Friendly, but less-than-patient, Fire from within Evangelicalism

I got a note the other day from a friend who had read Peter Leithart’s piece at First Things, with the following words embedded in the letter. This must be said to evangelicalism, at least to the sort of evangelicalism who isn’t seeing what is happening.

I also don’t think this should be about big government/small government and individual rights. Not as far as the church is concerned anyway. Either form could be argued positively. It needs to be – as Leithart said in his column a bit down – about being “prepared to read, and repeat, Jesus’ “woe to the rich” and his “He anointed me to preach good news to the poor” without wincing and hedging.

What has soured me the most on the religious right position is the anti-ACA (affordable care act) rhetoric – the oft expressed sentiment that it is bad because it robs from “me” and gives to “them/you”. We are hypocritical and most of the country (well those who pay attention) knows it. Is ACA the best option? I don’t know – probably not, and it will have problems no doubt. But the “Christian” message being heard in the outside world isn’t really “how can we best bring justice to the poor” but “how can we protect what we have, the poor can fend for themselves.” (The rhetoric on immigrant issues also provides fuel for the fire.)

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Ian Kirk

    My problem with this response is that it is an either/or, rather than a both/and. The problem both sides have is the all or nothing approach. As the president of a small business told me, it was cheaper for him to pay the penalty, than to pay the portion he was paying (which wasn’t all) of his employees’s insurance. Then each employee (individually) would have to purchase insurance (versus being part of a pool), which costs more. By the way, he had no intention of not paying for most of his employees’s insurance, and continues to do so.

    I fully agree that there is a *huge* social justice piece that “free market” “Christians” might be missing, but which part is worse? No insurance and a job, or no job and insurance? Which is better for society? Which is better for the individual?

  • Craig

    But the “Christian” message being heard in the outside world isn’t really “how can we best bring justice to the poor” but “how can we protect what we have, the poor can fend for themselves.”

    Christians might remedy this by publicly endorsing something Rawls’s difference principle, along with a commitment to avoiding polices that would obstruct movement towards fair equality of opportunity. Christians–conservatives included–can make these moves without committing to any particular economic theory or pragmatic view on how to best meet these principles. Generally, conservative-leaning Christians also need to scrutinize their intuitive ideas about entitlement and ownership (e.g., it’s better to more cautiously speak of one’s pre-tax income vs. one’s pre-tax earnings. It’s typically only by supposing the latter that one arrives at the idea that taxation involves taking what’s mine and giving it to someone else).

  • Kate

    Certainly to those of us outside the US, the “how can we protect what we have” message comes across very strongly. Coming from the UK, where the more left-wing party is generally seen as being the more obvious choice for a Christian (because of justice for the poor) it is hard to comprehend why evangelicals might support a right-wing “protect what the rich have” party.
    Of course, people always seem to default to the abortion issue, but since Republican presidents never actually act against legal abortion, and numbers of abortions decrease during Democrat presidencies and would decrease further if contraception were free and health care affordable, that seems an equivocal issue at least, though clearly not seen as such by evangelical voters. Thank God it’s not a party-political issue in the UK and doesn’t muddy our voting!

  • MattR

    So well said! Yes, it’s the “robs from ‘me’ and gives to ‘them/you’” rhetoric that I find most disturbing among conservative evangelicals. There is plenty of room to argue over HOW to care for the poor… but arguing that we even should? Because I need to protect what’s mine? I just can’t find that anywhere in the Gospels, or words of Jesus.

    And why do so-called conservatives buy into ‘either/or’ economics? Isn’t this the same argument more radical forms of socialism make, except in reverse?… That if one group that used to be doing poorly is now helped, it must always be at another group’s expense. Kingdom economics is not a zero-sum game.

  • Dave

    In my opinion, the issue isn’t protecting what is “mine,” as it all comes from and belongs to God to begin with. The issue is more one of stewardship. Just because what I have isn’t really mine and is transitory, does not somehow confer the right or privilege to a SECULAR government to redistribute and administer in politically favorable ways. Why do we consider it a necessity that the government be the driver of social justice issues? They seem to be the most responsible for the circumstances that put people in a spot of need.

