Supremes to rule on Obamacare

The Supreme Court will hear challenges to Obamacare and will hand down a decision probably in July, which will be before the election:

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide the fate of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, with an election-year ruling due by July on the U.S. healthcare system’s biggest overhaul in nearly 50 years.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman said oral arguments would take place in March. There will be a total of 5-1/2 hours of argument. The court would be expected to rule during its current session, which lasts through June.

The decision had been widely expected since September, when the Obama administration asked the country’s highest court to uphold the centerpiece insurance provision and 26 of the 50 states separately asked that the entire law be struck down.

At the heart of the legal battle is whether the U.S. Congress overstepped its powers by requiring all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, a provision known as the individual mandate.

Legal experts and policy analysts said the healthcare vote may be close on the nine-member court, with five conservatives and four liberals. It could come down to moderate conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often casts the decisive vote.

The law, aiming to provide medical coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, has wide ramifications for company costs and for the health sector, affecting health insurers, drugmakers, device companies and hospitals.

A decision by July would take the healthcare issue to the heart of a presidential election campaign that ends with a vote on Nov. 6 next year. Polls show Americans deeply divided over the overhaul, Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

via UPDATE 4-US top court to take on Obama healthcare law | Reuters.

Any predictions on what the ruling will be?  And, either way, what impact will a decision have on the presidential election?

More from Chaplain Mike on Lutheranism

Chaplain Mike over at the blog Internet Monk has more to say about his conversion to Lutheranism. He focuses here on how helpful he is finding the Christ-centeredness of Lutheranism and the distinction between Law and Gospel:  How the Lutheran Tradition Answers Many Post-Evangelical Concerns (2) |

Read the comments too.  Other evangelicals there are drawn to these teachings, though some of them are stumbling over major misconceptions.  Maybe some of you could help.

[The discussion yesterday focused nearly exclusively on how Chaplain Mike has ended up at an ELCA congregation rather than at a more conservative congregation, such as one affiliated with the LCMS. Perhaps now we could discuss his larger point, how he has found his "post-evangelical concerns" answered in the Lutheran tradition.]

Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk becomes a Lutheran

Michael Spencer ran the blog Internet Monk, which became an important forum for Christians struggling with a whole range of issues in the evangelical world.  Spencer, a Baptist, found lots of help in Lutheran theology, especially in its understanding of the Gospel.  Spencer died of cancer not too long ago.  His blog, though, continues under his successor who goes by the handle “Chaplain Mike.”

Chaplain Mike has just announced that he has taken the step of becoming a Lutheran.

He has started a series of posts explaining how he sees Lutheranism as uniquely addressing the concerns of “post-evangelical” Christians.  Here is the conclusion of his long post, which surveys aspects of contemporary  evangelicalism that he has been struggling with:

 Let me say, by way of concluding this overview, that I have been thrilled with what I have learned and experienced in the Lutheran tradition with regard to these three areas.

The Word and Table liturgy of the Lutheran church, rooted in the historic tradition of the church rather than the revivalist movement, restores the priority of worship in the local congregation.

Pastors are not CEO’s or program directors in the Lutheran church as they have become in much of evangelicalism. Rather, they represent Christ in distributing the means of grace through Word and Sacrament. Preaching is embedded in the liturgy so that worship does not revolve around the charisma of the preacher, but the Word Himself who meets us in the gathering of his people. Pastoral care and catechizing the congregation are essential components of his or her work.

The doctrine of vocation is one of the gifts the Lutheran tradition has given to the larger Church. Luther, himself a monk, came to appreciate the priesthood of all believers and the integrity of every calling, “sacred” or “secular,” as a means of showing Christ’s love to the world.

This is just a start in showing how the Lutheran tradition has answered some of my concerns with the system of evangelicalism dominant in America today.

