Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why are Evangelicals against “Obamacare”?

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a very important, and controversial, decision late last month, on June 28. To the great relief of most Democrats and the dismay of most Republicans—and to the surprise of many on both sides of the political aisle—the Court ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, popularly called, especially by its opponents, “Obamacare”) is constitutional.
The Court’s ruling was a relief to the Democrats, for PPACA, which Congress passed in May 2010, is generally considered the most significant piece of legislation of President Obama’s first term. That same ruling was dismaying to the Republicans, who have been strongly opposed to “Obamacare” from the beginning.
There were many religious groups who rejoiced at the news of June 28. An ecumenical organization called Faithful Reform in Health Care applauded the Supreme Court decision. That group includes Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists as well as numerous Christian denominational groups, including Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, and Presbyterians, among others.
In 2010 that organization adopted the following vision statement and sent it to the U.S. Congress: “As people of faith, we envision a society where each person is afforded health, wholeness, and human dignity. That vision embraces a system of health care that is inclusive... accessible... affordable... and accountable.”
But for the most part, Catholics and white Evangelical Protestants lamented the Supreme Court decision and continue to oppose “Obamacare.” Since I am not a Catholic, and neither are most of the readers of this column, I am focusing here only on the Evangelical opposition.
The strong opposition of conservative Protestants is due one or more of the following reasons: fear that PPACA does (or will) fund abortions (or contraception), fear of more intrusive government control over individuals (so loss of freedom), and fear that it would increase taxes and/or the national debt.
I can’t help but think, though, that many Evangelicals are opposed to PPACA mainly because they are Republicans and opposed to President Obama. Above all else, want to make him a one-term President. It is hard to see how opposition to extending health care coverage to the millions in the country who do not have it can be based solely on Christian considerations.
Those Christian groups supporting the PPACA list the following reasons (among others) for their support:
 **Children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be excluded from coverage on their parents’ health insurance.
**Young adults [up to age 26] now have coverage on their parents’ policies.
**Women can no longer be charged higher premiums because of their gender and can now receive mammograms and pap smears with no out of pocket expenses.
Further, beginning in 2014, low-income working families living on up to 133% of the federal poverty level will have access to health care through the expansions of Medicaid.
I can’t help but think that the expansion of health insurance to nearly every U.S. citizen has to be a good thing. True, in the future some of us might, possibly, not have quite as good coverage as now. But think of the tens of millions who have no health coverage now but who will be covered when PPACA goes into effect fully. How can that possibly be a bad thing?


  1. The next battle of this legislation now goes to the states. Many Missouri lawmakers are vowing now to opt out of the bill's Medicaid expansion. If they do, about 300,000 uninsured Missourians who would be covered under PPACA, would lose access to healthcare. This means safety net hospitals such as the one I work for (Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City) face the risk of not being reimbursed for the care we now provide to these citizens.

    Leroy, I believe many Missouri lawmakers who want to opt out of the Medicaid expansion are driven by the Evangelical response you describe above. It's interesting how these "insured" Christian legistlators can act in accordance with their faith, yet so easy turn a blind eye on their constituents in need. I just illustrates that their faith has very little to do with it.

  2. Politics covers a multitude of sins? or ! As I read and understand the U.S. is the only "developed" country that does not provide health care for all its citizens. Yet, those opposing the PPACA are often the ones most interested in declaring that we are a Christian nation. Being Christian doesn't mean being either conservative or liberal--it simply means being Christ-like and Jesus surely seemed to have first concerns for the widow, orphan and poor. Their care provides a legitimate foundation for sharing a valid gospel it seems to me.

  3. I've refrained from replying to anti-Obamacare rhetoric that I've received via the Internet because I know entering into on-line arguments is seldom productive. But your message has inspired me to muse about some of the questions I wish I had the nerve to ask of others:

    1. Would Jesus be in favor to excluding children with pre-existing conditions from their parents' health insurance?
    2. Would Jesus be in favor of a system where some have health insurance and others don't?

    I could go on, but I'll stop there. If the true spirit of Christianity could somehow be discerned free from human interpretation, it would probably have some suggested improvements that could be made to the PPACA . So I'm not claiming Obamacare equals Godliness. But it's beyond me how Christians can be opposed to incremental steps toward reducing disparities in access to quality health care.

    1. Using your logic, would Jesus be against Abortion? Would Jesus be against those that will use this law to force His Church to pay for abortion and contraception? I think we know the answer to those questions.

    2. All the government is trying to do is to get employers to pay for full insurance coverage. No one is trying to force the Church to pay for abortion and contraception.

  4. Thinking Friend Vicki Price, a former colleague in Japan who has lived and taught for years now at a university in Texas, wrote (and I post this with her permission),

    "I could not agree with you more. It is sad to say that so many so-called Christians seem to be so uncharitable about helping those in need in this area. If their agenda is just opposition to Pres. Obama, they are not thinking about what is best for the country During this term that seems too often to be the case: both parties have voted against things just to show party loyalty, not to do what is right for all the people, many of whom put them in office to represent them. I wonder if parties have outlived their usefulness, and if elections should rest on stands on issues, not on party lines."

  5. My esteemed Thinking Friend in Kentucky wrote,

    "I'm with you, Leroy, enthusiastically so. On one point I think you might tweak your statement about Catholic opposition. Polls I have seen indicate that the majority of Roman Catholics support the Affordable Care Act and do not agree with the bishops in their opposition to the contraceptive requirement."

    1. Yes, the "rank and file" Catholics are much more supportive of the Affordable Care Act than Protestant Evangelicals and also much more supportive than the Catholic hierarchy. When I wrote about Catholic opposition, it was primarily the latter I had in mind.

