Cecil Brown – Faith and the Role of Government

In recent public statements, both Gov. Phil Bryant and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn have raised the issue of religion and how it affects their work in the public offices they hold. Gov. Bryant told a group of school kids that Christianity “shapes his world view.” He went on to say that his Christian faith leads him to oppose abortion and support the display of nativity scenes on government property. He has also opposed any and all efforts to create health care exchanges and has opposed Medicaid health insurance expansion.

Speaker Gunn said he opposes expansion of Medicaid health insurance coverage for the poor because, he argues, that his reading of the Bible indicates that “It is not the government’s job to take care of its citizens” and that “people should not look to the government for their provision, their dependence or their joy.”

I read these opinions and thought how different they are from how Christianity and the Bible inform my own world view. For the religious community, caring for the poor and the sick is a timeless obligation. And while clearly the church and the non-profit community have a role to play in fulfilling that obligation, I believe that the government, as a human institution created under the authority of God, also has a role to play. When we consider the expansion of Medicaid in Mississippi, for example, we are looking at an opportunity to fulfill Christ’s declaration that “these signs shall follow them that believe . . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark, 16:17-18) Certainly we cannot be like Jesus “healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people,” (Mathew, 4:23), but we can facilitate healing by offering health care to the hundreds of thousands of poor Mississippians who are currently uninsured through the expansion of the Medicaid program and a state-based health insurance exchange.

Special to Cottonmouth