    The very idea that the government, at least as it is currently structured, can be trusted to dispassionately implement and manage an entire national health care system is crazy. Both sides of the political spectrum in power know exactly what they need to do to get more votes and stay in power. There are very few people in the highest levels of government who are pushing these plans for anything more than their own benefit.

    In the end, though, for all the hand wringing on this matter, it doesn’t matter. Our country fundamentally has a math problem. For fiscal year 2012, which ended in September, the entire tax revenue to the government fell 250 Billion dollars short of covering just the mandatory spending (social security, medicare/medicaid, interest on the debt, etc.). The remaining mandatory portion plus all of the discretionary spending (i.e., military, DHS, SEC, EPA, IRS, FBI, etc, etc) is completely funded through issuing more debt. Even if the tax rate in the US was 100% for every person making over $150k, it wouldn’t cover the entire yearly deficit. This non-withstanding the principle that as you raise taxes beyond a certain point, revenue will shrink (re, the Laffer Curve).

    The biggest problem is that this is a) unsustainable, and b) there is no politically acceptable way to fix it. The fiscal cliff is more real than you know, even without all of the ACA/debt ceiling/tax cut theatre.

    This problem isn’t limited to the US either. Although I am ignorant as to the merits or downsides of other national health care systems, the math problem is facing every western democracy.

  • Patrick

    Why does any Christian think Caesar is Christ’s agent beyond law enforcement? The Church is His agent, not a secular state. I never have understood why some view a secular state as the subject of Christ’s mandates to His Church.

    I’m involved in a local ministry here, our “rescue ministry”. We get zip from any state apparatus, we don’t want Caesar involved, concerned believers fund it 100% and we help the homeless( we actually go looking for them), feed them, counsel, job train, provide housing, evangelize etc.

    I’d be a pitiful and wayward Christian if I tried to force you to join this effort due to my secular political activism views, that would involve coercion & theft of other’s assets against their will and IMO, sacrilege as well since the state would clamp down on evangelism.

    I suppose the letter writer here would conclude since I would not be for that I am a greedy right winger cause we do have some homeless, drug addicted/alcoholic, unfortunate and down and out people in our area and we all agree Christ wants someone here to love & provide for these folks, so, I need to agitate to get the state to handle this and not handle it ourselves? Cause we don’t want to be judged as greedy, totally self absorbed right wing Christians by folks like your friend . Right?

    Not to mention ACA is for workers, not poor people. That’s medicaid’s role.

    It might cause economic problems, so how divine is that if it does? Does your friend have a theological opinion on it’s potential negative effects on full time employment for the poorest workers( it has a built in, inadvertent bias to animate employers to go to part time pay in the low end industries, exactly the jobs the poorest have to work)? He doesn’t even have basic facts down.

    Good job for your pal, judging probably 60 million fellow believers like this with the broadest brush since Adolf Hitler judged all Jews unworthy of living as if that man has the first clue what drives any specific human’s heart.

  • MatthewS

    As an aside, there is much more to the concern and resistance against the ACA than represented here. As much as I disagree about the concern over the ACA, I do share a lot of concern about the rhetoric over immigration issues.

    Regardless, being able to read “He anointed me to preach good news to the poor” “without wincing and hedging” is needed for sure. I’m reading “Generous Justice” by Keller and it is convicting and inspiring. God certainly cares about the poor, and if we’ve been touched by grace, so will we.

  • Joe Canner

    Dave #5: “The very idea that the government, at least as it is currently structured, can be trusted to dispassionately implement and manage an entire national health care system is crazy.”

    What suggestions would you provide to structure government differently so that it could manage a national health care system? After all, there are many countries that are doing just that, and quite a few are doing a decent job of it.

  • Kenny Johnson

    I try not to make this a theological issue because I understand that there is a legitimate argument to be made about the role and size of government and understand the Christians can differ on that issue.

