Would Jesus Make You Buy Health Insurance?

“What is the Christian response to healthcare reform?”

Facebook & Twitter are great for those kind of trap questions, aren’t they?

An incredibly complex topic (does anyone really know all the ramifications of reforming or not reforming?) about a controversial American bill (does anyone really know everything that is in this thing?) and you’ve got 140-characters to concisely explain the Bible’s definitive view (does anyone really know what 1st century Jesus & his disciples would actually think about 21st century American healthcare?) on something you’re really not sure about.  Hahaha… classic.

And yet, I’ve found myself answering this and a bunch of similar questions online a lot this week.  Really, they are the questions I’ve been asking in my head too, struggling to formulate an opinion.  Questions like:

“What is the Christian view of healthcare reform?”

I’ve read literally dozens of articles and blogs in recent days seeking to answer this very question.  Some people say that when Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” that he had this type of idea in mind: a society that progresses and values those who have more giving to those who have less.  Jesus, they say, would be all for this type of bill.

Other people use the same quote from Jesus to explain that he meant uncoerced, self-sacrificial love, not compelled assistance of those around us.  Jesus, they say, was not discussing government intervention, but individual generosity.  Clearly, Jesus would be against this type of bill.

“What would Jesus say about healthcare reform?”

He’d love it!  He’d hate it!  He compels us to support it!  He demands we reject it!  The views out there are strong, compelling and fairly exhaustive.

I can literally scroll through the newsfeed on Facebook and place people into their camp.  I read status updates like:

“healthcare reform is a sign of the end times.”

“win for Jesus, as healthcare reform passes.”

“I’m moving to Canada…wait… ughhhh”

“should we rename Reagan International Airport after Obama or Pelosi?”

I mean, who needs a USAToday poll about what people think when I can just read it on Twitter?

Now, of course, everyone’s got an opinion.  I myself have an opinion.  But, it turns out that Jesus has the same opinion we do too.  Whether we are pro-reform bill or anti-reform bill, it appears that Jesus is too.  We quote Jesus and explain our correct theology and justify why Jesus is on our side and not on the other.  But the reality is, either Jesus has gone schizophrenic or we have.  And one way or the other, God has some serious mental illness in his family.

“What do YOU think about healthcare reform?”

Maybe that’s a better question.  I’m not trying to ride the fence here and take the easy way out.  I’m not gonna say I think both sides are right and try and appease everyone.  I definitely have an opinion on this topic (however ill-informed it may be).  But, let me just OWN it.  It’s my opinion.  I don’t know what Jesus thinks.  My politics aren’t necessarily Jesus’ politics.

I formulate opinions based off what I believe to be true about Jesus, but as with many things in life, I operate out of faith and in environments where I don’t see clearly.  I stumble through decisions and opinions, praying they reflect Jesus heart, but sometimes unsure; many times evolving and changing as I learn and grow.

“What does Nick think, right now, about healthcare reform?”

I’m in favor of this healthcare reform.  I think its good for a whole lot of reasons that many other people have at great length explained.  But, I’m not writing this to convince you to agree with me or to argue that Jesus does.  In fact, I’m hesitant to say what I really think for fear it will come across that way.  I’m only saying what I think to show I’m not neutral.  I have an opinion.

But, it’s MY opinion.  I don’t speak for Jesus when it comes to politics.  No one does.

Does Jesus have a strong opinion about healthcare reform? Maybe.  But, he hasn’t ever told it to me.  I have absolutely zero words from Jesus (in the Bible or audible discussion) addressing the specific topic of the American healthcare system in 2010.  Everything I think and endorse in this arena is at best my limited view of what I “think” Jesus would approve of, and I’m completely open to thinking that possibly Jesus doesn’t really care one way or the other.

“So, Jesus isn’t on either side?”

Actually, I think it is a bit more profound than that.  Jesus is on BOTH sides.

As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed I see many good people that I call “friends” outside a computer screen who deeply love and try to follow Jesus.  And as I divide them into their pro and anti reform bill categories, it occurs to me that I don’t have the market on Jesus any more than they do.

My anti-reform bill friends are trying their best in their experiential framework of life to reflect Jesus in the same way that I am with my framework.  We both agree that Jesus says, “Love your neighbors as yourself,” we just have different conclusions about what that looks like in Seattle, Washington in 2010.

