Why the church needs to change its approach on gay marriage

To be quite clear up front, I do not believe in homosexuality, regardless whether its participants are getting married or not.  There are plenty of places in the Bible that condemn these actions.  In Romans 1 alone, it is called unnatural, shameful, and we are told that it is the result of depraved minds.  I am not concerned about being in line with public opinion, only in being in line with what God has clearly taught us.

With that in mind, I believe that the church has completely blown its approach on the issue of homosexuality.  We have the Bible on our side and we should NEVER abandon God’s Word for public opinion or even fear of persecution.  But the question is, why are we holding fast to God’s Word?

The prophets were instructed to draw a line in the sand of what God said.  People were either for God or against Him.  I believe that there are still prophets in the church today.  Not men and women who predict the future but who draw the line in the sand and state that God’s commands are not to be trifled with.  But not everyone has the gift of prophecy and I question the idea of whether the church is to do the work of the prophets.

The church has an obligation to declare the Word of the Lord but that is far more than just standing against the tides of popular culture.  Jesus didn’t give us instructions of “Go into all the world and tell them everything that they are doing wrong so they’ll stop.”  Our standing orders are to make disciples.  Making disciples does mean that we instruct people to repent of their sins but that comes through a process.

I believe that we have inadvertently created a mindset to the outside world that they first have to get their lives right because they can come to God.  Because the church talks so much about sin, we forget who we’re preaching to.  People outside of the doors of the church need to hear the gospel about the forgiveness of sins.  Those inside of the church need to know about the garbage in their lives that needs to be dumped.

But we’ve gotten it backwards.  How many times in the gospels do we see Jesus preaching against sin?  Jesus encountered plenty of sinners and He was never wishy washy in calling sin for what it was.  But Jesus always had the big picture in mind.  Rather than just fix the sin, He aimed to fix the whole person.  When Jesus called for repentance, it wasn’t for one particular sin but rather a general call for salvation.

The church only needs to look at its previous efforts to see how well it does to preach against sin rather than focus on saving souls.  Issues such as prohibition and divorce certainly haven’t gone the way of the church’s teachings.  It appears as though the issue of gay marriage is also headed that way as well.  I believe that the church needs to be more concerned about preaching salvation and changing lives in that way rather than continually preach to non-Christians about what the Bible says.  Non-Christians have no reason to respect what the Bible says but we continue to preach sin rather than salvation.

Should Protestants care who is pope?

For the last two weeks, one of the major news stories all over the world has been the resignation of the pope.  This is arguably the most important story in the world as 1.2 billion people identify themselves as Catholic and thus should have a vested interest in what is going on in the church.  And of course they should have an interest in who the next pope will be.  History tells us that speculation is almost completely fruitless as likely “frontrunners” for pope are far more difficult to predict than frontrunners of an election.  And in case you don’t recall how well people have done in predicting that, 2012 had no less than five different leaders for the Republican nomination to run for president.

So, this is in no way an attempt to speculate on who will be pope.  The broader question to ask is, should I, as a Protestant, even care who is the next pope?  The easy answer would be no, because I am not Catholic and therefore the selection of pope will have no bearing on me one way or another.  The truth though, is that I am always concerned about who the pope is and you don’t need to be religious at all to have a vested interest in the pope.

The pope has the ability to sway the thoughts and opinions of more people in the world than anyone else.  Of course of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, not all can be considered “good” Catholics as not everyone will listen to the pope.  For instance, the church has taken a stand against abortion and there are still plenty of pro-abortion Catholics.  Secondly, the pope heads an institution in the church that is quite unchanging.  It is unlikely that any pope in the foreseeable future will change any longstanding beliefs and traditions that impact millions of people.  Nevertheless, the potential is there.  Should the church change its stance on a major issue such as homosexuality, the ramifications would be far reaching and ultimately affect far more than just Catholics.

As a Protestant, I have even more interest in who the pope is and what he will do.  For better or worse, the Catholic church symbolizes the universal church for many people.  When the church does something or says something, it often speaks for all of Christianity.  Certainly not every priest is a pedophile (likely a very, very small minority), nor is every Protestant minister without grievous sin, but in the eyes of many outsiders Christianity is full of perverted leaders.  The Catholic church is what shapes the perception of Christianity for many people because they do not know the differences between Catholic and Baptist and Presbyterian.

While I do not hold to many Catholic beliefs, the Catholic church is often in line with conservative Protestant churches on social issues.  In many ways, the battles over social issues have already been fought and popular opinion has swept away any sense of morality or upholding what the Bible teaches.  Nevertheless, should the Catholic church shift from a conservative position on any social issue, conservative Christians will not only be a minority but will find themselves badly outnumbered and possibly even open to persecution.

There are some who look upon the Catholic church as evil and will even try to call the pope the antichrist (or the false prophet of Revelation.)  I believe such speculation is foolish and serves no purpose.  I do believe that anyone who teaches anything other than “salvation by faith alone” is in error.  To that extent I believe that the Catholic church is in error as it upholds works and dogma alongside the importance of faith and scripture.

Nevertheless, no matter what one thinks of the Catholic church and the pope specifically, I believe that it is our duty to pray for the selection of the next pope.  This will be a man who wields more influence over the world than any president or world leader could have.  He has the power to hold the church in a conservative position or to allow it to be washed away with the tides of popular opinion.  Protestants don’t agree with Catholics on issues of faith and many will question whether the pope can be saved while holding to Catholic dogma, we must still recognize the influence that the position holds.