    What surprises me though is that Evangelicals, in supporting the Republican party because of the issues of abortion and gay marriage have adopted the entire Republican (or Tea Party) platform of small government, immigration, etc.

    But what disturbs me is what I see is a move to the extreme right of the Republican party over the last 20 years. They used to agree with a support a lot of the social programs that they now refer to as socialism. In 1974, President Nixon proposed a comprehensive health care reform that was much broader than “Obamacare.” In 1985, Ronald Reagan said: “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,” he thunders to a crowd in Georgia. Such tax loopholes, he adds, “sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary – and that’s crazy.”

  • Kenny Johnson

    “Why does any Christian think Caesar is Christ’s agent beyond law enforcement? The Church is His agent, not a secular state. I never have understood why some view a secular state as the subject of Christ’s mandates to His Church.”

    For the record, that’s now how I see it. I see the government’s role in helping the poor, providing safety nets, etc. as providing for the common good. I heard a figure that for churches to provide food to the poor in the same capacity as the government, it would cost every church in the United States $50,000.

    I love private charity. I participate in it. But I see a role for the government to play as well. And I don’t see the government as some “other.” I see it as “us.” We (citizens of the USA) are the government. And we have decided as a community of people to invest in, for example, free education for children. I think this is a good thing. Not because the Bible says the government must do this, but because I think its good for our society — the society I live in.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Oh, but I don’t think it becomes a social justice issue that should concern the church when the structures in place favor the rich and powerful over the poor and weak. When the structures in place put the poor and weak at a disadvantage while aiding the wealthy and powerful.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Wish I could edit posts. “I don’t think” should be “I do think”

  • Rev. Mark E. Smith

    Leithart wants to dismiss big/small government, but you can’t really. Patriots died so that we could be free. You can’t tax people into generosity, which is what liberals/Democrats want to do, in the case of the ACA.

  • http://Www.priestfield.org.uk Jared H

    Having had a (admittedly flawed) National Health Service for over 60 years, we Brits find it difficult to understand why there is so much debate about whether or not such a thing is a good idea. Perhaps US medics would have to take too much of a pay cut to make it work. ‘Free at he point of delivery’ is the way it is described, and how that is delivered is more debated than that it should be delivered – a position of both left and right.

    It seems to me that there is a need for Christian theologians, ethicists and philosophers to open a wide ranging debate on the nature of the common good, and the state’s role in promoting it. The nature of fallen humanity is such that unless people believe that a health system for all is better for them and for the whole of society then they will not vote for it. The good health of my neighbour is good for me and good for society on a purely pragmatic level, and our Christian faith would lead us to believe that we who have greater wealth have a responsibility to care for, or provide care for, those who do not have the wherewithal to provide it for themselves. The Gospels show us that Jesus could have belonged to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

  • Josh T.

    Dave #5: I don’t know that the recently instituted health care system constitutes “implementing and managing an entire national health care system” in the sense most people assume. Sure, there are a bunch of new regulations that are in various stages of being implemented, but we’re not talking about the replacement of the old system with a completely new one, but an attempt to extend and better regulate the one we have so that everyone has coverage. I realize that the efficiency of such a system is and will be up for debate (and analyzed by its actual performance in the long run), but it’s not like we replaced a great system with a messed up one; we modified a broken system into one that is also flawed, but hopefully will be better in the long run. I guess time will tell if it is actually better.

    And for anyone who is curious about the Laffer curve that Dave mentioned, there’s an interesting and relatively brief description, along with a link to actual historical tax rates at About.com: http://useconomy.about.com/od/Politics/p/Laffer-Curve.htm. It’s actually quite interesting to look at those numbers in the context of our current political discourse. It’s funny to hear many Christians running around in a culture of fear complaining of socialism and redistribution and giving the impression that the tax burden for the wealthy is killing the economy (my in-laws fall in this category). Those folks should take a look through the years and see the actual rates (which go up as high as 94% in 1944-45, as far as I can see, whereas in 2011 the maximum rate was 35%). Definitely an interesting subject.

  • Josh T.

