When Healing the Sick becomes a Political Act

“Why do you have to get all political on us?”

“I don’t like the way your social media has become so political lately.”

“Why don’t you leave politics alone and just preach the gospel?”

Statements like these have been leveled at several of my fellow Christian female bloggers lately. (Not so much at me. I’ve always been political. 😉 ) But it’s something that has caught my attention. In a way, it’s true: writers like Rachel Held Evans and Jory Micha appear to be making more political statements. I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty, too. I’ve tweeted a lot about my opposition to Trump’s presidency. A LOT.

But I’m not sure some of us are being any more political than usual. Many of us have always preached food for the hungry, room for the refugee and justice for the poor. It’s just that today, we find ourselves in a society in which feeding the hungry and healing the sick have become political acts.

Jesus once found himself in such a place. In Luke 13, he’s preaching at a synagogue when a crippled woman comes into the room. Now, in Jesus’ day, illnesses and disabilities are viewed as God’s punishment upon that person or their family for some kind of sin. Their only hope of being healed is to bring the right offering to the temple and be declared “clean” by the priests.

Don’t have an offering? Too bad. God doesn’t heal you when the priest prays? Too bad. You’re doomed to live on the margins until something changes.

So in comes this woman. She’s been bent double by an evil spirit for 18 years. And it’s the Sabbath. The law says people can’t work on the Sabbath. What is work? Well, the priests get to decide that. They are the gatekeepers, and their standard of living depends on keeping certain people relegated to the margins. If you get accused of working on the Sabbath, they could have you arrested, tried and executed. And then your stuff would likely become their stuff.

People stay sick and afraid and keep bringing offerings to the priests.

Funny how that works.

But Jesus is having none of it. He sees this woman and feels compassion for her. Here is a person made in his Father’s image, who is clearly suffering and needs help. So he touches her and she stands up straight. She’s healed. And, oh boy, does she celebrate.

The priests are pissed. Jesus has just interfered with their system. He has healed a woman whom God (supposedly) had decided to punish. And not only did Jesus not go through the proper channels or rituals to do so, but he did it on the priests’ only day off! He has flaunted their authority and stolen their glory. He has thrown the dominant narrative into question and shown the people that there is another way.

Notice: it’s typically after these “healing on the Sabbath” episodes that the religious leaders start plotting to kill Jesus. This upsets them more than almost anything else.

In America, where capitalism is praised as the most moral system of economics, we have a dominant narrative as well. This narrative says that if a person is poor, it is because they haven’t worked hard enough or made the right decisions. So if someone can’t afford food or medical care or housing, it’s their own fault, and giving them these things only enables them to keep being lazy and irresponsible. On the other hand, paving the way for already wealthy people to acquire more money rewards hard work and motivates poor people to try harder to succeed.

Because of this narrative, we have dozens of people in Congress–our gatekeepers–working to slash aid for the neediest among us in order to further reward the rich. It’s no coincidence that the gatekeepers of this narrative are the ones primarily benefiting from its existence. They get to choose who stays in the in-group and who gets relegated to the margins. And they do not respond kindly when people challenge this narrative.

In an environment like this, healing the sick becomes a political act. It interferes with the system. It affirms the inherent worth and dignity of people whom the gatekeepers have declared unworthy. When you raise your voice in a capitalist society-turned-oligarchy-turned-kleptocracy and say, “All humans should have food” or “All people should be able to see a doctor when ill and not go bankrupt from it,” you’re no longer just making moral statements. You’re opposing the dominant narrative. You’ve now become political.

“Why do you have to be so political?” Because the dominant narrative in our society stands in direct opposition to the teachings of Scripture, and it’s being peddled by many who claim to know Jesus. It shouldn’t be a political act to say that all people are made in the image of God and, therefore, deserve kindness and mercy. But that’s what it has become.

So I’ll preach until it’s no longer political to say such things. Then I’ll preach some more.

