By Pastor Charles McKinzie | March 17, 2020
As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, I spend quite a bit of time in scripture. Usually I’m trying to understand “deep truths” found therein and discern how we are to respond in our modern world. One question that continues to keep me perplexed in my studies: “How can my brothers and sisters read scripture and then choose to take actions which harm those in need?” As a follower of Jesus, I read his words plainly in Matthew 7:12 where he calls us to the “Golden Rule” of treating others how we wish to be treated. The truth is, we commonly demonize the poor in our modern world. In fact, we tend to demonize anything we don’t understand. Frankly, there was a time in my own journey when I thought ill of those in need and deemed them “lazy” … or worse.
Four years ago, my wife, Carrie, was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation. Essentially, her brain is too large for her skull and she needed surgery to remove portions of her skull and vertebrae to make space for the more natural flow of spinal fluid. We have always been solidly lower-middle class. At the time I worked for a small college and my wife was a special education paraeducator and sign language interpreter at our local elementary school. As a family with good insurance and an above-poverty income, I expected we’d be able to get the care she required without issue. I was very wrong.
Our journey through her health issues led us to being tens of thousands of dollars in debt. We made decisions each month on what bills we could skip to keep the medical providers from garnishing our wages to meet their demands. This all culminated one Thursday morning last January as there was a banging on the door at 4 a.m. They were there to repossess our 8-year-old family car. The same week, the Sheriff came by to serve papers letting us know that our house would be auctioned off to satisfy the mortgage company. We had been visiting food banks for months, borrowing and begging from family and friends, and generally doing anything possible to offset these financial needs. Ultimately, we were forced into bankruptcy just to make sure our kids had a place to sleep at night. Because of medical bills. As a lower-middle-class-family. With insurance.
We count ourselves lucky. We had access to insurance. Many friends we know are not so fortunate. We know people in our congregation who decide weekly whether to buy their prescription medicine or to get food. People who put off going to the doctor for a flu who later end up in the ER because they are in “the gap” and earn too much to get assistance but not enough to buy private insurance. We have the opportunity to correct this for a large number of our friends and neighbors. Let’s get off the fence of partisan bickering and do the right, just, and moral thing. Let’s expand KanCare. 1 John 3:17 – How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
May the peace of God’s love be with you all.
Charles McKinzie is pastor at Grandview United Methodist Church in Winfield.