    Joe #8: I’ll let Dave speak for himself, but I thought I’d add that I can understand concerns that smaller countries implementing national health care for their people may be a bit different from the large U.S.A. attempting the same thing for a much larger population (concerns over giving the government even more power, etc.). Even so, I know that with Medicaid (my kids have been on Government health insurance since taking some major pre-layoff pay cuts and benefit cuts a few years go), the program is managed via each state and is set up to work using various insurance companies (for example, we could choose between Optima or Anthem). So the feds do some regulating and foot the bill, but it seems they stay out of some of the details and let the states handle that (e.g., you apply for aid through the local Social Services office). And I think some states deal with things differently than others. Hopefully I’m not skewering the facts on this.

  • http://www.mindfuljustice.com Jim

    These are extremely difficult and complicated issues – or so we say. It might be helpful to read and study documents from the folks who have been doing it the longest – Catholic social teaching. If Evangelicals (and the rest of us) could adopt those guidelines and really work for the common good, I think the Evangelical preference for the GOP would be a no-brainer.

    The problem with the Evangelicals (in general) position on abortion is that it’s not really pro-life, its just pro-birth. After the child is born they’re on their own, right? If Evangelicals would adopt a comprehensive pro-life position, e.g. universal health care, war as the absolute last resort, halting the death penaly, etc. then I believe many current people of faith who vote Democrat would switch very quickly.

    I voted for Jill Stein mostly because her positions were closer to what would serve the common good than what the other sides were presenting. I also think that if you want to maintain civilization, you have to be willing to pay for it (i.e. taxes). If we continue our current rates of taxation, we’re not going to look like Greece, we’ll look like Somolia (I agree, that’s overstated).

  • Patrick

    Kenny,

    I appreciate your honesty. I don’t see the state like you do though. I actually agree with the social safety net idea with some limits, but, not due to my theology. Probably because of a lack of enough faith.

    If God will provide for me as Paul said He would, I’m low on faith if I need to coerce others to help provide for me in a bind, IMO.

    That’s a secular concept which is fine, I share some of it. I don’t deny that, I just don’t think the Holy Spirit is animating any of us to desire coercive power be used to provide for something that Christ wants His church to do, that’s us animating that.
    BTW, just to show how offbase this original debate is, you can make up to $90K and get ACA subsidies, some program for “the poor”, it’s another middle class entitlement program. That’s all it is. Has zero to do with helping truly poor folks.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/267177-budget-cutters-eye-healthcare-laws-insurance-subsidies

  • Kenny Johnson

    God doesn’t always provide materially. Christians die of starvation!

    I don’t see taxation as a coercive arm of the government like you. I guess that’s the difference. I see taxes as being part of a community of citizens trying to provide for the common good.

    Do you not believe in any taxes? Or just with taxes on things you don’t agree with?

  • Kenny Johnson

    Oh.. and I don’t know that anyone was arguing that the ACA was for the poor. I think it was well understood that this would mostly help the middle class. The poor already had access to medical care through Medicaid. It was those of us who made to much for medicaid who suffered under the current system because insurance was either impossible to get (pre-existing conditions) or impossible to afford (my Cobra payments were $1,300 /month to maintain coverage).

  • Trav

    “But the “Christian” message being heard in the outside world isn’t really “how can we best bring justice to the poor” but “how can we protect what we have, the poor can fend for themselves.”

    As a Christian living in Australia, the above quote perfectly summarises my misgivings about the American religious right.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    ACA in my mind is about making sure people don’t become poor just because of medical issues. I know that it will not prevent that. But it may help. I know some people that are approaching retirement age. One has had cancer twice and is concerned that the cancer will prevent them from working until they are old enough to retire. Currently in remission, but still in a lot of pain from the treatments. And still six years from qualifying for medicare. The spouse seems to be showing what may be early signs of Alzheimer’s and given family history that is likely. The spouse is 8 years from medicare. They own their own home, have a good retirement. But even with ACA that will prevent them from being denied coverage, they may not be able to afford it if they need to retire early for medical reasons.

