I cut myself Saturday morning, right on the tip of my first finger, which is not the best place to bleed if you like writing. Immediately, though, things begin happening throughout my whole body to begin a healing process (you’ll forgive my layman’s understanding of this?): Elements conspire to stop the blooding. White cells attack and confine potentially infectious intruders. Skin is miraculously reconstituted. Scab falls away. Done.
This is happening all the time in both visible and invisible ways in our bodies, and while I don’t understand it, I know that the healing of any one part happens because all the other parts get involved. Success, for the body, is a holistic matter, and interdependency is the only way to get there.
The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote his letter to the Corinthians, and he used the body analogy to express the interdependency that is, or ought to be, the church. This is where he declares that if “one member suffers, all the members suffer – if one rejoices, all rejoice.” One for all. All for one. The church, too, is best served by pursuit of the common good.
We who live in the United States, need to have a conversation about what “the common good” means when applied to our national identity. The truth is that we already have commitments to the common good. Everyone pays taxes, so that if your house is on fire some fine people will come with fancy equipment and risk their lives to put it out. We all understand that the whole community is best served by the collective paying for this because the other option is the occasional pile of ashes on an empty lot that would blight the neighborhood. Like the whole body kicking in when there’s a cut on my finger, we work together to keep things from burning to the ground. We have a similar commitment to education, a belief that the whole community wins if everyone can read, write a complete sentence, and understand a few things about math and big ideas. Because we all win, we all pay.
I’ve not yet heard any arguments from the right proposing that we dismantle fire departments and schools, privatizing them and shifting the responsibility away from the government to the private citizenry. Thankfully, it seems that there’s some sort of baseline belief that there are services that everyone should subsidize for the common good.
You know where I’m going with this. We live in a country where nearly half of all housing foreclosures are the result of health care crises. We “spend twice as much as residents of other developed countries on healthcare, but get lower quality, less efficiency and have the least equitable system” according to this report.
So here’s my question: Why does our commitment to the common good, as seen in the human body, and called for in the church, extend only to police and fire protection, and education, but not include health care, a system that works only for an increasingly shrinking percentage of the populace? Or, if one views the government as both evil and incompetent, why not go all the way, privatizing education, libraries, police and fire protection, and making access to emergency health care illegal for all the uninsured? How does your faith inform your view – whichever view you hold?
Perhaps we can have a civil discussion about this?