When I was young I remember my grandfather (when he was alive) and my grandmother telling me stories of how everyone in the United States sacrificed for the war effort during WW II-- enduring regular and scheduled blackouts, saving tin, and making do with what had been rationed. They felt it important to sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves and their daily routine.
I highlight those memories only to ask a question: What has happened to the notion of sacrifice in America? After 9/11, when the World Trade Center lay in ruins, then Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani told us that as a people, the best way to fight terrorism was to go to the movies, and then President George W. Bush motivated us to go shopping. The way to fight terrorism it seemed was through consumerism-- greed that would put Al Qaeda back on its heels.
In reference to the current health care debate, President Barack Obama is doing exactly the same thing. He keeps promising health care for everyone that will be better than what we have currently, that will not cut medical care, that will drive down costs, and that will not cost the average consumer a dime in new taxes; and it will not raise the already out-of-control deficit. Not only does no one who has seriously studied the issue believe this, but it is the same mantra we continue to hear from politicians in both parties-- we will give you everything and it will cost nothing-- except for the rich, of course, because we hate them.
I do not entirely blame former President Bush nor President Obama for this situation of non-sacrificial politics-- as voters we better be honest and admit that is exactly what we want to hear from candidates and elected officials-- we will give you everything and you do not need to sacrifice one little bit. If George Bush had told us that the war on terror would have required a severely restricted way of life, he would not have served a second term. If President Obama were to decide to tell us that we would have to do with less in order to give basic health care to everyone (however that is achieved), he would definitely not be re-elected in 2012.
This is not a post on President Bush's foreign policy, nor is it an evaluation of President Obama's domestic policy. It is a post on why sacrifice has become such a four-letter word in American culture, and it seems by extension, the church. The church argues over whether health care is a right or a commodity, when we should be asking what each congregation can do to help someone in need of health care. It is estimated that their are 450,000 church congregations in the United States. Is it not possible for each church to decide to cover the health care of just one family inside or outside the church? Would it solve the problems of all the uninsured in America? Clearly not! But we would be able to give almost a half a million people access to health insurance, and it could and likely would impact the very debate we are having in the United States. By our actions we would be saying to Washington DC, "You would be a better empire if you provided access to health care for your people."
But only the context of sacrifice would even consider such an idea. The fact that most churches, I dare say, have not even considered the possibility betrays the lack of sacrifice, the lack of interest in embodying the sacrificial love of Christ to the world. Don't get me wrong-- it is not that churches are not generous-- they are-- they are just not reflective of what it means to be generous in a sacrificial way-- in the way that reflects the cross of Jesus Christ to the world.
After 9/11 George Bush gave me no help in suggesting how I might sacrifice for those whose lives were changed forever. Since President Obama has been in office he has given me no counsel as to how I might sacrifice for someone else who has no medical insurance. The question I must face is why should I even expect that? I believe that George Bush and Barack Obama are decent men who want what is best for the country, but they are so helplessly stuck in the midst of the Principalities and Powers that rule this world, it makes it impossible for them to convey such prophetic truth. Only the preachers, the prophets who stand before their people every Sunday, are able to proclaim such commitment; and if they won't their laity will.
Let me be clear-- I support basic and affordable health care for everyone. I am skeptical of the "public option" only because I am doubtful that the government can pull it off competently, nothing more. But in the midst of the debate over how the Principality and Power called the United States can initiate health care reform, I believe that the church should be ahead of the game and work to cover as many people as it possibly can, and thereby demonstrate a powerful witness to others concerning what is possible. The church is a sleeping giant with resources available to it, both spiritual and physical, that can shake the very foundations of every civilization, but they are under-utilized because we continue to think the nation-state is where the real action is. We continue to believe that Caesar is more effective in accomplishing tasks than the people of God brought into existence by nothing less than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And I believe that the only thing that keeps the church from this is the individual Christian addiction to two new cars in the garage with big payments, credit card debt, and over-priced vacations to Disney World-- in other words,-- our lack of commitment to the Kingdom of God.
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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian