NASHVILLE, TN — Four Chrisitan faith leaders from Middle Tennessee called on Gov. Bill Lee to “act with faith” by expanding Medicaid health coverage to Tennessee’s working poor. Their Day of Prayer and Action for Medicaid Expansion came a day ahead of Gov. Bill Lee’s proclaimed “Day of Prayer and Fasting.”
These faith leaders gathered recently at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville to remind Gov. Lee that Christians must pray and act at the same time. Specifically, the pastors urged the governor to “pray with his pen” and sign a law that would expand Tennessee’s Medicaid health insurance program, TennCare, to families whose wages are just above the poverty line.
Rev. Aaron Marble, pastor at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville, said:
“As a faith leader, I am appreciative the governor has set aside time for prayer. I am concerned about anyone who wants the Lord in Heaven to hear them, but ignores the cries of 300,000 people who would be included with health insurance if Medicaid was expanded… At this moment we need a governor who is committed to legislation just as he is to liturgy… I wonder if the working poor are on the governor’s prayer list? I wonder if those shackled by the debt of medical bills are on the governor’s prayer list? I wonder if those who have been excluded from the American right of health care are on the governor’s prayer list?”
Rev. Herbert L. Lester, Jr., the senior pastor at Clark Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville, said:
“On a day of prayer, I hope that we P-R-A-Y, and not continue to P-R-E-Y on those who are the least, the last, or the lost and the left out in this state. Among those are 25,000 veterans who served this country but now have no health insurance that they could have. We are denying people for ideological reasons—not for practical reasons. We return $3.1 million a day that we could have to help fund health care and insurance in this state. On average, five people every day in Tennessee die because they do not have health insurance coverage.”
Rev. Eugene Se’Bree, associate pastor at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, said:
“The prophet Luke says ‘that to whom much is given, much is required.’ …So as Gov. Lee calls for a day of prayer and day of fasting, I along with these other faith leaders in our community, urge the governor to not just pray, but pray with your feet, pray with your hands, pray with your words, pray with your pen. Sign the legislation that would expand Medicaid for Tennesseans. Well over 300,000 people are waiting, literally in life and death situations. Rural hospitals are closing. People are now hours away from medical assistance. Pray with your pen, governor… It’s one thing to have words. It is one thing to speak of faith. It is another thing to act with faith. I believe you are a man of faith. But what good is your faith if it has no works?”
Rev. Matt Steinhauer, the pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Lebanon, TN said:
“Maybe this call to prayer and fasting is a good sign. Let’s see if any of our elected officials, including Gov. Lee are praying publicly on Thursday for health care for the poor and working poor. We have been praying for five years for a solution for 300,000 Tennesseans standing at our gate who have no access to quality, affordable health care. I will keep praying and advocating until they are covered. But there is a time when praying is just a sinful diversion and a lukewarm Christian’s excuse to ignore what God is really calling us to do — and that is to act. It is sinful when there is a solution at hand and resources to draw from, but we turn to prayer, instead of being good stewards of those resources and acting to solve the problem.”
The Southern Christian Coalition is a nonpartisan grassroots, ecumenical organization. Across the South, politicians use ideology in the guise of Christian theology to push policies that harm our communities and isolate us from our neighbors. We are a community of Christians, speaking up on the values of our faith.