This is the third in a series of posts from Miroslav Volf, author of A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, titled “Values of a Public Faith: A Contribution to a Conversation.”
7. The Elderly
Value: Those who are frail on account of their advanced age deserve our special help. They need adequate medical assistance, social interaction, and meaningful activities. (The humanity of a society is measured perhaps especially by how it treats those no longer capable of doing “useful” work.)
Rationale: “Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Ps. 68:5). (In today’s world, the “elderly,” arguably, belong to the categories of the “poor” and “widows”.)
Debate: The debate here is about the extent of the responsibility for the wellbeing of the elderly. What resources should a society set aside for the care of elderly, and what are the best ways to manage those resources?
Question to Ask: What will the candidate do to help honor the elderly and attend to their specific needs?
Value: Unborn human life, just like fully developed human life, deserves our respect, protection, and nurture.
Rationale: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13).
Debate: There is a legitimate debate about the point at which life that can plausibly be deemed human begins and whether the best way to reduce abortions is to criminalize abortion or to improve the living conditions of the poor (for instance, through fighting poverty in inner cities, providing education for women, making available affordable childcare).
Question to Ask: Is the candidate firmly committed to reducing the number of abortions performed, to make it not just safe when it is legal, but also rare?
Value: All people—poor or rich—should have access to affordable basic healthcare, just as all are responsible for living in a way conducive to physical and mental health.
Rationale: “Jesus went through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness” (Matt. 9:35).
Debate: There is a legitimate debate as to how best to ensure that all people have access to affordable healthcare—but not as to whether the destitute should or should not be left to fend for themselves when faced with serious or chronic illness. We roughly know what it takes to lead a healthy lifestyle (exercise, minimal intake of sugar, no substance abuse, etc.), but we can and ought to debate most effective ways to help people lead such a lifestyle (for instance, how heavily the food industry should be regulated).
Questions to Ask: Which candidate is more likely to give the destitute effective access to healthcare? Which candidate is more likely to reduce the number of people who need to seek medical help?
10. Care for Creation
Value: We are part of God’s creation, and we must seek to preserve the integrity of God’s creation as an interdependent ecosystem and, if possible, to pass it on to the future generations improved. Above all, we should not damage creation by leading lifestyles marked by acquisitiveness and wastefulness.
Rationale: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15).
Debate: The debate here should be about the extent of present ecological damage (for instance, whether or not we are barreling toward a climate apocalypse) and about the appropriate means and sacrifices necessary to preserve God’s creation.
Question to Ask: Which candidate shows a better understanding of the ecological health of the planet and has a better track record in preventing the devastation of what God has created and pronounced good?