  6. Thinking Friend Ernest Hollaway from Tennessee wrote (and I post with his permission):

    "Leroy, I agree with your analysis. I was somewhat surprised when several of the health care organizations that are headquartered here in Nashville put reports in our 'Tennessean' that said a multitude of our citizens, their companies, and the economy would benefit greatly from the approved plan!

    "Analysts for the companies evidently wrote these articles without having them cleared by their bosses! These organizations are generally strong Republican supporters (Former senator Frist, Hospital Corporation of America, and others). Of course other Republicans soon began singing the opposite song, with one of our congresswomen vowing to 'Kill Obamacare!'

    "I believe opposition to the plan is based on politics, not on a careful evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the plan itself."

  7. A married couple in California, who I am happy to have as Thinking Friends, wrote,

    "We are neither Democrat or Republican for precisely the reason you note in your message.

    "We too cannot understand how helping others could be a bad thing.

    "As believers, we are to encourage and support one another with love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)."

  8. Truett Baker, a Thinking Friend in Arizona, tried unsuccessfully to post the following comments here:

    "I am always suspect of anti-Obamacare rhetoric because of its politicization. The Republicans are going to find fault with anything the president does. That’s sad.

    "I am torn between caring for the needy and enlarging the role of government in our lives. If we ever needed to pray that our leaders would exercise impartial wisdom and compassion, it is now.

    "I understand that the cost of Medicare is going to be incrementally increased over the next few years. We are setting precedents for more government intrusion into our lives and that of other nations while the economy worsens. Where does the role government and federal spending end?"

  9. A local Thinking Friend wrote, in part:

    "I suspect that you are right about evangelicals--they opposed the bill because they are Republicans and not for religious reasons.

    "As to why people endorse particular issues in politics and religion, I highly recommend Jonathan Haidt's new book, 'The Righteous Mind' (2012). Haidt teaches moral psychology at the University of Virginia. He argues, persuasively in my account, that people adopt political and religious positions for reasons that are much deeper than cognitive reasons. He also argues that cognition works like a defense attorney or a press secretary as it develops intellectual reasons to defend positions we arrive at on sub-cognitive reasons and linked to six moral matrices.

    "Haidt is a Democrat and either an agnostic or an atheist.

    "Note: the subtitle of the book is 'Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.'"

  10. Here is a fairly lengthy "treatise" by Thinking Friend, and former student, Larry Riedinger:

    "This is not a full treatise about how Evangelicals have adopted their political-economic beliefs. It is rather a list of 'dots' that, when connected, begin to reveal some of the causes-effects of the process. In no particular order:

    "Two recollections from The 700 Club: When Pat Robertson was running for President, he asserted that the Constitution was 'intended for absolute rule by Christians.' Sometime later he, being questioned by an audience member about his motivation for ministry, responded - somewhat sheepishly - 'When it gets right down to it, my ultimate concern is the defense of capitalism.'

    "The Republican Student Group at Southwest Baptist University, during the '88-'89 academic year, approached new students asking their party affiliation. If 'Republican' was not the answer - the new student was informed that he/she was 'going to Hell.' (I was teaching sociology and several of the Democratic students came to me with the same story.)

    "In my Urban Sociology class, I found that many of the students were having trouble during discussions regarding 'economic justice.' I had them read Leviticus 25-26 and turn in a 1 page reaction paper. Most of the students were stunned - and chastened. A few were not impressed. The President of the Republican Student Group was outraged. He wrote back, in large print, 'ONLY COMMUNISTS BELIEVE THAT PART OF THE BIBLE!!!'

    [to be continued]

  11. [concluded from the previous comments]

    "In the early '70s Rush Limbaugh was a radio announcer in Kansas City (which one I don't recall) and lost his job for criticizing rich people for their uppity attitude. He then changed his tune - about which his father remarked 'I think Rush is finally getting what this country's all about!' - and started criticizing those with no P$W$R to counter attack.

    "The Gospel of Wealth has been growing in popularity for several decades.

    "The American" mythos of "rugged individualism" was very likely not invented by those who had to live out the literal meaning of those words. It does, however, fit well with Social Darwinism, as a 'justification' for greed among those with great wealth - and especially among those with vast - inherited - wealth. The latter exhibit the greatest defensiveness, on the whole.

    "The big lie under that mythos - is simply that most who do very well do so with the help of many others.

    "Several years ago I heard an interview, on NPR, with a young man who had created a 'Christian web browser.' (It was in a broader discussion of Muslim states trying to keep their youth from being poisoned by Western Materialism via the Internet.) While I can easily understand legitimate concerns there is always the problem of P$W$R's paranoia wanting to keep 'unapproved/"dangerous"' sources of information away from those with little or no p$w$r.

    "I was also struck by one part of the "Christian web browser" that the creator was very proud of: If one entered 'democrat' you were connected with Marxist websites.

    "Lately I have noted in social media people parroting 'All socialist societies have collapsed!' This I'm sure is from well paid Neo-Conservative fluff merchants.

    There is a strong tradition in American culture that (rightly) stresses that an employee is morally bound to give his employer an honest days labor. However, those who most emphasize that are the employers - while they do not know, or set aside, the biblical counter-emphasis: The employer is held, by God, to an even higher moral standard - simply because he has the dominant power position. It seems that those who have the P$W$R to bless, or curse, the most are held to account for their use of the P$W$R.

    "There is a specific complaint about the Federal mandate in the current law. Well, in 1792 the Federal Government passed a law that required all able-bodied males to possess a rifle, with appropriate ammunition, and to demonstrate that to the local authorities. (That was, a
    apparently, so the 'well regulated [state] militias' - or the national government - would not have to supply the weapons with tax revenue.)

    Well, that's about it for the list I jotted down.

    Hope that helps!