    About half of bankruptcy involve medical issues as the primary or secondary cause. That is what ACA is attempting to address.

  • Joe Canner

    Josh T. #16: Thanks for that perspective. I hadn’t really thought about the implications of the size of the country. As you suggest, having the states do it would be a mixed blessing: it divides the job into more manageable chunks, but increases the likelihood of local variation. In any case, I haven’t yet heard much in the way of pragmatic arguments against a national health care system (i.e., it can’t or won’t work), but rather idealogical arguments (i.e., too much government). My suspicion is that the real reason for opposition has to do with supporting health insurance companies (and some doctors). Ironically, the ACA may end up helping insurance companies by expanding their market.

  • Luke Allison

    This goes for the debate over the gay way of doing things.
    When a growing majority of people in the United States hear “homosexuality is wrong”, they hear “we oppress people for something they’re born with”. It is not an issue of morality any longer, and the recent election results proved that. It is an issue of justice, and it will only grow into that designation as time goes on.

    I don’t want to be part of the group of people who look like they oppose civil rights, no matter what my personal beliefs are. If only the Church could figure this out: rather than browbeating the younger generation for “accepting” immorality, we should be praising them for valuing all people. This is the bone God is throwing us, and we’re dropping it over and over and over again.

  • Holly

    When it is said that Republican presidents do nothing to lower abortion rates, I think the significance of the incremental approach is ignored. No president could come in and suddenly declare that abortion is illegal – and yet, it seems that this is what those who criticize the Republican side seems to expect (yet would never support if it actually happened.)

    What about the Mexico City policy? Totally a Day One issue for both parties. It has literally been the first thing either rescinded or re-instated, based upon party.

    Also – what about Supreme Court Justices? That, too, takes a long, long time. Obama said in the second debate that we are only one SCJ away from making abortion illegal again in our society. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean that the legislative efforts have failed – it means we have not been patient enough and want to give up too soon. Some say, “Well, even if it is illegal (which we don’t believe it will be,) it won’t change the fact that women get them.” I say, “Sure it will. It will reduce the number of abortions.” I don’t think it’s along the same lines as Prohibition, which is what it is always likened to, and which can be brewed in any backyard without harm to the individual. Abortion is a medical procedure – not really any safer as the “morning -after-pill,” (bought from a local CVS store by a 14 year old who doesn’t have any idea if she is three weeks pregnant or 3 months pregnant) than it is by back alley methods.

    I think it is fair for Evangelicals to say that they don’t agree with forcing companies to pay for birth control or the day after pill. Why is that *culture war?*

  • Kate

    Abortion has been shown to be more common in countries where it is illegal. You don’t stop it that way, you just make sure the women die as well as the babies. Yes, it’s a “medical procedure” when legal, but when illegal it becomes coathangers, broken bottles and poisonous cocktails of drugs or herbs. (I’m a doctor working in a country where it is illegal. Here, we just pick up the pieces and bury the women.) I’m “pro-life” so I have to be anti-making-abortion-illegal.

  • Kate

    As for some kind of national healthcare system, I keep hearing that “you can’t trust a government with that”. But the problem is, for-profit healthcare is bad healthcare because there is too much perverse incentive. We have both in the UK. Working for the NHS, I was able to keep my patient’s needs at the forefront, and work according to he best evidnce without it affecting my income. But my wealthy patients often chose to go private (fancy rooms, fancy food and shorter waits) but suffered for it in terms of over-investigation and over-treatment including inappropriate surgery. If you are a surgeon who earns from operating, why turn away a patient when the evidence says avoid surgery, when you could do major surgery, satisfy their need to “get something done” and keep the money coming in? I saw this far too often. Not malpractice, just sub-optimal. I would always trust an NHS doctor before a private one.

  • Dave

    Patrick #6: “I’d be a pitiful and wayward Christian if I tried to force you to join this effort due to my secular political activism views, that would involve coercion & theft of other’s assets against their will and IMO, sacrilege as well since the state would clamp down on evangelism.”

