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Life Part 3

A post in the Christianity series.

It’s important to never forget that life is complicated. From the beginning to the end and everything in between, there are very few topics that can be considered truly black-and-white. To close out this trilogy of articles about life (see: Life, Part 1 and Life, Part 2) I’d like to talk about “everything in between” with a specific focus on medicine and healthcare.

I didn’t originally intend for this article to dip into political matters but reality has forced my hand. I’m writing this in March and April of 2020 as the Coronavirus epidemic is still growing exponentially here in the US. While this virus doesn’t change what I intend to say here, it adds a particular urgency that we learn the right lessons now so that a disaster of this magnitude never happens again. Many people are experiencing a rude awaking of just how flawed our current system is and even more are suffering because of it.

This country, and in particular the Evangelical-backed Republican party, have spent decades pulling apart safety nets, lying about, discarding and discrediting experts, and otherwise ensuring that any eventual crisis would be a national disaster, causing a flood of death that could have been avoided. It is a sad fact that Christians across this country had a significant hand in our lack of preparation and flawed response to emergence of this virus. Talking about how we got here, though, is another article. I’d like to discuss what the Christian stance should have been, and hopefully will be in the future. Like previous articles let’s build this up from the beginning: what did Jesus teach us about healing and the sick?

During His stay on Earth, healing the sick was a major component of Jesus' ministry and thus how Christians should live. Of the many miracles recorded in the gospels, the majority entail some form of healing. He not only healed many people of various ailments but He also raised people from the dead, including Jairus’s daughter and, most famously, Lazarus.

The message across the Gospels is consistent and clear: Christians are called, in no uncertain terms, to take care of the sick, the suffering, and anyone who is otherwise unwell. So it beggars belief that Christians across this country work so hard, and so tirelessly, to not only prevent access to health care, but to even take away existing access away, regularly harming those that need it the most! But I digress, more on this later.

In many ways it can be said that today’s understanding of health and medicine is a modern miracle. It is hard to understand that which you cannot see, so for thousands of years it was widely believed that most illnesses were due to “bad air” or miasmas. And even though we’ve had forms of microscopes for hundreds of years, it took all the way until the mid 1800s for us to realize and accept that micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses are responsible for most illnesses. We continued to learn substantially more about disease and treatments through the US Civil War, two World Wars, and events like the 1918 flu epidemic, such that modern times boast the longest life expectancy in recorded human history. It can be hard to grasp the world in which Jesus lived, over two thousand years ago, and what “medicine” meant back then, but we are blessed today with the ability to cure, prevent, and control so much.

Yet there is still so much we don’t know. We are no where near being able to fully explain how our body works. We will most likely never be able to understand how our brains work, nor will we ever master the innumerable ways our body reacts to external stimuli. For how amazing our medical capabilities are today, we are still incapable of solving everyone’s problems. At the same time we are also all human, and humans make mistakes. We can fail to see the obvious, and we get diagnoses and treatments wrong. There are countless stories of people who have suffered for years, decades, or their entire lives with ailments that no-one can understand or treat. Similarly there’s plenty of stories of people who received the wrong treatment, drastically changing their lives in other ways.

Unfortunately there is no rhyme or reason for why some people have to suffer and others seem to never get sick. This is a side effect of living in this fallen world. Life isn’t fair, and even though someone may normally be healthy, such as myself, health issues can crop up in an instant. You can get into an accident and break some bones (or worse), and then there’s cancer. I myself had a, thankfully easy, experience with cancer. I found a suspect spot on my leg that turned out to be melanoma. I caught it early enough though that the doctor was able to cut it out entirely and I required no further treatment. That said, cancer is rarely this easy to catch or treat, and it’s the rare person who hasn’t been affected by it, either directly, or through family and friends, but I bring it up to help make my point: health issues, such as cancer, don’t care who you are, what you do, how much you make, the color of your skin, or where you live. Anyone can require medical attention at any time, and as we are able to provide such amazing care, access to it should be considered a right, and not a priviledge, in the 21st century.

And Christians should be leading this charge.