how do we treat the sick?

There’s been quite the flurry of noise on the Internet about the American Health Care Act that was passed in the House of Representatives today. Something that caught my attention is an interview with Mo Brooks (R, Rep. AL), in which he said:

‘People who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.’

Source: CNN Interview with Mo Brooks by Jake Tapper (around 3.20 of the clip)

His statements imply that people who lead healthy (‘good’) lifestyles don’t have pre-existing conditions, which also implies that people who do get sick or have pre-existing conditions somehow did something to deserve their poor health.

Brooks does immediately add, ‘Now, in fairness, many of the people who have pre-existing conditions have those conditions through no fault of their own.’

It’s the earlier statement that is getting the headlines and the attention, and for good reason. The problem here is in placing a moral value on a person’s lifestyle — whether they exercise regularly or diet or eat well — which is what the first statement does: people who lead ‘good lives’, who have done things ‘the right way.’ How, then, do you reconcile the second statement, that those with pre-existing conditions are not at fault for having them, with the first? You have already established the premise that ‘good people’ don’t have pre-existing conditions. So how can someone have a pre-existing condition and not have done something to deserve his or her condition?

This is not a new question. I am reminded of the disciples asking Jesus when they see a man blind from birth: ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ (John 9.2) We might not express it as outright as that, but we still sometimes have that sentiment that if something bad happens to someone, then they probably deserved it: this idea of, ‘Well, they had it coming.’

But we need to remember Jesus’s answer: ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ (John 9.3)

Granted, in the gospel, the work of God is Jesus restoring the man’s sight, which isn’t exactly something we can expect to happen today (it wasn’t common then, either). That doesn’t mean we can write off Jesus’s answer, though.

Neither this man nor his parents sinned; but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Often I see the focus of this passage placed in the following sentence or in the events after the miraculous healing, to the point that this sentence is overlooked. If this sentence is evoked, it’s usually done after some misfortune or tragedy, along with the platitude, ‘All things happen for a reason’ (with which I politely disagree, but that is another subject).

What are the works of God and how might they be displayed? What does that look like today? Right now, in the wake of the AHCA passing the House, this is what I hear from that passage:

The works of God are displayed in how we treat the sick, the poor, and the needy.

Our words, our thoughts, and our actions: what are they when we encounter someone who is ill? What are they when we encounter someone who is chronically ill or differently abled? Not just how we treat that person as an individual; but how do we treat them as a group when we shape our ideas about health care and when we vote? Are we treating the sick, the poor, and the needy in such a way that it displays the work of God?

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A little seed

In the past couple of posts I’ve mentioned depression. I won’t go into all of the causes, reasons, whatevers here — my close friends and family know, and that is enough. What is making it even more difficult this time is the loss of dreams, of hopes for the future… specific ones that had come to have so much meaning and promise in my life. Now I am left holding air and the faded shreds of old dreams, staring into the unknown.

Some have heard me say that Sara Groves “sings my life”. The chorus of this song has crept into my head, and, well, I want it to be the song of my heart.

From this one place I can’t see very far.
In this one moment I’m square in the dark.
These are the things I will trust in my heart:
You can see something else, something else.

One of the things I’ve been wrestling with this Advent is that God is a God of the impossible. I am still learning what that means. But I am praying that he will plant a little seed in the remnants of my heart and that that little seed will grow into a dream. And that prayer, maybe, will give me Hope.

It is Submitted

At 3.00 PM on Tuesday, 17th of December, I submitted my Ph.D. thesis.


Some statistics:

  • 5 chapters, plus an introduction and conclusion;
  • approximately 73,300 words;
  • 246 pages total;
  • 586 footnotes;
  • 47 page Bibliography;
  • 11 pages of primary sources;
  • 480 items in Bibliography;
  • 4 years and 3 months.

I would be lying if I said the two months were easy. In all honesty, the last eight weeks have been among the hardest in my life, probably the hardest — and friends and long-time readers of this blog will know that I am no stranger to difficulty. I could not have made it through these last eight weeks or have finished my PhD thesis on my own. It is only by the grace of God, the prayers and encouragement of friends, and the physical, in-person support of my mother that I have made it to today.

So thank you, you who have prayed for me, encouraged me, and helped me during this time.

I do not think it a coincidence that my morning Bible reading came from Isaiah 12 today:

Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.

I hope to return to regular blogging — however, for now, I think I will curl up in bed with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente — an early Christmas present, and very apt for this particular scholar.