Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mercy and Justice in the Public Sphere.

In an LDS video teaching the principles of mercy and justice a young man takes out a loan from a creditor.  With this loan he goes out and buys a house and farm.  He knows that one day he will have to pay back the loan but he knows that day is far away.  Eventually that day comes and he is unprepared to pay back the full sum of his loan.  The creditor sees no other option but to exercise justice and take all that the man has and send the debtor to jail.  The debtor pleads for mercy but the creditor demands justice.  The question of the video asks how mercy can be given while having justice be satisfied.  What happens is that a third party comes in a pays off the creditor, therefore satisfying justice, and offers the debtor a second chance.  Thus mercy and justice were met.  This video is used to show the justice of God and the mercy of Christ.  However, I would wish to discuss this topic of mercy and justice in terms of the social realm.

The other day I read this fascinating article that sparked the connection between this gospel topic and this social problem.  The article is entitled, “How would you fix health care?”  It talks about some of the recent presidential debate questions citing hypothetical situations where "A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens; all of a sudden he needs it. Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?”

These types of questions cause us to have a strong moral dilemma.  Justice demands that he not receive the medical attention that he has no insurance for nor can afford.  Mercy however demands that he be treated for his medical needs.  How can mercy and justice be satisfied in such hypothetical situation? 
When this question was posed at the presidential debate, one audience member yelled out, “let him die.”  Justly the man does deserve to die like the audience member so emphatically cried.  However, many found this comment highly insensitive and inhumane.  Are we morally comfortable to knowingly allow someone to die just because he or she made a calculated error that ended up rendering them in a life-threatening condition? 

So if mercy is to be satisfied in such a hypothetical situation, how will it be satisfied?  In the case of the story of the debtor, a mediator showed mercy.  In terms if the gospel, Christ can and will satisfy the demands of justice through his merciful atonement.  However, Christ does not satisfy the demands of our medical bills?  So who can and will satisfy justice and show mercy unto those who cannot pay their medical bills?  Some luckily have friends, family, and church that can pay off those debts.  However, some are not fortunate to have connections lucrative enough to pay high medical costs that are the difference between life and death.  Should the community as a whole be responsible to combine together to pay the costs?  Or should we let the strong live and the weak die? 

Should the government be the merciful figure just as the mediator was the merciful figure in the LDS video?  Should mercy be a responsibility of the government or should that be left solely to the private sector, churches, and individual communities?  Can the government even afford such costs?  Are those fortunate to have health insurance and large pocket books more entitled to life than those born into poverty and with health conditions that prevent them from owning health insurance?  Do we truly all equally have the same right to life as our neighbor? 

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