When I claim Jesus is on my side, I’m right.  But so are they.

Will we ever agree on American politics?  Probably not.  But maybe we don’t need too.  Maybe we just don’t need to make Jesus agree with us either.

The End of Christian America

[great article link at the bottom of this post!]

Until recently, I lived in the most “unchurched” region of the country.

Now apparently, that designation has switched (very slightly) from the Northwest part of our country to the Northeast (though really “church” hasn’t been popular in either region for years).  But, whether we are first in “lack of churchiness” or second, if there is one thing I know it is living in a post-Christian religion environment.

Newsweek coverWhich is why it interested me to read several articles recently that seemed to indicate what many of us have thought for years, that the rest of the country is catching up to us… in godlessness, that is.   [see “The End of Christian America” and  “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”]

Recent studies find that American people are exiting the Christian religion in greater numbers than ever.  Be it evangelical, mainline, etc, America is losing it’s religion.

So what does this mean?  Well, I suppose that depends on who you ask.  Many people think that it isn’t exactly ideal.  I have heard many well-meaning preachers proclaim it as the beginning of the end; the ushering in of Armageddon.  Ahhh, you premillenialist friends are always looking for the signs of the end, aren’t you?  =)

But, it isn’t among just preachers.  There is panic among many everyday Christians.  There is fear that what has been the driving force of morality in this country is going to erode and leave their children depraved and godless.  I have sat in a pew next to many parents who feel this tension all too keenly.  Even in Seattle (where we have a several decade head start in living in this environment) the church (generally), is characterized by great fear in this arena.  It seems as though this decline in the Christian religion–at least in the form we are accustomed to–can only be a bad thing.

Now, before going any further, I’d like you to know that I understand this fear.  I think I understand why many of my brothers and sisters, whom I love, feel this way.  It is indeed scary to see the moral/religious fiber of your country shaken.  I can sympathize with this uncertainty.

christian_america2However, I think our fear may be causing us to behave strangely.  If you read this blog, you know that I often call-out the apparent un-Christlikeness of the church.   In doing so, I am not meaning to say that I don’t believe in Jesus.  I do.  I believe Jesus has opened the fullest and most meaningful way of life for all people.  I want more people to experience this life, not less.  And, I am not trying to say I don’t believe in the church.  Christians don’t necessarily have bad intentions.  I simply think we need to be very careful and think extremely critically about our methods of communicating a message.  Too often, the methods have become the message.  Too easily we believe that we should use any means necessary to convey our point and “the ends justify the means” should never be the attitude of Christ’s people.  Especially as it relates to the fear of “losing our Christian nation.”

Fear of the end of Christian America.

Because of this fear, we have seen (I believe) many Christians behaving in ways that do not show love.  Whether it is the polarizing political attempt to legislate Christianity, the stereotyping generality of protest signs or simply the attempt to shame those who are perceived as the danger through our bumperstickers, t-shirts and slogans.

Because of fear we have reacted poorly.

But, perhaps, we do not need to fear this decline so much as we have thought.  Maybe what we feel we need to protect doesn’t need protected at all.  Maybe, the cause of Christ could be advanced in a much more meaningful way if what we are scared to lose was really to disappear.

You see, living in Seattle, I have heard for as long as I can remember about how non-churched this region is.  I grew up knowing that I was among less than 10% of my local population that attended any type of church each week.   I heard these statistics as a teenager, while in Bible college and beyond in ministry.  I was taught that I was the only beacon of religion in a depraved land.

But, as I’ve hung out with people, got to know them and seen many of them make decisions to follow the life and example of Jesus with their lives authentically, I have learned that these statistics are a bit misleading.  The reality of my interaction with people in this “godless” land is not as dire as I had been made to believe.  In fact, while we may be declining in religious fervor, I have found people here to be more spiritually open to discussion than ever before.

Almost no one that I meet anymore is unwilling to have a spiritual discussion with me, as long as it is honest and not aimed at “converting” them.   And though this seems strange to some of you, I actually think that the message of Jesus is finding more traction in this culture that we fear than in the one we felt comfortable in previously.  It is almost as if the dismantling of the “civic religion of Christianity” is helping people to rediscover the Jesus behind this cultural influence.

church_stateOf course we all know people that would label themselves “Christian” though they make no attempt to follow and model the life of Jesus.  This country, since its beginning, has been labeled by the same generic label, “Christian.”  It has become a cultural and national label rather than an affiliation with the personhood of Jesus.  This faux Christianity, I contend, has actually made it much more difficult to lead people to authentic relationship with Jesus.  And to see it decline, in some odd sense (to some of you) gives me great hope for the future.

