Eyes Wide Open- Healthcare

by Brad Cotton

(published Circleville Herald 13 Sept. 2013)


When does a matter often thought as a mere difference of politics/ economic outlook instead become a matter of the deepest moral and faith concern? Nearly 50,000 Americans die yearly because they have no health insurance according to a study from the Harvard Medical School. ( American Journal of Public Health “Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults” “ 17 Sept. 2009 --  http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/september/harvard_study_finds_.php   Proportionally calculated this means 1,650 of our Ohio neighbors die yearly as our market-based health care system leaves them biblically unclean, locked outside of the city gates beyond the warmth of the human community. The market deemed their lives to be of no worth. Is the idea of market supremacy in all human affairs then not responsible for their deaths? Is such a lethal system that kills 50,000 of us yearly, maims millions more, bankrupts millions of families and causes such unspeakable suffering not then evil?

Quaker John Woolman thought so. Woolman (1720-1772) commonly called the “Apostle of Abolition” felt called to speak for slaves, native Americans and the poor. Woolman is featured  in the popular reader “Devotional Classics” by Richard Foster and James Smith amongst C.S Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, St. Augustine, Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, George Fox, John Bunyan, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Frances of Assisi, G. K. Chesterton  and many others. Woolman is included in the section on faith leaders of “The Compassionate Life: The Social Justice Tradition”, his chapter is “John Woolman: Breaking the Yoke of  Oppression”. Jesus also spoke often of oppression, the synoptic gospels note that the act that finally got Him killed was his cleansing the Temple of the dove sellers and moneychangers while quoting Jeremiah 7. Jeremiah, speaking for Yahweh warns that the Israelites shall possess the land only if they do not exploit the disadvantaged, thus turning the Temple into a den of bandits.

Woolman relates his faith vision: “ I was then carried in spirit to the mines, where poor oppressed people were digging rich treasures for those called Christians, and heard them blaspheme the name of Christ, at which I was grieved, for His name to me was precious. Then I was informed that these heathens were told that those who oppressed them were the followers of Christ, and they said among themselves, “If Christ directed them to use us in this way, then Christ is a cruel tyrant.”. Many say we are a Christian nation. If that is true, then what vision of Christ are we teaching, when one is locked out of the Great Banquet, left to die without health care?

 The “Devotional Classics” text asks in reflection questions for readers, or for Sunday school discussion “What cries of oppression do you think God is hearing today? What actions might be required of you?” The text further notes that “With the prophets, the psalmist says that religious practices are less important than doing God’s will, a will that Micah describes as ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8)."

The Circleville Quakers Friday September 13th from 6 PM through Sunday September 15th will be hosting “Eyes Wide Open-Healthcare” on the Pickaway County Courthouse Plaza. The exhibit features over 360 white crosses and symbols for Ohio Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Taoists, Sikhs , representing the 1,650 Ohioans who died from lack of healthcare this past year. The exhibit is so named after the original Quaker exhibit “Eyes Wide Open” featuring combat boots and civilian shoes for soldier and civilian deaths in the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars. We believe we must open our eyes, our heart and minds, our souls to this suffering amongst us. We then ask what we must do in light of the teachings of Jesus, of John Woolman, of all the great faith traditions. The Circleville Quakers invite you and your family to come visit “Eyes Wide Open-Healthcare”. We invite you to come sit quietly with us among the crosses and symbols of those lost needlessly and listen for that still, small voice within.


 ( Brad Cotton is an attender of the Circleville Quaker Worship Group , the hosts of “Eyes Wide Open-Healthcare”. This column reflects his leadings, not necessarily of the Circleville Quakers as a whole.)