Death by Friends and Relatives

While discoursing, during his final week in Jerusalem, on the fate of the temple, Jesus tells his disciples that not only will it be laid to ruins (“not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down” Luke 21: 6), but also that some of them – the disciples, that is – will be put to death by “relatives and friends” (21: 16).

This will happen before the final and conclusive reign of God, according to Jesus.

From the sounds of those who campaigned in the recent congressional elections against the health care bill passed in March, one could get the impression that dismantling that legislation, virtually provision by provision, would be the critical piece of evidence for the forthcoming ushering in of God’s Kingdom.

Like the temple in ruins should be cause not for alarm but glee, so the destruction of the Affordable Health Care for America Act should be viewed not with fright but with relish.

Hurray for repudiating the dangerous concept that health care is a universal right and and cheers for reaffirming the free market doctrine that health care is a commodity that ought to be purchased like everything else that has a price!

Although I haven’t lived in my home state of South Dakota for fifty years, I still read the Sioux Falls Argus Leader every day (on-line, to be sure) and follow religion and politics there as if I were still a resident. So I had been disappointed that the Democratic representative from the State (given the size of our population, we only have one) voted against the reform legislation last March as a leader in the so-called Blue Dog Coalition, yet was heartened that during her campaign for re-election Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandin said she would not favor repealing it.

But evidently that shift in stance was too much for “friends and relatives” in South Dakota. She was ousted by Tea Party-supported Kristi Noem, who, after her election, put the repeal of the federal health care reform bill at the top of her legislative priorities. The Argus Leader quoted her as saying, “I would support a full repeal of that health care legislation,” although she believes, more realistically, that the law will be dismantled by a Republican controlled House of Representatives refusing to fund the bill’s incremental implementation.

Representative-elect Noem is not alone. Two days after the election, the Washington Post reported that “Leaders of the new Republican majority emerged emboldened Wednesday, promising to slash the size of government and setting their sights on repealing President Obama’s signature health-care overhaul.” (Washington Post, 10/4/10)

If that doesn’t work at the federal level, GOP leaders have already devised a second front for attack: at the state level. The Republicans picked up eleven governorships in the recent elections, which will mean they will hold executive power in 24 states, and they will control 25 state legislatures (eleven more than is currently the case). Their state-based plan isn’t foolproof, since the federal government can provide health care insurance plans in states that elect not to establish the “exchanges,” making it possible to secure insurance with federal subsides. Still, with assaults on both the federal and state fronts, there is a good chance that health care reform will be severely crippled.

Thus, it appears that the millions of Americans without health insurance who thought there might be hope for coverage, even if some would have to wait until 2014 (because of provisions in the bill), will find themselves insurance-less for the long term.

The stark reality is that, yes, many of them will die.

Why?

Because, to use the language of Jesus, they were betrayed by “friends and relatives” who believed in a religion of free markets that should be applied universally as a sign of their god’s final and conclusive reign.

I just don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind back there during his final week in Jerusalem.

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