While discoursing during his final week in Jerusalem on the fate of the temple, Jesus tells his disciples that not only will it be laid to ruins (“not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down”), but also that some of the disciples will be put to death by “relatives and friends.” (See Luke 21.)

This will happen before the final and conclusive reign of God, according to Jesus.

From the sounds of those who campaigned in the recent congressional elections against the health care bill passed in March, one could get the impression that dismantling that legislation would be akin to ushering in God’s Kingdom. They view it with glee, not alarm, as some viewed the temple in ruins with relish, not fright.

They repudiate health care as a universal right and cheer for the free market doctrine that health care is a commodity – something to be purchased like everything else that has a price!

Although I haven’t lived in my home state of South Dakota for 50 years, I still read the Sioux Falls Argus Leader online every day and follow religion and politics there as if I were still a resident. So I had been disappointed that South Dakota’s Democratic representative (our only, given the population) voted against the reform legislation last March as a leader in the so-called Blue Dog Coalition. Yet, I was heartened that during her campaign for re-election, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandin said she would not favor repealing it.

Evidently that shift in stance was too much for “relatives and friends” in South Dakota. She was ousted by Tea Party-supported Kristi Noem, who, after her election, put the repeal of the federal health care reform bill at the top of her legislative priorities.

The Argus Leader quoted Noem as saying, “I would support a full repeal of that health care legislation,” although she believes, more realistically, that the law will be dismantled by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives refusing to fund the bill’s incremental implementation.

Representative-elect Noem is not alone. Two days after the election, the Washington Post reported: “Leaders of the new Republican majority emerged emboldened Wednesday, promising to slash the size of government and setting their sights on repealing President Obama’s signature health-care overhaul.”

If that doesn’t work at the federal level, GOP leaders have already devised a second front for attack at the state level. The Republicans picked up 11 governorships in the recent elections, which means they will hold executive power in 24 states, and they will control 25 state legislatures (11 more than is currently the case).

Their state-based plan isn’t foolproof because the federal government can provide health care insurance plans in states that elect not to establish the “exchanges,” making it possible to secure insurance with federal subsides. Still, with assaults on both the federal and state fronts, there is a good chance that health care reform will be severely crippled.

Thus, it appears that the millions of Americans without health insurance who thought there might be hope for coverage, even if some would have to wait until 2014 (because of provisions in the bill), will find themselves insurance-less for the long term.

The stark reality is that, yes, many of them will die.


Because, to use the language of Jesus, they were betrayed by “relatives and friends” who believed in a religion of free markets. They see free markets as a sign of their god’s final and conclusive reign.

I just don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind during his final week in Jerusalem.

Larry Greenfield is executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago. He also serves as editor and theologian-in-residence at The Common Good Network.

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