N.T. Wright and Michael Kruger on Healthcare

N.T. Wright and Michael Kruger on Healthcare November 5, 2013

Michael Kruger, New Testament scholar and President of RTS-Charlotte (see his forthcoming book on The Question of Canon), takes exception to N.T. Wright’s critique of evangelical opposition to the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” This is what Wright said in an interview:

In your country, for example, there seem to be Christian political voices saying that you shouldn’t have a national healthcare system. To us, in Britain, this is virtually unthinkable. Every other developed country from Norway to New Zealand has healthcare for all of its citizens. We don’t understand all of this opposition to it over here in the U.S. And, we should remember: In the ancient world, there wasn’t any healthcare system. It was the Christians, very early on, who introduced the idea that we should care for people beyond the circle of our own kin. Christians taught that we should care for the poor and disadvantaged. Christians eventually organized hospitals. To hear people standing up in your political debate and saying—“If you are followers of Jesus, you must reject universal healthcare coverage!”—and that’s unthinkable to us. Those of us who are Christians in other parts of the world are saying: We can’t understand this political language. It’s not our value in our countries. It’s not even in keeping with traditional Christian teaching on caring for others. We can’t understand what we are hearing from some of your politicians on this point. Yet, over here, some Christians are saying that it’s part of the list of boxes we all should check off to keep in line.

Kruger, who I’ve met briefly and had the pleasure of corresponding with a few times, takes aim at Wright for these words and you can read his response here.

Some time ago I wrote a very large blog post about Evangelicals and Healthcare that attracted lots of hits and comments (mostly angry comments). But I stand by my arguments and what is more I endorse the testimonies of the American Ph.D students who lived in Europe and saw and experienced the value of Government provided health care.

Let me respond to Kruger’s criticisms:

First, on Wright’s via media tendency, well ever since the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity (1558), via media is how we Anglicans roll.

Second, Wright’s claim that every western democracy from Norway to New Zealand has universal healthcare should give Americans pause for thought. Yes, America is in many ways distinct, but not  always in a good way. It has higher rates of gun violence, higher rats of incarceration, and greater economic inequalities than other nations. The fact that the USA has ten million children without adequate healthcare coverage is indeed distinct, but a distinct injustice and a travesty. Economic freedom is great, so is small government, low taxes, low deficits, and responsible economic management. But fiscal policy should not be pursued at the the expense of our moral obligations to help others in need and to take care of the poor and vulnerable among our citizens. Call that socialism if you like, I call it Christian ethics! In fact, the reason why so many other countries have universal healthcare – not just Europeans by the way – is because these countries were driven by Christian voices to do so!

Third, Kruger affirms, as I expect he would, that we should indeed help the poor (note, I’m not accusing Kruger of being unconcerned about people’s welfare).  But he asks why it should be the government’s responsibility? Is this not a church responsibility? Well, yes, the church has a responsibility to care for the poor, and the best way to do that on a national level is to form a government that acts out of Christian values to help people and to help each other. I’m not buying into this Government vs. the People thing. Government is the representatives that the people elect. Correct me if I’m wrong but the first document of the first U.S. Government reads, “We the people …” Government is people, our people, well, at least until they replace politicians with robots. Watch out for the Obamabot 3000 in the 2020 POTUS election! In its Revelations people, you’ve been warned!!!

Kruger keeps using the tag “socialist” as a way of invoking a scary label for his readers. Let me put my conservative political cards on the table and say that I rather like what Margaret Thatcher once said, that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. That is why in order to share wealth you have to create wealth. You need economic freedoms and economic mobility to foster economic growth in order to sustain Government services in growing populations. But even without being a socialist, we should have a social concern to provide healthcare for our fellow citizens, wherever a government is elected by people with broadly Christian concerns to provide a basic level of healthcare for all.

When it comes to the American  evangelical opposition to universal healthcare, global evangelicals look at them with a mix of disbelief and disgust. Its not just N.T. Wright, ask someone at the Lausanne Congress or at the World Evangelical Alliance or at the Tyndale Fellowship what they think about American evangelicals howling protests against Obamacare! We are mystified as to how can good Christian men and women oppose – in some cases in the name of religion- providing healthcare for it citizens. Yes, I know there are some grey areas like the contraception mandate, and so forth, I understand the religious freedom objection, but the general principle of providing adequate healthcare for all should be championed by evangelical Christians who follow the teaching of Scripture.

I’m writing this so my American friends can, as your own poet Robert Frost said, “See ourselves as other see us.”  Why do global evangelicals look at you in this way. Maybe its not us who are enthralled to a godless philosophy! I want to challenge my American evangelicals friends to consider whether your views of healthcare are truly biblical, and to consider whether you have been blinded by a culture of hyper-individualism, economic rationalism, placing faith in market forces. Because to outsiders the anti-Obamacare thing looks like “civil religion,” a syncretistic concoction of Christian teaching, Republican partisanship, capitalistic-worship, and  social darwinianism with its mantra of the survival of the fittest. Let me add that much quoted phrases like “God helps those who help themselves” and “Don’t tread on me” are not found in Scripture. Do you know what is found in Scripture, “love justice” and “do kindness” (Mic 6:8), “remember the poor” (Gal 2:10), “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11), and words I recently read in 2 Corinthians just yesterday, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little'” (2 Cor 8:14-15; Exod 16:18).

Oh, and when, will ETS let me host a panel discussion on evangelicals and healthcare!

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  • Rick

    “When it comes to the American evangelical opposition to universal healthcare, global evangelicals look at them with a mix of disbelief and disgust.”
    That disbelief and disgust is how the evangelicals opposed to u.h. feel as well, except their disbelief and disgust is directed towards the government (remember: we Americans have a natural distrust of government). I don’t think they are opposed to the idea of u.h., just how it is being initiated. They don’t trust Pres. Obama, and at these early stages of the program he is giving them reason for such distrust.

    • Larry Chouinard

      “I don’t think they are opposed to the idea of u.h., just how it is being initiated.”
      Really??? Then why use the boogy term “socialism” every time UH is suggested? Why not use language that is constructive and bent toward making this work rather than being hell-bent to overthrow ACA? What alternative(s) that provides UH for over 30 million people have the Republicans come up with? My complaint with ACA is that it bent over too much to the Insurance companies resulting in a care-act that is viewed as unaffordable and inflexible. But since the insurance lobby has may politicians in their pocket, I’m not sure that fix can come from Washington. Just maybe the US can learn something from other countries who have made this work.

      • Rick

        I think that goes more towards their distrust of Obama rather than their position on u,h,

        • Rick

          oops: u.h.

        • Larry Chouinard

          I would substitute their “hatred of all things Obama” rather than just their lack of “trust” in his ability to make UH work. Even when Obama modeled much of his plan after Romney’s Health Care proposal in Mass., and earlier Republican proposals in the early 90s, the GOP can find nothing good to say about the ACA. Right wing propaganda has so demonized Obama that their constituency believes we elected the anti-Christ!

          • Rick

            “I would substitute their “hatred of all things Obama” rather than just their lack of “trust” in his ability to make UH work.”

            I think the trust factor came 1st. Unfortunately he is giving them ammunition.

            “Even when Obama modeled much of his plan after Romney’s Health Care proposal in Mass., and earlier Republican proposals in the early 90s, the GOP can find nothing good to say about the ACA”
            I think Romney is partially right in that it is a little bit of comparing apples to oranges, but overall I don’t disagree with the sum of this part of your comment.

            “Right wing propaganda has so demonized Obama that their constituency believes we elected the anti-Christ!”

            that goes both ways of course.

          • wyclif

            “The GOP can find nothing good to say about ACA.”

            I’m a bit puzzled by that talking point, because one needn’t be a Republican to see how the Obamacare rollout has been an unmitigated disaster observed across the political spectrum, with a website that doesn’t work and $634 million dollars largely wasted. The Obama admin has consistently lied to US citizens that they would be able to keep their existing health plan. Even the liberal Washington Post (!) gave Obama four “pinocchios” for lying about this from 2012 on.

  • pduggie

    A couple of points.

    1. I wonder if you polled evangelical Christians in Scotland if objecting to national healthcare would be virtually unthinkable.

    2. ““If you are followers of Jesus, you must reject universal healthcare coverage!”” I doubt anyone serious has said this, though that’s what Wright ‘hears’. More likely, what people say is “you must reject federal complete control of healthcare”

    3. All these small European countries have UHC. Great. Would Christians in these countries start objecting if the EU took over the administration of these, and required certain things of every country. The issue is how conservative Christians perceive the federal government and how we wish to limit its powers. Think of us as 50 developed countries (some less developed than others, actually) under an empire. If Wright would just realize that american Christians are applying their own brand of anti-imperial rhetoric to their own federal government, he might be less mystified.

    4. There is also the issue of federal secularism. Mentally, we separate much of what the state would do from what a moral organization would do. So we can’t trust that our christian government is doing something christian by providing healthcare, because instead we know our government is by law secular and can’t do things for real ‘christian’ purposes.

    5. Its funny how Wright says certain things are unthinkable to Christians in Europe, but then has to object to Lewis, well, thinking certain things like political justice not being an important criterion of christian thinking.

  • After all why in the world would US conservatives oppose a plan that was based on conservative principles from the Heritage Foundation and tested in a state prior to becoming a national system. That would be totally against our conservative beliefs in innovation in states and personal responsponsibility. Wait it must be that Obama proposed it. Yep, now the Heritage Foundation repubidates its own plans and suddenly Republican oppose cuts in medicare and medicaid.

  • Nate

    As an American, I can happily say that the old guard’s approach of crying ‘socialism’ is having a difficult time sticking among the millennials; unfortunately, vying for their attention, and having some success, is the new rise of libertarians, e.g., Rand Paul, who even intensify this mantra. With them, not only are we “not our brother’s keeper” but we abdicate morality in the public square and acquiesce to the secular state, leaving to no room for natural law nor the common moral good. We truly need more of the world’s evangelical input; we need to see ourselves through the eyes of another, as the Frost poem you put forth wisely stated. If those dog-gone Brits wouldn’t have been so ‘top heavy’ with us, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this mess! 😉

  • Glenn Davis

    Michael, you assume that Obamacare will actually meet the health care needs of America. In other words, Democratic Party rhetoric will actually match reality. As we have seen in the past two weeks, their rhetoric does not match the wording of the law. The very liberal biased, NBC News, reports, “President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.” Evangelical Christian opposition to the healthcare plan is based on inconsistencies found in the law itself: coercing the population to buy something they don’t want or already own for a insurance plan that the government deems worthy, a massive 2 billion dollar funding of the abortion mill called Planned Parenthood, the forcing of Christian businesses to pay for insurance that provides abortion drugs against their moral consciences, etc. The law is a massive Ponzi scheme charging the middle class for benefits they don’t need and shifting those funds to people who supposedly cannot pay. Women are charged for viagra prescription plans and over-fifty aged couples must pay for pregnancy coverage. The U.S.A. does have a plan for helping the poor with healthcare, it is called Medicaid/Medicare and the 30 million citizens who do not have healthcare could have applied to that program. Obamacare is nothing but a social engineering scheme, an attempt by the liberals in the Democratic Party to make more of the population dependent on the government. They desire to shift massive amounts of wealth to the supposed poor while limiting religious freedom at the same time forcing their secular values on a unwilling population. I suggest reading Realclearpolitics.com or the Wall Street Journal editorial page for understanding the problems that this one-sixth takeover of the economy has created. Christians are opposed to the program because Obamacare does not do what it says: provide healthcare for Americans who would not otherwise had insurance.

    • Larry Chouinard

      “The U.S.A. does have a plan for helping the poor with healthcare, it is
      called Medicaid/Medicare and the 30 million citizens who do not have
      healthcare could have applied to that program.”
      These are available to people 65 and older. Hardly a response to the millions of people including children without HC. So in the long run if 30-40 million people get HC under the ACA will that be a good thing or just a liberal effort to shift wealth around? Is essentially the same plan working in Mass,, and have the vast majority of countries that provide UH driven only by a radical socialist agenda?

      • Glenn Davis

        Medicare is for the elderly, Medicaid is for the lower income folks. I attended a Congressional town hall where the 30 million number was verified by the Congressional Budget Office and it was stated that they would qualify for Medicaid if they would apply. Only 25% of those who qualified would take the time to apply. This massive reorganization of the medical industry was not needed to meet that need.

        • Guest

          You may be right that more people should apply for MediCaid, however this program is for the destitute, not just for people who can’t afford insurance, such as the working poor. In fact there is an exemption for people who are that poor to buy insurance from the exchanges. They are now being shuttled to MediCaid.
          I happen to wonder whether it would have been best to simply expanded the benefits of both Medicare and MediCaid to cover everyone. However I am certian that conservatives would have objected to that too. ACA is an attempt to placate the conservatives who did not want a single payer system. The fact is that single payer was brought up as an option but the repubs rejected that.
          One advantage of ACA is that instead of paying people’s WHOLE medical bills, the taxpayers are just paying for some people’s premiums. However it remains to be seen whether this model will actually work.

          • Glenn Davis

            A single payer system was rejected by the Republican party and many Democrats, but it was never pursued as a compromise with Republicans. The Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency, they did not need a single Republican vote to pass the law. So, no compromise was pursued or needed.

    • Andrew Dowling

      There are millions of working poor who don’t qualify for Medicaid. The ACA helps fill that gap and provides them with affordable health insurance.

      • Allan Ray Hollis

        Andrew you miss Glenn’s point: There were plenty of other ways those needs could have been met without all the negatives of ObamaCare.

        • RustbeltRick

          If those “other ways” were available, why were they not enacted, and who was championing them? I think there is a lot of revisionist history going on among conservatives. Obamacare was proposed because 40 million were uninsured. If Repubs had a plan to cut that number, why didn’t they work on that during 8 years of Bush? The Repub “plan” was simply to let the marketplace figure things out, and people were being denied treatment due to pre-existing condition clauses. No Repub ever declared public support for getting rid of the pre-existing clause; only the ACA made this happen. Stop pretending the Repub Congress that has done nothing but torpedo this president had all kinds of great solutions to healthcare. They didn’t. And they still don’t.

          • Riley

            Obamacare was never proposed because 40 million were uninsured. That number has been totally inflated and confused and the Democrats knew it. Obamacare was enacted because Democrats think government and elitists can socially engineer everything. They have no real concern for the poor or they would stop laws and regulations that currently hurt the poor. Why is going to the Hospital so expensive? Because the government regulations imposed. Why is gas $3.50 a gallon, because Democrats will not allow the US to build refineries yet they will pledge billions to Brazil to build refineries. This is not simply a big oil company issue this is a liberal government issue. Why is it that 50 years ago you had doctors making house calls and now they cannot. Government regulations. Charles Krauthammer said it well on the John Stewart show, you should watch it. We could have made incremental changes but Democrats wanted to completely take over 1/6th of the economy because government can run this better. How is that working for Amtrak, Dept of Agriculture, TSA, Education, IRS, etc. One man said it well, the bigger the government the smaller the citizen. I pray for the day when we have great men again but it will not happen until men take responsibility for their lives. Only then can they turn and take care of their neighbor. This statistic is borne out in facts. Liberals talk about the poor and giving but when it comes to charity, they are cheap (see Al Gore, Clintons, Biden, and Kennedys tax records). I do offer a solution, why don’t Bill Gates, Buffet, Hollywood moviestars, singers, etc. simply give all their money away or at least take no loopholes and give five times more in taxes! Because to Democrats it is not about giving it is about feeling good and using other people’s money!

          • RustbeltRick

            “Incremental change.” In 8 years, President Bush didn’t propose any changes at all to healthcare. Most of those years, he had a friendly Congress. Did he move on pre-existing conditions? Health exchanges? Nope. There was zero progress. And that’s the point. Since Repubs believe the free market can totally solve all these problems, they don’t want any changes, any regulations, or anything else. And that meant Aetna or Blue Cross could kill your grandma by refusing to cover her cancer treatments. That, my friend, is the profit motive in action. Tell me again how the free market is moral.

          • RustbeltRick

            The U.S. Census Bureau puts the number of uninsured at 48.6 million in 2011. (So I was actually providing a low number). If you have better numbers than the Census Bureau, please provide them.

          • Riley

            Yes, I do:
            “12 million that are uninsured and unhappy with their healthcare.” Read the solution for these roughly 5%. This would be a much better idea than handing over 1/6 of the economy to the government that cannot handle anything without creating waste, inefficiency and mind-numbing bureaucracy. The dems refused to consider this as an option they instead decided to make over 250 million people unhappy with their healthcare.

          • Guest

            “I do offer a solution, why don’t Bill Gates, Buffet, Hollywood moviestars, singers, etc. simply give all their money away or at least take no loopholes and give five times more in taxes!”

            I don’t know where you have been since one of the biggest things that dems are working for is to get rich people to pay their fair share in taxes. In fact it is the repubs who want to give rich people tax breaks.

            “Because to Democrats it is not about giving it is about feeling good and using other people’s money!”
            I wish people would not repeat this stereo-type. I CARE. I used to work with the mentally ill and the program was funded by the government. We got these people off the streets and work with other government programs to get medical treatment, housing, disability if necessary. We also provided support in the form of a social center and even referred them to agencies that helped with job training and placement assistence.
            If you think that charity would be able to do what this program does then you are truly in denial.
            The same thing applies to healthcare. There is absolutely no way that charities can handle this.
            As far as hospital regulations it seems to me a prudent thing to have them if you want good medical care.
            The biggest reasons why hospital costs are sky-high is that we have more expensive tests and treatments than we have had in the past. But another reason is the fact that they are treating the UNINSURED. This cost hits the consumers in several ways, higher medical bills, insurance rates and taxes. When my brother-in-law had a seizure and ended up in the ER they referred him to a government program that paid the bill retroactively.
            Would you rather help people pay for their PREMIUMS or would you rather FOOT THE WHOLE BILL???

          • Riley

            I don’t know where you have been, non of the taxes impact these people. Warren Buffet still does not pay the percentage of taxes (he pays under 20% and I pay over 30%) that I as a middle class person pays and nothing the dems have done has changed this. Many repubs are just like dems and don’t want to change taxes either; however, dems saying they want to is rhetoric. And what is this silliness about “fair share” crap. The bottom 50% of Americans pay virtually no income taxes. How does that work?
            Say that you care all you want but how about paying for it yourself. Get some of your friends to fund it. I CURRENTLY work with the mentally ill. I see the incredible waste that goes on in that industry. If you had to pay for it we would see how much you cared. If you really do then we would see you use money a lot more efficiently.
            Fascinating that charities used to take care of these people and these costs in the past. I am so sorry that you feel so unempowered that you need the government to help you help others rather than self-initiative.

            Your last statement is the fallacy of the false dilemma. Neither! Regulations subsidize and and create a false market price which results in this problem. If you think Obumacare is going to decrease costs, then meet me in a year and see how your costs and availability of services are at that time. When doctors and nurses wages are capped let us see how many continue to pursue that field. The sad thing is that we already have evidence of this in Europe. Limited doctors, limited services. Where do all the rich and famous go for serious surgery and treatment when they need help fast, not Europe.
            This could have been solved differently. Youtube Charles Krauthammer’s recent interview with John Stewart and you will see a good approach.

    • wyclif

      I think Michael Bird makes the classic error of conflating Obamacare with “universal health care” as a generalised feature of Anglosphere democracies. That’s the biggest weakness here.

      Here’s a great example of a couple (both of whom supported Obama) who learned that they could stop working, cut income to poverty levels, and qualify for Obamacare subsidies:


  • Patrick

    I think in some ways N.T. Wright and Kruger are missing the real point to why American Evangelicals (if you are right leaning) despise and object to a National Health card system. First, they did not create it and they don’t control it. It has nothing to do with if the Federal Government is deploying it or they would stop giving out subsidies to businesses to close the real tax bleeding. Second, they think the only ones who benefit from the National Health Care system are non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon, non-Conservative Evangelicals, non-traditional married, person who frankly they don’t want in their neighborhood (which is also why SNAP is being cut). Third, American Evangelicals are so convinced that only the government by a white, Anglo-Saxon, males can really enact anything close to God rule in the USA.

    That being said…I am a white Anglo-Saxon male and I grew up in the Evangelical Conservative circles and I know in the back rooms and in the homes of all I grew up with (including relatives) that these are the true reasons. Evangelicals like to through there extra cash to those less fortunate (making sure they never move closer to them but maybe on a video screen, but really their money belongs to Wall Street and their precious 401k’s.

    I have heard over and over from those in churches say that real Christians “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and “you should never accept help from anyone” and that is the Christian way. And they believe it….but I guess I just can’t swallow the lie anymore if the Church is more than a social club and is a real city on a hill. Am I still a “Conservative”, no. But does that mean I am not a conservative, no.

    Churches should be economies which breathe God’s life into the everyday. A real economy which slowly chips away at the principalities and powers around the place we live. There is another way, a third way, and it is not the way of any of the world powers.

    • Allan Ray Hollis

      Patrick do you and RustbeltRick write for “The Christian Left?” The anger, hatefulness, and stereotyping sound so sadly familiar. Isn’t there a way we can discuss these issues without the insults and the distortions?

      • RustbeltRick

        Please point me to a place where I posted something hateful.

    • Riley

      I have been in evangelical circles for over 35 years and have never heard this tripe spoken. We have a Constitution that has been slowly undermined for 100 years. A document that has created the most freedom and wealth of any country ever. This wealth has been used to give to the rest of the world more than England and Australia combined and doubled. What many are upset about is that this bill was passed in the dark of night with lies from all the Democrats and still they had to tell several pro-life democrats that it would never contain any religious conflict with their position all the time it did. Not one single Republican voted for it and the American people through the polls did not like it. These were some serious issues pressing the bill, but the Democrats twisted and jammed it through. Everyone who complains of racism are thoroughly ignorant. A large number of anglos voted for Obama yet they did not like the health care plan process. They feared what Americans fear, that government never runs anything well, efficiently or effectively (e.g. DMV, IRS, USPS, education, FEMA, etc..). We do not see the federal government to be the answer. This is different for Europeans. France 5 weeks off plus a possible 22 additional days, Australia 4 weeks plus 10 holidays, England 28 days. This is just vacation time what is the unemployment time? We say in America if you don’t work, you do not eat. Oh wait that was the Apostle Paul. Finally to put an end to a silly lie that Bird or Wright and others are not aware of, in America everyone is covered by healthcare. In Arizona it is called AHCCCS. In other states it is another name. When people say they don’t have healthcare they mean that they want someone to pay for their elite healthcare and they want people with money not to be able to access extra healthcare due to their wealth. They want everyone regardless of their means to go to the same place. This simply is greed and coveting of which Jesus did not approve. And least you think AHCCCS is terrible, it is still better than almost any other country in the world. Our “poor” currently receive more benefits and have a much higher standard of living than the poor in England or Australia due to our past hands off policy. This argument is sad as smart men do not know their facts. They simply reflect a more, dare I say it, socialist bent due to their cultural upbringing.

      • TN27

        You express a lot of opinion here. But this comment appears to be a statement of fact: “Our ‘poor’ currently receive more benefits and have a much higher standard of living than the poor in England or Australia due to our past hands off policy.”
        What is your citation supporting this statement?

        • Riley

          Do you ask for the citing of others above? No. Nice tactic but here is an article.

          This information is not hard to find simply do some searches if you really are desiring the facts. I have dealt with this type of response. The critic requires citation for everything but then requires nothing for their position or their friends. If you are not doing this then do not take it personally.

          • TN27

            Thanks for the link. Mine was a genuine question. Most everyone here – me included – posted opinion and generalized statements in support or opposition. You seem like someone who knows what you’re talking about. Hence, my request. Don’t bristle so easily. It’s unbecoming of someone who’s been around “evangelical circles for 35 years.”

          • Riley

            Thank you for being genuine in your question asking. I think that you can see most others are not genuine. Truth is necessary for justice and integrity is necessary for truth. We could solve many problems if people were more like you. People who were really seeking the truth and not twisting and obfuscating with rhetoric.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Notice how the author doesn’t go into what exactly are the variables included in the “better life index” but as someone who has been among the very poor in the U.S. and Western Europe I’d rather be at the bottom in Europe anyday of the week, Also, the comment that the poorest in the U.S. are equitable “to the richest in India” is a statement so absurd that it tells me the methodology behind this is utter garbage.

          • Riley

            As somebody who works with people from India, I have asked them this very question. Every one agrees with the study. Have you ever seen a typical Indian home versus someone who is on food assistance in the US? Compare apples to apples and you will correct “your methodology.”

          • Andrew Dowling

            The claim wasn’t about the “typical” Indian home . . .it said the wealthy in India live analogously to a poor person in America. Which is a joke.

          • Riley

            What is wealthy in India? If an Indian had the amount of living space, air conditioning, cars, ready access to food, clothes, number of TV’s, etc that is available to the “poor” in America, they would be wealthy.

          • Andrew Dowling

            No, they wouldn’t be wealthy in India, they would be considered lower middle class. Yes, comparatively our poor are better off . . that’s not the argument. Also, ample living space? Cars? Ever spent time in a public housing project? Do you know how many poor in the U.S. don’t own a car? You are speaking with this broad-stroke “they (emphasis on the they) have flat screen TVs and live it up in the ghetto” rhetoric you find on right wing talk radio. Spend just a week with our poorest of the poor and you’ll be singing a different tune.

          • Riley

            Andrew it appears one of us does spend time in the projects and it is not you! I work with inner city families and have for 24 years not merely a weekend. It is you who is out of touch. It is both sycophant dems and ignorant repubs that do not really look at the inner city. The poor are overwhelmingly poor in our country through their choices not some romantic idealistic view of the poor. This is the problem, your ilk refuses to truly examine why the poor are poor and use rhetoric to prevent the truth from emerging. Notice how quickly you glossed over THE argument by dismissively saying, “Yes comparatively…” Andrew that is the argument. Our poor are overwhelmingly better off than the rest of the world. Why do Indians, Africans and Central and South Americans flood to America? Because they know what you refuse to see, in America the even the poor are better off than in our country! It is not merely the poor that are flooding to our country it is the middle class and above that come here. The problem is that in the past these people simply took advantage of the freedoms to build businesses, now with the current “give em system” and the dems primarily, with the help of many repubs, they are more often falling into the “free money syndrome.” This is the truth from boots on the ground not rhetoric.

          • Riley

            pardon me, I should have said, “even the poor are better off than in THEIR country. Andrew please do research into the projects in Chicago like Cabrini-Green. These have been some of the most dehumanizing government assistance to the “poor” committed. The “poor” created a war zone to the point that the police often would not go into the project during the daytime let alone never at night. The grounds were constantly renovated with no positive help from the “poor” to keep it up. This type of assistance should not be forced upon anyone. If you want to feel good about yourself and give your money to create this – go right ahead! but do not take my money. Until we truly separate the real poor fro the faux and continued poor then no real plan can work. As a society I am willing to help real poor but it is ignorance or political pimps that obscure who those people are so that they can feel good or obtain more power. A Christian principled position does look at who is really poor and who is taking. It also looks at freewill offering and forced charity which is an oxymoron.

  • Ian Thomason


    Yep. Crazy Americans …


  • Richie


    You make some good points in your exposition about government national health insurance. However, you often make contradictory points and then tend to mix up concepts that you previously differentiated, e.g. 1.You acknowledge that American Christians do in fact care about the poor and then proceed to act/speak as though they don’t because many (actually a majority) of them oppose the so-called Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). 2. You acknowledge that there are different types of national health insurance and that Obamacare is only one type of it but then proceed to act/speak as though those Christians who oppose Obamacare are in principle therefore opposed to national health insurance. 3. You want American Christians to see and agree with the European/International perspective on government national health insurance even though you acknowledge its many imperfections while at the very same time it is those many (and growing) imperfections that are amongst the most important reasons that many Christians oppose it – at least, in its Obamacare form. After all, government healthcare in Europe is amongst the reasons that European governments are in such dire economic straights now with their inability to financially fund the ever expanding costs of the welfare state. Americans see this and since we have over 400 years of dealing with government at all levels in the development of our economic, social and health systems we are trying to do what works best in America. In fact, the American health care system has been and continues to be one of the best in the world – with over 80% of Americans being very happy with it pre-election of 2008. I doubt if you would find a greater percentage of satisfaction in any other country in Europe or elsewhere. So the question was/is how to make it even better by extending its reach and decreasing its costs. It is highly unlikely that in a country as hugely diverse as the United States that the so-called Affordable Care Act – which is neither universal nor affordable in its coverage (in fact, so far just the opposite) is the solution. Instead, as the early results show, it is much more likely to produce an ever greater national government bureaucracy, incompetence, arrogance by government, and, especially, costs. There are many better ways to improve our already very good healthcare system than Obamacare. That, is primarily what the debate has always been about.

    A few other points on biblical issues:

    As Christians we all agree that we are to love God first and then our neighbors as ourselves. However, you come very dangerously close into turning that into socialist or communist ideology – “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” on a world-wide scale. But, “am I my brother’s keeper?” does not imply that. Throughout the Bible there is a clear distinction between the people of God and those outside of the people of God. The equality of the Bible is an equality of meeting the needs of the people of God – not the world at large. In the OT this was true of Israel and care for the poor was built into the Mosaic Law. Israel was then to be a witness to the nations of God’s love, mercy, and righteous laws. In the NT the church was to care for its fellow members and this care and concern within the people of God – the church – was commanded and practiced throughout the Book of Acts and NT Letters. In doing this the church – as the new covenant people of God – was also to be a witness to the nations of God’s love, mercy and righteousness. However, the mission of the church was/is to take the gospel to the world and to make disciples of all nations – not, to build a socialist or communist society in the world. Yes, the NT commands “as we have opportunity let us do good to all people, especially the household of faith.” However, one cannot take such a verse and use it to imply the necessity of a national health insurance system any more than one can use it to imply a fully socialist or communist system. Neither Jesus, Paul, or any NT writer could have possibly meant that in the original contexts of such verses and if someone in a modern day participatory democracy like we have in the West favors such a system it should be because of a desire for the common good or general welfare of a pluralistic society – not in fulfillment of some biblical command. There is certainly no example of such in the NT and the concern for “the poor” and for “equality” in the Book of Acts and NT Letters was always for that of the poor within the church – not, in the modern pluralistic sense in which those terms are used today. To use biblical verses to justify or imply that Christians should be in favor of a “government national health insurance system” rather than simply “loving their neighbors as themselves” – recognizing that there are many ways of doing this – is truly a wrong way to use those verses and certainly calls into question how you would view other biblical subjects as well.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “After all, government healthcare in Europe is amongst the reasons that
      European governments are in such dire economic straights now with their
      inability to financially fund the ever expanding costs of the welfare


      First off, many countries including many in Europe are doing fine and have very strong public healthcare models (see Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries, Australia). Germany is propping up most of Southern Europe right now and has national healthcare and much stronger safety nets than the U.S.

      2ndly, the crises in countries like Greece and Spain are the result of their banking systems getting heavily involved in property bubbles (along with other problems with corruption and pensions), similar to the U.S. crash in 2008.

      • Richie

        No, Andrew, my comments are correct. I said “amongst the reasons”. That is factually true and has been a building economic, financial and political problem generally in Europe long before the current banking and financial crisis began. It is true that there is a great differentiation amongst the government national healthcare systems in Europe. Some are set up better, run better, and doing much better than others; however, it is unquestionable that the rising costs of the government health care systems along with the costs of all of the other benefits of the welfare state is a huge and growing problem in Europe as a whole, especially in the light of its current and future demographic situation. Americans are looking at the same coming problem and adding a government national healthcare system – irrespective of some possible benefits – will only add to this financial problem.

        But this brings up another interesting and important point. Each national government health care system in Europe is different from the others. There are different levels of government ownership, regulation, and public/private participation. Some work better than others. Even the U.S. is already a combination of private/public participation and many, including myself, believe that it is best to let each state determine its own system of public/private participation. So, the question is what combination is best – not the simplistic government national health care vs. private healthcare. That is a fiction that does not exist in the real world of today. The best solution is to let each country develop their own system according to their own historical, cultural, economic and political situation and consensus reached through political compromise. I personally think that it is best left up to the individual states in the U.S. to work out the right combination of public/private healthcare systems according to the huge differences that exist in the U.S. That, by the way, would also fit with the way healthcare developed in Europe, though we in America have and would do it our own way.

        I’ve personally experienced most of the types of health care systems currently available in the developed world. I lived, studied and worked in the totalitarian communist world of the Soviet Bloc for about a decade in the 1980s. There, of course, almost everything was part of the socialist/communist system; thus, it was government owned, directed, and controlled. Compare to what these countries had a hundred years ago, it was good. Compare to the entire world, it was barely adequate for basic needs and horrible for anything major. For anything major one had to resort to the black market (better, the illegal private “second economy”) and bribery infected the entire system from top to bottom, though it was all said to be “free”. Of course, given that bribery and corruption infect most of the non-western world it was, in comparison, still decent health care on a world scale – functional, since the doctors themselves, etc. were highly knowledgeable and skilled. However, it was also corrupt, inefficient and financially bankrupt. Doctors made their real living by working “in the system” during standard working hours and, then, illegally, “off the system” in the private second economy (black market) after hours. Of course, this was how the entire Soviet Bloc’s socialist/communist system worked in all areas of life. But, as my wife who spent the first 30 years of her life under communism says, everyone was indeed “equal” – that is, equally poor, frustrated and oppressed.

        Thankfully, I’ve also experienced West European health care systems while traveling in Europe over the last 30ish years and I have many, many European friends who utilize them and are generally, with exceptions, proud of them. Therefore, I would never equate West European socialism with the totalitarian socialism of the former East European Soviet Bloc – though, some similarities do exist. On the whole, however, I think the West European form of socialist health care is very good – sometimes, in fact, very, very good! As I said earlier, there are lots of differences amongst the various European countries, each with their pluses that far outweigh their minuses – at least, to date (but, see the coming demographic problems referred to above). The doctors, medical expertise, technology, drugs available, etc. is in some ways as good as, in some ways better, and in some ways worse than the the U.S. – all depending on the particular country and aspect of healthcare of which we would be talking. The greatest motivation for the development of these national government health insurance systems was the immense devastation of WWII – something that the US did not experience internally – and the long history of various kinds of Christian, humanitarian and socialist thought joining together on this issue.

        Though there was a political battle over the adoption of national government healthcare post WWII, in general, the devastated populations – Christians, the many socialist groups in their various forms, and even Marxists – all favored its adoption and implementation. It was part of the entire welfare state which Europeans set about to build. Thus, there was a national consensus in each European country and each developed and has continued to tweak its own system in its own way. The leader of Britain at this time was Clement Atlee who was a devout Christian socialist and the Church of England itself made a conscious decision to entrust the healthcare of the nation to the national government – not, perhaps, a strange thing to do if you are the “established church” for the entire nation. Thus, for anyone – like NT Wright – who grew up in Western Europe in post WWII times government national health care is simply a “given”, has the Anglican church’s full support and blessing, and, based on the modern development of human rights, is now even considered a “right” to which all are entitled. Other countries that are more connected with European traditions and developments, such as Canada and Australia, also adopted this system in tune with the growing looking to government for solutions of the problems of the times. Of course, the US with medicare and medicaid is also part of this trend in looking for government solutions in healthcare. But, as anyone knows who seriously understands how these programs work in the US, they do not bode well either for themselves as programs or for increased government control, ownership or regulation of the American healthcare system. Nor, in my view, do the various European government healthcare systems – no, not for America.

        From my perspective, I have never criticized Western European and other similar government healthcare systems in the so-called Western world. They’re excellent in many ways – especially compared to what preceded them – but, all also have their own problems that people in those countries are well aware of. But, of course, they hardly need my American help in working out the solution to their systems as time goes on. Let the Europeans, Australians, et al, run their own healthcare systems as they decide – based on the choices of their free representative democracies – and let us in America do the same. The U.S. is so very, very culturally, religiously and socially different from Europe and our histories, constitutional systems of government, and economies are all as much different as they are similar other than in their most basic premises. Most of all, American life is hugely, hugely diverse region by region, state by state, and even within states. Almost everything beyond national defense and other constitutionally assigned powers to the national government is better left “to the states and to the people respectively.” That has always been the basic premise of American society, and, American healthcare – just like most things American – works better when done that way as well. And that, of course, is what the battle over healthcare is all about here in America.

        The healthcare system we have in America now – or, at least, the 2008 pre-Obamacare healthcare system – is very, very good and over 80% of the population is/was very happy with it. When my Polish wife moved to America with me over 20 years ago she was totally amazed by our healthcare system and you’ll not find a greater advocate of it than her. Personally, I grew up with it and have experienced it at almost every level, from the home doctor visits of childhood to open heart surgery 15 months ago. And all of this was based on the private healthcare and healthcare insurance of the normal middle class life of a professional history teacher – hardly, the rich. The question in America is simply how to make this already very good healthcare system even better and more affordable and more extensive – again, in our own uniquely American way. Perhaps, Europeans, Australians, et al, should focus on working out the growing problems of their own government national healthcare systems – rather than America’s – each in their own uniquely European and Australians ways. I assure you Christians in America are a very, very generous and caring people who do indeed believe in loving their neighbors as themselves – but, they do it best on the local level through their own churches, charities, hospitals, schools, civic organizations, businesses and simply free-will giving of all kinds. Let America’s healthcare – whatever kind of insurance it is based on – be decided, directed and given in this same uniquely American way.

  • RustbeltRick

    Bird is exactly right. American evangelical opposition to Obamacare is intense, and is shameful. When you meet a self-described conservative Christian, you are typically talking to a person who’s 90% conservative and only about10% Christian; when his social positions mirror those of Ted Nugent, and his economics are straight from the Chamber of Commerce, it’s hard to take seriously the idea that his values have been transformed by Jesus, as he usually wants you to believe.

    • Allan Ray Hollis

      Talk about stereotyping!! Please don’t paint all Evangelicals or other opponents to ObamaCare (reasons from Glenn above) with such a broad brush; it is simply NOT accurate. I fear your own hatred of all things evangelical is writing your response.

      • RustbeltRick

        1. I am an evangelical, so I hardly hate them. 2. Who is Glenn? 3. Where am I not accurate? My 90/10 comment is an opinion, and feel free to argue it with a counter opinion; my comment that American evangelicals are opposed to Obamacare is pretty much a fact. I would assume white evangelicals oppose the ACA by significant numbers, probably approaching 70 percent or so. I’m pretty certain that my own support of Obamacare puts me in the minority of white evangelicals.

        • Allan Ray Hollis

          1. Your claim to being Evangelical reminds me of the old battle between Jim Wallis and Jerry Falwell as to which was the “true” Evangelical. If you truly see yourself as an Evangelical, then I wonder if you bad-mouth your momma and daddy too, since you are talking about your spiritual family or community. 2. Glenn is Glenn Davis who has posted above some VERY legitimate arguments against ObamaCare which I suspect many evangelicals, Catholics, and other people of faith and no faith would cite as reasons for their positions in opposition to the ACA. 3. I am not an Evangelical, but I grew up around such folks, have them still as friends and in my family, and know that, based upon my experience, your assertions are very biased and based solely upon your “opinions.” When you make up statistics to support your points and attempt to paint people as guilty by association with some person or organization you don’t like for whatever reasons, then you are just trying to be hurtful — not to correct, not to exhort, or even to upbraid; you are out to libel and discredit, and that is what makes your posts “hateful.” Shame on you!

    • kinderkids

      Pretty judgmental comment there, Rick

      • RustbeltRick

        I meant it as a judgment, so thank you.

  • We don’t oppose healthcare. we oppose govt. control of it.

    It’s better left to the free market. Then you can handle the small percentage that falls through the cracks. NO ONE is denied, or has been denied healthcare in this country…even though they are without insurance.

    Now, we will mess it a good system, and pay higher prices for less and worse care.

    • Andrew Dowling

      The ACA is not government-controlled healthcare. If anything it strengthens market drivers that produce innovation and control costs. The ACA is practically identical to Republican plans to reform healthcare that emerged in the 1990s.

      Yes a completely free market health insurance system would be a good deal for a majority of people until they actually got a disease or became old. We are talking much more than a “small percentage falling through the cracks” A completely free market healthcare system would render insurance unaffordable for anyone who gets a chronic diseases like leukemia or cancer. The market would price sick people accordingly, not caring about the lives at stake. Ever wonder why no other country on Earth has the system you are describing?

      • It’s an avenue to total govt. control.

        Top Democrats (including Obama) have said that it their ultimate goal (single payer).

      • Nick Rekieta

        This is terrible logic: “Ever wonder why no other country on Earth has the system you are describing?” Considering there existed a universal participation in slavery. Or considering any other idea that started with one against a tide.

        This is absolutely false: “The ACA is not government-controlled healthcare. If anything it strengthens market drivers that produce innovation and control costs.” Nothing indicates that this will control cost or drive innovation. In fact, likely the opposite will CONTINUE to happen (as it already is happening).

        This is a massively inaccurate gloss: “The ACA is practically identical to Republican plans to reform healthcare that emerged in the 1990s.” The “republican idea” was one proposal from one think-tank. The “republican idea” was also substantially different in purpose and implementation.
        Stop reading talking points.

        • Andrew Dowling

          -Putting aside that slavery has nothing to do with a healthcare system, there were other societies that didn’t have slavery . . it’s not like the whole world had slavery for all time and it suddenly stopped. Whereas there has been ZERO modern societies in which healthcare was left entirely to market forces. If you are going to say well the reason no country has tried it is akin to why no major European nations had banned slavery prior to the 19th century is the most bizarre nonsensical thing I can think of. Talk about illogical . . .

          -Instead of giving me reasons as to how the ACA is a government takeover, you just say I’m “false” and then apparently are ignorant of the ways the ACA does have cost control measures, since you fail to actually cite one and retort why it won’t help control costs (like electronic health databases)

          -No, it wasn’t just the Heritage Foundation’s plan. Look at any of the GOP plans extolled by Gingrich/Dole, or go further back to Richard Nixon’s healthcare reform plan of the 1970s, which was actually more generous than the ACA. What is the main difference? Well one was extolled by a President the conservative media has decided is the devil incarnate and the reason/scapegoat for all of their life’s woes, and the others wern’t,

          • Nick Rekieta

            Well, the thrust of your argument is “No country has X, so X must be wrong.” I will state that every society at one point had slavery…especially if you are talking about “westernized” countries. Slavery should have crippled the economic structures built on (virtually) free labor, and anyone proposing abolition would be crazy! “Ever wonder why no other countries have tried not having slavery?!?!”

            This is fallacious thinking whether or not you approve of my analogy. So yes, it is illogical.

            Next, I didn’t say the ACA was a government takeover. The reason I say that nothing indicates that it will control cost or push innovation is simple. Costs have risen substantially when they were promised to drop. Cost controls aren’t working (historically, cost controls don’t work…but, you know, economics…). Nothing indicates that cost controls WILL work because cost controls haven’t worked.
            Further, innovation is a bold claim when the law mandates what provisions must exist in any plan offered in the market. This specifically limits innovative delivery methods for insurance (such as, “a la carte” coverage to reduce price) or other avenues of innovation. When you dictate the components of a product, it logically follows that the product will follow the mandate.

            One step further, socialized healthcare NECESSARILY stymies innovation because innovation is expensive. Administrators have a duty to spend public dollars wisely and innovation pushes risk. The ACA leverages private companies to shoulder some of the cost, so it’s not entirely socialized, but by mandating components of the bill they have taken the first step in curbing innovation.

            You’ll notice that those plans in the 90’s failed and the supporters of those plans lost their political clout. Sorry for inferring that you meant the Heritage plan…it’s the headline plan and is substantially different. Sorry I’m not savvy on the pointless plans that never manifested despite having republican-controlled congresses…maybe those plans aren’t as “republican” as you assert if they couldn’t get traction.

    • Lee

      “NO ONE is denied, or has been denied healthcare in this country…even though they are without insurance”
      You must live in a different country, no not even a different country, a different PLANET than the rest of us.

  • OwenW

    But as Christians, before we launch into issues with the market, which has little analogue in the Bible, we also have to launch into the issues of the state, which has it analogues in kingdoms. In response to asking if objection to Obamacare is rooted in hyper-individualism, economic rationalism, and faith in market forces, is support of Obamacare another form of hyper-individualism where we cease to be involve, political rationalism that doesn’t address the problem, and faith in state forces. I am not saying it either inherently is or is not. To proclaim the government healthcare as THE Christian thing to support is to a) take the issue of personal presence away from care and hospitality even more and b) to further the transition from the community to the state as the central provider of life.

    But when other developed countries criticize the US about healthcare there is one thing distinctly different about the US from the majority of European countries (sans Russia to a degree): a very high population # combined with such an expansive amount of space. The implications of this is a) need for more expansive physical infrastructure (hospitals, equipment, etc.) that are readily accessibly, b) greater level of heterogenity in cultures, dictating a wider array circumstances, and c) related to that, a higher level of unfamiliarity with people (For instance, local doctors are becoming a thing of legend as people go to doctors in central, urban areas). All three do influence the nature of health care, as they relate to three critical factors (altohugh there are more than these three): physical availability, familiarity with conditions, and communication which are all important for treatment. More resources, more knowledge, and more time are necessary for American health care, consequently.

    The issue is, inherently sustainability. The phrase and idea for liberals in regards to the environment is really the implicit concept that surrounds the rhetoric against Obamacare. Is it sustainable? Granted, the question is surrounded by conceptualization about capitalism. Can such ‘rational’ arguments be used to support hyper-individualism, economic rationalism, and faith in market forces? Sure. Perhaps. Or it can also be a genuinely intended reflection on the nature of life and reality and not a moral ignorance or apathy.

    I am not arguing against Obamacare. I am decidely ambivalent (thats a oxymoron for you) on it. But to strike a clarion call against conservative evangelicals for not supporting it as an ethical matter leads me to have to ask those Christians who are vocal in supporting it as criticizing those who reject it, is it rooted in a faith in the state, rather than community (which ancient Israel prior to monarchy was closer to), that drives it and how does this relate to Biblical ideas of how followers of Jesus are to relate to the state? And is support of Obamacare like the PHarisees, who give and pray so as to be seen? The moral imperative is on neither side with this issue, and great humility and listening is needed more than moral brow beating.

    • OwenW

      To add, given Michael Bird’s objections about separating the people from the state, if one separates the market from the people (talking about faith in market forces), to be logically consistent then, one must separate the state from the people (faith in state forces).

  • TN27

    Excellent. I have never understood this whole “the church should do this…the government should do that” argument as it pertains to this particular issue (and the poor and the environment) that so many evangelicals espouse. Let’s elect Christians to office so that we can have a government of “good Christian values” right up until we start talking about healthcare and then…what??? Ayn Rand?? The 2012 election exposed so much of this faulty thinking. Unfortunately, the pulpit has failed greatly in this regard. And I agree with you: there is much to the ACA that is lacking, that should be reexamined or fixed or whatever, but agreement on even the general notion of expanded healthcare coverage is, sadly, not within grasp right now and due overwhelmingly to self-described American fundamentalists.

  • kinderkids

    Some good points are made. Of course Christians must care
    for the poor and sick. The argument comes over how to do it. I don’t think
    either side of the argument has the corner on godliness. These are imperfect
    systems run by imperfect men. There are positives in each, and unintended
    negative consequences in each. There are gaps in the US system which the author accurately points out without being candid about the negatives of universal healthcare. It is not as saintly as they like us to think. The young, the
    families and the urban dwellers are well-cared for. The elderly receive minimal
    cost care, and the rural folks have limited access to care and must travel long
    distances for MRIs, etc. Non-emergency doctors appts and surgeries have long
    waits. It’s not equal across the board by any means.

    The author points out Americans’ uber individualism as
    a non-christian idea; the converse of that is hyper dependency, creating a form
    of feudal enslavement. The danger in a socialist society is that people
    transfer their dependance on God to the secular State as the source and sustenance of life. Equally un-Christian. Christians should be afraid of Socialism because historically they have been oppressed and suppressed by the secular state that wants to be the arbiter of life and morals for society. Did the author mention that Christianity is on the decline in Socialist Europe? Nicky Gumbel, Rector of Holy Trinity, Brompton (author of the Alpha program), says that only 17% of people in the UK are churchgoers, as opposed to 50% in the US….correlation to socialism?

    • Riley

      Your last point is spot on! Wright and Bird’s form of church-government interaction has virtually killed Christianity in their countries. I think those two men should work on increasing their percentages before they chastise anyone else. It appears that their position has led to a decrease in the need for Christ and the glory of God. Puzzling that they do not see this huge blind spot.

  • Roger Morris

    Americans, including American Evangelicals, are so obsessed with political libertarianism and so paranoid about rooting out creeping Statism, that they are willing to leave alone a hyper-privatized health system that to those of us in other countries is clearly broken. Evangelicals are trapped by their insidious spiritualisation of these libertarian ideologies.

    This is exactly the same spiritualized libertarianism and willful idolatry of the US Constitution which paralyses Evangelicals from doing anything rational and logical about ridiculously lax gun laws despite an ongoing litany of insane gun deaths at the hands of those carrying military-style semiautomatic rifles.

    • Nick Rekieta

      Fallacious assumption #1: That opposition to the ACA is an endorsement of the status quo.

      Fallacious assumption #2: Everything you said about gun laws. Particularly, mentioning “military style rifles” which account for less annual deaths than DISHWASHERS.

      Fallacious assumption #3: Adherence to law amounts to idolatry.

      • Roger Morris

        If Americans have shown the rest of the world anything in recent times it is that when it comes to domestic issues, the country is forever paralysed in the “status quo”. This is seen perfectly in the inability to fix a broken, hyper-privatized health system, mounting government debt and a litany of gun massacres by heavily armed sociopaths.

        • Nick Rekieta

          Hyper-privatized” doesn’t describe American healthcare which is controlled by mandated components of health insurance and government-endorsed micro-monopolies… PRIOR to the ACA. Also, “hyper-privatized” doesn’t make sense in general, and less so considering it isn’t even fully privatized. If you hate the American insurance market prior to the ACA, then you hate public-private hybridization (a component of racism). If you hate THAT system, be prepared to REALLY hate the ACA when it’s fully implemented, because it’s just a bigger dose of an already terrible idea.

          Mounting debt, spot on… kudos.

          “litany of gun massacres” isn’t an accurate reflection of the [in]frequency of mass shootings. When adjusting for population size, the US mass-shooting rate is comparable to the rest of western civilization… but, you know… statistics and all…

          • Roger Morris

            Nick, can you provide those statistics to back up your claims?

            Here are some stats about the effect on gun-related deaths in Australian following the Port Arthur Massacre, which prompted nation-wide tightening of gun laws and banning of semi-automatic rifles.


          • Nick Rekieta

            Here’s a start.


            Really, though, start combing through the statistics yourself with an honest approach. You’ll notice that the US, in comparison with places like Norway and Finland, has a mass shooting rate that’s relatively comparable when you figure the US has 60 times the population.

            There is no trend line, no predictable indicators. “Military rifles” usually aren’t involved (the only one in the past couple years was in aurora, where the rifle jammed and a shotgun accounted for the killings…)

            “Rifles” account for less murders than hammers per year in the US and the majority of those are not “military style.”


            In fact, the number of “assault weapon” murders are so low that you can’t actually find statistics on them, despite just how vilified they are in the media.

            I’m not going to sit and argue ideology back and forth on guns. If you’re honest, you can spend about 15 minutes looking at statistics (NOT COMMENTARY) and make your own determination… you’ll probably be surprised.

          • Roger Morris

            Your response is typical of the hyper-intellectualized denial of logic and cognitive dissonance of the pro-gun lobby in America (popular within the right-wing, Republican voting elements of American evangelicalism).

            How many massacres and mass killings have been perpetrated with a hammer? None. What weapons have been most involved in mass killings in America in the last decade – semiautomatic military-style assault weapons such as AR-15, Bushmaster X15, Hi-Point Carbine 995, Smith & Wesson M7P15, sawn-off shotguns and semiautomatic pistols (Glocks, etc).

            I’m not talking about absolute numbers killed per year, but episodes where large numbers of people have been killed in one place in a short amount of time. I still have not heard a good excuse for why every day American civilians need to arm themselves with these kinds on military-style weapons, either for self-defence or hunting.

            Meanwhile, while American culture navel-gazes about their constitutional libertarian rights, innocent people (including children) continue to die.

          • Nick Rekieta

            This is why it’s so hard to have a discussion on the internet, look at what you’ve done in your response: categorize, criticize, demonize. What you haven’t done, is addressed reality.

            Categorize: “Your response is typical of the hyper-intellectualized denial of logic and cognitive dissonance of the pro-gun lobby in America”

            Criticize: “I still have not heard a good excuse for why every day American civilians need to arm themselves with these kinds on military-style weapons, either for self-defence or hunting.”

            Demonize: “Meanwhile, while American culture navel-gazes about their constitutional libertarian rights, innocent people (including children) continue to die.”

            None of those is a valid argument; worse yet, the assertions that MIGHT be valid are problematic. The bushmaster was used in Newtown, but not anywhere else (successfully, aurora’s jammed and a shotgun was used). Other than that, the recent mass shootings have been handguns.

            Sawn off shotguns are already illegal, so if you’re seeing killings with those, apparently a law banning them doesn’t work so well.

            “semi-automatic pistols” only encompasses just about every pistol sold. I guess single-action revolvers make up a tiny minority of handgun sales, but flintlocks just aren’t big sellers anymore.

            As for you not “hear[ing] an excuse,” none is needed. Again, mass shootings happen in every country with some frequency, even ones with bans on various guns.

            This will be my last reply. I attempted to speak to you rationally, you decided not to return in kind.

            The real problem with your boring, unthinking, ideology-based approach is that it’s ineffective. If you ban “assault weapons” then you eliminate approximately 30-50 out of 8,000 gun homicides per year. If you ban “assault weapons” you eliminate 1 weapon from 2 of the past 4 mass-shootings in the US (in each case the gunman had back-up guns, and in one case, the “back up” was the only gun that functioned)

            The reality becomes clear: You’re not ACTUALLY solving the problem. For all of your appeals to emotion, without the bushmaster, Adam Lanza had 2 handguns on him and a shotgun in the car…banning the bushmaster doesn’t prevent that shooting.

            There’s a reason that appeal to emotion is an informal fallacy. It glosses the rational approach in favor of an irrational response. It ignores just how obnoxiously ineffective your “solution” would be by trying to make the reader “feel” something.

            Your fix is a Band-Aid on a heart-attack victim…it’s pointless and ineffective. You win on emotion, but for all your puffing, people and children would still die and you’d be left dumb-struck by the failure of your worthless policy. Case in point: Columbine’s mass shooting happened when assault rifles were banned.

            The problem is that while your “fix” isn’t actually fixing anything, people will be swayed into thinking they have a solution. You short-circuit the actual process of solving the problem with your red-herring solution.

            Yet, you can’t actually see that because you can’t, for one second, look at your pointless ideological stance and ACTUALLY examine it.

            God bless, my friend. May you eventually find discussion more fruitful than pontification.

          • Roger Morris

            “[M]ass shootings happen in every country with some frequency, even ones with bans on various guns.”

            You seem confident you have the facts on your side Nick, but not so fast. According to infoplease.com, of the 81 worldwide mass and school schooting incidents from 1996 to the present, 61 occurred in the USA. That is 75%!


            Now that is what you might call an “inconvenient truth”. I call it a recipe for cognitive dissonance in the pro-gun lobby in the States. But then again, with almost 50% of Americans believing in a young earth, critical thinking and objective assessment of the facts has never been a strong point of that particular society.

            Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States


          • Nick Rekieta

            Interesting that the list doesn’t include the Cumbria shooting…I mean it was a little one. Wikipedia describes it as “one of the worst criminal acts involving firearms in British history.” June 2, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumbria_shootings

            I wonder what else isn’t on the list…oh neat, 2004 school shooting in Brampton Ontario, 2007 shooting in Toronto, 2008 Toronto, 2010 Toronto, 2013 Toronto. 2011 and 2012 shootings in Juarez. 2003 Coburg, Germany, 2004 the Hague Netherlands, 2005 Rotz Germany, 2006 Emsdetten Germany, 2009 Athens Greece, 2009 Harstad Norway, 2009 Pecs Hungary. 1999 Phillipines, 1999 China, 2002 China, 2003 Thailand, 2005 China, 2007 Lebanon, 2007 India, 2008 Israel, 1999 Australia, 2002 Australia, 2003 Australia, 2012 Australia. 2013 Nigeria, 2013 Nigeria That’s 29 that aren’t listed…That makes 61/110 = 55.45%. That’s ASSUMING that the Wikipedia list was complete (a poor assumption) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_shooting

            For someone with such a penchant for berating the critical thinking skills of others, your ability to critically analyze and interpret data is lacking.

            Your list, aside from being incomplete, doesn’t give us any info relevant to sculpt a discussion. We don’t know the weapons used, and it doesn’t differentiate between “mass shootings” and “school shootings.” I would even categorize some of these attacks as “terrorist activity” (e.g. the Nairobi shootings)

            By mashing categories and ignoring critical facts, you can’t draw relevant conclusions. Your proclamations about the frequency of mass-murder in the US ignores several complicating factors, demographic and cultural realities, and etc.

            Have fun with your boring, unthought talking points, though. Keep telling yourself that you are good at critical thinking and everyone else is wrong…it’s working!

          • Nick Rekieta

            Importantly, I only went through the incomplete list of school shootings…I ignored the incompleteness off the mass-killings that are also included in your failing-list. The denominator is even higher, but I’m bored and I’m tired of arguing with a sheet of talking points.

          • Roger Morris

            I notice you didn’t engage with the stats quoted in the Washington Post article. I assume you might just wave it off as centrist/left wing propaganda.

          • Nick Rekieta

            While Ezra Kline is not exactly friendly to the right, it doesn’t make his article invalid. The problem is you seem to have is conflating facts with conclusions. Just because a fact exists doesn’t make YOUR conclusion (or any other, for that matter) automatically valid. Also, looking at a set of “facts” is myopic because what facts you choose to include skews the inference from the data.

            #1: 61 mass shootings in 31 years sounds like a lot, but with homicide rates ranging from 8000-12000/year in that timeframe, you’re looking at (61*6(rough avg/incident)) 366/ (31*9000(rough avg murders/year) = 279,000 murders. 366/279,000 = 0.13% of murders. Saying they are “common” is subjective and arguably a GROSS OVERSTATEMENT.

            #2 is no longer accurate, nor does it have much point. Again, it ignores critical data. It just was a fact at the time of the article.

            #3: Ezra “corrected” this, but the point is still valid. It’s funny that he mentioned the correction because even if their laws have tightened, it doesn’t explain the monumentally lower homicide rates that existed while the laws were lax. Also, in Switzerland, it’s common to see people openly carrying “assault rifles” to this day, yet…no correlating murder rate. This AGAIN points to the issue that there are demographic and socio-political realities that make country by country comparisons less useful.

            #4: and the single deadliest mass killing was in 1929. What does this SAY? It says shooters are more effective or have better luck. However, the statistical rareness of these (ask ANY statistician to analyze a sample size of 31 with this many variables and ZERO control and draw valid conclusions) makes the determinations difficult. Why are they more effective in the past 5 years? Firearms have NOT gotten somehow more effective, there’s something else to the story.

            #5: So mass shootings DO NOT correlate with overall homicide, NOR do they directly correlate with gun ownership. Again, this fact leads to almost no useful inference.

            #6: Useful how? What does this actually say about gun violence other than geographic concentration? Also, this ignores that the most violent cities in the US (Chicago, Detroit, and DC) are not in “the south.” So, what’s going on with THOSE cities? No useful inference.

            #7: Gun ownership is declining overall…ok, so what inference is useful here? Less ownership = more mass shootings? Is it merely the concentration of guns that is the problem? What is the useful inference?

            #8: This “fact” is under massive dispute. It’s also a chicken and egg problem. Do more guns MEAN more murder, or does higher murder prompt gun sales? Again, no useful inference.

            #9: Except that specific cities with the tightest gun control laws have the highest murder rates…so again, how do we interpret the data.

            #10: utterly useless for the gun debate.

            #11: Again, utterly useless for determining either the constitutionality of these policies or the necessity.

            #12 See #’s 10 and 11.

            Ezra wrote a relatively fair article because he draws no conclusions. However, Ezra’s audience is largely left-leaning and will draw the conclusions he likely desires to be drawn. That said, it doesn’t make those conclusions VALID. Ezra offers zero conclusions from relevant experts, in fact, he makes no declarative statements in the article at all. You seem to think that you’ve found some gold-mine of a source, but it doesn’t actually say anything…it’s just a list of facts, some of which are very suspect.

            The reason I didn’t “engage” it is because there isn’t anything to engage.

          • Hw

            You use the word hyper a lot…hypocritically, you demand stats from Nick Rekieta and then provide none of your own. I’ll assume you have none.

            Second to last paragraph=no sense.

            At you discussing this in good faith to learn, grow and be objective? Or are you ranting, frozen in your own opinion? From what I can see, Nick has provided you with real stats that adequately challenge everything you claim, but you don’t even take a moment to rationally analyze them.

          • Roger Morris

            I am certainly discussing this matter in good faith. Nick demonstrates nicely how constant calls for evidence can paralyze the intellect, stifle discussion, prevent any real action and preserve the status quo. Those of us outside the US see this denial technique constantly applied in the States – Young earth creationism, endemic mass shootings and gun control, a failing health system controlled by HMOs and non-medical bean counters, paralysis in government economic policy due to mindless partisan politics.

            And yet, within the US many protect the status quo with constant calls for supportive evidence and selective cherry-picking of that evidence when presented. These are all symptoms of cognitive dissonance – perhaps a sign of a declining superpower and post-climactic culture. We await the dawn of the post-US empire era with anticipation.

          • Nick Rekieta

            “Endemic mass-shootings” isn’t accurate, true, or even representative. I think you are looking for a different word, and that word is likely not accurate as well.

            If you hate HMOs look to the people who built HMOs. Namely, Ted Kennedy, who also supported socialized medicine. The people who built HMOs built the affordable care act, go figure. You are supporting the very system you proclaim is controlling the failing system… nice work!

            Non-medical bean-counters are EXACTLY the reason that healthcare doesn’t belong in government. In the US, there isn’t currently a bean-counter who can prevent me from getting surgery. My friend just had his gall-bladder electively removed one week after having an episode. No government ration-board required him to wait months to do that procedure. I decided in late-December 2011 to have a minor-knee surgery and it was performed the first week of January. I decided to wait until after the holidays, I could have had it done in December.

            I love your last paragraph because that is EXACTLY how you have conducted yourself in this discussion.

          • Nick Rekieta


            Hah, in the UK the wait time for gall-stone removal rose by more time (7.4days) than the total time it took my friend to have his gall bladder removed.


            These wait times are staggering. Wright attempts to explain to us what non-American evangelicals think about our opposition to healthcare. I wonder if non-American evangelicals can identify with our ability to receive on-demand healthcare. The idea of waiting 6 months for surgery in the US system is absolutely preposterous.

  • Katherine Harms

    The reason some of us believe that nationalized medicine is not the way to provide healthcare is that the government is never honest or wise, and the evidence is building that the law that created Obamacare is extremely dishonest and extremely unwise. The only thing we can be sure that Obamacare will do is take money away from citizens who have any. It is even trying to take money people don’t have it by charging outrageous premiums for policies with outrageous deductibles. Taking money from citizens is what government does best.
    It cannot, by the way, be said that the fact that other nations have national healthcare makes it a good thing. There is plenty of evidence in many of those nations that national healthcare is not a blessing for poor children, or for anyone else.
    Some private individuals are rotten to the core, but all governments are rotten. It is the rare person of integrity and honor who is willing to be sullied by immersing himself or herself in government. We give thanks when it does happen as in the case of people like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The fact that government as a general rule creates problems rather than solves them is a good reason to keep government out of healthcare.
    In the case of Obamacare, we may all be able to pretty much stay out of it. In fact, healthcare costs are likely to decline almost magically under Obamacare. People won’t any longer die waiting for healthcare. They will simply die before they can get enrolled.

  • Andrew Lohr

    Jesus was generous Personally; we didn’t tax His righteousness away from Him because we needed it. He gave his own life. So the welfare state is antithetical to Calvary, and to resurrection–which without violence set aside the verdict of the only superpower du jour–and of the free, generous way Jesus lived on earth, and of the Bible’s libertarianism: its lists of jobs for government to do are very short (Rom 13, I Tim 2), and its list of reasons to reject a form of government (I Sam 8) challenges every government under the sun.

    And to force equality needs Enforcers: O’Romneycare hired not doctors but IRS agents. So stop trying to force equality–forcing serves as an excuse for the power-hungry. And O’Romneycare was going to cover more people (tho not everyone), with more thorough coverage, while cutting costs? No wonder the computers crashed.

  • doughibbard

    Since I’m losing my health insurance to the changes in medical insurance thanks to the ACA, I have a personal dog in this fight. And it’s not just the objection to demanding that someone else’s taxes pay part of my insurance bill.

    The ACA does not provide health care. It mandates the purchase of insurance. If it mandated the purchase of insurance equally to all people, that would be one matter, but there are exemptions left and right–except for people whose employers do not provide insurance. The result is this: the insurance industry now has the government requiring people to become their customers. At the end of the day, industry does what it does, and always has done, it seeks profits. When the government requires everyone to buy your products, you can charge whatever you would like to charge. Supporters of ACA get around this by pointing out that the government will be helping you pay the exorbitant rates by taxing that money from another person, unless, of course, you fall in a loophole that you do not qualify.

    So, where I sit is that I will lose my insurance because my policy isn’t “good enough” (due to where we are in life, my family does not need maternity coverage and a few of the other things now mandated for all policies). I am exempt from the penalty because the insurance is too costly compared to my income, but that means simply that I will have no insurance.

    So, I will have only the money in my bank account for medical care, and one emergency will cook my goose. I will skip recommended preventative care until I have the enough money to cover potential issues, and I’ll have to find out what any tests my doctor wants will cost before I have them, because I may not afford them.

    Those are not “talking points” or any news/political/whatever viewpoints. That is the reality where I live. If you would like to make the point that some people will be helped, so it’s worth it, that’s fine, and it’s a fair point in general for societal living.

    But some of us oppose a law because when we look at it, it’s going to cause us harm, personally. It’s mistrust or hatred or anything else. It’s the reality that next year’s medical care for myself and my family will be very different, and very limited, because of “affordable care.”

    Does the system need fixing? It does. Was ACA a fix? No. All it does is pay off the insurance companies with a few years of mega-profits until the single-payer system is actually approved, because we’ve broken multi-payer/market beyond repair. Do I think that, morally, we ought to do something? We should–but I find nothing in Christian Scripture, ethics, or history that supports the idea that we should use a government structure to force people to do charitable things for others.

  • Andrew

    I have lived within the NHS (in the UK), and have been both insured and uninsured for a season in the USA – and I assure you that the USA and UK systems are not comparable in the way this blog suggests. I’ll just give one example: most Brits are shocked to hear about the long history of free healthcare provided to the poor by denominational hospitals throughout the USA. Enforcing ‘secularization’ on such systems (as Obamacare does) has three harmful effects: 1) it makes medical practice less hospitable to religious convictions (nuns in numerous American communities are finding it impossible to serve the poor as they have for centuries); 2) it displaces a system built on philanthropy with one that is tax-driven – it would be impossible to measure the amount of free healthcare dispensed by such religious systems nation-wide, but the gov’t will now pay this bill; 3) the US’s current funding mechanisms for healthcare have been about the leakiest pipes around for quite some time, and Obamacare will substantially overload an already weak system. The ‘greener grass’ is not NHS but is a reality still out in front of the American people, one that works hard to get help to those ‘falling through the cracks’ while ensuring that religious systems can operate at full capacity in service to their communities. The UK does not have this opportunity, but the USA does.

  • Nick Rekieta

    “A man who will not work will not eat.” Is also in the bible, but I guess we ignore the out of context verses that don’t support our position, don’t we?

    “Correct me if I’m wrong but the first document of the first U.S. Government reads, “We the people …”” You are wrong. The constitution is not the first document of the first US government. Even so, a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people…” does not mean that the people are the government. The entities are clearly separate, with the government drawing its components FROM the separate entity that is “the people.”

    Obamacare is not universal healthcare, nor does it “provide” healthcare to “the people.” Maybe the evangelical world outside of the US looks at us with “disgust” because they have a gross misunderstanding of the nature of our government and the nature of this law.

    Preaching at Americans to outsource their Christianity to the altar of government doesn’t make it the correct thing to do; similarly, agreeing with a line from Margaret thatcher about socialism doesn’t make you somehow conservative. You may BE conservative, but simple agreement with one talking point doesn’t make that case. Communism is founded on ostensibly Christian ideals of compassion and social responsibility, that doesn’t make a communist Christian.

    What you call “Christian ethics” is socialism when there’s a gun-barrel behind it. Honestly assess the idea that you think “Christian ethics” involves the use of force to impose Christian ideology upon someone else. I think I missed that part of the gospel. “Christian ethics” (in the form of guaranteed food, healthcare, and jobs) killed millions of people in the soviet union.

    Giving a government the power of “Christian ethics” runs a massive risk.

    “Economic freedom is great, so is small government, low taxes, low deficits, and responsible economic management. But fiscal policy should not be pursued at the the expense of our moral obligations to help others in need and to take care of the poor and vulnerable among our citizens.” This position ignores the responsibility of keeping a government that can support itself financially. What about the moral obligation to be able to maintain a functional government?
    If we throw out all responsibility in pursuit of “moral obligation” and the government collapses, financially, then you have destroyed the ability for the government to do what it does. In pursuit of the “moral obligation” you lose the ability to perform.

    It’s easy to construct a trite argument about how “Christian” it is to provide healthcare to all and ignore EVERY OTHER variable in the equation. It’s easy to assert a moral obligation as existing without actually establishing that obligation. It’s easy to ignore the structure of government, the laws of economics, and the tenets of freedom in America and THEN claim that you have the “correct” position.

    It’s much harder to actually analyze ANYTHING and come to a rounded, applicable conclusion.

  • wisdumb

    Healthcare is a wonderful thing! As NT says, it was an idea started by Christians.
    But we need to ask: Who is the best to provide it? – state, families, individuals, churches, employers, all of the above? Who has the most motivation, care, wealth, time, and biblical directives to obey?

  • Ian Thomason

    Legislating against ‘universal’ gun ownership, and legislating for a responsible approach to social security: two issues guaranteed to get American evangelicals “up-in-arms” (pun intended). Wow.

  • Roger Morris

    If Americans have shown the rest of the world anything in recent times it is that when it comes to domestic issues, the country is forever paralysed in the “status quo”. This is seen perfectly in the inability to fix a broken, hyper-privatized health system, mounting government debt and a litany of gun massacres by heavily armed sociopaths.

    • Nick Rekieta

      “Hyper-privatized” doesn’t describe American healthcare which is controlled by mandated components of health insurance and government-endorsed micro-monopolies… PRIOR to the ACA. Also, “hyper-privatized” doesn’t make sense in general, and less so considering it isn’t even fully privatized. If you hate the American insurance market prior to the ACA, then you hate public-private hybridization (a component of racism). If you hate THAT system, be prepared to REALLY hate the ACA when it’s fully implemented, because it’s just a bigger dose of an already terrible idea.

      Mounting debt, spot on… kudos.

      “litany of gun massacres” isn’t an accurate reflection of the [in]frequency of mass shootings. When adjusting for population size, the US mass-shooting rate is comparable to the rest of western civilization… but, you know… statistics and all…

  • Patrick

    There is no US evangelical hostility to universal healthcare( or US atheist hostility for that matter), that’s just ignorance. The hostility is towards Caesar’s role in it.

    Caesar does business by coercion. Christ doesn’t. Christ speaks to believing humans, not Caesar.

    We’d be better off helping folks collectively through our believing and spirit filled churches than demonstrating our apostasy by asking Caesar to serve Christ’s mandates.

    Why doesn’t an imminent man like Bishop Wright suggest THAT? I’m 100% for that. Why do Christians automatically default to a system that often persecutes us?

    You think a Romanian in prison for his faith in 1960 would think Caesar is a great way to fulfill Christ’s mandates? Why would Bishop Wright just because he didn’t live in a state that treats us like that? It might next year.

  • We recently spoke with N.T. Wright about government healthcare: