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A World Without Pain (warning: religious content)

       One of the main arguments against Christianity is the whole ” how could a loving God allow such suffering, poverty, evil, disease, etc., etc.” question.  The 2 main explanations I’m familiar with (grossly oversimplified) are: 1. God gave us free will and we mess things up ( if God chose freedom over PERFECTION we should probably value it too….)& 2. He uses suffering to bring us closer to Him, and to refine us. I can’t help reflecting on this with relation to healthcare.

       What do we stand to lose by trying to and government ourselves into a world without suffering? What if you artificially eliminate the risk of poverty by forceably transfering money from the wealthy to the poor? ( Every country that tries that just seems to end up with everyone being poor, but let’s say you could.)  Well – it seems likely that more and more people would fail to recognize their dependence on God and to look to government for (at least earthly) salvation. “Give us this day our daily bread” would not have much meaning if government was guaranteeing provision. Tight finances create a really concrete opportunity to trust God on a day to day basis….

      That’s not to callously suggest that we should sit back and let people suffer so they can grow closer to God. The Bible endlessly commands us to care for the poor (It would be worth investigating why charitable giving doesn’t happen on a larger scale.) but there is a world of difference between cheerful and generous voluntary giving and humble, grateful receiving versus money extracted by threat of force from a grudging, possibly resentful benefactor to be doled out to a grumbling, and probably resentful charge. If the priest in “Les Miserables” had been forced to give away his silver – would it have had a life changing impact?  The power of the gift was in the priest’s love and compassion – not simply the monetary value. Admittedly I am citing fiction, but there is great power in charity that comes from the heart, great power in having been show kindness and mercy. To reduce it all to a battle over resources can hardly help but breed resentment and class warfare.

     Healthcare is an incredibly complicated issue and I don’t mean to be reductive, but I can’t help but think there is a big spiritual issue behind it. Where do you put your trust- God or government? Maybe it is time for those of us who are Christians to look into greatly increasing the impact of private charity – so as to witness to nonbelievers and to show people can be trusted to be compassionate without any help from the IRS.

     Then, of course, there’s the cost to freedom. Individual mandates would force young and healthy independent contractors, artists, entrepreneurs and anyone else who doesn’t get insurance through their job (and suddenly fewer jobs may offer it) to be saddled with the heavy burden of having to buy insurance they don’t want or need. This limits or at least impedes their options, their willingness to invest and to take risks, their time not spent working, their ability to save, to buy a home, etc., etc. There’s been a lot of talk about making the rich pay more taxes, but the bigger blow would be to people like me who are far from rich and  choose not to buy insurance because of the high costs (due to few options and community ratings) and (in my case) a less than stellar network of doctors. Then there is the blow to medical knowledge.  Health insurance doesn’t cover holistic medicine which – in my view- could provide the answer to a curing a lot of chronic conditions that conventional medicine cannot.  If everyone is forced to buy insurance, that likely will limit the money they have to spend on alternative treatments. Those are just a couple of ways that Obamacare would limit freedom that I haven’t seen mentioned much in the many excellent discussions on the subject.

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