Bonds of Mutual Affection

Institutions that worked in the 20th century and earlier are faltering and in some instances failing to fulfill the functions for which they were created.

Banks and financial institutions crashed the economy. Our federal government is dysfunctional–and in actions like family separation, it is demonic.

Wherever you look institutions are under duress. Education, government, religious organizations and health care are among them.

I was reminded of this as I sat through a recent meeting in which church officials and third party vendors explained a change in health insurance for retirees from church agencies.

Before you turn away for lack of interest in retiree health insurance, hang with me for a moment because the issue is about much more than that.

In various ways our failing institutions are grasping for alternatives. Some, like banks, seek even more power and freedom to move without regulation. Others, such as churches, are struggling with divisions that threaten their survival.

The move by my national church to put retiree health care into the private market through a third party broker represents how changes in the larger society are eating away at the institution.

In the church, as in civil society, we have viewed ourselves as interconnected. In religious language, we call this “community.” We care for each other and for the larger world.

Community is not only immediate, it includes “the great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before over the centuries.

We are connected. Our humanity binds us in ways that are profound and enduring.

In civil society, Lincoln put it poetically and realistically in his first inaugural address in 1861. “We are not enemies, but friends,” he said. “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

These bonds of affection, however, are strained today, and in some cases they are breaking.

We’ve moved from these communitarian values to transactional values. We are less connected by bonds of mutual concern and more connected by the exchange of money.

The market economy has replaced the blessed community.

In the case of the church and retiree insurance, the church agency responsible for managing insurance is turning it over to a third party broker who will put the retirees into the private insurance market.

At the meeting where this was announced, everyone who spoke stated how much they care for retirees. I believe them.

However, this affection yields to the necessity of changing the connection between the retired employee and the institution.

Our speakers promised concrete advantages by including more choices in insurance packages. For some in the room that is vitally important.

Some of us might even get insurance at no cost, they said.

To check this out, I used the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation insurance calculator to explore scenarios for no-cost insurance.

I can’t find a no-cost insurance scenario for my state, a state that chose not to expand Medicaid, and therefore, chose to deny some of the benefit of the Affordable Care Act to its low income citizens.

But I did find that an individual with $15,000 annual income and no spouse who is eligible for insurance through an employer could qualify for a subsidized policy at a cost of $20.00 per month.

I truly fear for you if you’re living at a level that qualifies you for no-cost insurance. You’re on the edge of survival.

And more than 40,600,000 U.S. citizens subsist below the poverty line.

The market economy erodes the bonds of affection. It puts relationship on a fee for service basis.

The Affordable Care Act is based on the principle that those of us in better health would support the health and well-being of those less fortunate through mutually affordable insurance.

This is civic interconnectedness. It is based on the idea that we are a better society when we reinforce our mutual bonds of affection and care for one another.

But both our political institutions and corporate health care have broken these bonds. They have imposed a survival of the fittest system upon us in which wealth correlates to access to health care.

Nearly 40% of U.S. citizens say they have gone in debt to pay medical expenses and 31 million have no insurance.

The projections for the future of the health insurance maketplaces are not good. The actions of Republican legislators to destroy the ACA have charted a course that looks like it will further undermine the principle of mutual benefit through cost sharing.

The church is caught up in the transactional model that is strangling us through the market-based economy led by politicians bought and paid for by large corporations and by the insurance industry that profits from this system.

I do not fault my church officials who made the decision to move us to the private market. They see no viable option.

If we are to recover meaningful civic and spiritual engagement–to be the kind of society that cares for all its people–we must create alternative models and new structures that connect us and restore our mutual bonds of affection.

It is left to grassroots people to organize around the issues that affect us and to seek solutions. We now understand that the political, health care and health insurance institutions are too entrenched and controlled by principalities and powers to create change.

Christian communities and their humanitarian organizations must partner with community organizations addressing poverty and health care to envision new ways of interconnecting.

It is up to those at the ground level to restore the mutual bonds of affection, and to construct new, more humane policies that foster community, equity and justice.

We must do nothing less than envision new ways to connect in order to create new institutions for the future. Difficult as it will be, health care is as good a starting place as any.

One Response to “Bonds of Mutual Affection”

  1. Dan J Frisby July 28, 2018 at 10:25 am #

    This courageous commitment of conscience, from this word/witness/wisdom of a proven faithful leader and life/long friend, Larry D Hollon, invites and invokes all human hearts to reflect/respond/restore humanity upon the values, principles & goals of civility/community/common sense in the process of bringing hope, healing & health to all “God’s Children” on Planet Earth 🙂
    Thank you, My Friend, for your excellent/eloquent/elucidating invitation for us to “think more highly of humanity than we have thought before”… 🙂
    Dan J Frisby

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