So let me open up and say, none of us can presume what Jesus would say about healthcare in America. The closet I think we can come is not to step over a sick individual if you have the power and resource to help him or her.
President Obama signed into law The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590) on March 23, 2010. President Obama advanced this legislation to address the approximate 50.00 million persons residing in America who possessed no type of health insurance. After a challenge called National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that brought the law to the Supreme Court in 2012, the august body of judges determined that HR 3590 was constitutionally to include the individual mandate and Medicaid Expansion (You can read a summary of the Supreme Court decision here). Healthcare exchanges such as the one in Arkansas go into effect October 1, 2013 with the individual mandate enforced on January 1, 2014.
These are pretty much the facts.
I can understand President Obama’s desire to address the problem of people not having health insurance. I want people to have sustainable housing, job opportunities, good education, and good access to healthcare too. What I don’t agree with is the manner in which President Obama has gone about compelling almost everyone (yes there are folks who are exempt) to possess health insurance under the guise of compassion. This is how I would summarize this entire issue; people in America are being legally compelled to act with compassion.
We live and move in a very hard reality in which compassion has the opportunity to be carried out in the lives of others. Compassion is a possibility in every human being because we are image bearers of God. Compassion exists because present in our human experiences testifies to the fact there are those who are able to give and those who are able to receive. We all have the opportunity to be compassionate. On the other hand, compulsion with the threat of penalty does not awaken or stimulate compassion in the heart of an individual, but it does awaken anger, judgment and division. Slowly, our country is restraining the opportunity to be truly compassionate with the shackles of law and the whip of oppression.
So what is a solution?
Let me preface my solution with some presuppositions.
The Government Healthcare Option (GHO) is designed to respond to those that believe government should provide services such as healthcare. The individual can choose this annual and renewable option to purchase healthcare and support someone who is unable to participate in the other two alternatives.
Now every solution has weaknesses and limitations. So, I invite critique. Poke holes in it or offer an alternative that is noncompulsory and compassionate.
The home is a status symbol for many people in America. The size, the location, and the quality of the home speak to neighbors and visitors about the potential type of individual who resides in the home. The home though for many represents more than status and reputation. It represents protection and stability in the life of an individual or family. The home for many persons is where harm should not knock on the door of life nor create disruptions in the pattern of that life.
The other day, I attended a meeting in which a prominent figure in my city discussed future expansions of the organization he leads. The expansions sounded necessary to accomplish the larger vision of the organization. In his presentation, the organizational leader made a statement that his organization owned several pieces of land on which homes and trailers currently reside. He then commented in the context of his organizations expansion, those homes and trailers would have to give way to organizational growth. He stated, “They do not know this.”
There are opportunity lessons for organizational leaders in various capacities that work in our city. Organizational leaders have a commitment to various stakeholders as the organization executes its specific mission. There are organizational responsibilities to execute on a periodic basis to confirm the viability of the organization. At the same time, organizational leaders in our city have moral and ethical responsibilities to those same stakeholders. The organizational leader’s statement while cavalier, requires a moral and ethical assessment as to whether removing homes for the sake of expansion is the best course of action. Organizational leaders who participate in this type of activity must ask, “Is this specific gentrification we are about to embark upon the best course of action?”
I would like to speak more specifically now on this idea of moral and ethical decision making regarding gentrification in Conway. Conway is currently in the middle of transition. The north of downtown experienced revitalization with the development of Hendrix Village to include housing that is priced for a specific demographic. East of Harkrider, the city is currently in the planning phase for redevelopment of the old airport. Redevelopment will inevitably generate new business opportunities, living conditions, and tax revenue for our city. None of those are particularly bad things. New businesses create opportunities for job creation and tax revenue should go towards improvements in all our city services. The concern I have, which is connected to the organizational leader’s statement is, “Who will these living conditions be focused towards?” “Is this specific gentrification the best course of action?” A moral and ethical decision making process requires all participants have the opportunity to learn, critique, and recommend, so that the most humane and equitable plan develops.
The lack of sustainable housing for low income persons should be an opportunity for all of our citizens to speak. The lack of sustainable housing creates burdens on families, law enforcement, and education. The lack of sustainable housing moves children into DHS custody and burdens a foster care system. The lack of sustainable housing combined with the lack of adequate employment contributes to homelessness? Who should speak for them?
We speak with words. Words can stimulate the construction of hope in the life of an individual. Words can begin as a small flame that increases to an inferno because of the winds of prejudice and greed. Words can flow like a stream from the hearts of men and women to serve as a fresh energizer or a salty inhibitor towards a person’s progress. Words are not simply the construction of letters, syllables, and annunciations; words become increasingly powerful when they are acted out.
How should we speak for those who lack sustainable housing or stand in danger of losing their home? The mayor and city council can speak to ensure that there is appropriate zoning in our growing city that does not isolate the poor into some corner, but integrates the poor into the life of the city. Entrepreneurs in real estate and construction can join together and use capital to develop appropriate housing that addresses every economic class in our city. Nonprofits can use the voice of advocacy and volunteerism to speak to landlords and residents about the opportunities of shared investment in their community. The colleges speak in their planning and development of the construction of multi-million dollar facilities to thoughtfully consider if the course of action is worth displacing individuals and families. The Church speaks as the moral voice of compassion to remind all our citizens that the homeless and poor housing are not blights to be tolerated but an opportunity to minister to Jesus himself.
When you go home tonight and enjoy the comforts of your home, remember there are some in our city who do not have your conditions. So rejoice! Due to God’s grace, your enjoyments create for you an opportunity to enjoy a level of protection and stability. Others in our city have received a different measure of his grace and this does not denigrate their importance as people in our city. Why do we have the presence of those who are seemingly strong and those that are seemingly weak? Our presence offers the opportunity to demonstrate to our state that those who are strong can be verbal demonstrations of love for those who are weak.
Who should speak for them? All of us.
Friday September 6, 2013 was a good day to see love at work. At the McGee Center, forty-five men and women from diverse backgrounds and age groups gathered to discuss ethnic relationships. I must say, I was thoroughly impressed and moved by the depth of communication, personal stories, and perspectives that were brought to the table. The men and women who came from Conway and Little Rock demonstrated that such discussions can occur without vitriol and dehumanizing language.
I have three observations that I would like to share from that night.
1. The Gospel is limitless. Consistently from every part of the room and on every question, there were men and women who sought to apply the Gospel. It was beautiful to hear the relevance and implications of the Gospel on such a difficult topic. It causes me to wonder why we do not hear more of it. Obviously, men and women representing a small sample want to discuss it.
2. Regardless of ethnicity, everyone wants to be acknowledged as a person. Beyond our labels and socially constructed categories, I sensed the men and women wanted to be known as a person. What implications does this have beyond race and other issues we currently wrestle with in the twenty-first century?
3. Multiple generations need to talk. There was a wealth of wisdom that was spoken from men and women who grew up in a time more ethnically divided than ours. They offered perspectives that I need to consider. On the other side, the forty and under age group offered me hope. I heard from them a desire for change and a willingness to listen and learn.
So where do we go from here?
We left with questions still unanswered but no one left feeling as if nothing had been accomplished. As with any discussion, it must follow with action. Therefore, on January 31, 2014 we will gather again at the McGee Center for what I call Celebrate 127. Celebrate 127 will simply be a night in which men and women from different ethnic backgrounds will gather around a food representative of their ethnic heritage. We will eat, strengthen relationships and celebrate God’s unique and creative work in his image bearers (Genesis 1:27).
Finally, I continue to receive very encouraging messages asking to continue these discussions. People have requested these discussions be hosted more frequently not just on race, but other tough topics that are rarely talked about openly, especially in the Church. So that is where we are headed.
I love the city in which I live and the people who give Conway its character. Love, an agape type love, compels men and women to engage in tough discussions at various moments so that the giver and receiver are blessed. Love compels men and women to see beyond our various barriers and distinctions to support or to rescue the soul of person. This type of love is the fruit of God’s demonstrative love described by the apostle.
Let's get to work!