    +1000

    Joe #8: “What suggestions would you provide to structure government differently so that it could manage a national health care system? After all, there are many countries that are doing just that, and quite a few are doing a decent job of it.”

    To be honest, I do no think it is the governments job to be involved in this at all. Like I mentioned before, I don’t know much about the nuts and bolts of other country’s national health care systems, but I do know that the ones commonly held up as great examples here in the states are in far more financial trouble than most people realize (i.e., Canada, the UK, and Costa Rica).

    The ultimate problem is that all of the nationalized health care systems that I am aware of are nothing more than large scale Ponzi schemes, which are reliant on a certain percentage growth of population, personal income, national GDP and low inflation. We had these things for awhile, but for more reasons than appropriate to this post, they are unsustainable with our current monetary system.

  • Dave

    Josh #15: You are in some sense correct, in that the ACA is not a completely nationalized system like the single provider system in the UK or the single payer system in Canada. What has been happening, however, ever since the passage of the 1973 HMO act, is that the created government regulatory environment has driven the costs of medical care through the roof. This in turn has led to the drive to pass something like the ACA (largely because previous attempts to implement a single payer system failed). The passage of the ACA is only going to continue to drive costs higher, which will again lead to the desire for more government intervention, probably in the form of a single payer system.

    I realize I am being very broad/vague in my explanation, since this is a complex issue with complex dynamics that takes more than a few sentences to show things like how the HMO act raised prices and led to more intervention.

    It is interesting to me, though, that government caused price distortions have led to cries for more government interventions to fix them, as if it will somehow work the second or third time around.

    Josh #16 (the same Josh?): You are correct in how the states are responsible for managing the Medicaid system, with the federal gov’t paying for it. The issue with this stems from the unintended consequences (at least unintended from the state’s side).

    What happens in practice is that the federal funds are used as leverage to get the states to fall in line on other areas that the federal government wants, but may not have the explicit authority to regulate. For instance, education. Medicaid funding is one of the main threats used to get state governments to fall inline with federal education mandates, when there is no explicit Constitutional mandate for them to do so. This, of course, isn’t limited to education, it is just one of the more high-profile examples.

    There is some hope, IMO, in light of the state’s fighting the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA. The ACA would explicitly force the states to participate in an expanded Medicaid program (unlike the implicit force as I mentioned above). The states have fought against this and appear to have won in this case, although it will probably be decided in the courts.

  • Dave

    Kenny #10: “For the record, that’s now how I see it. I see the government’s role in helping the poor, providing safety nets, etc. as providing for the common good. I heard a figure that for churches to provide food to the poor in the same capacity as the government, it would cost every church in the United States $50,000.”

    This figure is probably assuming the same level of poverty as now would be present if the government completely eliminated all of their “anti-poverty” programs. My opinion is that most (all?) of these programs, whether by design or not, creates barriers for people trying to get out of poverty. I am working with a national poverty alleviation program (Circles), and have seen first hand how these programs foster dependency and make it very difficult for people to get ahead, even when they are driven and want to.

  • Dave

    Josh #15: “It’s funny to hear many Christians running around in a culture of fear complaining of socialism and redistribution and giving the impression that the tax burden for the wealthy is killing the economy (my in-laws fall in this category). Those folks should take a look through the years and see the actual rates (which go up as high as 94% in 1944-45, as far as I can see, whereas in 2011 the maximum rate was 35%). Definitely an interesting subject.”

    The difference is that in 1944-45, the US government spending made up an extremely high percentage of GDP. We also created more debt through the War than at any other point up until the 21st century. Using the war time economic structure is not a fair comparison to today since private industry was, for all intents and purposes, nationalized to produce was materiel.

    Today, contrary to many conservatives, the more threatening tax rate to economic growth is our corporate tax rate, currently one of the highest in the world. The tax rates on the rich is a distant second, but still one that negatively effect economic growth.

    Even if you disagree, we are back to the math problem. A 100% tax rate on the rich (whatever that may mean, typically assumes people making over $150k), would only generate a couple hundred Billion addt’l dollars. Not even enough to put a dent in our debt, and more than enough to kill businesses those people create and run that do make jobs.