11 responses to “When Healing the Sick becomes a Political Act

  1. My most beloved grandmother who had been my rock through a miserable abusive childhood, when I called her at age 35–she in her late 80’s–to tell her that I had been diagnosed with a fast moving and horrific case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, said the first gut level cruelest thing to someone who had such a spiritualized ego that I didn’t know how to not choose the “good girl” response, “What sin did you commit that God would punish you so?”
    I was so floored, so devestated that all I could stammer was, “I don’t know…”
    I pretty much never spoke to her again. She wrote me off as a sinner that could not be redeemed, and since I had no idea how to approach that whole mind set–I lost my way to be part of my father’s family in toto. The intense pain had brought forth a deeply buried memory that when I shared with my father–he was so ashamed of not protecting me that he stopped talking to me as well.
    I subsequently found out my mother is Jewish and have converted (claimed) my Jewish heritage–having a direct relationship with God and see all mankind as my brothers. The cruelty of the (official–my grandmother!!) Christianity of my childhood (Evangelical) church and then the one person I trusted as Godbroke me as nothing else has. The betrayals of life have led me to a different, more peaceful space and when God speaks through me–which he often does, it’s with kindness and love. Others are attracted (and wasn’t that what we were told would happen?) and I try to console and extend as much love as possible to anyone that needs it.
    It’s so different than my “being taught to judge correctly” as two older ladies said to each other confidently entering Bible study ( I got up and left–it seemed totally the wrong direction to me…and I didn’t want to make them wrong) so the steps to my exiting Christianity were long in the making. I am extremely political, because evil will flourish if we do not stand up to it.
    I am sad mostly, for us all.

  2. April. I had a dog, and his name was B-I-N-G-O. Bingo was his name—oh.

    Alas, I have been unofficially invited to leave the John Pavlovitz blog—in the cruel and most silent of ways. I guess Pavlovitz thought I protested too much and too long about the corner of the Christian faith that feeds on and claps joyously at the nonJesus narrative you describe above. Funny thing is though—he protests about that corner as much or more than I do. The only difference is that I call out that corner by name and talk directly at it by name. Subtle ain’t my strong suit.

    Thank you for supporting Jesus and those no one else cares for or wants to hear about. I may be one of them soon as my unemployment continues and my life savings dwindle slowly toward zero.

    We live in an age where protection of our breathing air and drinking water is no longer wanted—and those who want your children to drink poison water from your sink faucet have taken away my lifetime career and service to God through it. I would recommend that you and all of your readers study up on “Minimata disease.” Google it. You will need to know the symptoms and what causes them when they start showing up. None of the 21 or so RCRA metals.above certain ppm concentrations in drinking water are good for you or your children–and they can cause bad things to happen in the body. You can tell Trump and company if you like—but they ain’t listening. They want that poison and numerous other organic poisons in your drinking water at high levels for some odd reason that makes zero common sense to me as a scientist that has worked with this subject for three decades. Good luck and God bless—all of you are going to need it.

    • P,S. I was not asked to leave the John Pavlovitz blog. As it turned out, John decided to start moderating the posts again after a long absence. He was just behind in approving posts and had not gotten to mine yet. Impatient moi.

        • I gave your healthcare essay a plug on my blog today and asked people to go read it. It really is a very good and unique argument—and written so very well. Hang in there—and if you have not written to your two U.S. Senators about the Trumpcare debacle—it is not too late to stop this train. The real answer is for the Republicans and Democrats to work together to craft a joint way to fix Obamacare—and give it another name. I told my U.S. Senators that just giving the Affordable Acre Act a new name and nickname not associated with an African-American man would fix a big a big part of the Republican complaints. You know:

          “I love the Affordable Care Act!!! It’s Obamacare that I am against.”

          Huge eye roll.

    • “I love the Affordable Care Act!!! It’s Obamacare that I am against.”

      Isn’t Obamacare just another name for the Affordable Care Act? If it is, then hating Obamacare means hating the Affordable Care Act!

  3. Pingback: When Healing the Sick Becomes a Political Act | Flee from Christian Fundamentalism

  4. Christ actually DID something, questioned the system (and got killed). He also preached a lot, but in this case he DID something.
    What I wonder is: What deed would question the system in a way Christ did? It’s a good thing to preach, but as some said: They won’t listen. They also didn’t listen to the prophets back then, though they were right. Christ went one step further: He actually challenged the system and lead it to a response that revealed its wickedness. In a way like Martin Luther King did in the 1960s, revealing the violence behind racism to the TV public. With some thinking I am sure we’d find plenty more people with a similar fate.
    Jesus healed on the Sabbath, in front of the priests, King marched for equal rights and practised nonviolence. What would we today have to do to challenge the system in such a way – this question I keep asking myself.

    • Reading this I wonder if the system-challenging thing to do might involve anything like approaching those filled with hate through deeds of love.
      There must be a reason why racists are racist, why capitalists fail to see the harm they cause etc.
      Of course, you will be yelled at or attacked in other ways if you approach the inhumane as the humans they ought to be, but I guess this shouldn’t stop us.

  5. “If you dont want your tax dollars going to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values, because you don’t.” Pres. Jimmy Carter