Silence of Christian leaders on poor is deafening
by Kevin Foley
October 25, 2013 01:13 AM | 2321 views | 21 21 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’m not a churchgoer, but I did graduate from a religious high school where I studied the Bible. The gospels make it clear how Christians should treat the poor and the sick — the least of these — so I am puzzled about something.

One of the Affordable Care Act’s key provisions is Medicaid expansion. Here in Georgia, expansion would cover some 650,000 uninsured low income people, many of them children. There are good reasons why Gov. Nathan Deal should expand Medicaid — tens of thousands of new jobs and $275 million annually in new tax revenues for example — but the humanitarian need is what’s most important.

Low-income Georgians and their kids would have access to health care services, including preventative care. A child with sniffles, for example, wouldn’t have to wait until he had full-blown pneumonia before he saw a doctor in a hospital emergency room.

Medicaid expansion is at the intersection of public policy and Christian principles, yet Cobb County Christian leaders have been curiously silent. Shouldn’t they and their flocks be pressing Deal and the state legislature to expand Medicaid to cover healthcare for the least of these?

Cobb is a county, after all, in which you cannot drive a half-mile in any direction without passing a church of one Christian denomination or another.

Many churches provide charitable services such as food banks, counseling and so on. But all of the churches and secular charities in Georgia combined couldn’t begin to cover the cost of providing health care services to all the state’s poor.

So here is a program that will cost taxpayers nothing in the first three years and only 10 percent thereafter, the rest covered by the federal government. Should the federal contribution fall below 90 percent, states can withdraw from the program.

Yet Deal refuses to follow the lead of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and seven other GOP governors who expanded Medicaid in their states. Deal’s reasons are political and if politics prevent low-income families from receiving health care, that’s apparently fine with the governor.

That seems un-Christian. So I contacted six high profile ministers and pastors who lead large Christian congregations in Marietta, Kennesaw and Smyrna to see what they thought.

I heard back from just one. He cited Deal’s specious rationale for not expanding Medicare, adding this: “I don’t equate the expansion of government with the fulfillment of the biblical mandate to care for ‘the least of these.’ That admonition wasn’t directed at the Roman government.”

I don’t have a divinity degree. But I do know Christ cared about all God’s children and He unambiguously directed us to look after one another. To that end, if a government program achieves what charity cannot, surely Jesus would be in favor of it. There are other Christians out there who think so.

“Jesus put a name and a face on all who had been forgotten or pushed aside,” says The Christian Left’s website, “(and) called us to carry our cross daily and follow him. That’s what social justice means.”

“If conservative Christians are going to vote their values, then they should vote all of their values,” wrote Orthodox political theologian Dr. David J. Dunn.

“We, leaders … representing millions of African-American people of faith, believe that our devotion to God requires us to be actively involved in promoting the wellbeing of all people,” said the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr., chairman of Faith Partnerships, Inc.

Republican politicians and the conservative media have saturated Cobb County residents with Affordable Care Act misinformation, so local Christian leaders might be understandably reluctant to take an unpopular position and advocate Medicaid expansion.

I hope they’ll remember that Jesus took many unpopular positions.

Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.
Comments
(21)
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MDJ reader
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November 01, 2013
There are Christian healthcare ministries like Good Samaritan in Cobb that provide healthcare on a sliding scale. Low income families without insurance can see a doctor by appointment and pay what they can afford. No matter what happens with healthcare reform, there will always be a need for places like Good Samaritan to provide healthcare for people in need.
Tom B.
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October 29, 2013
OK. You christian castigators of Foley have made it crystal clear: whatever Jesus said about helping the poor, he was not talking about a role for government. And, furthermore, you Christians will do what is needed to take care of the poor, through groups like MUST.

So where, exactly, do those 650,000 poor Georgians deprived of Medicare and lacking health insurance go to receive this Christian largesse? Funny that I consider myself pretty well informed, but I have never seen the contact point, like a phone number or address. But now we have you wonderful Christians who have this solution at hand, right here on this blog. Information, please.
West Cobb
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October 29, 2013
Christian Healthcare Ministries is a christian health insurance organization with no annual fees, no physical required, and pre-existing conditions accepted. Samaritan Ministries and Christian Care Ministry's Medi-Share are a couple of others. Any more questions?
anonymous
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October 31, 2013
West Cobb- I have a question. When do those ministries send out the buses to pick up the 650,000 poor around the state and bring them to these places to receive free preventative healthcare?
West Cobb
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October 31, 2013
Anonymous: I am not aware of any buses. Tom B. inquired about health insurance, and I provided the information. Why do you assume that people without health insurance are also without transportation? I'm sure that you are aware that there is no such thing as "free" preventative healthcare; further, I am sure that you are aware of the difference between health care and health insurance. Perhaps, Anonymous, instead of sneering at the earnest efforts of those in the community of faith, you could put your talk into action and help those poor people.
Guido Sarducci
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October 31, 2013
To Anonymous. Hey big mouth. since you likely do nothing to help the situation, how about you rent a fleet of buses and go get them and bring them to one of these places so they can get the care?

