Huffington Post blogger Rob Warmowski asked an important question about health care reform last week: Where are the Christians in this debate?
Not wanting to conflate the religious right with American Christians generally (a rather important distinction), Rob said:
Instead, the Christians I'm wondering about are the millions of ordinary, considered followers of a Bronze Age guy named Jesus, a guy who, to my mind, had some pretty specific things to say about the U.S. health insurance industry and its practices.
The answer: they're organizing in congregations across America, taking to the airwaves, and lobbying on Capitol Hill (often side-by-side with Jews and Muslims dedicated to the same cause).
Just last week, 100 clergy from across America affiliated with PICO National Network came to Capitol Hill to lobby 50 members of Congress to support health insurance reform. These leaders also announced an array of events happening around the country during Congress's August recess: 100 in-district lobbying visits to key Members of Congress, town hall meetings and other public events, and preaching about health care reform in thousands of congregations. Faithful Reform -- an interfaith coalition working for universal healthcare -- includes numerous Christian groups, and they're mounting vigils and prayer services for reform and disseminating resources to clergy across the country in August. (This weekend, hundreds of people of faith held a candlelight vigil in Indianapolis to pray for health care reform.
And those are just the latest examples faith-based activism calling for meaningful reform that makes health care affordable and accessible to all American families. In late June, the Interfaith Week of Prayer for Health Care culminated with a rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington that drew several thousand participants. Last month, a clergy guide on the health care reform debate circulated to thousands of Christian congregations that are tackling the issue. Also in July, the Washington Post's Jacqueline Salmon reported that Christian groups such as Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Sojourners, interfaith groups such as Faith in Public Life and PICO, as well as leaders of congregations across America, are bringing a message of the moral urgency of health insurance reform to the public square:
In recent weeks, hundreds of clergy members and lay leaders have descended on the offices of members of Congress, urging lawmakers to enact health-care legislation this year. With face-to-face lobbying, sermons, prayer and advertising on Christian radio stations, the coalitions are pressing the idea that health care for everyone is a fundamental moral issue.
The Christian radio ads Salmon mentions, which were sponsored by Faithful America, featured local pastors from diverse backgrounds in key areas of Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska and North Carolina this spring and summer. Faith messaging resonates particularly well in these states, which are represented by members of Congress whose support for reform will be critical. Christians, and people of faith more generally, have gained exposure in secular media as well. In the course of my daily scan of faith in politics news, I've come across dozens of stories about Christian leaders speaking out in favor of health care reform, and the coverage isn't limited to national leaders -- local clergy and religious coalitions from Denver to Toledo to Little Rock are getting ink.
Rob's question, even if rhetorical, is important. After all, the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves suggests that Christians should value our neighbors' health care as much as we value our own. That's a tough requirement, but diverse Christians across America, in large numbers and in numerous ways, are making robust efforts to ensure passage of reform that provides quality, affordable health care for all.