I’ve been asked about the recent supreme court case. What is the position of the Lutheran Church?
I wish there was one Lutheran Church. Sadly, there are over two dozen Lutheran bodies in North America. Does the ELCA have a position? Yes the ELCA has position on health care. (We’re for it.)
In fact, I’d say Jesus has a position on health care. One only needs to read the shortest gospel, Mark to be overwhelmed with the number of health care (healing) stories it contains, especially if you include the exorcisms. It takes 45 minutes or less to read Mark’s short 16 chapters. Do it tonight, or tomorrow morning for devotions. You’ll be astounded by the number of healings. If Jesus spent the majority on his ministry offering free health care to the poor, it’s safe to assume he has a position on health care. (He’s for it.)
The church has always been pro health care. The modern hospital is an invention of the church. Jesus called his followers to visit the sick and show hospitality to strangers. Jesus went to the sick because there were no hospitals, only leper colonies. The early Christians cared for the sick. During the plagues, people were terrified of caring for the sick and burying the dead. Christians considered this their duty.
“Hospital” comes from the word “hospitality.” The Council of Nicaea ordered the construction of a hospital in every cathedral town. They provided housing for patients and caregivers. A separate section was built for lepers. Inpatient medical care was driven by Christian mercy.
So yes, we hold the historic Christian position of being pro-healthcare.
It has also been the position of the church that healthcare should be available to all, even the poor — no, especially the poor. No Christian hospital worth it’s salt would turn away a sick person who couldn’t afford care. Who pays for this? We all do. One way or the other. A poor, uninsured man critically wounded in a car accident is med-evaced to a hospital. Do they toss him out on the street? No. Who pays? The hospital. How do they do this? They simply charge you more. You’re already paying for it.
Requiring insurance for those who require medical care (all of us) spreads the cost out. Is it the right thing to do? Some Lutherans believe so. Some do not. Is it constitutional? We don’t know. We’re a church, not a law firm. Most pastors do not have degrees in constitutional law, a complex subject.
So here’s what we can say.
We in the ELCA are a church that is energized by lively engagement in faith and life. We support the importance of open discussion on religious freedom in our society.
We acknowledge that there are diverse viewpoints within the Church. We celebrate that diversity.
As Lutherans we affirm that good government is a gift from God when that authority and responsibility is exercised in the service of its citizens. Government should serve God’s purpose to care for the public welfare of all people with greater equity and compassion.
We believe in health care for all people, especially for people with limited financial means, who often suffer most.
We are committed to providing tangible care and support for the most vulnerable people in our communities. We are a church that believes God is calling us into the world – together. Lutherans here in the United States and around the world are engaged in ministries, programs and projects as a public witness to the gospel of Christ’s love and as service for the public welfare of all.
Our mission work around the world often focuses on building hospitals, providing clean water, eliminating malaria, battling HIV/AIDS, and fighting poverty, because we follow a Jesus who did not separate physical and spiritual needs, who served the poor, who healed the sick, who touched lepers.
We are pro-healing and pro-health care.