I mean provide it, the least you can do is get the people there.

Oh, wait, you don't have to, they seem to be able to get here on their own.

Of course, it would be nice if you atheists did a little something to help. That way we could distinguish you from the Muslims, who do absolutely nopthing.
Mike H
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October 29, 2013
Mr. Foley,

Unlike yourself, I was born and raised in the south. After a while you'll realize that the south's special relationship with the institution of slavery

warped its political, historical, and religious values. They say one thing but mean something else.

Welcome south neighbor. You'll get the hang of it after a while.

Kevin Foley
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October 29, 2013
Mike, I don't share your cynicism. I believe the pastors and ministers I contacted are all upstanding Christian men of faith who absolutely know it is wrong to turn their backs on "the least of these."

All of these religious leaders provide charitable services through their ministries and, no doubt, their efforts make a big difference in the lives of the poor and downtrodden in their communities.

But they also know all the Christian charities in the state combined lack the resources on the scope and scale necessary to provide the kind of preventative healthcare Georgia's 650,000 low income folks need.

This is one of those moments when your faith gets tested. You either put aside politics and follow Christ's teachings or you don't.

Guido Sarducci
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October 30, 2013
Kevin, why are you trying to indict Christianity for a mess caused by your President's desire to get the government involved in the health care industry, which, to most reasonably intelligent people, is an area in which the government clearly does not belong?

Also, how is the plight of the alleged "650,000" the sole responsibility of Christians? People of the Jewish faith also operate multiple charities. How come I don't see any atheist charities, or any Muslim charities? When is the last time you saw a Muslim candy striper?

You need to go back to bed. You are way off base with this one.
M. Jackson
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October 27, 2013
Mr. Foley-

I would like to know what you personally are doing to tend to the needs of the least of these...besides sitting in a comfortable room, in a comfortable chair, in front of a computer, writing "articles".
anonymous
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October 26, 2013
"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."

Gandhi
A Christian
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October 26, 2013
Genesis 47:13-27



RECENT VIRGINIA CHURCH SERVICE - STIMULUS SERMON





I would love to give the Pastor of this predominantly black church in Virginia three cheers.

This guy is obviously a leader. Perhaps we should each decide who our real leader is...

It is amazing to see that very little has changed in 4,000 years.

Good morning, brothers and sisters; it's always a delight to see the pews crowded on Sunday morning, and so eager to get into God's Word. Turn with me in your Bibles, if you will, to the 47th chapter of Genesis. We'll begin our reading at verse 13, and go through verse 27.

Brother Ray, would you stand and read that great passage for us? ... (reading) ...

Thank you for that fine reading, Brother Ray. So we see that economic hard times fell upon Egypt, and the people turned to the government of Pharaoh to deal with this for them. And Pharaoh nationalized the grain harvest, and placed the grain in great storehouses that he had built. So the people brought their money to Pharaoh, like a great tax increase, and gave it all to him willingly in return for grain. And this went on until their money ran out, and they were hungry again.

So when they went to Pharaoh after that, they brought their livestock - their cattle, their horses, their sheep, and their donkey - to barter for grain, and verse 17 says that only took them through the end of that year. But the famine wasn't over, was it? So the next year, the people came before Pharaoh and admitted they had nothing left, except their land and their own lives. "There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh." So they surrendered their homes, their land, and their real estate to Pharaoh's government, and then sold themselves into slavery to him, in return for grain.

What can we learn from this, brothers and sisters?

That turning to the government instead of to God to be our provider in hard times only leads to slavery?

Yes... That the only reason government wants to be our provider is to also become our master?

Yes. After Jacob and Joseph passed on, and the Jews began to drift away from their GOD, even they too became slaves in the land of Egypt .



I also tell you a great truth today, and an ominous one.

We see the same thing happening today - the government today wants to "share the wealth" once again, to take it from us and redistribute it back to us.

It wants to take control of healthcare, just as it has taken control of education, and ration it back to us, and when government rations it, then government decides who gets it, and how much, and what kind.

And if we go along with it, and do it willingly, then we will wind up no differently than the people in Egypt did four thousand years ago - as slaves to the government, and as slaves to their leaders.

What Mr. Obama's government is doing now is no different from what Pharaoh's government did then, and it will end the same. And a lot of people like to call Mr. Obama a "Messiah," don't they?

Is he a Messiah? A savior?

Didn't the Egyptians say, after Pharaoh made them his slaves, "You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh"? Well, I tell you this -

"I know the Messiah; the Messiah is a friend of mine; and Mr.OBAMA IS NO MESSIAH!

No, brothers and sisters, if Mr. Obama is a character from the Bible, then he is Pharaoh. Bow with me in prayer, if you will...

OMIPS
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October 25, 2013
Two weeks ago you started trying to use a fallen soldier to legitimize your progressive cause. Now you're trying to use religion and particularly Christianity. What gives Foley?

Progressives hate the military. You guys are draft dodgers, conscientious objectors, and pacifists. You have disdain for the military. You spit on soldiers returning from Vietnam. You think those that serve are of a lessor species. Why would you stoop so low as to try to align your cause with a soldier?

