The Religious Left already had their celebratory news releases primed and ready for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare.
“We as churches follow the bold example of Jesus, who healed the sick, sometimes breaking the religious law that governed society,” the National Council of Churches (NCC) somewhat boastfully explained. “Our members have always believed that health care is not simply another worthy cause to which we lend our name.”
The NCC claims to speak for 40 million U.S. church members in 37 denominations, although few church goers likely are aware of their purported spokesman. As the NCC further outlined:
“Christians believe that human beings — all of them — are infinitely-valued children of God, created in God’s image. Adequate health care, therefore, is a matter of preserving what our gracious God has made. That is why churches (and other religious communities) have established so many hospitals and other places of healing. And why we are convinced that health care is not a privilege, reserved for those who can afford it, but a right that should be available, at high quality, to all.”
The recollection of church founded hospitals is ironic, because as usual the NCC interprets a social good to mean primarily government controlled and/or provided. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society on Capitol Hill also chimed in that Obamacare is a “huge step in the right direction and we celebrate provisions in that law that continue to fill the gaps and expand existing health care, particularly to low-income Americans.”
Notice the Methodist lobbyist said Obamacare is only a “step” towards what is the denomination’s official position, which is single payer health care. The Methodist lobbyist noted their church’s position is “informed by biblical and theological witness.”
The Presbyterian Church (USA) Stated Clerk also joined the celebration: “We rejoice today as the Supreme Court rules to uphold constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.” The Presbyterian rooted their pro-Obamacare stance in being “Reformed Christians,” as though socialized medicine were intrinsically Calvinist. And he made clear his church’s support for “single payer” as the “best vehicle for providing such health care resources.”
The most left-leaning Mainline denomination is the United Church of Christ, whose president rhapsodized about the Obamacare court ruling: “The Supreme Court decision today is a clear signal that we as a country are moving toward the realm of God on earth — the realm of this merciful, compassionate God, full of love for all.”
So Obamacare is ushering in God’s Kingdom. There is the old Social Gospel confidence, still expressed by dying denominations captive to it, that equates Big Government with divine rule. An interfaith statement organized by the by the Washington Interreligious Health Care Working Group and Faithful Reform, both of which are pro-Obamacare lobby groups, expressed hope that with “legal challenges behind us,” the nation will embrace Obamacare . More so, they hope Congress will take the next logical “next step toward health care justice, by adopting a single-payer health system for the good of all.” And, “We pray that our elected leaders will accept the decision of the Supreme Court and will diligently facilitate the full implementation of this vital, life-giving law.”
In stark contrast, a leading spokesman for the 16 million member Southern Baptist Convention failed to discern Obamacare’s “life-giving” nature. “It is astonishing that the majority of the justices did not see the bill for what it really is: a blatant violation of the personal freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and perhaps a mortal blow to the concept of federalism,” thundered Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “When a government begins forcing citizens to purchase what it thinks is important or necessary, that government takes a dangerous step away from the freedom-embracing, democratic model,” Land said.
Land also warned: “Greater government involvement in medical care also means that the sick, elderly and terminally ill will suffer.” And ultimately, Obamacare “will destroy much of what Americans hold dear.” Land cited the infamous contraceptive/abortifacient mandate on religious groups still facing litigation. The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops reiterated their opposition to Obamacare, after the court ruling, based on the mandate and Obamacare’s facilitation of abortion funding.
Major Evangelical Left voices are so far mostly quiet, maybe calculating how carefully to navigate their hope for government controlled health care while retaining credibility with pro-life and mostly instinctively conservative evangelicals. Overall, the Religious Left embraces Obamacare because it locates transcendent authority in centralized Big Government without really caring about the cost to civil society and liberty. In contrast, traditional faith is more realistic about the moral and practical limits of a huge and coercive regulatory welfare state that aspires to solve every human need.
The debate over Obamacare showcases competing religious visions of America. One has faith in centralized state power as the primary guarantor of justice. The other less bureaucratically believes health care and other human goods are better achieved through the efficiency, accountability, and greater compassion of civil society. One vision implies religion is ultimately subordinate to the state, while the other retains faith that religion transcendently includes much more than the temporal delivery of material goods and services.