Last week I posted a very long post explaining why I was against universal health care. There was a comment posted that I’ve seen in various forms all over the place:
I certaintly don’t see any “christians” coming into the neighborhoods where I work offering a solution to why a mother of three who works 40 to 50 hours a week to support her family by herself is not entitled to see a doctor.
As a Christian, I don’t believe we’re entitled to anything. If anything, we deserve everlasting punishment but by God’s grace through Christ we do not get what we deserve. That aside, the ‘mother of three’ certainly can go to the doctor. Who said she can’t? Nothing is stopping her even now. Unless we want our doctors to work for free, all we expect is that she pays for it. And if she can’t pay for it, is it really morally justified to take money by force from others to pay for it? If she really can’t afford it, is there a way to help her without committing other immoralities in the process?
This post is not about that, though. I want to focus this post on the first half of the sentence. There is no way to verify her statement here. We don’t know where she works and we don’t know what the people actually believe who ‘come into her neighborhood.’ Moreover, if they were Christians (as I expect many of them are) we’d not know it if they took to heart Jesus’ injunction not to boast about our good deeds or even “let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.” (Matt 6:1-4).
It’s one of those devilish ironies where Christians obeying Jesus can be taken to task for not obeying Jesus. (ie, doing good deeds in secret earns the ‘Christians aren’t doing good deeds’ accusation)
The Christian Church has a PR problem.
In the first place, any regular reader of this blog knows that I take the Church to task like the best of them. The Church could, and should, do much more. But let’s be honest: they actually are doing quite a lot.
Historically, it has been the Church at the forefront in doing good works. For example, Julian the Apostate in the fourth century realized that if he didn’t enact government programs to take care of the poor he’d never be able to make the claim that Christians were pernicious. Slavery was ended by Christians standing up against other Christians. Institutions of higher learning like Harvard and Yale (and hordes of others) were all founded by Christians. Hospitals and medical clinics were founded first by Christians with Christian charity in mind. What tends to happen, though, is all of the good things that Christians have done end up getting secularized. You cannot call Harvard and Yale ‘Christian,’ any more. Nor can you call the local Lutheran-in-the-name hospital in my area, ‘Lutheran.’
This has had the unfortunate effect of giving the impression that Christians don’t care about the needy and are not generous. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some perspective is in order.
Start with this study of giving in America which asserts that Americans donated $307.65 billion to charity in 2008 alone. These are private donations, friends. This is people being generous with their own money, not the money of others. To put it into perspective, we are told that the current health plan will cost 940 billion over the next ten years. Americans donate 1/3 that amount almost every single year. If this were to continue, the government will spend about a trillion in the next ten years while Americans will give, of their own volition and out of their own generosity, more than three trillion dollars. No taxation necessary.
Of this figure, about 100 billion are directly to religious organizations, the highest recipient. Health care organizations get about 20 billion every year. Keep this figure in mind. We shall return to it.
How do these religious organizations spend their money? Well, readers of this blog know that I would say generally not very well and not generally on the right things, which ties into the PR problem we’re discussing here. But even having said this, if we’re going to be fair we will discover that Christians actually are doing quite a bit. I am not very knowledgeable about actual organizations but I could think of three right off the bat and offer them for your consideration:
Compassion International. As far as I know, this organization doesn’t take a single Federal dollar. Yet last year alone, it collected more than $300,000,000 from Christians to ‘adopt a child’ and provide other social services overseas.
Catholic Charities. This organization paid out $25,000,000 in a recent year. In addition to this, Catholic Social Services organizations are incorporated all over the place at the state, county, and dioceses levels. I am not a Catholic and cannot speak with full confidence but I believe these are each separate entities, too. This already large number of 25 million is surely much higher when all organizations are tallied.
Lutheran Social Services. Here again, organizations are organized at the state level rather than the national level, so it isn’t easy to offer a one shot answer, but if we can extrapolate from the 2,500,000 given to LSS just in Wisconsin to the other 50 states I reckon we’d come up with something in the 50,000,000 to 100,000,000 range. Their money, again, comes primarily from individual Christians or Christian organizations like churches.
The truth is that Christians actually are already pretty generous and continue to be active in social programs. Even the money that they give to their churches ends up furthering social causes. Many Christians are at the forefront of providing health services through distinctly Christian organizations. I hate to say it, but it’s probably time that the Christian Church did more to set the record straight.
I mentioned that Americans already pay out 20 billion a year just for health care related causes. I have heard that the cost to insure the people who actually can’t afford it (versus the uninsured who can afford it and choose not to, and versus the illegal aliens who are uninsured) isn’t much more than 20 billion a year. 20 billion is a significant but small proportion of a total number of 300 billion year.
What I’m saying is that the Christian Church could single-handily, out of its own resources and out of its own freely given funds, deal with every one of these people who are without ‘safety net.’
Note, I am not now issuing a defense of the Christian Church. That was in the preceding paragraphs. Now I am issuing a challenge: while I know that there are many who don’t think the Church should be ‘about’ anything other than preaching the Gospel, there is a great opportunity here to show people that we really mean what we say about the Gospel, without taking a single Federal dollar. There is also a great risk: Julian the Apostate is at work even today, and if our good deeds are not evident to the world (1 Timothy 5:24-25) our message of good news will lack credibility- nor will we get any credit for the hundreds of years of continued care for the poor and needy that persists to this date. Rather, the secular state will get the credit.
And if the secular state gets the credit, most people will reason there is no need for the Church. Christian Europe gave its people universal health care, and now Europe is not Christian.
Think about it.