A Comment on No Comment

It is the silence of the megachurches and pastors that bothers me.  I have just finished writing a commentary on the most famous sermon in history, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a sermon that calls followers of Jesus to a kind of life that issues into “good works,” and I must speak out.

I refer to the recent post by CNN’s John Blake on the CNN Belief Blog about the coverage gap in 25 states where, it is estimated by Kaiser, that some 5 million Americans will not qualify for insurance coverage. That is, part of the Affordable Care Act entails increase in coverage by Medicaid, while a SCOTUS decision gives states the option of implementing Medicaid expansion or not. The sad gap is that some will make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for ACA’s subsidies.  5 million Americans in approximately 25 states, most of them Southern.

So John Blake went on a mission to see what Southern megachurch pastors had to say about what will be a sad lack of coverage for poor Americans.  Time after time he got no comment, and his article ends with a stunning “no comment” from one of America’s (northern) finest pastors, Tim Keller from NYC, whose state did expand Medicaid but whose leadership extends to evangelical Christians throughout the world, including those states that did not expand Medicaid coverage. That “no comment” troubled John Blake. (I wish Blake had asked more non-Southern pastors, like Rick Warren or Bill Hybels whose commitments to justice for the poor are unquestionable.)

I have two comments in response to Blake, something I disagree with and something I think needs expanding. First, I must press a weakness in Blake’s article. Here’s what I see in his logic:

Christians are to support the poor (check);
Supporting the poor somehow would include state-based or nation-based tax systems that distribute funds to the poor (check, at least in part);
ACA is state-based or nation-based funding for the poor (check);
Christians, therefore, should support the ACA, but some Christian leaders are against it and that lack of support calls into question their Christianity.

Blake’s mistake here is the logical leap from Christian compassion for the poor into support of ACA. He suggests the pastors’ “no comment” means a lack of Christian action. In other words, those who don’t oppose those states’ decision don’t care about the poor.  It does not follow that care for the poor must include support of ACA. There are other ways to care for the poor.

But what bothered me was not Blake’s logic, for it could be argued that the logic may be a bit weak but the overall direction of his observations entirely justified, and I agree.

No, it is the silences, those “no comment” observations, that concern me. From John Blake’s piece: “Virtually no prominent pastor wanted to talk about the uninsured poor in their midst.”

American Christianity, and this applies both to evangelicalism and conservative Catholics and to Protestant and Catholic liberals, is polarized by politics. One can observe without effort that America’s churches, mainline and megachurch evangelical, are too neatly aligned with political parties. The mainline likes the Democrat platform while evangelicalism likes the GOP.

There are, of course, reasons why each side lines up politically or why one’s theology becomes a kind of politics.

The facts reveal that Republican-leaning American evangelicals are a generous lot, more generous than Democrat-leaning mainline liberals. The irony is not missed by evangelicals.

But why the silence?  Why the “no comment” response by leaders?

Of course, some may not want to be connected in any way with ACA or with CNN. “No comment” reflects, then, a posture toward quotation – or even misquotation – in a left-leaning news source. Such are the politics of our times that support of the poor implicates a pastor in political posturing or, which is more likely, supporting anything like ACA implicates the pastor in the Democrats.

However, one sometimes wonders if one’s politics is not running theology.

When evangelical theology leads so many evangelical leaders to support Republican politics to the degree that these pastors fear even a few safe, simple and straightforward lines in support of the poor, or at least some concerns about the lack of coverage of fellow Americans because of economic levels, then the silence of pastors tells the story of politics far more than the story of the gospel.

When “I am saddened by the lack of coverage for the poor” or “I support some kind of social benefit for the uncovered poor” or “We ought to find a better way” are so political that the pastors fear backlash from their own congregations and the public then there’s something wrong in the church itself.

Christians follow a Lord whose mother and father were too poor to offer a standard sacrifice at the temple, a Lord who taught there was no place to lay the head for those who were following him, a Lord who said the gospel was for the poor, a Lord who blessed the poor, a Lord who called his followers to find financial support from those who loved his new kingdom mission, and a Lord who was himself poor his entire life. We also follow a Lord whose own brother, James, said these simple words:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

When I read those words I wonder if too many pastors and churches are so polluted by the world’s politics that they are unable publicly to support orphans and widows. That, James the follower of Jesus said, is what pure religion is all about.

The same James said this, words that haunt even more than the previous words:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

There is no reason, ever, for any Christian leader to have “no comment” when it comes to saying something on behalf of the poor and needy in our country.

 

"Tucker, there was a study done at TEDS and, if I recall accurately, it was ..."

Keep Up Your Greek Day By ..."
"One of my greatest fears about leaving seminary and entering the pastorate is the possibility ..."

Keep Up Your Greek Day By ..."
"Scot, back in the day when we were both hanging around Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, ..."

Keep Up Your Greek Day By ..."
"No more brother, no longer."

Keep Up Your Greek Day By ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • DMH

    Thanks for speaking up for us.

  • Allan Bevere

    “When I read those words I wonder if too many pastors and churches are so polluted by the world’s politics that they are unable publicly to support orphans and widows.”

    Indeed, or in my own Mainline Protestantism, pastors can’t say they believe there’s a better way than the AHA because that gets interpreted as they really don’t care about orphans and widows.

    And, yes… there is something wrong in the church itself. It’s called Christendom.

  • Phil Smith

    I’m not sure pastors have any obligation to feed the media with quotes. A “no comment” might just be an attempt to avoid getting embroiled in a media-fueled political controversy.

    Pastors may care deeply about the poor. They also might be smart enough to know that whatever they say to a journalist will likely be diced with an angle-saw.

  • scotmcknight

    Phil, I agree that pastors have no obligation; but it’s that “embroiled” that concerns me. How is saying “Whatever one thinks of ACA, we want to support the poor and we want all people to be insured” something to be avoided? I read that article four times, and I don’t see the words from Andy Stanley as one bit usurped into some agenda… he got to say what he wanted and did so, and did so well.

  • tedstur

    I agree that one can almost always work to speak with grace. This was an open invitation for them to identify with Christ and it didn’t require that they agree with ACA.

    Even if, like me, they don’t like ACA they could have said, “I think ACA is a flawed law but I love the care and concern for the poor because Jesus cared for the poor.”

    or… “The motives are pure behind ACA but the execution has been awful.”

    or… “ACA is flawed, I suggest we consider…”

    The silence is really silent considering who they are.

  • Phil Smith

    I can see what Scot and yourself are saying but even “ACA is flawed, I suggest we consider..” is going to be reported as “Mega-church pastor claims ACA is flawed!”

    “The motives are pure behind ACA but the execution has been awful.” is going to be turned in to “ACA execution Awful”, or maybe even just “ACA ‘awful’ says Mega-church pastor”.

