Just As I am

Andy Spears
4 min readOct 14, 2019

Just as I am, though tossed about

with many a conflict, many a doubt, …

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;

sight, riches, healing of the mind,

yea, all I need in thee to find

These are some of the verses of popular Christian hymn “Just As I Am.”

Across Tennessee, in Christian congregations large and small, rural and urban, it’s likely this song is being sung on Sunday morning.

The lyrics suggest an individual in crisis — perhaps a believer in need of guidance, or a lost soul facing spiritual or physical pain. The person is crying out for relief, offering nothing but to come forth “Just As I Am.”

It’s very likely that most of Tennessee’s 132 elected legislators are familiar with this hymn. All but three of them list a Christian religious affiliation on their legislative websites and of those, a vast majority are Protestant.

So, it’s also quite likely that on a given Sunday, a Tennessee legislator is sitting or standing in church, singing with his or her fellow parishioners, extolling the grace of a God who takes those seeking “just as they are.” It certainly wouldn’t be unusual for prayers to be offered for congregants who are sick or suffering in some way. Surely, the words of Just As I Am offer comfort — a reassurance that no matter what, there is hope.

It’s puzzling, then, that some 300,000 Tennesseans remain without the access to affordable health care that would be provided through Medicaid Expansion. While nearly 40 states have already expanded or plan to expand Medicaid, Tennessee has not. In fact, Tennessee’s Governor, Bill Lee, actively opposes the idea of expansion — a departure from his predecessor and fellow Republican, Bill Haslam.

Tennessee now leads the nation in rural hospital closures. Fourteen of our state’s hospitals in rural communities have closed in the last two years. There are now twenty one counties in Tennessee without access to an emergency room. There are reports suggesting at least six more rural hospitals are in danger of closing within a year.

Imagine standing next to your fellow church-goer and feeling the hope offered in the comforting words of “Just As I Am.” Imagine further that on the same pew is a Tennessee lawmaker — a lawmaker who has access to generous health benefits and also the ability to ensure everyone in the congregation has access to a basic…

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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .