I write from a perspective of faith. Sometimes I write in broad, general terms, but today I am writing to all in the Golden Triangle region who identify themselves as Christians. To the pastors and teachers, bishops and priests, deacons and elders, and to all who enter church doors week after week, let us affirm a common belief: Each and every person is created in the image of God.
In our nation full of churches; in our nation where some churches have budgets the size of a small state; in our nation where we Christians, regardless of church size, proclaim that all life is sacred ... let’s talk with each other about health care.
Pundits yell back and forth about it on television. Newspaper columnists weigh in on it daily. Politicians debate it in Washington D.C. Friends argue about it over cups of coffee.
Yet, the dangerously radical proclamation of the holiness of all human life may be the rallying point to which the gazillions of churches in America can be the solution. Maybe it can even bring the hundreds of churches in the Golden Triangle together, and maybe we can be the starting point for the rest of the country.
We sit by and allow others to argue while men, women and countless children are denied access to health care because their lives are not considered as sacred, but rather as game pieces to be shuffled around by money managers.
Please hear me out: This is not about being a Republican or Democrat, capitalist or socialist, doctor or patient. I am not talking about lobbyists, insurance companies, hospital interests, or congressional debates.
No, I don’t care about the politics; but I am talking about people of faith doing something that matters. I’m talking about backing up our words with some action.
In some larger cities, churches have joined together with doctors and nurses and other medical folks and have started health clinics to serve their communities. Free if need be, or for fees for those who can afford to pay. Everybody, rich or poor, old or young, gets seen and cared for as a ministry of the area churches.
I don’t know what the political and economical answer is to our health care situation in this country. But while everyone argues over interests and moneys and control . . . maybe it’s time we as the Church start practicing what we preach – that people are not viewed as “insured” or “uninsured” or “pre-existing conditions” or anything else, but as human beings worthy of care because they are created in God’s image, and because we proclaim the holiness, the sacredness, of human life.
We can find creative ways to join together with other congregations in our communities, counties, and within Mississippi – working together with the doctors and nurses and hospital staff in our congregations – to care for one another as if our lives really are holy and worth something (ever read the fourth chapter of Acts?).
Let’s face it, the health care solution will not come from bureaucrats in high-rise office buildings, nor from politicians in the chambers of Congress, nor from doctors, nurses, insurance CEOs, or hospital board members, nor legions of patients’ interests groups. They will do what they will do, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse.
But regardless of what our social institutions choose to do (or not do), the Church has something to offer to the world – the radical gospel message that each person’s life, regardless of socioeconomic status, means something; that each person’s life is worth caring for because each person bears the image of God.
Health care is not just a political issue or a financial issue. From a Christian perspective, health care is a moral issue. So while powers and interests argue and fight with each other, let the churches right here in the Golden Triangle Region begin to speak. Let the churches right here in this region of Mississippi – Pentecostals, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, and so on and so forth – let us begin to act.
We declare not just by word, but by deed, that every life is holy and deserves love and care. All the elderly. All the children. The working poor. The working rich. The lazy in every group.
The President. The governor. The senators and representatives. The upper class. The lower class. The middle class. Even those who have no class.
The deserving. The undeserving. The most important. The least of these.
Everyone created in God’s own image.
How can we pay for it? To paraphrase Will Campbell, a Mississippi-bred preacher, the same way we afford our steeples, family life centers, staff salaries, lighted crosses, and so on – with tithes and offerings.
With tithes and offerings – for the glory of God and for the love of others. What can be more Christian than that?
Bert Montgomery is an author, Missouri State University religion/sociology instructor, and pastor and lives in Starkville. He also is a former pastor of Campbellsburg Baptist Church.
His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.