    I guess the only thing a pastor CAN respond with is “We are very concerned for the welfare of the poor” and leave it at that. To even mention policy in their reply is to give the journalist the chance to nail the Pastor firmly to one side of the political fence… Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum?

  • tedstur

    Ya, you’re probably right on the media’s ability to twist things. At our org, we have a standing policy of “no comment” and perhaps that’s true of these churches as well.

  • scotmcknight

    What if CNN asked your church on if Jesus was raised from the dead? No comment there too?

  • tedstur

    No, because I would probably have fainted and would be laying on the floor.

    Actually, I wouldn’t answer them – at least not right away. In my organization (a missionary org) we would be filled with fear and trembling as to why they called us. We have hundreds of missionaries and many are in places where they face the very real threat of martyrdom (yes, it has happened to our staff). So… I have to say that I wouldn’t answer that question without a bit of background first.

    Sheep among wolves, you know…

  • scotmcknight

    I agree that can happen, but pastors of megachurches have learned how to say what they need to say… so your third paragraph is the issue. Thanks.

  • attytjj466

    Not commenting for one particular CNN political agenda piece does does not thus equal = no comment regarding the poor or orphans or widows or silence regarding the poor or orphans or widows. That is a very unfair “comment” to make about a large group of pastors and churches, and an even more unfair inference about a lack of concern or caring or love for the poor and orphaned and widowed on the part of southern and/or evangelical pastors and churches.

    Nor does not supporting a federal mandate to expand a federal program that states are forced to also pay for, equate or equal not caring about or loving the poor or orphans or widows. The federal govermmment does not care about budget deficits and spents trillions in debt. Most states, per their voters, can’t and don’t do that. States have to live within their budgets. In five years blue states that expanded metacaid will have to raise taxes, or cut other programs that will also impact and hurt someone.

    Let’s not use TSOTM to bash other Christians who disagree with how we care for and love the poor, the orphan, the widow.

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks. First, I said not supporting ACA is not the same as not caring for the poor in the essay. The issue is the silence of megachurch pastors across the board… John Blake worked hard at getting something from these folks. It appears to me the politics of association was more important than a simple statement that one cared about the lack of coverage. That’s what I’m responding to.

  • attytjj466

    I would suggest looking at what churches and ministries and pastors are actually doing and preaching/teaching in their communities and around the world is a much better measure of concern for the poor than a response to a piece on CNN Belief Blog. I attend one Evangelical church in the south, Louisville, 5k congregation, not sure a mega church really, tends to be republican, probably, but also with a very robust ministry to the poor in the metro area and in a dozen or so countries around the world, money and action that far exceeds most mainline churches in the area, and I am quite sure my pastor would not respond to a CNN blogger on Belief Net.

  • scotmcknight

    Which is precisely what Andy Stanley said in the article, right? Why would your pastor not respond?

  • attytjj466

    I should not speak for him. But I referenced the post to him, he can comment here if he chooses to do so.

  • http://ChristAlmighty.net K.W. Leslie

    One of Jesus’s instructions to his followers was “Heal the sick.” I don’t think he’s particular about whether we get ’em healed supernaturally or not. Therefore Christians ought to have an opinion about healthcare. “No comment” means we, like so many others in our society, have abnegated that responsibility, and left it to profiteers who really don’t care about the souls of the sick.

  • LT

    Actually, I think Jesus was particular about how they got healed. It was part of the confirmation of the gospel message (cf Heb 2:3-4). His command to the disciples was not to go out and get health insurance for people.

    Second, Christians probably should have an opinion about healthcare. But “no comment” does not mean one doesn’t have an opinion, or that they have abnegated that responsibility and left it to profiteers. There can be a lot of reasons for having “no comment” that have nothing to do with the motives you have judged people as having here.

  • http://ChristAlmighty.net K.W. Leslie

    Leaving it to profiteers isn’t the motive. It’s the effect. You’re right: There are lots of reasons to have no comment. But they have the same effect.

    You’re also right: Jesus’s command wasn’t about getting health insurance. I never said it was. I only said it indicates we ought to have an opinion. “Go and heal” effectively makes healthcare part of the Kingdom, and “no comment” makes it sound like it’s not.

  • LT

    Don’t forget Jesus didn’t heal everyone. So if Jesus is the pattern, shouldn’t that matter? Why only invoke the times Jesus healed, and not also invoke the times Jesus didn’t heal? In fact, remember the passage where Jesus says, “if the miracle done among you had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented”? What significance is it that Jesus didn’t do those miracles there? Or when Jesus says there were many widows in Israel during the famine in Elijah’s day and Elijah was sent to none of them, but to a widow in Sidon? In Mark 1, with people lined up and begging for healing, Jesus went somewhere *to preach.* Why are those types of teachings by Jesus omitted from our discussions of social justice? Can you imagine the outcry against a church or pastor who said, “We aren’t feeding the hungry today; we are going to preach”? And yet, that’s exactly what Jesus did on multiple occasions.

    Interesting how little that seems to make it into our discussions about following Christ in social justice.

    “Go and heal” was part of the kingdom. It was miraculous healing to demonstrate. And that part of the kingdom is not now here (as evidenced by the lack of miraculous healing).

    To sum it up, we can’t simply ignore the passages that don’t fit our paradigm. We can’t have only a half a Jesus. You gotta take him all.

  • http://ChristAlmighty.net K.W. Leslie

    As a Pentecostal, I’m gonna differ with you about the lack of miraculous healing. God never rescinded any part of the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated. That part of the Kingdom is still around, if you have the faith to see it.

    Though agreed, God doesn’t heal everyone, whether through faith healers or doctors. And true, Jesus didn’t heal everyone either.

    Where are those teachings when we talk social justice? Well, social justice is about the injustice of nature and humans, but you’re talking about the actions, or inactions, of God. And that’s theodicy. That’s a whole other can of worms. We’re not to presume we know better in the same way God knows better. Nor that we can be inactive, since we figure God is inactive. We’re to be his hands and feet, not figure, “My lord delayeth his coming,” and start beating the menservants and maidservants. Nor allow others to do so.

  • Phil Miller

    “Go and heal” was part of the kingdom. It was miraculous healing to demonstrate. And that part of the kingdom is not now here (as evidenced by the lack of miraculous healing).

    To sum it up, we can’t simply ignore the passages that don’t fit our paradigm. We can’t have only a half a Jesus. You gotta take him all.

    I find the fact that you can make these statements to be quite breathtaking… We can’t ignore the passages that don’t fit out paradigm, but yet miraculous healing isn’t taking place now… Perhaps you need to, uh, expand your paradigm?

  • LT

    Where are people laying hands on people or speaking to them with the result of instantaneous, visible, miraculous healing going on? Let me know so we can test it?

    My comments aren’t particularly breathtaking. For 2000 years, they have been what orthodox Christians believed everywhere.

  • Phil Miller

    Where? All sorts of places… Although, I don’t know why you have to include “instantaneous” at one of your qualifications. Not even all of the people Christ healed were healed instantaneously.

    My comments aren’t particularly breathtaking. For 2000 years, they have been what orthodox Christians believed everywhere.

    Don’t know what you mean by this. Divine healing has always been something that the Church has believed in. Fewer probably don’t believe in it than do.

  • LT

    First, divine healing is not the question. All healing is divine. The issue is the miraculous gifts and the miracle worker.

    Second, the reason I include instantaneous is because we are talking about the NT gift of healing. In the NT, the gift of healing was instantaneous and directly attributable to the act of the miracle worker (whether Jesus or the apostle). And the only person healed by Christ that was not instantaneous was the blind man who first saw people as trees walking around, which was done in a way to send a theological message to the disciples about their own limited view.

    So again, I ask, do you have some evidence of NT healing going on? Because if you do, we can discuss it and evaluate it by biblical standards. If you don’t, then you and I aren’t talking about the same thing. I was responding to the comment that Jesus sent his disciples out to heal, and pointing out that that had nothing to do with health insurance. It had to do with the signs of the apostles, and the power of the kingdom.

  • Guest

    First, divine healing isn’t the issue. All healing is divine, whether one believes in it or not. The issue is miraculous healing and miracle workers.

    Second, I use “instantaneous” because we are talking about the NT gift of healing. It was miraculous and it was instantaneous. The only healing of Jesus or the apostles that wasn’t instantaneous was the blind man who first saw trees walking and that was to make a theological point about the blindness of the disciples.

    So remember, my comments were in response to the idea that Jesus sent his disciples out to heal, and my point is that that had nothing to do with health insurance, but dealt with the validation of the kingdom message which was done through miraculous instantaneous healing. If you have some evidence of that, then we can evaluate it by the NT standard.

  • LT

    First, divine healing isn’t the issue. All healing is divine, whether one believes in it or not. The issue is miraculous healing and miracle workers.

    Second, I use “instantaneous” because we are talking about the NT gift of healing. It was miraculous and it was instantaneous. The only healing of Jesus or the apostles that wasn’t instantaneous was the blind man who first saw trees walking and that was to make a theological point about the blindness of the disciples.

    So remember, my comments were in response to the idea that Jesus sent his disciples out to heal, and my point is that that had nothing to do with health insurance, but dealt with the validation of the kingdom message which was done through miraculous instantaneous healing. If you have some evidence of that, then we can evaluate it by the NT standard.

  • Andrew Dowling

    So Jesus only healed people to show he could work miracles and had supernatural powers? Why not just fly around on a carpet?

  • LT

    No, to show that he was God and had authority, particularly over sin and its effects (Mark 2:1-12: So that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins [which they stipulated only God could do], I say, “Take up your bed and walk”; also the signs of John’s gospel). And not only, but certainly primarily.

    Flying around on a magic carpet apparently wouldn’t be the kind of demonstration God in his sovereign wisdom wanted to make.

  • LT

    The “go and heal” was part of the kingdom, and it was miraculous. If we are going to invoke that, then we are going to have to do what they did.

    But think of the life of Jesus. Remember how many times he didn’t help the poor and sick?

    In Mark 1, Jesus left hurting and sick people to and preach. What would you think of a pastor who said, ‘I know you are hungry and sick, but I am going to preach in another city”? Would you suggest we should follow Jesus in that?
    In Luke 4, Jesus points out that there were many widows in Israel who were hungry but Elijah went to a single widow in Zarephath.
    Jesus said that if the miracles done in Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented. We often skip right over the question of, If God knew the outcome, why didn’t he do the miracles there?

    These things throw a monkey wrench into issues, or at least they should, if we actually think about them. I think many people want a half a Jesus. They want the Jesus is who warm and cuddly and helps people. They don’t like the Jesus who leaves the widows in Israel to starve, and the people Tyre and Sidon to perish when he could have done something. They don’t like the Jesus who leaves the sick and hurting in front of him to go and preach somewhere else.

    These things must be reckoned with in our day of “feel good” theology. It seems apparent from Scripture that Jesus, nor his early disciples who learned from him what to do, had any intention of alleviating world hunger, bringing about social justice, or massively transforming society. They were instead intent on preaching Jesus as the only way of salvation and calling people to follow him.

  • http://ChristAlmighty.net K.W. Leslie

    So your argument becomes, “Jesus didn’t bother. Why should I?”

    Which becomes a far easier Jesus to follow than the one who told the parable of the Samaritan who helped an injured man, then said, “Go and do likewise.”

  • LT

    Huh? Where did I say Jesus didn’t care? And where did I say I didn’t care. I have already spoken to that issue earlier. All I pointed out was that Jesus didn’t heal everyone, and didn’t everything he could have to make people’s lives better.

    And my question was, why doesn’t that get talked about more in shaping our ideas? Do you have any suggestions or ideas as to why these things get ignored?

  • Todd

    Tim Keller does not seem to be a good example of one who is “unable publicly to support orphans and widows.”

  • Collins

    Agreed–but I think it highlights Scot’s points. The point is that there would/could be such political backlash for Keller saying anything that smacked of sounding politically liberal that he deemed it more appropriate to just say “no comment.” That’s a problem with the politics of the [American] evangelical church.

  • Todd

    Here’s the deal – it’s a bad example.

    Andy Stanley is pointed out as a positive example but he appears to have interacted with Blake before on a previous article. Warren and Hybels are given a pass but they either weren’t interviewed or didn’t make the article. It would appear that Keller does care and is vocal about the poor, but because he doesn’t comment to one reporter/blogger about the ACA, Blake/McKnight/Collins assume/allude that he is corrupted by conservative politics and lives in fear and trembling of backlash from the political right.

    My issue is that you see behavior and assume motive. Very dangerous to assume motive, in this case maybe wrong, but certainly damaging to someone whose first book is on caring for the poor, whose entire ministry has Mercy and Justice as a cornerstone of what he do. Keller does not seem to be afraid to attack the idols of the right just as much as he attacks the idols of left.

    So yeah, Scot is making a point, but in my opinion, the way he makes this point is a poor one and unfairly damaging to someone’s reputation.

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Todd,
    My point was twofold: one can’t infer from a lack of support of ACA that one doesn’t care for the poor. And the problem of silence. We evidently disagree but I see no reason ever to have “no comment” on support of the poor etc. Since I said already that support of the poor is not the same as supporting ACA, or even its Medicaid expansion, I focus on the opportunity for pastors to speak up about their compassion for those who will go uninsured. My point underlines the essay by Blake. The big point he made is that pastor after pastor offered No Comment. American Christianity is so politicized these things happen. I think that’s behind the No Comment.

  • http://parkerfarms.biz/ Solomon Parker

    While I can’t speak about most churches, I am quite familiar with Tim Keller’s agenda and you have it all wrong. Like only a few other large evangelical churches, Keller preaches an overtly non-political message. If he did take a side on such a charged issue, I’d be disappointed. If one actually believes Jesus was who he said he was, then taking sides in Caesar’s politics is an excellent way to lose track of what’s truly important.

  • randybuist

    The gospel is inherently political. It challenges dominant powers and proclaims the ways of Jesus are a different way. To not be political ignores so much of the gospel that it becomes only a way to heaven when you die which is no good news for a hurting and broken world.

  • http://parkerfarms.biz/ Solomon Parker

    Jesus said “my kingdom is not of this world.” Political power (the world’s way of doing things) is not how kingdom work gets done. It’s how the world exercises power. Keller preaches caring for the poor more than most, it’s in nearly every sermon. Expecting him to do it the world’s way is simply misguided.

  • randybuist

    May the kingdom come on earth as it is in the heavens. We expect government to help with the injustice of a school shooting or the injustice of a doctor practicing bad medicine. Either we believe government plays a role in creating a just and good society or we believe it has no place whatsoever. I suggest the issue of health care is a hot button because those without power have no voice in this discussion.

  • http://parkerfarms.biz/ Solomon Parker

    And we can believe and practice these things as individuals. However, I expect my preacher to preach the gospel and not to confuse it with his political affiliation.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “It’s how the world exercises power.”

    In a democratic republic you no longer have this excuse.

  • http://parkerfarms.biz/ Solomon Parker

    Excuse for what?

  • scotmcknight

    It’s fair to defend Keller from his writings and from his praxis, and it is precisely because of those that John Blake was surprised by Keller’s no comment. So, I ask you: Why do you think Keller offered no comment?

  • Alice

    Why don’t you ask Keller why he offered no comment? We can only surmise until someone asks him directly.

  • http://parkerfarms.biz/ Solomon Parker

    If I had to wager a guess, I’d say it’s simply a bad idea to make political comments at all in such a public way. But anyone familiar with Keller’s body of work will know his position on caring for the poor. He’s not one of those “lazy poor people need to get a job” preachers whose message is lost in the political fray. While I personally support the ACA and would support full socialization of medicine, I’m glad he doesn’t have a comment. But I’m not a mega-church pastor on a world stage. Nobody looks to me as an authority. The Gospel comes first.

  • scotmcknight

    Why is support for the uninsured political? Who made care for the poor/uninsured political?

  • http://parkerfarms.biz/ Solomon Parker

    Because insurance is part of the political system. It’s not something you buy off the shelf, it’s something mandated you buy by the government. That’s political. You can support a political system and lose your objective platform, or you can, like Keller does, tell believers what the Bible says and leave it to them and their consciences to figure out the best way to put it into practice. Some will attempt that politically, others will do it personally.

    Poor does not equal uninsured, and properly caring for them does not objectively require a political solution. However, as many studies have shown, it cannot be achieved solely by the church through its means, which is why I support political solutions. But I do that as a citizen of a liberal democratic republic, not as a Christian, not playing like God is on my side.

  • BryanJensen

    Then how about a supportive “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” sort of approach? That was a political statement toward Empire in its day and it can be as reasonably declared today e.g., “The ACA is what has prevailed in our pluralistic republic as a law toward accomplishing social justice, which we support as a facet of our Lord’s kingdom. Meanwhile in places where we find social policy like ACA deficient [if it is viewed deficient], X, Y and Z are some things we are doing to bring expanded relief to the poor.”

  • scotmcknight

    Nice.

  • http://parkerfarms.biz/ Solomon Parker

    You may interpret that statement as a political one, I interpret as a non-political one. It says empire is not God’s way of doing things. I support ACA as a citizen of this pluralistic republic, but not as a facet of our Lord’s Kingdom. I see it as doing the most good for the most people (most of them non-believers), but not as a means to accomplish Kingdom work, nor as a fulfillment of my duties as part of said Kingdom.

  • BryanJensen

    It seems you think I am saying it is _primarily_ political. No, I agree with you: It is saying God’s kingdom is the greater kingdom. But in the age of the Roman empire, and especially among the Caesar-as-deity cult, that was also a political statement to say, “You can have our money. But you will not have our hearts and allegiance. We serve a different king.”

    That is basically what a gospel is: saying there is a new king in town. It is probably a natural tempering that we see Luke speak more softly on the Romans than the Matthew community, and Paul speak of political leaders the way he does in Romans 13, so that ultimately, like in 1 Thess 4, citizens of God’s kingdom live quietly and humble in contrast to the norms of the Empire in which they belong.

  • Mr. Hawk

    For same underlying reasons that abortion is political?

  • tedstur

    Insurance may be inherently political. I assist in managing our organization’s insurance plan. The 80/20 rule is amazingly spot on. 20% of the people make 80% of the claims. Our insurance consultant predicted it and when we did the analysis it was true.

    By manipulating coverage amounts and types, the plan can become solvent. If we don’t, then we aren’t able to offer reasonably priced coverage for others. We self insure so there is no “evil insurance company” making profits. It’s math.

    So, these plans become political. Somebody decides who gets a copay, what the deductible amount will be, how much prescription drug coverage is offered, etc. It’s about wielding power in the decisions regarding winners and losers in the plan.

    I am afraid that’s pretty inescapable.

  • Kishy

    I think it is hard for them to have a comment. If you don’t support the government getting involved in some way (not necessarily ACA, but in some way), what are you left with?

    I once had a Christian tell me, “Well, the churches should be doing the job – they just need to help poor/uninsured people more with medical care costs. And Christian doctors should volunteer care.”

    As if this could help. One case of cancer in its congregation would bankrupt most churches if they were paying. And why should doctors give their time for free more than accountants — or pastors, for that matter? And finally, even if Christian doctors decided to help, individual doctors are not the main cost of health care. It’s hospitals, MRIs, lab tests, etc etc.

    Health care is so expensive the problem can only be solved by government or business. Business has failed. While it is true that government regulations have have been in place for ages, esp. re: medicare and medicaid payments, that have crippled the industry. But in spite of this, executives and stock holders have managed to increase their profits every year. Sadly, I don’t expect anything better from government, though.

  • scotmcknight

    I agree that those who think if the churches were doing this well there would be no problems are unrealistic. This is an American issue and not just a church issue. John Blake’s article doesn’t expect that; he expected pastors to offer support for the poor and uninsured even if they could not support ACA. Do you think there is a political implication that got pastors nervous about saying anything? (I do, and that’s what bothers me.)

  • http://azspot.net naum

    I hear this from folk in my church all the time — that it not the government role to provide for poor, reform health care, etc.. — that that should be solely the domain of the church.

    It is such a hypocritical slant, given that the same set of people enjoy all the benefits and perks of the collective action of government — from transportation, food, communications, electricity, the internet, etc. all made possible by economies of scale inherent in government “guardian” role. Then, when it comes to the “least of us”, small piecemeal solutions that even when are exemplary efforts, barely dent the problem. In a nation, where many occupying church seats every week sit in a lap of affluence and luxury, largely due in part to the edifices and structures of collective government that delivers goodies they take for granted.

    And then it is pondered why “Christians” are viewed in a tainted perspective…

  • randybuist

    Thanks for challenging us – your readers. We will push back because we don’t like the Sermon on the Mount. While we can argue policy, there was no real alternative to the ACA other than ‘keep our money ourselves’ which is a departure from the gospel.

  • Rick

    You seem to indicate that the pastors should support ACA in its current form, rather than a general support for the uninsured. You are doing what many find offensive: support the ACA in its current form or you are being unchristian.

  • randybuist

    It was the only real option given to the American people. The right had no other plan as the conservative Heritage Foundation hatched the plan a decade ago. Simply ‘supporting the poor’ with prayers and good will doesn’t solve our issues. Unfortunately our issues will cost us real money – of which we don’t like giving up.

  • Rick

    Just because it is the only option does not mean it is a good one. It may be, but there is disagreement. It may just need some adjustments.
    That is different than saying that the ACA is the only Christian thing to do, and that these pastors are not doing anything for the poor.

  • Mr. Hawk

    This is not true. There were plenty of alternative plans (official and unofficial) put forward. People either just weren’t interested in considering the alternatives or reporting on them.

  • Andrew Dowling

    The other GOP plans (eliminating state lines for insurance and tort reform) do nothing for people with pre-existing conditions or who lose their employer insurance after getting laid off. They would’ve been great for healthy people . . .sick people not so much, which is why no-one took those proposals seriously and no legitimate study said those plans would do anything to address the huge gaps in care for those middle-class and working class who get sick,

  • LT

    >>>there was no real alternative to the ACA other than ‘keep our money ourselves’ which is a departure from the gospel.<<<

    That actually isn't true. There were other alternatives, including various kinds of reforms, allowing health care premiums to be an above the line deduction, and simply opening up Medicaid to more people. But they were rejected out of hand by the Democrats.

  • http://azspot.net naum

    No, the ACA was a conservative crafted, market-oriented Republican championed plan that became opposed once the “other side” advanced it.

    Allowing health care premiums to be an “above the line deduction” doesn’t solve the problem (it just helps the already affluent). And “opening up Medicaid to more people” was not rejected “out of hand by Democrats” — it is a political reality that nary a Republican would support that.

  • LT

    That’s historical revisionism, my friend. Allowing health care deductions to be above the line would help me tremendously. I have to pay taxes on my premiums. Were they above the line, that would be non-taxable income. It would matter. And opening up medicaid to more people would have passed bipartisanly in the Congress.

  • http://azspot.net naum

    If you’re paying (federal) taxes, you’re in a lot better shape than most. And policy should not be constructed from singular anecdotes…

  • LT

    I don’t pay federal taxes. I do pay both sides of the social security tax and I do pay state taxes. And you are correct that policy should not be constructed from a single anecdote. But the failures of the ACA are all over, they are well publicized, and people from all across the spectrum warned about them long before it ever became law.

    I am for everyone having health insurance if they want it. I am not for forcing people to buy it. If someone wants to self-insure, then let them do that. But the ACA is bad law. It is a bad plan.

  • Mr. Hawk

    No, the ACA was not a “conservative crafted” piece of legislation. This is an internet myth that is perpetuated for obvious reasons. There are many components to the ACA. The only one which is being attributed to the Heritage Foundation is the individual mandate, but even that isn’t accurate. The type of individual mandate arguably proposed by Heritage differed in several key components to the ACA. This information is all readily available for those willing to look.

    So no, the ACA wasn’t just a conservative idea until “the other side advanced it.”

  • http://azspot.net naum

    According to the architect, Jonathan Gruber (who led both “RomneyCare” and “ObamaCare” efforts), ACA indeed was taken from Heritage proposal and Heritage celebrated Romney (again, first implemented with a Republican governor) when he rolled it out in MA — there is video of Heritage on stage with Romney applauding it. Gruber states it’s nearly the same and he “lifted it” directly from those 90s Heritage proposals and the *individual mandate* is the centerpiece of the reform plan.

    It certainly wasn’t a *liberal* idea as most of liberal/left persuasion at best accept ACA as a compromise, realpolitik move by Obama, in lieu of a single payer plan. It was Obama “triangulation” to advance the other side’s crafted market oriented (individual mandate, usage of existing health insurance infrastructure) reform movement.

    You have a right to opinions about this, but not the facts.

  • Mr. Hawk

    Again, certain aspects may have been ‘taken from’ the Heritage proposal (they actually existed before Heritage proposed them), but the *ACA* as a whole (as you stated) was not a “conservative idea”. Moreover, Heritage later rescinded the idea long before Obamacare came along.

    And again, the particulars of the individual mandate put forward by Heritage had several key differences from the ACA’s version. So again, to state that the ‘ACA was a conservative proposal until the other side ran with’ is simply non factual.

  • http://bookwi.se/ Adam Shields

    Or the basic tenants (required insurance, either state or federally facilitated exchanges, and centering the provision of insurance in the open market) were all a part of the Heritage proposal for health insurance reform as late as 2008 when the early versions of the ACA were in the early stages.

    You know whichever version of reality you want to believe.

  • Mr. Hawk

    Yes, I choose to live in the reality where I don’t ignore the glaring differences in the two proposals, preferring to gloss over them to focus on the ‘basic tenants” [sic].

    All it takes is a quick Google search to see the (rather significant) differences. So when you say “required insurance”, for example, there a huge difference between what Heritage proposed and what the ACA implements. That’s but one major difference.

    This is like saying that JFK was for reducing taxes on the rich to spur economic growth,so liberals are hypocrites for rejecting the idea today.

    So yes, I do enjoy reality.

  • Mr. Hawk

    I would add that (again, drawing on the JFK example), that merely because one conservative think-tank supported the idea of an individual mandate (different as it is from the ACA version), doesn’t mean that conservatives as a whole did at the time (NCPA, Cato, WSJ were always opposed), or that they are somehow forbidden from opposing it now. Even Romney was publicly against the employer-mandate (and vetoed it).

  • http://azspot.net naum

    Not even apples and orange, Roger1242. Like apples and canyon rocks…

  • http://azspot.net naum

    Significant differences like what?

    They all pale in comparison to the main centerpiece which is the *individual mandate*.

    Now you may argue that well it might be something viable at the state level but not at the federal level (as Romney himself equivocated, after going on record, prior to Obama championing this market oriented reform, as a model for the federal government).

  • Andrew Dowling

    You seem to love avoiding naum’s asking what those significant differences were.

    As for your comment that the Democrats derailed Medicare for all . . .LOL . . yes Boehner and Cantor were ready to expand Medicare, but those feisty Dems wouldn’t let them. . . haha. Talk about delusional.

  • http://azspot.net naum

    No @Roger1242 they (Heritage) did not rescind “long ago” — they were on hand (there is even video, even if Heritage has done their earnest to scrub themselves off, and that did not occur until the other party’s president advanced it) at the rollout in MA to applaud Governor Romney and champion it. And again, Jonathan Gruber, the architect for both plans, has stated they are almost identical with just minor variance. And he has testified that the plan was lifted almost entirely from those 90s Heritage proposals.

    The *individual mandate* is the centerpiece of this — everything else is just minor dressing.

    Again, you have the right to your opinion but not the facts.

  • Samuel Burr

    LT, That is not how I understand things. I have read in books written by and highly extolled by conservative think tanks that had high praise for the medical reform in Massachusetts that Governor Romney and Senator Kennedy worked hard together to put in effect there. According to a chart I saw recently only 4 % are uninsured in Massachusetts. This plan, that Governor Romney is quoted as saying at one time would make a good national model, had issues to work through but is now popular. I don’t think it is the case that opening up Medicaid was opposed by Democrats. I thought that is what liberals wanted and were disappointed was not proposed? I have been a registered Republican for all my adult life until a month ago when I changed my affiliation to none. I am sorry that so much of my comment includes the words conservative, liberal or democrat. I wish there was a way to talk about this that avoided these terms, but I don’t know how. And my understanding above could be wrong but I have put some time and energy in this because I heard the story of many who are uninsured and was saddened. I do not mean to imply that others who disagree are not equally concerned about this, but the rhetoric in my community among Christians is very troubling. Many of my brother and sisters say nothing that indicates concern for those who have no health care. The enmity they express toward this health care reform plan is malicious and the delight they express at the troubled implementation is obvious. The ACA seemed to me, and still does, to be the only serious plan to achieve health care for all that has been proposed. .

  • LT

    But the Massachusetts plan is not what the ACA is. Had we done that, we would be better off. And it is a fact that the Dems resisted all Republican input on it .

    You say the ACA seems to be the only serious plan, but it’s not serious. It is a disaster in every way. It is way too expensive (i.e., did nothing to make it affordable; there was nothing done about the real problem which is cost). Doctors are dropping out of it. It’s not a serious plan. And I benefit from it because I am no longer paying my own premiums. But it’s still a bad plan.

  • Phil Miller

    It seems to me that pastors are put into a no-win situation here. Time and time again people say that they’re tired of hearing politics from the pulpit. Apparently, that means they’re only tired of hearing about politics they don’t agree with. In my experience, most pastors, even pretty conservative ones, are pretty wary about getting overtly political in the pulpit. I heard a bit more of it in the African American church, but even then it was relatively rare that it would be outright support for political issues.

    I have to say, too, that I find the quoting of James at the end to be kind of the ultimate in irony… James is saying that it does no good to simply say, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed”, but this is exactly what Blake is taking pastors to task for – for not making a comment. It’s like he thinks pastors simply giving an opinion on the matter is going to make a huge difference.

  • scotmcknight

    Phil, Thanks. I feel this kind of comment gets us into the direction I was hoping this discussion would go. As it is most seem compelled to defend Keller, and I can see why but Blake is the one who pointed his finger at him so clearly at the end for not making a comment. I’m not so concerned with Keller as I am with the southern pastors who chose the no comment option. I appreciate what Andy Stanley said. Let us then assume Blake worked hard to get pastors to offer some kind of even non-political response.

    I don’t think this is a no-win situation. Perhaps politically, but that is precisely my point: why should which side we end up on in politics govern what we say about the uninsured. Isn’t an expression of empathy and a “We need to pursue a solution” better than no comment?

    You are of course right: what is said is not what matters most. What is done is what matters most. But no comment is a kind of performative utterance that will be heard in some clear ways by many.

    Maybe you are right about Blake but I suspect he was thinking some kind of comment would imply action, too.

  • Rick

    Although the writer did not try to trap them (as was indicated in how Andy Stanley’s response was reported), other pastors may have been concerned about being misrepresented in a “gotcha” type portrayal.

  • Todd Allen Bellemey

    I don’t know “the answer” to this dilemma but it reminds me of other callings so as widows and orphans. I’m pretty sure if we where to ask those same questions that little would be said about them as will. It saddens me to a great deal that no solution is even offered on the since what that church is doing for the poor. Have we come so far that we can’t even say that we are praying for the poor or support organizations that help them. I just don’t know I still need time to reflect and soak in this madness, because after all thats what this is in the end.

  • Rick

    “Have we come so far that we can’t even say that we are praying for the poor or support organizations that help them.”
    It may depend on who we are saying that to.

  • Todd Allen Bellemey

    That is true but never the less how can one have love of God but neighbor. Say for a second that one does have love for God and neighbor but still does not cry out for justice for those oppressed then do they still have love for God and neighbor? In this country we have very little to fear and much to gain from our words. Yet it seems that we fear unknown response from the world or criticism then we fear God. Who can destroy both body and soul. To say no comment in my understanding is saying that the church is silent (which it is not) and that Jesus the Christ is silent (which he is not!). Yes these churches could do a type of good work that God has placed before them but they should be willing to speak out about that. Silence is the death of the church and the death of ourselves.

  • Rick

    I don’t totally disagree with you. I just wonder if they might felt that saying something that might get misrepresented would do more damage than good (although that does not seem to be what happened as indicated by Andy Stanley’s reported comments).
    I don’t know their motives though.

  • Mark McNees

    Dr. McKnight, as you know, I credit you as one of the most brilliant theologians of our time and you have inspired and refined much of my thinking on the Gospel, but I would have to respectfully disagree with the presupposition of trusting any media outlet to truthfully and accurately present the Christian faith and the Church’s commitment to the Gospel.

    As someone who has been interviewed by the media several times, I am always amazed at what they quote or what sound bite they use. I have been made to look like a Universalist by some media outlets and a right wing, fundamentalist, evangelical loon by others. After an article or media spot runs, I always have people say, “Mark, I have heard you say, “Fill in the blank” a thousand times, but they totally took it out of context and made you look like a fundamentalist/Universalist.”

    As for the ACA, I do believe it is the churches failing that has led a portion of the USAmerican government and constituency to believe that government supported health care is the answer to the uninsured problem. The Church has been clearly instructed to care for “the least of these” and by failing to do so, people have turned to government for the answer to this problem; much like America did when they fell short of honoring their father and mother leaving the elderly hungry and homeless, so Social Security was implemented.

    That being said, I would also have to agree with Hubert H. Humphrey when he said, “The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.” Government is not the answer, it is a societal bandage on the open wound of poverty. Here is the hard truth for the Church, the ACA is law because the Church failed to love. The Church missed an opportunity to shine as the tangible hand of Christ in our country by not caring for the “least of these.” Wouldn’t it have been beautiful if a politician stood up and said, “We need government healthcare.” and the populous of the USA said, “Why? The Church has taken care of all of those in need.”

    Let me leave you with a quote by Brian Fikkert, author of When Helping Hurts,
    perhaps the best book written on the subject of poverty. “Poverty alleviation
    occurs when the power of Christ’s resurrection reconciles our key relationships
    through the transformation of both individual lives and local, national, and
    international systems.”

    Live in the power of the resurrection transforming us to be the full expression of God’s love.

  • scotmcknight

    Mark, fair enough. I’ve never been misrepresented, and I’ve been interviewed hundreds of times.

  • BryanJensen

    The closer solution is to see more high profile pastors speak about poverty. If their position needs to be contextualized over and against ACA or any other socio-political policy, then blog about. Write about it. Preach about it. I am impressed that we see Distributists like Thomas Storck who regularly take on the subject.

    If such evangelical pastors are so afraid of being misquoted then point the media toward a place where they can go extract comments; if misquoting happens the case of journalistic error is clear. But fear of the media, engaging the broad culture, and “no comment” are poor excuses for the opportunity to speak truth to Power (which, in my view, is corporatism, oligarchism and plutocracy to which both major partisan powers more often bend than not).

  • chuckwarnock

    I think you have identified the situation that plagues American Christianity today. It is an amalgam, on both the right and left, of theology and partisan politics. Those on the left do not speak out against our government’s use of a worldwide spying network or assassination by drones because President Obama is the best hope of progressives. Similarly, conservative evangelicals do not want to embrace a cause (ACA) that is championed by Democrats. The Church has no credible voice (or even voices) in our civic dialogue on this or any other public policy issue.

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Chuck… precisely what I saw in the whole article by John Blake.

  • Samuel Burr

    I am not on the left. I mostly find myself caught in the middle. But there is a tremendous amount of criticism expressed toward the Obama administration concerning the spy network, drones, failure to close Gitmo, failure to achieve immigration reform, even the ACA because it is not a single payer system but is closer to the reform proposed by the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks. You don’t hear any of this?

  • chuckwarnock

    My point is not that there is no criticism, but that because of the conjoining of American Christianity and partisan politics prominent spokespersons on both sides are reluctant to go off message for their ideology. Ask Richard Cizik what happened when he struck out into uncharted territory. Because everyone sticks to their party line, on both sides, their positions are predictable, therefore not credible.

  • http://prodigalthought.net/ Scott Lencke

    After living in western Europe for the past 5 and a half years, with us now returning in just under 3 weeks to once again live in the US (though my wife is still European, being from Britain), I am not looking forward to such political polarization as I see so regularly expressed and felt amongst Americans. It is so, so very stressful at times – just reading people’s constant comments on Facebook.

    But I will say that, after living in Europe for this time, I am coming back to the States much more desirous to help the poor in many varying ways.

    If anyone’s interested, I posted an article which shares some thoughts that I learned in my 8+ total years of living in Europe, mainly regarding healthcare. It was engaging with some quotes floating around the blogosphere regarding N.T. Wright’s thoughts about national healthcare and some evangelical pastors following up with negative remarks to Wright’s comments. I think, if at all possible, it will do every American well to live outside the U.S. for a season to learn from other perspectives.

    Blessings

  • Samuel Burr

    I enjoyed your article.

  • Guest

    Scot, do you think this is a fear of losing the 501 (c) (3) status of the church that is silencing the church leaders? The IRS is known to be a bully when it comes to opposition of what the mainstream wants.

  • scotmcknight

    No, I don’t see that as a problem. When it’s mixed with a moral issue that is historic for the church, I doubt that would come up.

  • LT

    I wonder if we haven’t actually jumped a huge step here, namely, the question of whether or not the ACA actually helps the poor. I think a good case can be made that it doesn’t. It is expensive beyond belief (and having someone else pay for it doesn’t make it less expensive; and putting on the national credit card is even worse). It forces people into coverage that they may not want and may not need. It is a job killer, just at the time we need more jobs, not fewer. It has resulted in many of the “working poor” actually being given reduced hours at work. And there are many other reasons.

    It is somewhat ironic to hear the supporters of the ACA talk about how medical bills might force people into bankruptcy, when the ACA is doing exactly that to the country as a whole.

    Posts like this also ignore the fact that in the USA, no one is without health care. Everyone has access to health care, and no one can be denied. Pretending like insurance is the same as health care is a major fallacy.

    Lastly, Scot bemoans the pastors who he believes have bought into the Republican part of the politics (most of whom believe that the health care system needs serious reforms, but the ACA is not how to do it; but their ideas were rejected). Why doesn’t Scot also bemoan the pastors who have bought into the Democratic part of politics? If we are going to bemoan the involvement of the church in politics (and we should), then we shouldn’t take sides.

  • http://blackrockstoybox.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    Seems to me that Scot is purposely NOT getting into the question of whether or not one should support ACA here. Indeed, I could agree with everything you said and STILL say that “no comment” is not an acceptable response. Indeed, why shouldn’t a pastor opposed to ACA *comment* by saying most everything you said? It seems to me that any pastor that did so would completely meet Scot’s objectives in this post.

  • LT

    Because no matter what you say about the ACA, it risks making people’s objection to the gospel and the church something other than the gospel. Why should we risk people rejecting the gospel because they don’t like my view on the ACA (regardless of what my view is)? We need to remember the NT, which for all our talk about it, seems to get lost in the discussion. The NT does not give the church the responsibility to advocate for social things. The NT mandate is to make disciples. When the church gets involved in other things, it risks the very gospel itself by tying it to fallen (though perhaps well meaning) political schemes. Since the NT does not advocate for universal health care (or health care of any kind other than taking a little wine for your stomach or calling the elders to pray for you), the church should follow suit.

    Christians, on the other hand, should work to honor the dignity of the image of God in man in all its facets. That may not include advocating for more governmental dependence which actually removes human dignity rather than honors it. The best thing we can do for people is enable them to do what God has called them to do, which is work honorably and provide for yourself and your family.

  • scotmcknight

    I agree on no need to enter into the ACA issues, LT. I like your expression of working to honor the dignity of humans.

  • scotmcknight

    Precisely right, Mark. I do not see any need for the pastors to have had to make a comment on ACA. I know that was part of what John Blake said.

  • RobS

    In our “sound byte” world, there’s a difference in commenting on what the Bible says about the poor & needy — and then a commenting on the validity of the ACA or it’s potential success or failure. I think the post clarifies that really well. If given the chance to elaborate on what their local church has been able to do to reach out to the needy in their community, they might be able to expound on it more. (Benevolence, projects, food, clothing drives, shoes and backpacks, support for local shelters, multi-church support of regional work, etc).

    I would agree that Blake’s “logical leap” is quite a stretch. Government programs will never be “enough” which a good reason for us to remember the Bible’s call to help live out the Gospel and those works prepared in advance for us to do. Government programs lack deep and genuine love, so although they can offer assistance and help that is truly needed, a touch that brings genuine love to it can be more powerful & more personal I feel.

  • David Moore

    Scot,

    I have written several op. ed. for our main paper here in Austin. When I started, many Christians were shocked the paper would be interested, and then further shocked that they left my entire work intact. My work with PBS was also very positive. No scripting whatsoever. I did have difficulties doing a radio program on the Christian station! They wanted to play all kinds of goofy ads and support causes that were troubling to say the least

  • Terry A Davis

    Love God with all heart, mind and soul. Love neighbor with what’s left. How many hymns of praise have you written? “It is love that I desire, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocaust.” Jesus was humble of heart. Proud of heart is like Judas or like Martha and Mary. If you cannot accept a gift from God, like being born American or intelligent, you are throwing away your birthright. God loved Jacob and hated Esau. God likes the Beverly Hillbillies. They joyfully spent the gift the Father gave them — oil — and that made God very happy. Love your enemies, but love your friends more.

  • Ted M. Gossard

    I think all a pastor should say is that something should be done for the poor, that Christians disagree on specifics, but agree that it should be done, and that it is a part of what their church does. Something to that effect. I don’t see at all why a pastor has to say something which betrays his personal stance politically as far as how he/she may vote, or how they think on a given issue as to the American political side of it.

  • Matt Erickson

    It seems to me like what Scot is highlighting is the confusing silence of mega-church pastors on an issue like caring for the poor and needy, not whether they support the ACA or not. If I read Scot’s critique correctly, it seems like someone such as Keller could have offered some of the wisdom he shares in “Generous Justice” about the tension between appropriate affirmation and critique by Christians and churches of political positions that intersect or diverge from the Kingdom.

    We should be willing to speak about God’s care and provision for the poor, while also not aligning ourselves with merely one political party. In fact, if we are Kingdom people, we will find places where our Kingdom living at times aligns with one party or another, but never totally.

    Shouldn’t we be able to speak to that, even if misunderstood by the powers?

  • scotmcknight

    Bingo!

  • attytjj466

    How do you know that they are silent on caring for the poor or needy? Do you know that they are not preaching and teaching and speaking on that?

  • Matt Erickson

    Actually, the opposite is true. We know that at least some of them – such as Tim Keller – are not silent in their pulpits on these issues. Keller’s book “Generous Justice” is a very discerning and powerful statement about the poor and justice issues.

    The issue that Scot is addressing here is why they are silent in response to this interviewer.

  • scotmcknight

    And John Blake likes Keller’s book Generous Justice.

  • Dianne P

    This no comment situation deeply saddens me. People such as Keller are skilled at putting forth their thoughts – these were not local pastors of small churches. These are adept speakers and writers. So, imo, no excuse for no comment. There are many ways to express concern for medical care for all without endorsing a political position.

    One thing that I greatly admire about the Catholic Church is their concern – both in words and action – for the poor. For many years I was a volunteer nurse for Mission of Mercy – free medical care for the underinsured and uninsured. Catholic sponsored, but of course, open to all.

    As a nurse, I am passionate about health care access for all. After spending many years in clincal research in other countries, I have become an advocate for the efficiencies of a single payer system. Health care in the United States is a scandal (and often a joke) in industrialized nations around the world. As a Christian, I am incredulous at the lack of concern expressed by the larger church in the US. As someone here mentioned, I’ve also had evangelical friends tell me that the church should pay for the uninsured. That is an incredibly naive remark on so many levels. Thank you Scot for putting this out there.

  • SonofLight

    Amen Scot!

  • Chuck Moore

    Check it out: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/december/10.69.html I guess the CNN reporter didn’t think about doing a Google search. I wonder if he wasn’t more interested in creating some political fodder than involving himself in a deep theological discussion about a ministry to the poor…..just wondering.

  • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

    A quote of the first paragraph is relevant:

    Tim Keller has strong words for people who do not care about the poor: “All I know is, if I don’t care about the poor, if my church doesn’t care about the poor, that’s evil.” The head pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and author of Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (Dutton) spoke with New York-based writer Kristen Scharold about why helping the least of these should be every Christian’s mission.

  • Aaron

    But he spoke to Keller directly, right? Keller couldn’t have just said that again, maybe prefaced with “ACA and US healthcare are complicated issues, but…”

  • http://www.himes.us David Himes

    Let’s remember that prior to ACA, government regulation did a lot to prevent churches from helping the poor with health insurance.

    For example, a church could not create a group of poor families for the purpose of buying discounted health insurance. Doctors cannot deduct the value of donated medical care against their taxes.

    If the government wanted churches to help the poor, it could get a lot of help, by getting out of the way.

  • Samuel Burr

    92 comments! Which I haven’t read yet. I will. But just a thank you for this blog entry and a few thoughts.

    I have lived long enough to have heard the same hostility expressed toward President Obama as was directed toward John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King and Bill Clinton. Ironically many of those who so vocally opposed these men as socialists now honor them, especially Dr. King. I do not believe the level of enmity being expressed is rational.

    I grew up in the Bible belt where so many Christian men and women acted in ways that almost all of us now recognize as shameful. I think what is so damaging to following Jesus and performing the good deeds that reveal God’s love for all of our brothers and sisters in humanity is often what we do not recognize as against Christ’s. What is it now that we can not see as followers of Jesus that our grandchildren will look back on in amazed disbelief? I do believe that so many Christians opposing the ACA with the enmity they express, at least in my community and in the media, and the lack of any real compassionate conversation about those who do not have health care could be one our grandchildren will not understand. I pray and hope and wonder what would happen if we in the beloved community all would work to make health care affordable and available to everyone in our communities, resolving and fixing problems as we encounter them? Who will be the men and women that our children and grandchildren will recognize as our time’s prophets as Dr. King was during my childhood?

  • Andrew Dowling

    Their silence is because they don’t want to upset their flock with a message they don’t want to hear.

    A simple question is do you want to live in a society in which illness can create destitution for those who are sick, or worse yet not be able to afford medications, or not? The only institution with the resources to address the problem is government. Period. Churches and charity cannot and never have filled that gap. But American evangelicalism has always been intertwined with conservative politics and aversion to government (disguised as fervent anti-communism during the Cold War). Of course this intertwines with Reformed-esque theologies with focuses on the end-times and posits the Gospel as being primarily about those who confess Christ and thus “get saved.”

    We remain the most-churched nation in the Western World and are also the only country in the developed world without universal healthcare? Ironic?

  • terrylaudett

    Sometimes “no comment” is an appropriate response when we don’t know about a particular issue. We can’t be experts in everything.