We are Family: Why The Affordable Care Act Matters (2 Samuel 6)
By Cari Jackson
The R&B song “We Are Family,” made famous by the Pointer Sisters in 1979, remains one of my favorite songs. If you know the song, you might be bopping your head already, as you remember its body-moving, rhythmic dance beat.
I believe that song was so popular, not just because of the beat, but because it is in our human DNA to long for the safety, security and love of family. Yet, for most of us, family is a mixed bag of experiences. A mix of joys and sorrows. Our experiences in families range from acceptance, encouragement and nurturance to abuse, intolerance and exclusion.
In familial relationships, no matter how disappointing and hurtful they have been, we often allow ourselves to be vulnerable in families because of a deep-seated belief that family members are supposed to "have each other's backs." We believe that family should seek and work toward each other's well-being. We expect that family will love and support each other even when they don't agree with one another.
The Affordable Care Act
In these past weeks, I have reflected and been moved to tears about the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision on the Affordable Care Act in the midst of what has come to be known as 'the 10 days in June'. These 10 days also included the SCOTUS ruling on national marriage equality, and the murders and arsons of black churches. As I have reflected on this intense moment of our history I have thought a lot about the covenants that formed this nation - covenants to be a family.
The two covenants that I have been meditating on are highlighted in the Pledge of Allegiance: "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all"; and in the Preamble to U.S. Constitution: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights."
Even when I spoke these words of national covenant, while growing up in the United States, I never felt they fully included me. As a female, black, gay, in a working class family, I felt that I had been given the responsibilities that come with such a family covenant but little to none of the privileges.
The recent Supreme Court decisions have given me a glimmer of hope that all of who I am can be included. The SCOTUS rulings widen the arc of who is included in the national covenant to extend liberty and justice for all. These court rulings acknowledge that all people are created equal and all people have been bestowed by the Creator with rights that cannot, must not, be taken away.
In addition to the conceptual significance of the SCOTUS decision to uphold the ACA as widening the arc of inclusion, it also has had a deeply practical impact on my life. In 2011, when I left my work in congregational ministry, I had no income, housing or health benefits. While I was rebuilding myself financially and getting my consulting ministry underway, because of the ACA, I was able to get health coverage. Without ACA mandating the extension of Medicaid health coverage to childless adults up to 133% of poverty, I would join the ranks of the 33 million uninsured and uninsured. I would not have been able to afford health care benefits. ACA enabled me as a late 50-year-old to access the health care I needed. The SCOTUS decision affirmed that all lives matter and are included in the national covenant.
Families By Covenant
We can create family connections through blood, adoption, marriage, or covenant.
This week's texts in 2 Samuel 6 and Ephesians 1, focus on family that is formed through covenant. Covenantal family is based on agreements between individuals, regardless of biological or legal relationship, to seek each other's best and highest good. In covenantal family, choices include a regard for the life situations, hopes, and needs of others. Covenantal families accept both the privileges and responsibilities that come with being family.
The scripture reading from 2 Samuel 6 illustrates a nation functioning as covenantal family. Ephesians 6 urges that Christians are adopted into the family of God through Christ, an adoption which becomes the source of the covenantal relationship with God and one another.
The story in 2 Samuel centers around the relocation of the ark of God by King David and 30,000 chosen men (as we know, with few exceptions like Miriam and Deborah, women were not generally chosen for such tasks in this era). While the text doesn't tell us the process by which these men were chosen, we do know that they were selected for a sacred task that was intended to benefit all people of the nation. Their task was to relocate the ark of the covenant from the house of Abinadab to the tent of David.
Abinadab was a priest who had been safeguarding the ark for 20 years after the Israelites recaptured it from the Philistines. When it was recovered and returned to the Israelite nation, Abinadab and his sons were given the responsibility of keeping the ark out of harms way up in the hills where they lived. Moving the ark to David's tent provided the entire greater access to all. This greater access to all of the people was an action that even Abinadab's sons, Uzzah and Ahio, honored as they drove the cart away from their family house. Abinadab, Uzzah and Ahio appreciated that the generation of exclusive access to the ark that they and a few others had enjoyed needed to give way to broader access for all in their covenant family in order for the nation to be its strongest.
David's decision to transfer the safekeeping of the ark from a religious function to a government function was a huge move. Although, the move involved the government, the function to safe-keep the ark was no less spiritual. Actually, providing equal access to all people is even more overtly spiritual act because it sends the message to the entire nation that their lives matter - all lives matter - to God.
Relocating the ark of God is comparable to instituting a national health insurance plan. The relocation of the ark enables the transformation and uplift of the nation. As individuals are healthier and stronger spiritually, they are also stronger emotionally, physically, and economically. As a result, the nation is healthier and stronger.
Families Don't Always Agree
As King David was bringing the ark of God to his tent David, he was dancing. Was he dancing as he remembered the miraculous way God guided his hands to defeat Goliath the Philistine using the simple weapons of a sling and stones? Was he dancing because the new location of the ark of God symbolized equal access for all? Was he dancing because this relocation symbolized the downgrading of terror alerts about possible aggressions from their enemies? Perhaps all of these thoughts set David's feet to dancing in the same rhythm of "We Are Family."
The text notes that as David danced, there was a young woman who looked on him with contempt. I am grateful the writer of Samuel does not tell us the reason for her discontent. The real issue for us to focus on is that even as the masses may be delighting in fuller expressions of the national covenant to widen the tent of inclusion, there will likely be those who do not support this covenant for all people.
Like this dissenter of David's relocation of the ark, there are those who acclaim loudly that they do not want the government in their personal business. There are those who feel so strongly about this position that even if they could benefit from the ACA, they will not accept its offerings.
Our respective positions on the ACA are determined by how each of us understands the role of government and how each defines family. These definitions influence legislation from Congress, rulings from the Supreme Court, policies set by the White House, and news coverage from media sources.
For me, we are all family, my sisters and brothers and me. May we truly have each other's backs and seek each other's highest good. May we become more the nation of our highest vision: one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
_ We asked people about the importance of health care. _
Bible Study Questions
1. What is the role of government - especially in the context of the "separation of church and state? Are there any insights we might glean from the 2 Samuel passage when the Israelite government under David's leadership ensured equal access to all people of the Israelite nation?
2. How do you define family -- its composition roles, privileges and responsibilities? How does your definition impact choices you make as a member of your faith community, citizen of the U.S., within your biological/legal family?
3. How have you benefitted from the national covenant of liberty and Justice for all? What responsibilities do you have stemming from this national covenant?
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