Litmus Test for a Nation’s Soul

Decades ago Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a speech (“Beyond Viet Nam”) that questioned the spiritual costs of investing more in developing weapons and conducting the war in Viet Nam than we did in the poor and the sick. Militarism, he warned, was poisoning the soul of the Nation. It was an important moment in the anti-war and in the civil rights movement. It was a moment when the most important prophet of our lifetime delivered what was clearly a message about a choice we had to make and the consequences if we failed to make the moral choice.

Today we face a similar moral choice and it is just as profound as any we have faced in our past. The choice has been put at our feet by Sen. Paul Ryan and the Republicans of the House: The American Health Care Act. We have a fundamental choice on the moral and spiritual future of the Country, and the consequences to American citizens and to the existential definition of our Country.

The American Health Care Act as presently constructed essentially boils down to this: a tax break for the wealthy at the cost of human lives – millions of human lives, mostly among the poorest, the sickest and the elderly. The terms of the Act are straight forward and we really didn’t need a CBO analysis to define those terms.

The youngest, healthiest and wealthiest Americans are given a choice between lower premiums for themselves, or to continue to contribute to the collective care of children, the sickest, poorest and oldest Americans (and ultimately to their own care someday). The moral and spiritual choices are clear: less than 30 pieces of silver in savings on healthcare premiums or saving human lives and suffering. Christ gave some clear instructions in this regard, and no Christian or moral person could deny the choices to be made. Neither could a “Christian” or moral nation.

Paul Ryan and his Congressional co-authors have offered you a choice – and you must choose. To remain silent on this law is to allow the weight of special interests to cause suffering to millions of people and the burden of conscience. I understand that Mr. Ryan portrays himself as a faithful Roman Catholic, but his bill runs as contrary to Catholic teachings.  Christ Himself declared “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”

If Dr. King were alive today, I suspect it would not be a surprise to see him leading a march, and hear him declare a law that will literally cause suffering and death among so many people and is “evil”. This American Health Care Act is an act of evil and therefore an opportunity – a litmus test – of what kind of Country we remain or will become.

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