Repair or Replace?? Jesus on Health Care

Well, we may yet be back at it again. The first major defeat for the Trump Administration was the defeat of the Republican plan to replace Obamacare.

But this ever-mercurial President hasn’t yet thrown in the towel. And in any event, we know that this autumn will herald a new round of rate hikes, insurance companies abandoning unprofitable markets, soaring costs and ever more unequal care.

America gets less for its health care expenditure than any country in the world. As of 2015, health care expenditures reached $10,000 per person. We’re spending over 18% of GDP – Tesla prices for a Fiat product. Paying double the global average and 40-80% more than most other developed countries in the world.

Should Obamacare be repaired or replaced? Or do we just bumble blindly ahead?

Before yet more poorly conceived and ineptly executed stumbles, stop and ask: What would Jesus say and do? 

Jesus Cares

One of the most remarkable but overlooked facts about Jesus ministry is his pre-occupation with health care. Perhaps the most famous parable of Jesus is that of the Good Samaritan – caring for the wounds of a fellow traveler.

And Jesus was not just about talking, but doing. Of the miracles recorded by the four New Testament gospels, three-quarters put Jesus front and center as the healer – Dr. J!

And, most critically, we know that Jesus cared. When his friend Lazarus died, what was the master’s response? “Jesus wept.”

How Does Jesus Do Health Care?

Four observations can be drawn from a review of Jesus miracles – all the way from healings in his native Galilee to the raising of friend Lazarus from the dead in a suburb of Jerusalem:

1. Jesus’ healings are widespread, but selective. Jesus healed people one-at-a time – people like an epileptic, the mother-in-law of his disciple Peter, a Roman centurion’s servant, the mentally ill (or demon possessed). He healed people in groups – two blind men here, 10 lepers there, whole crowds reaching out just to touch the hem of His garment for healing power. Jesus even re-attached the ear of a servant of the high priest severed by His ne’er-do-well disciple Peter, in an attempt to resist the arrest of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus deputized his disciples to heal the sick throughout the villages of Galilee. And he offered care to those down through the centuries yet to unfold: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

But even a healer this prolific did not immediately reach out heal everyone who needed treatment. He discouraged a non-Jewish woman from seeking His help, caustically remarking: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And he deliberately let his friend Lazarus die – staying two more days “in the place where he was” before finally traveling to his friend’s home in Bethany.

2. There is always a larger divine purpose that accompanies Jesus’ healing touch. You might ask: What possible motive could a god-man like Jesus have in spending so much time dealing with the diseases both real and imagined of those around him? Shouldn’t God be more concerned with making a better planet where all humans can live free of disease?

For example, why did Jesus let His friend Lazarus go to the grave? Jesus himself supplied the answer: “Lazarus is dead.  And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.” The purpose: to convince others that He was no ordinary person, but one who commanded attention as overriding the very laws of nature.

Each healing tended to have its own distinct objective. Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever; she “arose and served them.” Nothing like getting a good home cooked meal in exchange for a little faith healing.

The non-Jewish woman who demanded healing for demon-possessed daughter? Jesus forced her to spar verbally with him before he acceded to her request, saying: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”

And to those who questioned whether a man’s sins had resulted in his blindness, Jesus would make the question an object lesson: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” All for the glory of the divine.

3. Healing is available to persons of all social and economic classes. There is no means testing with this healer. No request to see your insurance card before the magic treatment. Jesus took on cases of both friend and foe, even the indifferent. He healed during the work week, and he healed on the Sabbath when work was prohibited.

He healed those who were outcasts and those in power, rich and poor, beloved and despised. When He sent out his disciples to heal on His behalf, it was with the directive to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.”

4. Though  the health care of Jesus is made available no charge, yet there is always a cost, something the master wants in return. At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus orders a man who was infirm for 38 years to “rise, take up your bed and walk.”

To the non-Jewish woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus wanted her reaction to being demeaned before he took action as complained, telling her that “it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Fortunately, she  gave as good as she got, responding to Jesus by offering that: “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

To his disciples who are unable to cure an epileptic, Jesus condemns their unbelief, saying that “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

He heals two blind men, after first asking: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Then after touching and opening their eyes, Jesus makes an added request, asking that the patients “see that no one knows it” (about the healing). They went and spread the news about Jesus “in all that country,” anyway.

And to the Pharisees who complained about Jesus dining with a hated tax collector, Jesus response immediately turns to the analogy of medicine as he rejoins: Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

And a Couple of Added Thoughts

Two added strands of Jesus message come to mind when wondering how he might address America’s current health care debacle. The first that comes to mind is Jesus interaction with those in the synagogue of his home town Nazareth. Jesus reads about “the anointed” from Isaiah, puts down the scroll and concludes with:

Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

The congregants are incredulous at the audacity of their home town boy. Jesus can’t contain himself and He comments:

“You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’”

Then He said,

“Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.”

Even in his day, Jesus must have been aware of the time-honored saying that: “An expert is somebody who is more than 50 miles from home.” He attacks their prejudice by taking on what must have been the high regard with which health practitioners were regarded in the first century: “Physician, heal yourself.” In other words, good medicine care starts at home, even when over-familiarity with the caregiver inevitably breeds contempt.

And here’s a second thought. It is prompted by remembrance of Jesus asking a crowd before him:

“… which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?”

And so it is with health care. America has taken on a noble cause. But will we finish well? Did we adequately count the cost? And is the added cost commensurate with our ability to foot the bill? Questions yet to be answered.

So, What About Obamacare vs Trumpcare?

To the best of our knowledge, Jesus of Nazareth has never uttered a word about the on-going health care debate that grips the U.S.A. So, this blog poses no definitive solutions – at least none that can be directly attributable to the Master.

However, there are some guiding principles that can be drawn from what we know Jesus said and practiced about His kind of medicine. Lessons and principles applicable to the resolution of the matters at hand. Here they are:

  1. Health care should no longer be considered a privilege; it’s a fundamental human right. Every American should have ready access to health care prevention, maintenance, and treatment, regardless of their means.
  2. Every American should also have skin in the game. Either keep and enforce that individual mandate for all to purchase coverage (in accordance with financial means), or provide a market based mechanism with the same effect, e.g., you’re automatically enrolled and billed to be in a backstop plan until you prove you’ve purchased on your own.
  3. Squeeze out the excess, bringing the U.S. into alignment with other advanced nations for reduced health care cost as a share of GDP. Do the simple things like: sell insurance across state lines to encourage added market competition, disincentivize expensive investments in places where redundant and poorly utilized, and incent coordination in caregiving between varied providers whether or not in the same institution or practice. Require good faith estimates in advance of treatment. And make house calls – whether in person or via social media.
  4. Continue to reward the only good thing about American medicine today – continued innovation but implemented cost effectively. Whether it’s to the patient, the provider or the insurance, the message of the Savior is very simple: “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.” Get going!

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For more  information about the healing though heretical message of Jesus of Nazareth, check out our full web site: http://www.jesustheheresy.com

 

Campaign Tips from Jesus 2016

In October 2012 – at the height of the last presidential campaign – we offered seven (7) campaign tips from none other than Jesus of Nazareth – God in human form. While it is yet early in the 2016 electoral campaign, now may be a good time to go back to re-learn what Jesus said and did – all in the context of the next installment of America’s quadrennial drama.

7 Tips From Jesus

At the outset, let’s put a potential objection to rest. Jesus ran with the objective of losing, not winning – of virtually guaranteeing his execution. For a non-elite coming from out of the center of Jewish action, he pulled it off masterfully. For today’s campaigners, whether the objective is conquest or defeat, do it masterfully. So here, forthwith, seven tips from the master:

1. Keep it simple

Jesus mastered the KISS principle. Consider his most famous campaign speech – the Sermon on the Mount. As recounted by the gospel of Matthew, the first words out of the Jesus’ mouth were “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Like today’s putative front-runner, Hillary Clinton, Jesus ran a values campaign – centered on addressing the social, economic and religious inequalities of his day. Perhaps unlike Mrs. Clinton, Jesus recognized that corrective action comes from within the person as well as from sources external to individual resources, evidenced by his statement that “the poor will always be with you.” Conversely, Republicans have yet to figure out how to coherently address the widening gap between the haves and the have nots – perhaps the underlying domestic flash-point of the 2016 campaign.

2. Tell stories

Jesus used stories (known as parables) to convey complex ideas in terms to which everyone could relate. Even if he skipped a lot of detail in the process. The parable of the prodigal son reflects a universal theme and offers a clear message of hope for the future. The moral of the story is that God the father is always on the lookout and ready to accept his wayward children back home, no questions asked. Always a second chance.

Our presidential aspirants need stories that are real, that resonate, and that offer a hope worth reaching to achieve in the next four years (eight at best). In the midst of this nation’s greatest turmoil, Abraham Lincoln was the premiere storyteller – often to the chagrin of those around him. But his words and his actions – enigmatic though they often were – resonate to this day.

3. Stay on message

But be prepared to flex. It seems that Jesus had a set of stump speeches which were repeated in town after town, but varied to fit the needs and interests of the local listeners. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount becomes Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. Matthew’s Jesus begins by saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Luke’s Jesus says yet more simply “Blessed are the poor.” Amazing how the meaning can shift so radically with the deletion (or addition) of just a couple of words!

The message on everyone’s minds is the future of the great American experiment known as Obamacare. Not likely to be repealed but gobbling up 50-100% more of the share of gross national product than occurs in most other western nations.

With the late June Supreme Court decision, the now worn Republican message of repeal falls flat – and everyone knows it. Democrats can savor the victory but in the absence of fixes to further increase coverage, increase transparency, and make this affordable for the nation, our ship may yet be sunk. The message needed is the “how to” of the fix – and why others should come along for the ride.

4. Don’t suffer fools

Jesus certainly wasted little time with on those who aimed to bring him down for reasons of their own personal gain. He went after the religious and social leaders of his day. He was unafraid of using tough language when required, for example, calling out the leaders of his Jewish world as follows: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! … Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”

A little bit of Chris Christie or, God forbid, even Donald Trump comes through in the seemingly off-hand remarks of this 1st century savior. But Jesus also backed up his ad hominem personal attacks with substance. In the encounter noted above, he was criticizing the way in which the supposed leaders of his day emphasized trivialities rather than paying attention to “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

So, don’t be afraid to take the opposition to task. Be succinct in pointing out failures that are at odds with American values of justice and equality of opportunity. And take the blow-back in stride.

5. Go long

Even in advance of football season, most of us know what this means. Perhaps not as dramatic as the “hail Mary” pass, but sell the crowd on a vision for the long term. For Jesus, his kingdom was “not of this world.” The long bomb is the pass play into the kingdom of heaven.

Our candidates are more earthly bound, but the ability to clearly articulate how tomorrow can be better for us and our kids is pivotal to a successful campaign outcome. Seven years ago, Barack. Obama sold us on the “audacity of hope.” Before that, the great communicator Ronald Reagan used the metaphor of America as “shining city on a hill” to depict his vision for a country ever “stronger,” “freer” and “in good hands.”

Americans may yet yearn for a common vision, despite deep cynicism. The candidate who can communicate an authentic vision for this as-yet early 21st century period will stand out among the crowd. What will the vision be? Hard to tell but likely something akin to our nation as an ever more diverse and changing melting-pot, the rewards of work, and care for others at home and abroad.

6. Time the peak

Jesus had an incredible (if surprising) gift for timing. He know when and how to pull in a crowd and when and how to escape through a crowd unnoticed. He seemingly timed the climax of his career with a triumphal entry surrounded by the praises of the crowd into the streets of Jerusalem – only to be put to death a week later. That result could be viewed as disaster except that, for Jesus, death and resurrection were really the point of it all.

With a presidential race that looks for one party like a marathon and the other like a coronation, the trick is not too peak too soon and certainly not to peak too late. To get to the right place at the right time, humility helps. Picture Jesus’ masterful entry into the holy city on a donkey. Who on the D or R side of the field could pull this off?

7. Wrap it in love

As in 2012, if there is an Achilles heel for the current crop of candidates (whether the few on the Democratic side or the many on the Republican), this is it. The Democratic heir-apparent stands aloof; the Republican wanna be types are engaged but narrowly focused – like the horse that can see neither to the right nor the left.

Look to the example of Jesus. When arrested, Peter showed momentary bravery by slicing off the ear of the of the high priests servant. Jesus healed the ear. When crucified, Jesus prayed that God would “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And after resurrection, to whom did Jesus pay special attention? To Mary Magdalene who had ventured to attend him, to Peter who had betrayed him, to Thomas who doubted him.

Which of the 2016 crop will show this type of caring? Look for the candidate who will be gentle and magnanimous, sharp but patient, whether in victory or defeat.

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