  • Holly

    Kate, thanks so much. I consider you a friend to have a discussion with, not an enemy to score points against. (Just wanted to say that in this broad and crazy internet climate.)

    You are obviously an intelligent and very experienced person. I am surprised at your statement that it has been shown that abortions are MORE COMMON in countries where abortion is illegal. How could that possibly be? How many abortions do we have here daily in the states? (Something like 3,500?) Daily? Would we really have this many if it wasn’t readily available? Do you have studies that you can point me to? Major studies, I mean, not small or random? It matters to me to really have the facts.

    Also, since you have experience and must have thoughts on this – what do you think about the morning after/week after pill being sold OTC? I’m very concerned, personally, that any teen girl can walk in an buy it in my own town. This isn’t a culture war issue for me – I really just don’t think they have the knowledge of their own bodies or biology or the harm that can come to them if they are further along than they think. I think it’s terribly dangerous for them when it is an uncontrolled substance.

  • Holly

    Forcing religious companies to pay for birth control (which is at the heart of some of this battle for which Evangelicals are being chastised) to me seems like we are giving in to the concept that humans are no different than animals, that we are slaves to our passions and undesireable outcomes are a foregone conclusion. As a Christian I just can’t support that worldview. I’m not ready to cede that philosophical ground. It’s a huge point. Should we cave on this to be seen as loving and kind? Does this philosophical point upon which I stand make me more human (as God calls us to be) or less?

  • http://gracerhythmsunforced.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    great discussion, although I only had time to read through half of the comments. We can debate the issue of the proper role of the state, but I do not think that there is any doubt that the religious right has imbibed an anti-poor ideology that favors the rich and perpetuates a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” form of rugged individualism. And the problem is that they don’t even have the capacity to take a step back and see it.

  • AHH

    josenmiami @34,
    I think you are right about the ideology that has infected the “religious right” that gives the appearance of being anti-poor (I got mine, forget you), and at least sometimes is anti-poor in practice. But let’s name the source of much of this newly influential ideology — the patron saint of today’s right-wing economic ideology:
    Ayn Rand
    Many in the last election cycle already pointed out the irony of so many evangelical Christians taking their cues on economic and social policy from a virulent atheist.

  • Craig

    AHH mentions the irony of the strange affinities of many evangelicals to Ayn Rand. Here’s part of how I explain that mystery. Perhaps it’s too conspiratorial; I’m open to better explanations.

    My guess is that it’s the result of democratic politics. Put yourselves in the shoes of the very wealthy. In a democracy you need votes to secure your interests. Your own demographic, the very wealthy, is far too small. What large constituency can you cheaply and effectively entice over to your side? The obvious answer is the very religious, the evangelicals. Say a few things against gay marriage, the evils of abortion, or drugs, or gambling, or Islam, and you’ve won them over; you’ve tapped into their religious fervor; you’ve made crusaders of them for your own political party. And you needn’t worry about these folks being overly critical; most of them, after all, believe in Noah’s Ark, talking snakes, and dark, Satanic, “worldly”, forces. The ideal infrastructure is already in place: preachers, priests, and pastors will declare your message to large and captive and unquestioning audiences across the nation every Sunday morning.

    Now once enticed into political marriage to the interests of the very wealthy, the church begins to adopt the economic views of partner and ally, the peculiar ideology custom-fit to serve the rich. Church goers even begin seeing libertarian principles in Jesus’s teaching. And so young evangelicals, even those left cold by their parents’ social conservatism, come to discover in themselves surprising affinities to Ayn Rand. The kids are simply taking up the interests of their new stepfather.

  • jon

    Since its initiation, the ACA has increased my insurance premium 30%. As someone who barely doesn’t qualify for any federal programs, it has not been affordable to me. Now, my insurance costs 50% more than my mortgage.

  • Kate

    Holly, I appreciate your sincere questions.

