Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Some thougts on faith, hunger, and health

I have man in one of my churches who is actively involved in the health care debate, especially in my home state of Oklahoma. He shared some very somber statistics about health care and health care out comes here in OK. The majority of patience under 21 and over 65 seen by doctors in Oklahoma are on Medicaid/Medicare. The rates at which doctors in Oklahoma are paid for their services by Sooner Care (Oklahoma Medicaid/Medicare) is only about 80% of their costs. There is no Sooner Care available for people between the ages of 21 and 65 and 40% of them are uninsured. The only access they have to health care is the ER, a bill which they will most likely not be able to pay and a bill that will amount to loss for the provider. There were 9 million unduplicated visits to the ER last year in Oklahoma and of those visits the providers were able to recover approximately 70% of the costs. Oklahoma has the worst health care outcomes of any state in the Union, we have the sickest work force and the largest amount of adults with mental health issues. Some might say Oklahoma needs hope...hope for a better health care system, hope for a healthier generation to come, hope for...tomorrow. I respectfully disagree.

Hope is a useless emotion that is unreliable, unattainable and unpredictable by itself. I know this all sounds very discouraging, but it's true, hope does absolutely nothing to change anyone's situation permanently. Sure it might makes us feel good for a while, it might bring us up out of a state of sadness or depression, but as far as actually changing just doesn't! Who has ever accomplished anything simply by hoping it would change? Hope alone is a cool breeze, a drink of ice cold water on a hot day...hope only refreshes it does not change the situation. What is needed in a situation like this and what is needed in our world and in our culture is faith. Faith changes things, it is by faith that people enter into difficult situations and complicated issues and see change, it is faith that moves, faith that builds, and faith that transforms. I believe that if the Christians in Oklahoma and the rest of the U.S acted in faith towards the health care issue than there would be change, people would be covered and have access to health care.

Health care is not a stand alone issue. Faith can change any situation. Hunger is another problem he have in Oklahoma, not just malnutrition hunger issues, but over nutrition hunger issues caused by poor education on food choices and the fact that it is expensive to eat right. Poverty is a major issue in our state and with poverty normally comes nutrition problems. Some people can not afford food and are literally hungry, others can only afford cheap, inexpensive food choices or whatever they find at the local food pantry....which is normally beans, pasta, and sodium filled canned veggies and meat...high calories, carbs, and salt...this is a recipe for obesity. Faith can end hunger as well. Faith in Christ can provide opportunities for those who are less fortunate to have what they need to be healthy, there is no excuse in our country to have people without access to acute health care and healthy food choices, there is simply just to much wealth for this to happen, but I suppose one could say that "there is to much wealth, that is why this happens."

Hebrews 11 is the "faith" chapter in the New Testament. It is full of examples of people who acted in faith and it transformed them into new people. There faith actions were not easy, they were frightening, confusing, and difficult, but that's what faith does. Faith transforms us and our world because it challenges us to be something other that what we are. Faith should cause us to be uncomfortable, it should cause us to step out into the unknown, it should cause us to "love our neighbor as ourselves." and if I have access to acute and preventive health care, good food choices, and education...shouldn't my neighbor?

Back to faith....earlier I said hope was useless, but that hope also has it's place, it's important to have hope, but we cannot root ourselves in hope, we must be rooted in faith. You know what the main difference between hope and faith is....proof. We can prove that some has faith, we can prove faith by whats been transformed. We cannot prove hope, hope is a dream, hope is an ideal thought, something that looks good on paper....."Hope Floats"....while "Faith Sinks" sinks deep into our souls, it roots itself in our very being and transforms who and what we are....this is why we are justified through faith, because faith changes our relationships, especially our relationship with God, but it should also change our relationship with humanity.

I hope your faith challenges you. I hope it is transforming you and is causing you some distress. I hope your faith is justifying you towards God and towards humanity, bring you back into right relationship with both. In his weekly podcast from this week, Leonard Sweet says "Faith transforms, while hope adorns." Don't just look like you've changed, but become changed.

Grace and Peace.

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