IN RECENT DAYS, people of faith have raised their voices in the healthcare reform debate and started talking about moral values. Many have wondered if this is appropriate or even helpful in such a technical policy discussion. But from the Bill of Rights to the abolition of slavery, from women's suffrage to the civil rights movement, those who have raised the question of "values" have often changed our country for the better. In uncertain times, change can be scary, but it only comes when a nation chooses hope over fear.
Unfortunately, God sent Moses down the mountain with only the Ten Commandments, and not a health-care bill ready to be passed out of committee. There is no single "right" religious position on how health care should be provided. But I believe there are some fundamental moral and biblical principles on which to evaluate any final legislative agreement, principles on which many people of faith--even politically diverse people--might agree.
1 Access to good health care is a right, not a privilege. Jesus healed those who came to him without regard to who they were or to profit. He treated each one with the dignity that comes from being created in the image and likeness of God.
When we are instruments of bringing about good health, we do the work of God. The gospel stories of Jesus healing people, of restoring people to physical wholeness and full participation in their community, always signaled God's presence. As a society, we must make the shift from seeing health care as a privilege to understanding health care as a basic right for all of God's children.
2 United we stand, divided we fall. The division between those who can afford adequate coverage and those who cannot is a threat to our unity and a threat to the health of our neighbors and our nation.
Forty-six million people in our country are uninsured. Millions more who have insurance still can't keep up with their bills. Our moral and religious standards say that no one should be left out of a system simply because they cannot afford to pay.
3 Patients, not profits. No one should be discriminated against in their health care because they are sick. Our current health-care system does exactly that. Health insurance companies often deny coverage for "pre-existing conditions," for necessary medications, or for not following the fine print. Each denial adds to their profit margin.
Every doctor I know decided to pursue medicine to help people, but many insurance companies make a profit by not helping people. …