    The study I’m thinking of is in the Lancet: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)61786-8/abstract
    Of course there’s not going to be simple cause and effect here, places with illegal abortion usually also have poorer populations and less access to contraception. And it’s difficult to count illegal abortions. I’ve been in a Catholic country where the market outside the church was stuffed with herbal remedies to “bring on delayed menstruation”, a nice euphamism, and hardly likely to be safe, but who’s counting that kind of thing?

    As regards emergency contraception, I think the one available over the counter in the US is “Plan B”? It prevents ovulation, not implantation, and won’t harm either mother or child if taken too late, so is pretty safe, although only 75% effective even if taken at the best time.

    In the UK all contraception is free, but I can see that forcing catholics to provide contraception is never going to go down well! I don’t know the laws involved, is it just that companies have to pay for health care which may include contraception (seems fair) or specifically pay for contraception (I can see that’s not going to go down well.) But however you fund it, if you want to reduce abortion, you need to increase access to long-acting contraception. It’s the lower access to effective contraception that makes US teens more likely to have abortions than their European peers. Rhetoric suggesting that contraceptives are “abortifacient” (long-acting hormonal methods prevent ovulation, not implantation) is not going to help.

    I hate the idea of teenagers having casual sex, but I don’t think contraception encourages them, they do it anyway. I would be nice if everyone was chaste, but how do we get there? You could make extramarital sex illegal as it is in the counrty where I work, but somehow there are still plenty of (illegal) abortions…

  • Holly

    Kate, thanks for your response, I really do appreciate it. You are right about the OTC morning after pill sold in the US (looked it up on several health sites myself) so feel so much better about seeing that on local shelves. It is RU-486 which is problematic for many religious (not only Catholic) organizations and the thought that some of the hormonal birth controls create an inhospitable uterus in the event of pregnancy. While there is controversy over whether they can truly be called abortifacient, I would say that it isn’t always rhetoric. Is rhetoric a deeply held belief that has some basis in fact? (Fact being that some hormonal bcs cause an inhospitable place for an early pregnancy?) Some use rhetoric, but not all do. I am not Catholic, but I probably align more closely with them than I do most Evangelicals – and that would be that I see human sexuality more on a philosophical plane of what God calls humanity *to* rather than just a biological function. Even so, I see your point, and thanks for taking the time with me. :) I am extremely tender toward women who already carry such heavy loads. I’m not naive, have travelled a lot. I think the world is still strangely tilted, even here in America, where the young teen girl becomes pregnant and has to make such huge choices and if she happens to choose life she bears scorn or shame and either dropping out or daycare while in highschool, and raising a child for many, many years. Every day of her life, she will consider that child every moment of every day – won’t even run an errand without needing to think of the welfare of her child. And if she doesn’t, then her family might. And yet, often, the boy carries no part of it, not even the blame. I think of how often I still hear the phrase, “she went and got herself pregnant.” Um, no….totally not how that happens.

    Regarding teens and casual sex…ah, so it is. And so it seems with American Generals, too. I suppose they, particularly being men, can’t help themselves… so bad behavior should be expected and planned for and provided for. (Sorry, Kate – that’s not toward you. I’ve been so disgusted at the current scandal with Gen. Petraeus and now, maybe another General….and, well, it sort of seemed to fit. Apparently none of us can help ourselves so we might as well do as we want.)

  • Kate

    I know what you know about the poor, weak men who can’t help it. It’s always the girl’s fault in my adopted country, because she inspired his lust.

    Re hormonal contraception, “the pill” (combined oestrogen & progesterone) inhibits ovulation and makes cervical mucus hostile to sperm, but it is just possible for ovulation to occur, and if it did and if sperm were able to enter the womb (unlikely), it is possible that the embryo might fail to implant due to a thinned womb lining. This is not technically abortion, as no pregnancy has occured, but I can see how it might be considered such. Taking the pill 3 months at a time seems to eliminate the possibility of failed implantation. Longer acting hormonals (injected or implanted) do not seem to allow for fertilisation to occur, and there is no evidence of failed implantation.

  • Holly

    Thank you, Kate. God bless you.


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