By David Hegg
You just can’t escape the discussions these days. Health care continues to be an ongoing topic of conversation. Regardless of your political affiliation, the subject of health care costs, its availability and myriad other side issues that go along with it have become the wallpaper of our lives.
And the surprising thing is that everyone I talk to is for it — health care, that is. It’s not as if the debate is between those who are in favor of health care and those who oppose it. Everyone wants it, and thinks it is essential to our well-being, and even worth paying for. After all, who doesn’t want their child to be a doctor?
A few years ago I contracted a terrible chest cough. You know the feeling, like someone poured concrete down your throat and it settled in your chest. My chest felt like it weighed a hundred pounds, even as my cough reflex tried valiantly to break up and dislodge the uninvited guest. It didn’t take long until I became the unwanted participant at every meeting on my schedule. So, being a man, I of course just drank some tea and determined that it would get better all by itself. But those in my world wouldn’t let it go. Everyone from the receptionist, to my staff and my family kept stressing the need to go see my local health care provider. And when the coughing finally made my chest and stomach muscles feel like they were on fire, and about to give up, I made the appointment. A thorough examination and three prescriptions later, I was on my way to a quick and full recovery.
Health care is a good thing.
But here’s what really puzzles me. Why are we in America so concerned about our physical well-being, but not overly concerned or even aware of other areas of our health? Sneeze a few times, or persist in an ugly cough and people you hardly know will warn you about denial and strongly suggest you see a doctor. But file off the edges of your integrity in order to keep a customer and no one cares. Develop a hard-edged cynicism that begins to erode your relationships, and no one will warn you. Become a pragmatist, or a hedonist, or brag about cheating on your taxes or stealing cable television with a smart box, and some will even applaud you. In short, while we are arguing about health care, the state of our virtue — the health of our souls — is being steadily eroded.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m for health care, and I’m all for a healthier America. But I’m also for soul health. I’m for the care and feeding of our consciences so that they stay vigilant against the ever-present threat of compromise woven throughout the fabric of our post-modern world. I’m for the constant defense of truth and honor even when doing so pits me against the deconstructionists who want us to believe that truth can never be absolute. I’m for remembering that many of our ethical wars have been fought before, down through the centuries, by men and women of great courage, and their victories and their insights can still be steady guides today. I’m for remembering that the Bible is still the most published, most sold, most read, and most influential book ever written, and that, for those who play with open minds, its historical accuracy and textual credibility are unsurpassed by any ancient text.
In America we are experiencing a health care crisis, no question about it.
Those with the power to change things for the better need to, and fast. And yet, the crisis of our souls is also worth admitting. Where a vast majority of teens are hooking up casually for sexual favors, and the university students regularly cheat on tests and papers, and the corporate leaders profit through dishonesty, and the clergy refuse to warn of crumbling foundations but instead join in the perversion, can a society call itself healthy?
As we worry about our physical health, it is high time that we all — individually and as a society — think hard and fast about the state of our souls. If you cough, see a doctor. If you care about spiritual and ethical formation, try one of the many outstanding churches in Santa Clarita. You might just come away feeling better all around.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.