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Week #4. Social Justice Material and Tradition Elements for this Block.

Caring for the One Body

audio: More is Less This American Life episode 391. text: Seeking Justice in Health Care: A Guide for Advocates in Faith Communities, Faithful Reform
for Health Care

Romans 12:1-5 (NRSV). A Litany of Prayer for the Vulnerable Among Us

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1966) Health is not a luxury, nor should it be the sole possession of a privileged few. We are all created btzelem elohim in the image of God and this makes each human life as precious as the next. Rabbi Alexander Schindler

To present the theological issues surrounding the health care reform debates.

Background for Facilitator.

Though the landscape of the national health care reform debate shifts from week to week, many of our largest debates and most fundamental divisions as a nation persist. Advancing and deepening our understanding of the issue beyond the political and into the theological and social justice-oriented is a crucial task for our generation of community and faith leaders.

For this session, please plan to spend 90-120 minutes together. Materials You Will Need.
Device on which to play audio of More is Less. Copies of Seeking Justice in Health Care text (below). Bibles or copies of the Romans passage. Copies of the Litany (below)

Presentation of The Material. 25-75 min.

Present More is Less This American Life episode If time allows, play the whole hour, but the three acts, each about 15 minutes, stand alone well enough to fuel great discussion. The piece was produced in 2009, but unfortunately, though some legislation has shifted, the underlying

injustices and problems described in the show persist today. Following the audio clip(s), present the following text to be read individually/silently.

Seeking Justice in Health Care: A Guide for Advocates in Faith Communities (Post-Reform ed. June 2010) Produced by Faithful Reform for Health Care
Why was/is Health Care Reform So Difficult? -- The Moral Dilemma (p. 34) The underlying challenge in our on-going struggle to transform U.S. health care is the absence of a strongly articulated moral vision. Without a guiding moral imperative for affordable quality health care for all, reform efforts remain locked in conflict over competing views of who we are as a nation and where our responsibilities lie in caring for one another. At the core of the debate is the age-old moral dilemma: Am I my brothers or sisters keeper? Are we all responsible for making health care accessible to everyone? Or is health care an individual responsibility? Since the beginning of human history, we have questioned just how much responsibility we have for one another. Some even ponder whether we have any responsibility at all to care for anyone but ourselves and our loved ones. The question of social responsibility is particularly challenging in a country that exalts rugged individualism. Our delight in rags-to-riches stories and our admiration of those who succeed in spite of insurmountable obstacles are woven into the fabric of American life. The question of responsibility for one another is repeated in every generation and time when the need for social reform emerges. Our desire to transform our countrys system of health care sets the stage for posing that question now: Are we responsible for making health care accessible to everyone or not? Dialogue Around Communal Values (p. 65) The cultural identity of our nation is rich with values: individual responsibility, hard work, independence, self-expression, courage, respect for others, tolerance, and democracy, to name a few. Our political traditions and ideologies along differing sets of these shared values. Over time, in response to economic and political events, particular values ebb and flow, with some values becoming more dominant and some fading only to rise again. In the United States, those who align with liberal political perspectives tend to pursue more legislative solutions to community needs, thus supporting the role of governments in solving social and economic problems. Universal health care, therefore, is a value which has rested more comfortably with the liberal constellation of values. Conservatives, on the other hand, have been suspicious about universal health care. They celebrate the ability of markets to solve social and economic problems, and support the individuals role in making choices within those markets. They prefer smaller government and reduced taxes, and resist anything they perceive to be government interference in their lives. In contrast, European conservatives are strong supporters of systems of universal health care. Their conservative perspectives on universal coverage affirm three things (at least):

1. Individual responsibility includes the ability to take care of oneself. Illness that goes untreated because the patient is unable to pay for health care makes care for self and family more difficult, thus threatening independence and risking the possibility of being dependent upon others. 2. Voluntary insurance promotes irresponsible free riding. When someone who chooses not to buy insurance becomes injured or seriously ill and cannot pay for needed care, the costs are shifted either to those who have voluntarily purchased insurance or to the government which must make up the difference through taxes. 3. It is not necessarily the governments role to run the health system; it is the governments role to set up rules of equitable financing, equal access, and fair compensation, even in systems of private care. In times of prosperity, our culture tends to celebrate the individual; in times of economic trouble, such as the Great Depression and our current recession community values and solutions become more prominent. Perhaps that helps explain why the numbers of persons who supported health care reform because it was the right thing to do actually increased during the debate. Perhaps that is why people of faith and others who are seeking justice in health care are turning to values-based dialogue and discernment around this issue. Surely, a deeper understanding of the implication of values that put the common good and people first may help us find more civil ways to move forward. In the months and years ahead, as regulations are developed and the provisions of reform are implemented, people of faith can be key facilitators of civil discourse and the kind of values-based reflection that can lead to the transformation of hearts and minds around the moral imperative of health care for all. By engaging in such a process we will contribute not only to different thinking about the health needs of persons in our midst, but also what it means to reclaim the soul of our nation and live out our commitment to the common good.

