Editor’s Note: One of the ironies of modern American politics is that many people who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ are among the most vociferous advocates of war, the most disdainful of the poor and the staunchest defenders of personal wealth.

In this guest essay, Baptist minister Howard Bess also notes the disparity between Christ’s interest in healing the sick and the corporate/political resistance to plans for providing universal health care to the American people:

In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, the writer tells the story of a man that had been crippled for 38 years. Jesus asked him a simple question: “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus told him to stand up and walk, and so he did.

This story is one of many healing stories that were chronicled and that made it into the printed pages of our Bibles. People, who were the contemporaries of Jesus, are no different from the masses of people in our modern world. They want to live in healthy bodies. 

Apparently, Jesus never avoided sick people. Rather, he called upon whatever powers were available to him and brought healing to people.

One of the games played by Bible scholars is to debate what we really know about Jesus from Nazareth. Elaborate rules are set to determine the authenticity of the material found in the four gospels.

Applying those rules, lists of “what we know about Jesus” are developed. The usual list contains eight to 15 items. I have never seen such a list that did not include Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed.

We do not know a lot of details about the healing ministry of Jesus. When we read the healing stories of Jesus, we recognize immediately that we are dealing with a 2,000 year old culture.

People, who were called physicians, had little resemblance to the people we call physicians today. They had no concept of bacteria or a virus and had no understanding of the impact of a “balanced” diet.

All that we can honestly assert about Jesus is that he was concerned about people’s bodies and their physical well-being. About 20 percent of all the Bible stories that we have about Jesus have some sort of reference to his healing powers.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus have a hard time denying the interest Jesus had in the physical health of people. …

Just now the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are debating universal health care for all Americans.

The uneven distribution of health care in the United States is scandalous. Of the 39 industrialized countries of the world, the United States of America is the only one of the 39 that does not provide universal health care for its citizens.
 
There is good reason for the U.S. House and Senate to address the need for universal health care for our citizenry. Many of us believe health care for all is a demand of the “general welfare” provision of the U.S. Constitution.

As a Christian, I see the “general welfare” provision and the healing Jesus as working partners.

On July 12, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” commented that “the United States has the finest health care in the world.” He told a half-truth. The statement would have been true only if he had added “for those who can afford it.”

A close friend commented recently “In the United States we do not have a health care system. We have a health care industry.” It is the American health care industry that stands between health care and millions of Americans.

The American health care industry is dominated by insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. These are American institutions that have neither soul nor conscience. They have only a bottom line.

My wife and I receive excellent health care. We are retired and so have the benefit of Medicare coverage. In addition because of my past employment, we have access to affordable supplementary health care insurance. We choose our physicians.

The overhead for the U.S. government to run Medicare is 3 percent. Major insurance companies that provide health care insurance average 30 percent overhead. 

American pharmaceutical companies regularly sell medicines outside of the United States for lower prices than they charge inside the United States.

Yet both industries are spending billions of dollars warning Americans about government involvement in medical care.

As a follower of Jesus from Nazareth, I ask all who have taken the name Christian to remember that 1) Jesus was committed to giving people healthy bodies, 2) that Jesus had a priority commitment to the poorest of the poor, and 3) that his warnings to the wealthy and the selfish were relentless.

This is called Bible 101.

The Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.  His email address is hdbss@mtaonline.net     

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