Montana Politics Steve Daines US Politics

Guest Post: Letter to Senator Daines

Written by Don Pogreba
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by Aaron Schuerr

Dear Senator Daines,

We first met roughly a decade ago when you were the teaching leader for Bible Study Fellowship, before you launched your political career. In that role you were articulate, dynamic, and thoughtful. I recall the phrase, “truths in tension,” how we are predestined by God to be transformed by the love of Jesus, and yet we, as individuals, must strive to follow him. Quite simply, you explained difficult theological concepts in a way that made sense.

During that time, I was the Youth Group leader at our church, and had guest-preached the Sunday sermon. Afterwards you were warm and encouraging, not in an offhanded, “good job” sort of way, but with genuine interest and insight.

You would not have known that during those years my wife and I lacked health insurance. I went without needed medication and suffered from chronic back issues. My wife waited for over a year to get surgery for a torn rotator cuff, (a year in which she could not pick up our three young children or hold them close) until I finally found a doctor that would trade a large painting for the operation. In the world’s greatest economy, we were reduced to bartering for medical care. A year of living with the pain compounded the injury, leading to a more significant surgery and longer recovery.

I’m not being glib to say that we had to live by faith. Though we both worked hard and lived frugally, insurance was well beyond our means.

With the passage of the ACA, my wife and I found a plan that we could afford. I got long needed medication and physical therapy. The result is I am healthy and more productive. Access to healthcare has been transformative for me and my family.

While the concept of predestination is challenging, the overarching message of the gospel is simple and straightforward. “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17) Or, as James writes, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:18) Genuine faith shows genuine results. To be transformed doesn’t mean that we live perfectly, it means we live with grace and love, refined day-by-day by the love and forgiveness of God.

A Christian should be unsentimental in their pursuit of goodness, and free of judgement toward people in need.

Therefore, I am genuinely perplexed by the tweet of Vice President Pence, “Before summer’s out, we’ll repeal/replace Obamacare w/ system based on personal responsibility, free-market competition & state-based reform.” This from a professed Christian. Are there two gospels at work here? One of grace and another of “personal responsibility?”

I am reminded of the warnings of Christ in the Book of Matthew. “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:1-4.)

Christ could heal the sick because he lived amongst them. He was accessible. He touched the leper, put his fingers on the eyes of a blind man, and never turned away from the unclean. He spoke truth to power because he understood the suffering of the people around him.

You, Senator Daines, have insulated yourself from the suffering of your constituents. If you would spend just a day in my community, you would see the absurdity of the “personal responsibility” narrative. We are working, and working hard. Access to healthcare is not about “personal responsibility”, it’s about math. Take away CHIP for my kids and insurance subsidies for my wife and I, and we are faced with a choice: either we pay for health insurance or we pay our mortgage and feed our kids. We cannot do both. Can you imagine being faced with that choice?

I do not understand how you can profess the love of Christ while contemplating casting a vote to strip 23 million people of their health insurance. You argue that a free-market-fix would unleash the economy’s potential and lift millions out of poverty, but where is the evidence?

Are you beholden to your donors, or to Christ? Christ walked amongst the people, he broke bread with the “undeserving poor.” Whom do you break bread with?

I’m asking you to reconnect with the love and grace that you claimed all those years ago in Bible Study Fellowship. I’m asking you to listen to those in need. Your faith should inform your politics, not the other way around.

I am convinced that the greatest threat to the church in America is not from liberals and atheists, it is from self-professed Christians who claim truth and righteousness, but do the bidding of the powerful against the powerless.

Sincerely,

Aaron Schuerr

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

31 Comments

  • The answer is simple. You cannot be a modern-day Republican and a Christian at the same time (Matthew 25: 31-46). Daines and the rest of the party have chosen power and money over faith, and deserve to be voted out of office.

    • Absolute statements declaring whether members of one political party or another can or cannot be Christian is false judgemant, bigotted and wrong.
      Difficult access to health insurance should be corrected and coverage for pre-existing conditions should be maintained in any new health care legislation. Termination of life, especially pain capable life, before birth should be discontinued as well.
      Failure to work towards any of the above is un-Christian behavior but I would not declare one who doesn’t to be non-Christian.

  • There are so many errors of biblical interpretation in that letter (and from a pastor, or former pastor, no less) to even take it seriously. I’m not belittling his circumstances but to suggest that a Christian is required, via the gospel, to support big gov’t and other statist programs is preposterous and, as a believer, offensive and frustrating. And to suggest that the free market has nothing to offer the poor or, more specifically, those that don’t have health insurance is equally myopic. He and his wife could have signed up for Samaritan Ministries and all the procedures he mentioned would have been paid for by others participating in the ministry. As for this notion that Jesus was some kind of socialist here’s a good article… https://fee.org/resources/rendering-unto-caesar-was-jesus-a-socialist/

    • Maybe because Samaritan Ministries is an evangelical organization and he’s not an evangelical. They also like to tell you “how” you must live your life according to a strict biblical principle, the interpretation of which is arbitrary depending on who you ask. Also, their definition of Christian churches are pretty narrow. They wouldn’t consider mainstream protestant churches (Lutheran, Methodists, etc.) a true church by their definition. And they, too, have a pre-existing condition clause. His injury would not have been treated. And neither would his wife’s.

