perfectly, and Baylor should give him a foundation to do some very great things.

There were about 250 people registered for the conference. It was a pretty unique mix of philosophers, bio-ethicists, and medical professionals. For my taste, too much of the program was spent on very brainy presentations by people trying to define the concept of Dignity. But there were also presentations on missions, especially in Africa; questions of death, dying, and disability; and professional training and development in a faith-based context.

My panel, which was organized by my friend Earl Grinols of Baylor’s economics department, was about the only one dealing directly with health policy and practical solutions. It gave me an opportunity to develop some new slides previewing the book I’m writing – “Academy of Dunces: Misadventures in Health Policy.” Earl and I were joined on the panel by Jim Henderson, also of Baylor’s economic department. I thought the three of us made a pretty powerful case for consumer empowerment as an alternative to the current mess in Washington.

I expected there would be a lot of liberal-Christian support for ObamaCare at the conference, but there was only one panel that was oriented that way. It included one professor who argued that the Christian view should be that people have a “natural right” to health care, and another who said Christians have an obligation to care for the needy, so should support this law. They argued that private charity has failed to do the job, so the government should do it instead. While I expected this view, it still puzzles me. It seems to me that Christ instructed us to be charitable, knowing full well that many of us would not be. I doubt very much that Jesus would have looked at ongoing poverty as a failure of his followers that had to be corrected by Caesar. Asking Caesar to raise our taxes to take us off the hook of being responsible for our neighbors does not sound remotely Christian to me.

I learned a lot in talking with other attendees. Maybe the biggest was that many of them said this was the first health care conference they have ever attended where they could express their faith. That is a shame. Apparently medicine has become so secularized that faith is not allowed into the conversation. On the other hand, I met two men who are hospital chaplains. They said chaplaincy is a discrete profession complete with board certification and continuing education requirements. I had no idea.

Many of the attendees were from other parts of the country and were impressed by how polite Baylor students are. It’s true. I didn’t notice a single sullen, brooding face on the campus. The food service supplied by Baylor was terrific. One dinner included the best prime rib I have ever had, bar none. But the biggest standout of all was Institute Director Darin Davis and all the Institute staff who did a flawless job of organizing the conference and making everyone feel at home.

 

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Responses

  1. The Torah speaks about giving charity in Deut. 15:7ff (“If there will be a poor man among you… you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand toward your poor brother; you shall open your hand to him and shall give him enough for his needs”) and Lev. 25:35ff (“If your brother becomes poor… you shall support him, stranger or settler, and he shall live with you”).
    The issue is to separate the patient, who is in true need, from the needy greedy. Politicians pander for votes by appealing to both groups. We need to reform Congress and Obamacare so that that the truly needy “shall… (have) enough for his needs” while preserving our Nation’s financial resources that effects us all.

  2. The Torah speaks about giving charity in Deut. 15:7ff (“If there will be a poor man among you… you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand toward your poor brother; you shall open your hand to him and shall give him enough for his needs”) and Lev. 25:35ff (“If your brother becomes poor… you shall support him, stranger or settler, and he shall live with you”).
    The major issue is to separate the patient in true need from the needy greedy. Politicians pander for votes to both groups. We need to reform Congress and Obamacare so that the patient in true need receives support “enough for his needs” while at the same time preserving our National resources that affect us all.

  3. Greg:
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.
    Being a University of Texas fan, I don’t have too many warm and fuzzy feelings about Baylor at the present!

    I think health care is the bellwether issue of whether or not we are a Christian nation.
    Here we have the perfect opportunity to show our starts and stripes: a necessity priced as a luxury.
    Providing tax exclusions or government subsidies does not deal with that fundamental dichotomy.
    This was also an opportunity for people of faith to come up with their own solutuions, such as Chistian Care Medi Share.
    It is embarassing that too many of us stayed on the sidelines, while the opportunity for innovation was available.
    Saying this is a government solution, rather than a business and/or religious one is simply saying “I don’t want to get involved. Let George do it.”
    Shalom,
    Don Levit

  4. Thanks, Don. As government grows it seems to crowd out private efforts, and of course increase costs, too. I agree entirely that some of us let government do it so we won’t have to. I don’t think that is what Scripture had in mind.

    Ralph, I expect there will be a growing need for people of faith to step in as government “universal” health will prove to be universally inadequate.

    Greg


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