I have struggled with exactly what to do with this second part of my series. Originally, I was simply going to discuss what I like about the AHA and what concerns me, but frankly, I am not sure that will be very helpful. The arguments for and against have been made and continue to be be made. Rather, what I think I am going to do in this post is to highlight once again, what I continue to suggest, are the disquieting uses of Scripture in commending or opposing one government program or another. Such concerns also reach into the private sector as well, but since the focus of attention here is the AHA, I will limit my comments to that specific subject.
In this post I am not interested in the constitutional questions either. Those questions are important and in my first post I dealt generally with the mistaken separation of judicial philosophy from political philosophy. A lawyer, who is a Christian, wrote a very helpful post attempting to maneuver through the entanglements of such matters. I encourage you to read David Opderbeck's arguments and the comment thread, which furthers the discussion.
I want to be clear-- what I am about to write is not an argument for or against the policy of universal health care; rather once again I am highlighting the very problematic hermeneutical moves in the religious right and left's use of Scripture as justification for or against any governmental policy. I want to use two example from both sides of this debate and then draw some conclusions.
Example #1: There are Christians on the right who oppose the individual mandate on the basis of freedom. It is wrong to impinge on an individual's personal freedom forcing her or him to pay for someone else's health insurance. Here freedom is loosely defined as freedom from our obligation to others. This is a strange argument to make, especially since St. Paul in Galatians defines the freedom Christ has secured for believers as the freedom for obedience. Paul clearly states that such freedom does not free us from our obligations to others, but it lays the foundation for those obligations. Of course, it needs to be said that Paul instructs the Galatians to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith (6:10). Paul is clear that we should not ignore those outside the church, but he clearly puts the emphasis on burden bearing within the church. I do not think that Paul is commending an isolationism, rather I think he is proffering a missional posture of the church as witness to those around the community of faith. I mention this here only because I want to highlight that matter in my next post in this series. But the point here is that Christians who oppose universal health care on the basis of freedom must resort to an unbiblical definition of freedom to make their case.
Example #2: On the other side of the aisle, Christians on the left have commended the universal mandate on the basis of Jesus' healing ministry. In one sense, this is understandable. Jesus was obviously concerned for the physical well-being of others. Salvation in the Bible is not only about the personal salvation of one's soul with no concern for physical redemption. Indeed, as I and others much smarter than I have argued, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is necessary if the salvation he brings is to be a holistic redemption that includes not only the "spiritual" but the "physical" as well. We Christians must be concerned about the well being of the entire person because God is concerned.
But it is certainly not a straight line from Jesus' healings to universal health care and I have been surprised by those who so casually make this connection without any kind of nuance. Indeed, if the connection is drawn too directly the significance of Jesus' miracles gets lost amidst a debate on health insurance.
Jesus' healing miracles involve more than Jesus' compassion on the sick; Jesus' miracles are signs that God's kingdom has now come in him. Indeed, Jesus' miracles are kingdom work. And as important as caring for the sick is, when it is divorced from Christology and ecclesiology, it is not kingdom work. Doing good in a general way, as important as that is, is not equal to furthering the work of the kingdom in this world. So, Jesus' miracles are about something more than simply providing health care. They point to the redemption that is coming in and only through Jesus; and kingdom work is centrally located in the church and in its mission to the world. I quote Scot McKnight:
...too many today have abstracted the ethical ideals from Jesus’ kingdom vision, all but cut Jesus out of the picture, and then called anything that is just, peace, good and loving the "kingdom." The result is this equation: kingdom means goodness, goodness means kingdom. Regardless of who does it. My contention would be that kingdom goodness is done by kingdom people who live under King Jesus. I applaud goodness at large. This is not a question of either or but whether or not all goodness is kingdom goodness. Some say Yes, I say No.
The problem here continues to be that when it comes to politics both the religious right and the left, see the state as the primary hermeneutical target of Scripture, not the people of God, the Church. Moreover, in what I have read from Christians on both sides of this issue in the past few days one wonders if they realize that there are a whole host of people in the United States who are not Christians. Both sides have appealed to the Bible as justification for their views, but there are lots of folks in the good ole U. S. of A. who do not share the Christian view of biblical authority in any fashion.
The thorny issue is ecclesiological. Christians on the left and the right continue to lack a robust political ecclesiology. Thus, all they are left with is the state and legislation to further their kingdom agendas in this world. Churchcraft is replaced by statecraft. Indeed, for both the right and the left statecraft is churchcraft. Many have argued that Christendom is dead. Actually, I think Christendom is unfortunately alive and well, at least in the church. The religious right and the left continue to work to resurrect their own versions of it; and that is the all-encompassing problem in the debate over health care and so many other discussions we have. As I continue to say, the ghost of the Emperor Constantine still haunts us and the religious right and left keep holding seances to communicate with him.
More on that in my final post.