The Religious Left sacramentalizes nearly every proposed expansion of the Welfare State, with government-controlled health care its favorite sacrament. Supporting arguments are usual superficial: Jesus loved the poor, therefore the state must displace all other human institutions and provide every human need.
Although trending left in recent years, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has provided some implicit caution against Obamacare, thanks to a 1994 policy position. A recent NAE news release on health care warns against any government promotion of or funding for abortion or euthanasia. It urges health care “accessible to all.” But it warns that an equitable system must include “judicial and tort law reform that will bring into balance legitimate claims and fair compensation.” It also calls for maximizing the “creativity of the private sector while minimizing governmental control” of health care. Only a few words, but at least NAE does admit to the moral good of restricting government power while affirming non-government social institutions. In a 1994 resolution, NAE elaborated a little on tort reform, faulting health care costs on “medical malpractice insurance, apparent frivolous claims, and extreme awards.” Most of the Religious Left, including the Evangelical Left, at least in its sloganeering, will not acknowledge “frivolous claims” driving up medical costs, preferring to demonize insurance companies and their supposedly immoral expectation of profit.
Evangelicals often excel at organizing and activism but less so at complex moral reasoning that includes but is not limited to Scripture. Sometimes Roman Catholics are better equipped. Bishop R. Walter Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, recently explained why government is not God’s only tool for relieving distress. Of course, he insisted that no government policy should underwrite abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem-cell research. “A so-called reform that imposes these evils on us would be far worse than keeping the health care system we now have,” he wrote.
More interestingly, Bishop Nickless asserted that Roman Catholicism does not teach that health care is a “natural right.” This seemingly conflicts with a recent common assertion from Jim Wallis’ Sojourners group, a leading cheer leader for Obamacare, and one of whose recent polemicists opined that health care is a “a human right” mandating the “obligation of governments to provide access to health care for all of their citizens.” But the Bishop more carefully explained that health care is “political” right, not a natural right, whose logistical provision is a matter of “prudential judgment” and not direct church doctrine.
As a prudential judgment, the Bishop said Catholicism does “not teach that government should directly provide health care.” Unlike national defense, for which “government monopolization is objectively good” because it limits violence and deters abusive private armies,” health care should “not be subject to federal monopolization.” The bishop cited preservation of “patient choice” through a “flourishing private sector” as the “only way to prevent a health care monopoly from denying care arbitrarily.” He warned that a “government monopoly would not be motivated by profit” but would be motivated by “bureaucratic” quotas and self-defined “best procedures” over which most citizens would have little influence. Government should properly regulate the private sector “to foster healthy competition and to curtail abuses,” Nickless wrote. But “any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect,” he said. And special protections are needed for private, religious hospitals that “most vigorously [are] offering actual health care to the poorest of the poor.”
Bishop Nickless also cited the threat of a nanny state mandating “preventative care,” which is a “moral obligation of the individual to God and to his or her family and loved ones, not a right to be demanded from society.” He similarly warned that the growing number of elderly concurrent with diminishing numbers of younger people in the work force will make social provision of health care for the poor increasingly difficult financially, unless a culture of life is restored. The Bishop specifically criticized the “public insurance option,” which will encourage smaller employers to dump their employees into the federal plan, denying their employees access to private health insurance. It will also “saddle the working classes with additional taxes for inefficient and immoral entitlements.” And it will “impinge on the vitality of the private sector.”
How novel that the Bishop should argue that higher taxes, bureaucratic inefficiency and suppression of private initiative would actually harm the working classes. Religious Left groups like Sojourners and Mainline Protestant lobby offices love to insist that Jesus’ command in Matthew 25 to care for the “least of these” is an automatic divine ordinance for government control of health care, and virtually everything else. In this mindset, only government, lacking the profit motive, is an honest arbiter of justice and protector of the vulnerable. The Religious Left ignores history, and the Scriptures, when it forgets that the greatest evils often arise from government, especially when exceeding its proper boundaries, and suppressing other divinely ordained institutions such as the family and church.
Explaining that God’s face is not automatically found in coercively expanding government bureaucracy requires more verbiage than most bumper stickers allow. But Bishop Nickless, with a little help form the NAE, offers intelligent alternative thinking to the Religious Left’s blind faith in Obamacare.