I hear very little public conversation from Southern Baptist pastors on the question of health care reform, although it seems to be a major topic in our culture. I can surmise good reasons why we do not opine frequently and loudly on this issue:
Pastors have a sense that they are not qualified to speak about the nuances of health care, since these discussions often wander into jargon pretty quickly.
“Health care reform” is a topic likely to be divisive in any congregation that contains people from two or more of the following categories: employers, employees, government workers, medical practitioners, unemployed people, retirees. That's every congregation that I know, so pastors who aren't looking for yet another controversy are likely to remain mute on the question of health care reform.
The question of health care reform has become politicized, and therefore many pastors will perceive a danger of seeming to be affiliated with one political party or another based upon what they might say about health care.
In rebuttal, I would like to offer several reasons why pastors might want to try to form and publish an opinion on the matter of health care reform:
Intermingled with the biological, legal, and technological aspects of the discussion about health care reform are several profound moral questions. What level of health care do I as a Christian owe to my neighbor? As one whose citizenship is in Heaven, how much is it moral for me to take away from strangers in an effort to live on longer in this world? Who has the responsibility to provide for the care of my parents? For my children? Do we as pastors really find ourselves unable to address these questions for our congregations? Can we really say that these questions are irrelevant to the faith?
Sickness and death are prominent themes in the Bible and as pastors we have a responsibility to call people to a healthy biblical worldview regarding these issues as well as others. Whenever we have a health care discussion, we're really having a sickness and death discussion. Have our people accepted the fact that they are going to face death, and probably sickness as well? Is it not a matter of discipleship to cultivate in them a faith that survives that realization?
Money is another prominent theme in the Bible. What are just ways to earn it and just ways to spend it? If I spend $500,000 to extend my life by three days, is that good stewardship? If I spend $12,000 per year in order to have a health insurance plan that will subsidize my elective surgeries, is that good stewardship? What percentage of our Gross Domestic Product is it good stewardship for us to spend on drugs and procedures and tests? What if I am spending not my money, but somebody else's? Does that change things? Surely God has something to say about these questions.
The Bible strongly commends generosity. What is the role of charity in health care? Is the Bible silent to guide us in considering these questions?
It seems to me that this debate is in desperate need of the input of people precisely like Southern Baptist pastors, at least to place before people some of the clear teachings of the Bible to consider as we address foundational questions underlying our opinions about health care related issues.