God can use a person to accomplish His will whether they are saved or not.  Without any insult intended to Catholics or the position of pope – if God can speak through Balaam’s donkey, through false prophets, and through Caiaphas the high priest of Jesus’ day, God can certainly accomplish His will through the pope as well.  And that will have ramifications on Catholics and Protestants alike.  So be in prayer that God would place the right man in leadership regardless whether you follow the pope or not.

Fixing Insurance

As I mentioned recently, I haven’t been feeling well.  This led to an ultrasound a month ago, just a precaution to make sure I wasn’t having trouble with my gallbladder despite the fact that I had no symptoms aside from a dull general pain.  Not a big deal because I have insurance.  I know that it won’t cover all of it but it will handle the bulk of the cost and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I got my bills – yes plural – from the hospital.  The insurance didn’t pay a dime!  I got a discount because I have insurance but the company that my church pays thousand of dollars a year to insure me did not have to pay a cent.  My $400 ultrasound cost me $183 out of pocket.  To have someone read the ultrasound results was an additional $90, of which I had to pay $43. 

Although I find the fact that my insurance doesn’t pay anything toward my medical bills offensive, this isn’t actually the point.  The point is that despite a year of fighting in Washington, this problem hasn’t been fixed.  It’s great that approximately 30 million uninsured people are going to be able to get insurance now.  I have serious questions about the logistics of how it’s going to work and the cost, but I’m okay with the principle of it at least.  The problem is that there are about 250 million of us who have insurance and almost every person will say that they pay too much and there is too much waste involved in the system.

On top of this, having insurance is not a cureall.  I have insurance and have avoided going to the doctor simply because I know that there is a copay of $30.  Now certainly if I thought I really needed to go, I’d go but for some people $30 is more than they can afford.  And that’s just the start.  Any time tests are needed the costs will quickly add up.  Certainly having insurance is going to help some people but there are still going to be plenty of people who can’t afford copays, coinsurance, and deductibles.  Some people who really are having a problem with their gallbladder are still going to stay home until it gets worse because they can’t afford the cost even with insurance.

Unfortunately there aren’t any easy fixes.  To truly fix the system we’d basically have to blow it up and start over again and that’s not going to happen.  But just for the sake of argument, here’s my thought on how to at least bring the system under control. 

The idea of the government running the insurance industry will never fly.  Free market, socialism, blah blah blah.  But what about the medical industry?  Although I’m sure there’s a thousand holes in my idea, it’s basically pretty simple.  Currently, you go to the doctor and they run some tests.  You get billed by the doctor, the person who runs the test, and the doctor who interprets the results.  Each person gets paid a certain amount for their role and the amount varies depending on who is paying the bill.  Medicare will pay a certain amount which the doctor accepts as payment in full, Anthem pays a certain amount, Aetna pays a certain amount, and so on.  Quantity is emphasized over quality because the more people pushed through, the more money a doctor takes home to pay his malpractice insurance and pay off his hefty student loans.

What if doctors weren’t paid by the patient however?  Instead, a pediatrician was guaranteed $125,000 a year assuming he or she worked a full year, surgeons were gauranteed a certain amount depending on their specialties, and so on.  They work for the government and they don’t bill anyone because they’re paid directly.  Millions (maybe hundreds of millions?) would be saved each year just on billing and eliminating the bill for service.  Perhaps more importantly, doctors don’t rush to push as many patients through in a day don’t miss some important details from patients that will prevent misdiagnoses as well as catching some problems before they grow larger and cost more to treat.  A couple more minutes with each patient can save millions if not billions in later treatment.

To encourage more people to get into the medical profession, pay for their schooling like is done for some school teachers.  Some teachers’ loans are forgiven if they agree to serve in certain school districts for a set number of years.  The same could be done to encourage doctors to enter certain fields that are in high demand and/or don’t pay as much as other fields.

Of course the other thing that must be done to bring costs in line is to fix malpractice insurance.  The bottom line is that doctors make a lot of money and pay an absurd amount of it back to insurance out of fear of being sued.  Many doctors pay $100k a year just in malpractice insurance.  These rates are so high because lawsuits have become absurd along with the payouts associated with these lawsuits.  Doctors are not perfect and mistakes will be made.  It’s tragic when these things happen but telltale signs of diseases will be missed and tests won’t be run that could have caught a problem.  The truth of the matter is that without a doctor’s help people will get sick and suffer from the diseases a lot more than with help.  People need to acknowledge this and if they seek out help from a doctor, they should give up their right to sue except in the case of gross negligence.  In short, a doctor misses a sign of illness and the illness gets worse, the person is entitled to seek another opinion but not sue after the fact.  A doctor fails to remove a pair of scissors and sews a patient up with the scissors still inside, this would be considered negligent.  Needless to say, the former is sued over routinely and has driven the cost of malpractice insurance sky high.  The latter doesn’t happen too often.

Now, this doesn’t begin to fix all of the problems in a system so vast and complicated none of us truly understand it, including those who work in the industry.  There is still a question of how equipment is paid for and if there is even a role for insurance.  I say scrap the whole system.  Take what employers pay to private insurance companies and send it directly to the government.  This is upwards of $1 trillion a year (2004’s numbers, likely well over that now.)  Combine that with the $800 billion a year that the goverment is already paying (once again, 2004’s numbers) and there’s a lot of money for equipment.  http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/3150/Cost-Health-Care-GOVERNMENT-HEALTH-CARE-PROGRAMS.html In case you’re curious. 

So all of this is a start.  Just some things to think about the next time you get a doctor bill or hand out your money to pay for health insurance.