From ESPN The Magazine. I wonder if the photographer even knew he caught that kid digging for gold. It’s cropped out in the online version and print version of the story. The poor kid is only included in the iPad version.
My sense is that conservative Christian objections to Obamacare in particular, and to the expansion of government in general, are driven not only by the unfortunate policy specifics, but also by more general concerns that are fundamentally and legitimately theological. More specifically, such opposition is funded by real if often inchoate convictions about theological anthropology, theology proper, and ecclesiology.
First, there is the undeniable fact that the expansion of the welfare state undermines individual responsibility. Christian conservatives know from Scripture and experience that human beings generally behave self-centeredly and tend to prioritize short-term gratification unless there are normative and institutional structures in place that provide discipline and incentive to do otherwise. Moreover, conservatives know from experience and common sense that when government subsidizes behavior the nation gets more of that behavior. It was precisely this recognition that lay at the heart of the successful welfare reform in the 1990s.
Second, there is the problem of secular, statist idolatry. The modern welfare state is the Leviathan that puts itself in the place of God as that which meets cradle-to-the-grave needs of people. In fact, there is now a host of sociological evidence indicating that the decline of Christianity in the West can be correlated rather precisely with the expansion of government.
Third, there is the fact that the “therapeutocracy” (to use social theorist Jürgen Habermas’s memorable term) of the modern welfare state has little tolerance for faith perspectives that oppose its edicts or compete with it for the allegiance of the populace. Thus it seeks to undercut the mediating structures (churches and voluntary societies) that Tocqueville so eloquently recognized as essential to the preservation of genuine democracy. How else are we to understand the way that the Obama administration has persistently been picking unnecessary fights with people of faith, whether it be the efforts to marginalize Christians in the military, the bizarre arguments of the Obama administration in a recent court case (Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) that the free-exercise clause First Amendment does not protect a religious organization’s right to choose its own leaders, or the contraceptive mandate of Obamacare?
I’ll agree that we need to have a good and substantive discussion about healthcare reform. But sentimental soundbites from the Evangelical left about “care for the poor” do not contribute much to that endeavor.