Jesus, the Sadducees, and American Healthcare

If I was your run of the mill person, I would start this blog off with “I don’t mean to get political…”, which of course is the layman’s excuse for “getting political”, but I am not your average person. I am a follower of Jesus. As such, I have a sense of calling to follow Jesus as a Disciple. A Disciple is someone who follows their rabbi (in this case Jesus) and does everything that their rabbi does. The Disciple also advocates for what the rabbi advocates. As a Disciple of Jesus, I have a sense of calling to stand up against injustice. Jesus stood with the outcast, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed. (Just take a look at the entire book of Luke, not to mention the countless stories and parables told throughout the rest of the Gospels)

Today, The United States Congress passed a healthcare bill. That bill would, essentially, cut funding, making health care more expensive (if not unattainable) for the poorest of our citizens while making the burden much lighter for the richest of our citizens. (Changes to the Healthcare plan found here and here) This was the same sort of landscape that Jesus and His disciples encountered in the accounts of the Gospels.

Jesus runs into a “triple taxation” system, where taxes were due to Rome and Herod, yes, but there was a third area that brought taxes in from the people; the Temple. These three taxation systems kept the people of Palestine oppressed and unable to move up the ladder. This was just the Roman Social system as a whole. There really was no sort of social mobility at all, mostly because of the gross inequality in the distribution of wealth. Some historians estimate that 2-3% of Roman citizens controlled almost all of the land and wealth within the Empire. In addition, that same 2-3% consumed at least 65% of the goods consumed by the Roman Empire. (Is this picture I am painting starting to look familiar to the American landscape today at all? Because it should)

This taxation system forced 1st Century Palestinians to pay outrageous fees and taxes which caused them to go into massive debt and, eventually, lose everything they had. Land, money, family, freedom, everything. In my opinion, as a person pursuing to become clergy, the most sinister tax was that of the Temple. What happens if you cannot enter the temple? Then you cannot become ritually pure again, which means that you are able to be even more oppressed. People who were blind, crippled, diseased, etc. were unable to enter the temple. They were unable to become clean (This is different than free from sin by the way. Impurity and sin are much different things). The Temple tax was supposed to be for these people. The widow, the orphan, the outcast, and the people who could not make it on their own. Instead of using the resources to help the poor and the needy, the Temple rulers, the Sadducees, pocketed the money for themselves. They chose to live extravagant lives rather than help the widow and the orphan. Jesus vehemently opposed this. So much so that, on one occasion, when Jesus entered the temple, he went in and flipped the tables of all the money lenders and “loan sharks” that were basically “helping” the poor with their debts, only to jack up their interest rates and eventually steal all that they had. There is a reason that every time the Religious elite was in confrontation with Jesus, it was because he was spending time with the impure class, or even HEALING the impure class (particularly on the sabbath day). The Religious elite wanted to keep the impure oppressed so that they could continue their lavish life styles. Jesus fought for their inclusion in the Temple system, however for Jesus, the temple was growing beyond just the walls of the Jerusalem building. Jesus’ movement gave birth to the understanding that the temple was not in a building, but rather, the temple was found in humanity and the sacredness of creation. (Check out Ephesians and Colossians and the image of the Cosmic Christ restoring ALL of creation)

It is rather similar in our current situation now isn’t it? Rich GOP house members are busy passing a bill that keeps the poor poor and keeps the poor sick, unable to get help, unable to rise the ladder of success. In short, this bill helps keep the widow and the orphan oppressed. It keeps the “impure” impure. What makes me extremely sick to my stomach is that this comes from a party that claims to “stand by good, Christian values”. The question that I have is, which Jesus are you reading about? All I see when I read the Gospels is a Jesus that continuously talks about the Kingdom of Heaven being a place of healing for all, a place where love and inclusion win out. A place where hunger is satisfied, a place where people find solace and home. All I see is Jesus continuously hanging out with the  impure class. The cripples, the blind, the prostitutes, the domniacs, the religious “have-nots”.

Here, in this country, today, The Kingdom of Heaven was not realized. Today, oppression was realized. Today, the Rich were given permission to continue oppressing their neighbors in order to “keep them in their place”. While they may not be intentionally be doing this, though some of them definitely are, one needs only to read between the liens to see the vast inequality that is continuing to grow between the rich and the poor in this country. It leads to less social mobility, more oppression, more people losing their money, their homes, and their way of life, etc.

Today, I stand with the Jesus that stood with the widow and the orphan. Today, I stand for justice and health care for all. Today I stand out against this abominable injustice to my fellow American Citizens; to my fellow human beings. Taking care of those around us is one of our mandates has human beings, and this health care act gives the ability and, in fact, encourages the denial of this mandate, exemplified in Jesus. Today I, stand against this Health Care Bill that has been passed by the GOP. Will you stand with me? Will you answer the call to be a Disciple that stands against injustice, just as Jesus stood against the injustice of the Temple system, as well as the injustice of the Roman system as a whole. (Why do you think Jesus was given the execution sentence of crucifixion?) The Bill is not fully passed yet. It has been handed over to the Senate, there is still time to stand against injustice and stand for and with our fellow brothers and sisters whose life literally hinges on the denial of this Health Care Act.

Just an hour before writing this blog, I emailed my Senator, you should do so as well. Be an advocate with your fellow citizens. Speak out in whatever medium you have, whether it is a blog, a classroom, a pulpit, a news article, etc. your voice matters, my voice matters. I stand with Jesus, the Social justice advocate. Will you join me?
Edit*: also, if you want to here another voice that looks at this from a different angle, check out Susan’s blog post here

Grace and Peace,

Eric

 

 

Works Cited

  1. Kliff, Sarah. “The Obamacare repeal bill the House just passed, explained.” Vox. May 03, 2017. Accessed May 04, 2017. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/5/3/15531494/american-health-care-act-explained.
  2. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote Thursday after some last-minute changes to the legislation convinced enough conservatives, and Moderates To Support It. “How the Republican bill would change Obamacare.” CNNMoney. Accessed May 04, 2017. http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/04/news/economy/obamacare-republican-health-care/.
  3. Matthew 21: 12-17 (NRSV): Jesus Clears the Temple
  4. The whole dang book of Luke
  5. The whole dang Gospels in general

 

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