The Optimistic Christian
The Evangelical Tradition and the 2012 Election
In Election Month at Patheos, the latest question of the week is: What are the key issues at stake in this election for people of your tradition?
Evangelicals could talk about a number of things in trying to answer this question. But I believe the core issue for evangelicals this year is one of the biggest issues of all: What kind of nation will the United States of America be? What will be our concept of governance? Will we continue to prize liberty, and limit the scope of government accordingly? Or will we decide that our government should be able to do pretty much whatever it wants to the citizens, in pursuit of universalist goals?
The Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010, or ObamaCare, is undoubtedly the best known of the hot-button issues in this regard. The Supreme Court decided, in a 5-4 ruling, that nothing in the Constitution prevents the U.S. federal government from requiring the people to purchase commercial health insurance.
But for many Americans, conservative evangelicals among them, this is an unacceptable encroachment on liberty. The people, acting through Congress, may always overrule the Supreme Court. The U.S. Constitution was designed to ensure that. It is difficult, but it is not impossible, for the people to declare a standard to which the courts are obliged to adhere. The Supreme Court is not the final arbiter of what our law means; the people are. This, at least, was the principle on which the Republic was founded.
The contraception mandate levied by the Department of Health and Human Services in implementing ObamaCare has generated at least as much concern about coercion by the government. This mandate directly violates the consciences of those, like Catholics, with religious objections. But the religious aspect of the matter inevitably implies a larger question, which is why anyone, regardless of the nature of his objection, should be compelled to purchase contraception coverage—or any other kind of health-insurance coverage, for that matter.
The more mandates the government levies, the less discretion we have over every aspect of our lives. It is a serious question what Catholic institutions will do, for example, if the contraception mandate stands in its current form, which requires even self-insuring institutions—those that manage their own insurance funds rather than purchasing insurance commercially—to provide contraception services for employees. Why should government make it impossible for these institutions to operate lawfully while adhering to their beliefs? What will their employees do if the institutions have to be shuttered? Which people—the poor, the vulnerable, the weak—will lose the services these institutions have been providing?
ObamaCare and its ramifications are only some of the liberty issues we will be dealing with, however, if there is a second term for President Obama. Federal implementation of the "Common Core" curriculum for the public schools will effectively eliminate parents' freedom to choose schools that offer a better education based on objective standards rather than the grading of students' attitudes. A national testing program focused on the Common Core curriculum will ensure that it is taught, and students will be tracked through state records, which will be available to the federal Department of Education.
J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval intelligence officer and evangelical Christian. She retired in 2004 and blogs from the Inland Empire of southern California. She writes for Commentary's CONTENTIONS blog, Hot Air's Green Room, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.