Gut Response. 8 min.

Give participants five to eight minutes to get initial responses to this material down on paper. Encourage them include intellectual and emotional reactions, what their favorite bit/quote is, and anything in between.

Engagement of the Material: Group Activity/Reflection. 30 min.

Engage the group in discussion around both the This American Life episode and the Faithful Reform material. You might begin by soliciting general impressions. Here are some additional fire-starter questions. What makes health care reform a theological issue? Dig deep, brainstorm 5 or more answers! Which This American Life vignette/focal point most interested you? What was surprising (or not) about the European conservative perspectives listed in the Faithful Reform piece?

How far does our responsibility to care for one another extend? What makes this issue tricky? How do issues of race, class and other oppressive divisions weave through the health care reform debate? What personal testimony (from your own life or someone you know) about the injustice of our health care system? Thinking back to April, how does food relate to health? Where do you find good food? What happens when you do not have access to good food?

The Tradition. 10 min.

Read aloud Romans 12:1-5. Read twice, alternate readers.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of Godwhat is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

Allow for a couple minutes of silent reflection, then ask the group: What are the multiple biblical mandates for quality health care manifested in this passage?

Synthesis. 5 min.
Heads/Hearts/Hands Go around the circle and have each participant name one thing they take from this session that they will think about (head), something they are feeling (heart), and one thing they want to do with the new information they have (hands).

Prayer. 10 min.
Distribute copies of the litany to all in the group. Invite five readers as indicated below.

A Litany of Prayer for the Vulnerable Among Us

Reader #1: We are the millions of men and women in our national community whofor a variety of reasons: downsizing, outsourcing, restructuringwill wake up one day this year to learn that we no longer have a job. Added to the stress of finding a new job, well also have to figure out how to continue to provide health care for our families. If we are fortunate to have health insurance, we will be faced with paying more at a time when we are trying to make do with less.

Response: "You are or have been one of us. We know or have known others. We care for you and we pray for you, remembering that we are all brothers and sisters." (Moment of silence) Reader #2: We are the 4 million people in our national community who will celebrate a 19th birthday this next year. As we blow out the candles on the cake, we may be marking the loss of our health insurance. Our society will ensure that if we call the fire department, someone will respond. It will not offer us the same guarantee for our health. Response: "You are or have been one of us. We know or have known others. We care for you and we pray for you, remembering that we are all brothers and sisters." (Moment of silence) Reader #3: We are the 5 million children in our national community whose lack of health insurance sets up a barrier to good health. We are children in a nation that works to make sure we each have a basic education. We are children in a nation which ignores that we need a similar guarantee for health care. Response: "You are or have been one of us. We know or have known others. We care for you and we pray for you, remembering that we are all brothers and sisters." (Moment of silence) Reader #4: We are the 30 million workers between the ages of 18 and 64 who earn less than $9 an hour. Those of us who work full-time earn $18,800 a year. Many of us are the store clerks, mechanics, dry cleaners, and restaurant workers you meet. Our nation relies on our work to keep American humming along. We typically have no health insurance. We make too much to get health care from public health programs. We often end up in emergency rooms for care because we have no other place to go. Response: "You are or have been one of us. We know or have known others. We care for you and we pray for you, remembering that we are all brothers and sisters." (Moment of silence) Reader #5: We are the 18,000 people who will die this year because we do not have the security of health care that comes with having insurance. Out of pride, out of shame, out of fear or because we simply dont have the money to go to the doctor we will ignore signs that our health may be in jeopardy. If we do get medical attention it will be too late. Response: "You are or have been one of us. We know or have known others. We care for you and we pray for you, remembering that we are all brothers and sisters." (Moment of silence) ALL: Almighty God, you know the names and faces of those most vulnerable. You know we all suffer when any among us suffer. Help us to see ourselves as one body, Your body. Give us the vision and energy to heal the sick systems of our communities, for the health of Your body. In Christs name, Amen. Adapted from Readings from the Uninsured in Vision and Voice: Faithful Citizens and Health Care, Session 1, accessed at