Posted by Jim Denison | March 24th, 2017 at 6:42 am
Posted by Jim Denison | March 24th, 2017 at 6:03 am
House Republicans are set to vote this morning on legislation that would replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They hoped to vote on their bill yesterday, but too many conservatives and moderates opposed it. Even if they prevail, their legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
Why is this issue so complicated and divisive?
As one medical ethicist explains, we insist on four values that are difficult to reconcile: high quality of care, freedom of choice, affordability, and a system in which everyone shares both costs and benefits.
Contrast our social values with those of other countries. Nearly all the world’s highly industrialized nations—including Canada, Japan, Australia, and western European countries—have health care systems that provide universal access at significantly less cost than in the US. However, to pay for their health care, these societies typically limit insurance options. The UK also restricts the adoption of high-cost medical innovations. And these nations generally impose limits on fees providers can charge and on pharmaceutical prices.
For many Americans, the system prior to the ACA worked well. It offered a wide range of medical options and excellent care at a price they considered affordable. However, this system was too expensive for many others. As costs escalated, the gap between those with coverage and those without health care continued to grow.
The ACA sought to balance our four priorities, ostensibly providing choice and care while driving down costs and expanding coverage. However, opponents claim that it restricted choice, limited care options, and expanded coverage by imposing a financial model that was unfair and untenable. Now critics of Republicans’ attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare are making similar allegations against their legislation.
This debate will continue because our democratic culture especially values freedom of choice. We are consumers in a consumption-based economy. Yet we believe that “all men are created equal” with equal rights to effective health care. As medical costs grow, balancing our cultural priorities is a true Gordian knot.
Three biblical priorities will help.
One: God values our health.
God made us in his image (Genesis 1:26–27) and has made our bodies the temple of his Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus healed “every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matthew 4:23). Medical care, when practiced within biblical guidelines, is an extension of Jesus’ healing ministry today. Efforts to provide medical care to all Americans are biblical.
Two: We must care for the poor.
We should meet our own needs if we can: “Each will have to bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5). However, God told us how to treat our “poor brother”: “You shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need” (Deuteronomy 15:7,8).
Three: What is good for one of us is good for all of us.
Describing Christians as the “body of Christ,” Paul noted: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Ethicist Bruce Jennings: “No individual, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can really be free except in a context of social justice and the common good.”
John prayed for his people “that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 2). Let’s join him.
NOTE: I invite you to join me for a seminar I am teaching on how to engage the culture for Christ. You can register here for the four-week course. The class meets from March 30 to April 20, 6:30 to 8:30 PM on Thursday nights at Dallas Baptist University. We will develop a Christian worldview, understand trends in the culture, and learn how to speak the truth in love on topics from medical ethics to the LGBTQ community. The class is almost full, so sign up today.
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Posted by Jim Denison | March 23rd, 2017 at 3:18 pm
Geno Auriemma is the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Connecticut. If that name sounds familiar but you aren’t quite sure why, it probably has something to do with the fact that his team hasn’t lost in over two years (109 games straight, and counting) while currently pursuing their fifth consecutive national title. That kind of success is unprecedented in the modern era and has garnered him a level of influence and respect that far surpasses his own sport. For those reasons and more, when he speaks people tend to listen.
Recently, a video from a news conference he gave at last year’s Final Four went viral after professional baseball hitting coach Matt Lisle posted it on his Facebook page. It was viewed more than twenty-four million times in the first twenty-four hours and was picked up by outlets ranging from ESPN to Forbes. The reason for the video’s popularity is that there’s just something about Auriemma’s message that resonates with people regardless of their opinions on women’s basketball.
In it, the coach talks about how difficult it’s become to recruit players “that are really upbeat and loving life and love the game, and have this tremendous appreciation for when their teammates do something well, that’s hard.” This is the coach of the most successful team his sport’s ever seen. If someone like him, who can walk into the home of any recruit in the nation and garner immediate consideration, has trouble finding that kind of player, it’s because there just aren’t that many of her out there.
He would go on to talk about how the problem stems in large part from the fact that kids are “allowed to get away with just whatever, and they’re always thinking about themselves . . . ‘Me, me, me, me, me. I didn’t score, so why would I be happy?’ ‘I’m not getting enough minutes; why would I be happy?’ That’s the world we live in today, unfortunately. Kids check the scoreboard sometimes because they’re going to get yelled at by their parents if they don’t score enough points.”
While Auriemma was speaking specifically to women’s basketball, the problem is not limited to a particular gender or sport. Lamenting the way that many professional and, increasingly, college athletes play without an apparent love of the game is a common refrain from fans of every sport. Most are aware that the problem started long before that, however, with roots running all the way back to YMCA and youth leagues. Ultimately, it’s on coaches and parents to steward their kids well, since children, most often, are only responding to the environment in which they’re raised.
Does it help to see players showboating on Sundays or caring more about their stat lines than the win-loss column? Of course not, but that cycle won’t be broken by changing how the pros play. As John O’Sullivan, a former college and professional soccer player, put it, the problem “started with parents and coaches at age twelve looking the other way because a kid happened to be a good player. That is our outcome-driven youth sports system in a nutshell.”
Can you think of any other parts of our culture where that description would apply? Perhaps an easier question would be can you think of anywhere it wouldn’t. It’s still a sin to take the wrong path to the right destination, but far too often we focus so much on the end that we completely miss all that God might want to do in our lives along the way. We struggle to help our kids see a bigger picture because we’ve missed it ourselves.
Scripture is clear that, while we are meant to raise our kids in community with others, each of us ultimately bears the responsibility for helping them understand the proper way to live (Deuteronomy 6:7). The culture around us can make that job easier or harder, but it never absolves us of that responsibility. And if you don’t have kids, pray and ask God how you can help those who do. Often times, it’s in helping others walk closer with him that the Lord shows us how to do the same.
Geno Auriemma’s words resonate with us because we see those problems play out in our own lives just as often as in the lives of our children. But if we can’t fix ourselves, how are we ever going to help them? That’s an important question for each of us to consider, whether we have kids or not. How would you answer it today?
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Posted by Jim Denison | March 23rd, 2017 at 1:30 pm
Princeton Theological Seminary recently invited Tim Keller, perhaps the best-known Presbyterian pastor in America, to receive its annual Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness. We would not expect this to be a controversial decision. But it was.
Keller is a leader in the Presbyterian Church in America, which has taken stands against the ordination of women and of LGBTQ persons. As a result, the uproar against his recognition at Princeton was deafening. One critic spoke for many: “We are honoring and celebrating a man who has championed toxic theology for decades.” As a result, the seminary has rescinded its decision to give Keller the Kupyer Prize, though it has invited him to give the lecture associated with the award.
Conservatives see Princeton’s decision as another example of liberal intolerance and prejudice against conservative values. Owen Strachan, director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, observes: “Those who promote tolerance in our time show so little of it; those who call for charitable dialogue do so little to extend it. Biblical sexual ethics is where this take-no-prisoners battle is the fiercest.”
But progressives should be equally troubled by Princeton’s decision. Jonathan Merritt, who calls himself “more progressive than Keller on these issues,” asks, “How does marginalizing Tim Keller make this world a better place? How does it promote unity among disparate churches?” Merritt knows Keller and calls him “eminently reasonable, thoughtful, kind. Tim Keller is no extremist. He is no misogynist. He is no bigot. He is not hateful. Anyone who has paid attention to his Manhattan ministry can attest to this.”
I know Tim Keller as well. It has been my privilege to join him in speaking on behalf of Movement Day in New York City and in Dallas. He is one of the most thoughtful, grace-giving people and ministers I have ever met. I agree with Merritt: “If Christians like Tim Keller are unworthy of honor and deserve to be marginalized, American Christianity is in serious trouble.”
Those who truly follow Jesus have seldom been in the cultural majority. Our Lord warned us: “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). The Greek word translated “tribulation” is thlipsis, a term which designated the massive stone used to crush grain into flour. In other words, we should expect the culture to crush those it opposes.
Jesus was clear: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). At the same time, he called us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We are to defend our faith, but we must do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We are to speak the truth, but we must do so “in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Princeton’s treatment of Tim Keller is not the last time conservative Christians will be treated ungraciously by those who disagree with our values. Now it’s our turn to choose how we respond. For those who champion tolerance above all other values, we have an opportunity to demonstrate a tolerant spirit even as we “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
If Jesus could wash our feet, we can wash one another’s feet (John 13:14).
Posted by Jim Denison | March 23rd, 2017 at 6:39 am
Posted by Jim Denison | March 22nd, 2017 at 6:07 am
Posted by Jim Denison | March 22nd, 2017 at 6:06 am
Today’s headlines are dominated by Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination hearings and the ongoing debate over health care. Meanwhile, an unusual high school wrestler interests me so much that I’d like to focus on his story this morning.
“He’s been very vocal about his goals: wrestling in a national championship, becoming an NCAA champ, not just a state champ.” That’s how Kobey Pritchard’s wrestling coach describes his protégé’s motivation in the Iowa state wrestling tournament. What makes Pritchard different from his competitors? He wrestles without a left leg.
Kobey was five years old when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in his left femur. Doctors removed the leg when he was six. Now he’s ranked number four in the state in his weight class. His drive and determination are inspiring his teammates and his fellow competitors.
In other news, Norway has taken over the top spot in the World Happiness Report. This despite the fact that oil, a key part of its economy, has plummeted. What accounts for Norway’s happiness? The report’s lead author explains: “It’s the human things that matter. If the riches make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy relationship between people, is it worth it? The material can stand in the way of the human.”
Martin E. P. Seligman is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the bestseller, Authentic Happiness. Dr. Seligman describes three kinds of “work orientation”: a job, a career, and a calling.
A job earns you a paycheck and nothing more. A career entails a deeper personal investment in your work. But a calling is a passionate commitment to work for its own sake. According to Dr. Seligman, finding your “calling” is the key to authentic happiness.
Whatever your physical or financial challenges, you can choose to live a life that matters. You can chase the fickle applause of our culture or live for the eternal affirmation of your Father.
I hope Judge Gorsuch is confirmed by the Senate. I hope effective health care legislation is passed by Congress. But if neither takes place, eternity will still beckon. What we do today for Jesus will matter forever. Ten thousand millennia after the last Supreme Court ruling is handed down, the Judge of the universe will still be on his throne. And health care will be the last thing we’ll be thinking about in heaven.
My point is not that the Supreme Court, health care, or other pressing issues of our day are insignificant. I’m not advocating for a Christ-against-culture mindset that keeps our salt in the saltshaker and our light under a basket (Matthew 5:13–16).
But I am suggesting that taking the long view is the pathway to peace in the short view. While the Bible never says, “This too shall pass,” the sentiment is biblical: “The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24–25). The old chorus is still true: “Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away, but there’s something about that Name.”
Paul testified, “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Why do you need to join him today?