      • All I see in your response to the letter is pharisaic self-righteousness; it comes off as an arrogant judgment, not the compassion of Jesus. May the love of Christ transform and humble all of our hearts.

  • This letter is absurd. He is obviously a religious man and I commend him on his faith. But his letter directly compares or maybe better said he thinks Senator Daines and the government are gods. The Constitution and Bill of Rights declares are rights described by them as god given rights that government cannot take away from it’s citizens. No where in either document does it say we have the right to healthcare. Our forefathers didn’t. I think this gentleman needs to review on who he thinks God is.

    • I believe that health care has evolved a bit since 1791, Todd, but feel free to apply some leeches to any wound you might receive.

    • According to the legend, that socialist dirty fcking hippie you claim to worship gave free health care to anybody that asked for it.

    • The preamble to the constitution says one purpose of our government is to “promote the general welfare”. Allowing citizens to go bankrupt because they get sick or injured would not seem consistent with promoting the general welfare. I don’t see anywhere in the letter any remote suggestion that government is god, in fact our system of government is expressedly of the people and for the people- not just for the executives, shareholders, and corporations. As a people we can do better than to deny health care to our least affluent and most disadvantaged neighbors. If anyone is being absurd- it is people like you Todd, who seem to feel that it is morally acceptable for the citizens of the richest nation on earth to suffer and die because they get dealt a losing hand in the casino we call the US health care system.

      • No one is denying health care to the least affluent among us. Aaron (the author) is not among the least affluent by far. He is a successful, well respected artist who teaches and travels the country regularly. He simply has his priorities figured differently. And why not if someone else can be forced pay for his medical care?

        • You’re correct in that the author isn’t indigent or one of the “least affluent” among us, but that’s exactly the rub. The middle-lower classes, who work hard every day to make enough to take care of their families, are being priced out of healthcare by greedy insurance companies. Until the ACA, he had decided, as many parents do, to live with the constant pain of ailments he couldn’t afford to treat and instead put his earnings toward feeding and sheltering his family. Yes, skewed “priorities” in the mind of someone who thinks healthcare should be a for-profit enterprise. Your response to this wonderfully articulate letter is shallow and laughable.

  • Todd, you are correct in stating that the constitution doesn’t address healthcare. However, Pete is correct in stating that healthcare, among many other things have changed in the many years that have passed since the founding documents
    were written. Hence the amendments. This issue could be resolved with a new amendment gauranteing healthcare as
    a right. I’m sure it won’t happen, but its the right thing to do. Many other countries have done it. If you check, you’ll see
    that they are some of the highest rated countries in which to live.

  • Assuming the ACA is an end-all solution is just as difficult assuming the New Health care bill sponsored by Republicans is a solution for the health crises. An appropriate health care act for America supersedes political intrigue offered by both parties and it should not be debated about as some kind of rag doll needing a cleaning. Kick pharma and others out of the room and talk about people who suffer everyday. So far the best American politicians have done is create rising health policy costs, 3,000 dollar deductibles and Doctors who would rather take-up the legal profession than provide health care for this nation’s citizens. Get with it politicians or your time comes to end!

  • This is a wonderful letter which Daines will ignore as he does all he gets. He sold his soul to McConnell and the party. I write him weekly and have yet received a reply that had anything to do with what I asked him.
    the
    Republican party is as bad as it gets and is egged on by Fox news.

    Thank you for this letter young man!

    • Join the club. Here in Wyoming we are saddled with a Senator that forgot the Hippocratic oath, Barasso, and Enzi, who is in every photo with Trump. It’s not worth mentioning LizCheney. These people hold no town hall meetings and skulk in and out of Wyoming for fundraisers.
      I call their Washington offices. I know it won’t do any good, but I enjoy disrupting someone’s day by reminding the hapless person on the phone that Wyoming still exists.

  • “Personal responsibility” is just another meaningless term from PR hacks who’ve run the GOP since their 1952 convention turned the party over to ad men and Hollywood stage managers. They have no workable policies that fit their slogans. They represent a shirking of social responsibility in pursuit of selfishness and superstition so myopic and destructive they’re aborting humans from the planet. Jah know.

  • So much truth in this heartfelt powerful message. I too ask you Senator think about your average Montana before you cast your vote.

  • Sir, my husband and I (ages 63 and 64) are college graduates and worked all our adult lives, I was a teacher; he was a carpenter. We have been without health insurance for three years because of the Affordable Care Act which increased our premiums to $5,480/mo with $5,000 as our deductible. I know of many others like us.

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