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.