Eminentoes

Celebrating Obamacare With Nancy Pelosi on Palm Sunday

Who knew that San Francisco Democrats include San Francisco Methodists!

By 3.30.10

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The Religious Left often equates the Kingdom of God with endless expansion of Big Government as the supposed guarantor of all human justice and happiness. So it was not surprising that Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose Palm Sunday to celebrate Obamacare's ratification at San Francisco's infamously radical Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, where she was received rapturously.

No, she did not quite enter the church on a donkey to cries of "hosannah," as did Jesus Christ, whose triumphal entry into Jerusalem, amid palm-waving Hebrews, is supposed to be the real focus of Palm Sunday. But she was joined at the church by Democratic Party allies, who are maybe the disciples of the Religious Left's New Jerusalem.

On the evening of the fateful March 21 U.S. House of Representatives vote for Obamacare, also on a Sunday, Pelosi somewhat strangely specifically thanked the United Methodist Church for its support. Thanks to its 45-year membership decline and the chronically liberal political stances of its elites, in contrast to its more conservative membership, United Methodist lobby efforts in Washington, D.C. are not typically credited with great legislative influence.

Ninety years ago, the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill was hailed and derided as the "dry" Vatican of Washington, as it wielded enormous influence behind Prohibition. In recent decades, it's better known for its dated 1960s era activism, honoring Third World despotisms, blaming America for most global problems, and especially pushing statist causes. The United Methodist lobby of course favored a "single-payer" system but backed the final version of Obamacare, including its allowance for abortion funding, as a hoped for first step towards fully socialized medicine.

Pelosi, who is Catholic, probably does not usually pay the politically uninfluential United Methodist lobby much heed. Citing the denomination may have simply been a useful fig leaf of religious support for Obamacare in the face of Roman Catholic and widespread religious opposition, especially based on abortion. But maybe also true is the importance to Pelosi of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, a lively hotbed of political and sexual radicalism.

Most liberal congregations are small and spiritually mute. But thanks to the decades long pastorate of the very charismatic Cecil Williams, now mostly retired, along with its extensive social service outreach, Glide Memorial Church has remained lively, high profile and influential. Rev. Williams, now described as "Founder and Minister of Liberation" at the church, was favorably profiled in Playboy magazine in the 1970s for his avant-garde activism. Liberal politicians and other architects of social change often flock to its pulpit with justified expectation of acclaim.

Pelosi's Palm Sunday proclamation of Obamacare from the church's stage, in front of a swaying, blued robed choir, was jubilant. "So here we are at Glide Memorial on this beautiful Palm Sunday celebrating something, really something that was historic, sitting right up there with social security, Medicare, civil rights, health care for all Americans. We have made history and now we are making progress for the American people. This would not have been possible without the leadership, the inspiration, the eloquence of President Barack Obama."

The congregation responded with chants of "Yes we can!" which was maybe their version of the more traditional Palm Sunday, "hosanna."

"What is it that they want to repeal?" Pelosi rhetorically asked reporters at the church about Republican opponents. "Under this legislation, no longer will having a pre-existing condition be a reason to deny people health insurance," adding that under Obamacare, "No longer will being a woman be considered a pre-existing condition."

Presuming that Obamacare opponents would want insurance companies to cut off a diabetic child, Pelosi enthused to reporters: "Let's have that debate," and "We are confident in taking that message to the American people." Inside the church she got a standing ovation, while the minister urged, "Thank the Lord for health care reform."

Like Christ condemning the Pharisees, Pelosi lashed out from the church stage at insurance companies and other "special interests" that have made "tons of money over time exploiting the needs of the people." She pointed to Obamacare as the people's salvation: "No longer can they rescind your policy when you're practically on your way to the operating room and say, 'we found out you smoked when you were a teenager and you didn't tell us.'"

Amid generous applause from the multi-ethnic congregation, Pelosi intoned: "We've been playing on their turf for more than six decades. It's time for the insurance companies to be playing on the turf of consumers and the American people." And she concluded: "Let us recognize that without the election and the presidency of the President this would not have happened." It was not quite the typically somber toned sermon usual to most churches on Palm Sunday, anticipating Christ's impending passion and crucifixion.

But for the Religious Left, an impending government take-over of U.S. health care is a time for uninhibited celebration. Maybe Pelosi should have waited for Easter Sunday, when Obamacare's circuitous and ultimately triumphant political journey could have been likened to Christ's resurrection. 

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About the Author

Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth CenturyYou can follow him on Twitter @markdtooley.