I believe we live in the greatest moment for followers of Jesus in the history of our world (and country).  I believe that this decline is preparing the soil (and has already) for a much deeper commitment to Jesus in the hearts of people than we have seen in our lifetimes.   It is not a day for fear, but for great expectation.  It is a great day to be a follower of Jesus!

I have included a link below to a blog by Greg Boyd.  His excellent blog lays out several reasons not to fear this decline.  Hopefully, it will be very helpful to some of you.

“Don’t Weep for the Demise of American Christianity”

But he also has two excellent books on this subject.  The second of which just came out last week and is fantastic.  Both of these books should be required reading for Christians in America.  If you haven’t read them, please consider picking up a copy this week.

themythofachristiannation

myth of a christian religion

Lord, Save Us from Your Followers

Several days ago, i was walking out of a Walmart when i saw a guy standing behind some tables right beyond the door. Somehow, i hadn’t seen him going in, but i noticed him immediately as i walked out. He was, after all, hard to miss with his many political signs.

“Life in prison for all child molesters!”

“Stop destroying human life in Iraq!”

People like that intrigue me. I have some pretty strong beliefs about issues like that too, but i’ve never been outside walmart displaying my beliefs on a sign.

So, i walked up to the man to have a conversation. I was curious. I didn’t really know what he was trying to say with his signs. I wasn’t even sure whether i would agree or disagree with him. I simply wanted to talk and try to understand his perspective on these issues. Maybe, and i know this is a long shot, he would say something that would help me think about these concerns that i hadn’t considered before. I just wanted a conversation.

“You wanna sign my petition?” He asked.

“No. Not yet anyway. I was just hoping you could tell me a little bit about your perspective on these issues.”

“Well,” he replied, “if you sign this one you will be helping us get rid of all the tax that is in the cost of gasoline in the State of Washington.”

Ok. I don’t like the price of fuel, but i wasn’t really there to sign anything. I simply wanted to talk.

“What about this whole child molester thing? What is your perspective about that issue?”

He pointed to a one sentence paragraph on the top of another petition. “Just read it. It’s right there.”

The sentence said something to the effect of raising the maximum penalty for first-time child sex-predators to life in prison. But, really, i had already got that from the sign. I was looking for a little discussion on the ramifications of that and why he thought that this might be the best solution.

So getting a little frustrated, I replied, “Ok, but what is YOUR perspective on this? How would this work?”

“Look,” he said. “Your not voting for it right now. Your just signing so it gets on the ballot and we can let people vote on it later. Why don’t you sign this one over here, it’s about bringing home the troops from Iraq.”

“Well, i’m not really sure i want to sign anything right now,” I re-stated. Was he even hearing me or just repeating what he had been trained to say. “I just wanna tal-.”

“Aright, are you planning on signing anything or am i just wasting my time?” he blurted out, cutting me off and getting annoyed.

“Well, no, i don’t think i’m gonna sign anything.”

No sooner had i said those words than he turned his back to me, started setting up another part of his display and completely ignored me.

So much for conversation.

Seems like it is hard to have a real conversation with people anymore, doesn’t it? Rather than sit down and discuss complex problems such as child-molesters, fuel costs, and war and their equally complex solutions, we would often rather reduce our personal beliefs to a simple sentence and see how many people will sign off with their approval. If you don’t agree, or in my case aren’t sure, well then we just don’t have time for you.

It is no wonder we live in such a divided nation.

I suppose my interaction that day got me thinking about my own response to people around me when they aren’t in agreement with my personal beliefs or haven’t come to a solid conclusion yet. It got me thinking about church and the way we as a group deal with people who don’t see life our way, or have yet to really decide one way or the other.

Maybe I have been as guilty as this petition-guy, at not getting involved in the humble and messy endeavor of “conversation” or “dialogue” and been too quick to dismiss people. Maybe the church that i love has been too eager to do the same.

That is why a new movie that is just coming out has been so powerful to me. Now, i’m not normally in the business of promoting movies, but in this case the movie itself carries a message that i think we all need to hear.

The movie: “Lord Save us from Your Followers.www.lordsaveusthemovie.com


We recently screened this movie at our church, with the director of the movie, Dan Merchant, there to help explain and discuss what we had seen. Though I was a little nervous about the response, the packed auditorium of people gave it a standing ovation at the conclusion.

The movie is a beautiful breath of fresh air about the need for us to lose ourselves in the lives of others. To look first to the sin inside of us rather than pointing out the sin of others. And most importantly, to exercise humility, compassion and respect in having dialogue with many different people who don’t necessarily agree with any one of our own personal or religious convictions.

It was Dan’s own words this weekend that touched me most. In response to a criticism at the end he responded by saying, ” You are right, the truth does divide. But, lets just make sure it is the truth doing the dividing and not us.”

This is a great movie with a greater message. There is no way i could recommend this movie any higher. It is truly amazing and needed.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, you can screen it at the website: www.lordsaveusthemovie.com. If you have seen it and enjoyed it, there are several other resources i would recommend very highly to you along the same vein.

1) “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd

2) “Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborne

These are two great books that compliment well and continue the discussion.

May we never respond to people the way the petition guy responded to me. And may we always be willing to love and respect others above ourselves.

Near-sighted Committee

Roger Clemens is guilty.

Why am i even writing about this? I guess it is because since i was home helping with the baby for the past few weeks that i was available to watch the entire 5-hour debacle that was Clemens before Congress. And as a huge sports fan and a proud american, i’m not sure which i am most disappointed with: Clemens or Congress.

Now, i know all the evidence isn’t out and there hasn’t exactly been a “real” trial, but i find it very difficult at this point to believe the 7-time Cy-Young winner. His trainer admits to giving him shots of steroids and HGH. His best friend and work out partner admits that Clemens’ trainer gave him HGH. That same friend, under extreme guilt and confession, admits that Clemens told him that he had been using HGH. Chuck Knoblauch, Clemens’ teammate admits that Clemens’ trainer gave him steriods and HGH. Mike Stanton, another teammate, says he saw Clemens bleeding through his pants and confronted him on steriod use. MRI’s from an abscess on Clemens’ butt cheek has been identified by specialists as consistent with injections of Winstroll, a strong horse steroid. And to top it all off, Clemens’ own wife admits that the trainer injected her with HGH in the Clemens’ own master bedroom.

With all of the people Clemens was closest to admitting they used steroids and HGH from McNamee, and many confessing that Roger did too, how do you believe the only voice opposed? Particularly when that voice is the voice of the accused, and the only one with so much to lose.

I doubt this will ever be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court somewhere, but the evidence is increasingly strong. And as a sports fan during this era, i am completely robbed. The best hitter (Barry Bonds) and the best pitcher (Roger Clemens) of my era are total frauds. Almost makes your time and money spent watching supposed history be made feel like an identity-theft scheme.

But, despite my major disappointment in sports, i think i am most disturbed by the people we have somehow elected into Congress! What i saw on tv was the single most embarrassing thing i have seen our government take part in. I mean there were congressman there that didn’t even know how to pronounce the names of the main defendant in the hearing! Rather than seeking the truth of the matter, one congressman even asked what jersey Clemens would be wearing into the hall of fame!

Maybe most sad was the partisanship. To a person, the republicans in the room came in backing Clemens and firing at McNamee. On the other side, each Democrat came in backing McNamee and attacking Clemens. As you watched the hearing, it was blatantly obvious that many had come into the hearing with their minds already made up and some sort of agenda to push. In fact, since each congressman had only 15 minutes to ask questions, most of them either didn’t ask questions and used their time to orate a sermon loaded with their agenda, or they asked questions and never listened to the answer!

There is so much more to be disgusted in that i could be writing this blog forever. However, bottom line, i was embarrassed. If this is how Congress acts investigating baseball (which in the grand scheme of things doesn’t really matter–why are they involved anyway?), how scary is it that they are investigating things that really do matter? If republicans and democrats can’t come together to find truth in a simple game, how can we expect them to ever come together to run a country?

Oversight committee? More like Near-sighted committee.

So, here we are in election season. Makes you wonder whether anyone you vote for can ever effect positive change in a system that is so obviously broken.

Wow. i’m cynical today.