March 25, 2010
No human created in God's image should be denied basic health care. Money is not worth more than human life and many other good things will have to be sacrificed in a moral society to make sure that all God's children get the care they deserve.
This is easy for a Christian.
What is hard is the detail. Who should provide this health care? How much care is "basic" and how much is a luxury? Whose fundamental job is it to provide this basic health care?
These questions should not distract us from the truth: Christians rejoice when every single person receives healing. We are a religion that founds hospitals and is commanded to do charitable work. There is no surplus population for us. After all it is not Christianity that is secretly glad when ninety percent of certain categories of children are killed before they can draw breath.
So why don't I rejoice in the passage of ObamaCare?
Of course I do rejoice that friends who have been denied insurance will be able to buy it. I do celebrate all the good the new laws will do. However, Christian opponents believe these good things are not worth the harm that the bill will do.
The job of providing health care, this basic human right, is not the job of the state, but of the family and the church. The government should only intervene when the family and the church, for good reasons, cannot provide basic care or are failing to provide basic care.
I do not support universal health care run by and paid for by the central government. I do not support the most recent health care legislation, because it moves us too far in that direction. The government has long helped the vast number of religious institutions that provide health care. The Catholic Church by herself provides subsidized health care to millions of citizens and is glad to get some help in doing the job. Most American families are able to give their members some of the best health care in the world and are glad when the government modestly steps in to help those in need.
Conservatives are not all libertarians. We recognize that some government help may be necessary, but also know that at some point help becomes a hindrance. Health care is not the only good thing in a society. There are also the values of the soul: liberty and happiness. It is the American and Christian idea that too much government can stifle the soul of a man.
The tipping point between necessary, though regrettable, help from the state to help families and churches do their duty may have been reached. Conservative Christians do not want to see families, communities, and churches turn to the state to meet their needs. We do not want the state providing us for an excuse for our moral failure to do our duty. We do not want to avoid private charity with Scrooge's excuse that the state taxes us to do the job already.
The new laws are clumsy and inefficient. They will do good, but at too high a cost. There were better ways to encourage the same ends. I commend the work of Congressman Paul Ryan in this regard.
Promising to do something you cannot afford is not good. We are making promises to people, but there is no evidence from other government programs, such as Social Security, that this promise can be sustained. Is it right to mortgage the future of our grandchildren to buy health care for our children? We are promising subsidized health care, and people will plan around it, but there is no evidence we can sustain it without a radical restructuring of our military and economic order.
The more serious problem is what it might begin to do to us as human beings. Giving more power to the central government harms human liberty. A physically healthy man who is not free and able to flourish as a man is not in an enviable state. I would not trade my liberty for comfort or care. As hard as it is to say, I would not trade my children's liberty for government health care.
When the government makes me buy health insurance, it might be forcing me to do something I should do, but it is taking away the moral virtue of doing it. The profligate man will be protected from his profligacy, but this is not good if the goal is to create men who are good and not just conformists. Some laws are necessary, but surely few think we live in a society with too few regulations?
Where will the next generation look for health care? Traditionally Americans have looked to the church and to their family for the resources. Will more Americans now look to the central government as the source of their health? Millions already do so through bankrupt government programs. Habituation in looking to central government for the solution to our problems is not the education of a free people.
Giving more power to the central government harms human life. Pro-life groups, including those supportive of government health care, are unified: this new law will have the government pay to kill innocent human life. Lives saved by government spending on health care will be balanced by lives lost by government spending on abortion.
Giving more power to the central government harms human happiness. Men use their private property to create beauty. This bill will increase taxes and decrease the ability of thousands of fellow citizens to decide what to do with their own money. Happiness is best achieved by learning to flourish: body and soul. Fewer resources will give individuals less ability to decide what they need.
Government health care or too much government regulation is an assault on our diversity. It threatens to make all-important moral decisions at a central place. Instead of many solutions from a multitude of religions and communities, we will be left with one solution. Our basic unity will be strained if too much conformity is demanded on the individuals that make up our union.
Failure to support this new regime is not then a failure to support increased health care. I support laws that would make it easier to give to charity and to save for health care tax-free. I support regulation of the big insurance companies that can outgrow state regulation. I support some central government help, Reagan's social safety net, for those who fall through the cracks of the family, community, and church structures.
I do not support this liberty- and life-destroying law.
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.