More to come.

via How the Lutheran Tradition Answers Many Post-Evangelical Concerns (1) |

HT:  Rod Rosenbladt

Snake handling

Julia Duin is a Christian journalist who is a real pro.  She has a long story in the Washington Post Magazine on West Virginia snake handlers.  What I appreciate is that she approaches these mountain Pentecostalists with utter respect,without a shred of condescension or ridicule.  She does, though, describe the desperate social context of these folks–the lack of jobs and young people, the rampant drug abuse in these rural areas–though this isn’t the cause of snake handling, which itself is in decline compared to more prosperous times.  Apparently, even these declining churches are trying church growth methods:  They now have electric guitars and drums.  I much prefer the rattlesnakes and strychnine.  Anyway, the profile is very Flannery O’Connoresque and very much worth reading:  In W.Va., snake handling is still considered a sign of faith – The Washington Post.

And now Newt’s turn

Here is the pattern:  A Republican presidential candidate rises to the top as the alternative to Mitt Romney.  Whereupon he or she gets knocked off the pedestal.  Now it is Newt Gingrich’s turn:

Two polls out Friday show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign gaining traction. And both polls show there’s plenty of room for the race to change dramatically: 17% of respondents are undecided.

Newt Gingrich talks to a breakfast crowd during a campaign stop at the Circle Restaurant , Friday, in Epson, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

A McClatchy-Marist poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents finds that Mitt Romney’s poll numbers remain steady – he generally garners the support of about a quarter of the Republican and Republican-leaning voters. That puts him in the lead, with Mr. Gingrich in second and former front-runner Herman Cain close behind.

By the numbers: Mr. Romney, 23%; Mr. Gingrich, 19%; Mr. Cain, 17%;Texas Rep. Ron Paul 10%; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 8%, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, 5%. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum got 1% apiece.

“Romney is still where he’s been. It’s fair to say this is a battle for the anybody-but-Romney candidate,” said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College. “Gingrich has now begun his 15 days of fame. Whether he is able to maintain that, as others have fallen, is the question. He may be the only one standing when this is all said and done.”

via Polls: Gingrich Grows on GOP Voters – Washington Wire – WSJ.

Gingrich has his own womanizing baggage, but he doesn’t have brain freezes.  Would you consider him?

Notice that if you add up the percentages for all of the non-Romney candidates, the total comes to far more than Romney’s consistent 20-something percent.

Consciousness in “a vegetative state”

Don’t call people in a coma “vegetables.”  That’s a dehumanizing figure of speech.  And, as researchers have recently discovered, it isn’t necessarily an accurate description:

All the patients had the same terrible diagnosis: brain damage that marooned them in a “vegetative state” — alive but without any sense of awareness of themselves or the world around them.

But then an international team of scientists tried an ambitious experiment: By measuring electrical activity in the patients’ brains with a relatively simple technique, the researchers attempted to discern whether, in fact, they were conscious and able to communicate.

In most of the cases, there was nothing — no signs that any sentience lingered. But then one man, and another, and, surprisingly, a third repeatedly generated brain activity identical to that of healthy volunteers when they were asked to imagine two simple things: clenching a fist and wiggling their toes.

The findings, reported online Wednesday by the journal the Lancet, provide startling — and in some ways disturbing — new evidence confirming previous indications that a significant proportion of patients diagnosed as being vegetative may in fact be aware.

But, most important, the widely available, portable technology used in the research offers what could be the first practical way for doctors to identify and finally communicate with perhaps thousands of patients who may be languishing unnecessarily in isolation. Doctors could, for example, find out whether patients are in pain.

“You spend a week with one of these patients and at no point does it seem at all they know what you are saying when you are talking to them. Then you do this experiment and find it’s the exact opposite — they do know what’s going on,” said Damian Cruse, a postdoctoral neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who helped conduct the research. “That’s quite a profound feeling.”

The results and similar findings could also provide crucial insights into human consciousness — one of the most perplexing scientific puzzles — and lead to ways to better provide diagnoses and possibly rehabilitate brain-injury patients, the researchers said.

“Can you imagine spending years without being able to interact with anyone around you?” Cruse said. “We can ask them what it’s like to be in this condition. Do they know where they are? Do they know who is around them? What do they need?’ This will lead to very profound implications.”

Other experts, while praising the research, cautioned that much more work is needed to confirm the findings and refine the technology.

via New technique spots patients misdiagnosed as being in ‘vegetative state’ – The Washington Post.