Progressives hate Christianity. You guys are atheists, anti-religion, anti-prayer, anti-Bible, anti-religuous teachings, anti-preaching and you've labeled Christianity as a hate organization. So, why would you want to align your cause with Jesus Christ?

Foley, this is Pvt. Parman's oath... "I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Foley, you progressives are enemies of the Constitution. The Constitution stands in your way of a socialist America. Pvt. Parman took an oath to defend the Constitution and I doubt that he would be in support of a cause that seeks to undermine the Constitution.

Foley, the Bible talks a lot about... The Love of God and this is where progressives get on board with Christianity. Because this is the "happy clappy" side of Christianity, the feel good side of God. But the Bible also teaches us about the wrath of God and His punishment of those who are disobedient. The Bible teaches us that God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their progressive lifestyles and sin. I'll let you decide where you and your progressive ideas are with God.

Our Man in Powder Springs
Carole P
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October 25, 2013
Once again Kevin Foley demonstrates his total lack of understanding of basic Christian principles. Yes, Christians are called to care for "the least of these", but no where in the Bible does it say that governments should. This is a principle for individuals, not governments, even if government leaders are Christians. Christians as a group are some of the most charitable people, giving of their time and money without fanfare. We don't call for the government to do what we have been called to do. Nor do we force anyone else to give money for any cause. That's between God and the person, not the government.

Furthermore, Foley states that expanding Medicaid would " cost taxpayers nothing" because it would be "covered by the federal government". Apparently, he doesn't realize where the federal government gets its money. So I will inform him that it is from the taxpayers. But then again, the federal government spends money it doesn't have. So I guess you could say, in a way, it actually doesn't cost the current taxpayers anything. Their children will pay that bill.
Reader 101
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October 25, 2013
Agree with Kevin. Surprised at the bitter/negative reactions to what is a Christ-centered thought...disagreement on the means to help the needy is one thing - vitriol in that disagreement is another - bitterness that discredits.
That Guy
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October 25, 2013
Ignoring your attempt at tugging on heart strings you do not have, this is a typical liberal non-understanding of the way the government works.

" the rest covered by the federal government. " Who do you think is forced, at risk of jail or worse, to pony up the money to the Federal Government?

The Government makes no money, THEY TAKE MONEY from the pockets of their people. And when there is not enough money in the till, they take more
why not
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October 25, 2013
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the "Kingdom of God". Mark 10:23-27
Bob Johnson
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October 25, 2013
Last week it was a dead soldier and now this week its Christian values. Whats next?? Foley you are so predictable its funny.
Too funny
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October 25, 2013
It's clear in the Tea Party Bible. Jesus said, "blessed are the gun-slinging vigilantes," and "blessed are the hoarders of wealth," and my current favorite, "blessed are the corporations who cut employee hours so they can't get health insurance."
anonymous
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October 25, 2013
Really?

Foley, you are hanging out at starbucks with your "concerned" friends a little too much.

That silence you "hear" may very well be because the Christain leadership and community as a whole are/is so very busy keeping all of the various shelters/food pantries/educational assistance/living assistance programs that they have up and running for the(these days) endless line of people that are on (very) hard times.

Unfortunately, talk/noise to break the apparent "silence" over at Starbucks won't get things done. So, many of those christian leaders (and Christian community members) are merely putting their energy into "doing" things that count...from volunteering, donating to handing over cold hard cash to fund those programs.

Take some time to venture over to MUST ministries on Hwy 41 either at headquarters or Elizabeth Inn, perhaps. Talk with some of the fine folks there (staff, volunteers and clients) about how "silent" the Christan leadership is on the issue of the poor. Ask them who supports all the efforts that MUST makes happen. Ask them about other ministries in the area and elsewhere. Ask them about that "silence" you and your friends over at starbucks are so concerned about.

Oh, just a heads up. There is not a Starbucks real close to either Elizabeth Inn or headquarters. You may want to stop and pick your latte up before you head over.

Unlike politicians and government hacks...the Christian community is not looking to impress anyone. So you won't often hear them shouting (or whining)about much of anything, least of all the many good deeds they play conduits for making possible...each and every day.
Guido Sarducci
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October 25, 2013
Clever, Kevin. You liberals have made Jesus, God and Christianity virtually illegal, or at least unwelcome, in all phases of goverment, including city, county and state offices, schools, the military and all federal facilities. Now you try to invoke that same Jesus, God and Christianity to peddle the total fiasco known alternately as the Affordable (?)Care Act, or Obamacare. Sorry to tell you but the minister who told you that government mandated control of health care does not equate to taking care of the "least of these" was absolutely correct.

So take your attempt at putting a guilt trip on Christians and put it in the trash can, along with the rest of the garbage you regularly spead

around.

BTW, since you admittedly do not attend church, how do you know what Christian leaders are exhorting their congregations to do? Answer, you do not, so this entire column is a pathetic atttempt at journalism, which any first year journalism student would be ashamed to turn in.
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