I’ve found myself disappointed by American Christians in the current health-care debate. As happens all too often, we seem to be thinking and arguing about this important issue more as Americans than as Christians. That is, I have seen very little Christian thought on this that does not fall fairly neatly into contemporary political categories of Left and Right. Christians on the Left – Jim Wallis and his crew come to mind – simply assume that in Obama ‘s (a secular savior if there ever was one) America, “We are the change we have been waiting for.” Major health care reform a-la-Europe is simply assumed, rather uncritically.
Christians on the Right, rather than resorting to theological arguments, join the Glenn Beck wagon and decry “big government intrusion” but with no more theological acumen or reflection than the Christian left.
Certainly the Bible envisions Israel, and later the Church, as a community in which all God’s children are nurtured and loved. But this does not necessarily translate into a nation-state (America) hastily approving health care we cannot afford simply because the other white people in the world think it is a good idea. Surely a more “Gospel” response would be for churches and parachurch organizations to offer clinics and free hospitals. This is more defensible in a Christian grammar than a government policy mandated from above. Christians ought to fight against the modernist tendency to push our morality onto our structures and off of our own shoulders.
I read an interview with Roger Scruton which I believe has a great quote that has some bearing on this debate, in which the Left is characteristically viewed as those who “care about people” while the Right is fully of “greedy white men” run by “the corporations.” He bursts this false dichotomy on the rock of his own wit.
Does the Left have a monopoly on all the good intentions? Scruton says, “So what?”:
The fact is if you really want to think in terms of good intentions, Lenin and Hitler and Mao had thousands of them. But of what relevance are intentions? Intentions imposed in this belligerent and self-righteous way on the rest of us are actually deeply offensive, I think. It’s true that liberals find liberals to be very nice and conservatives very nasty. But that’s part of the narrow-mindedness of liberals. Conservatives in my experience are much more able to find moral value in liberals than liberals are in conservatives, because liberals, while believing themselves to be the most open-minded of people, are unable to see conservatism, or any opposition, as anything more than a moral failing.
I use this because Christians, too, have fallen into this American dichotomy of nice vs. nasty in matters political. The truth is, Christians on either side of the present debate may have good or ill intentions and may or may not actually give a damn about people. We all need to remember what we worship a God who reminds us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.” This is an especially important reminder at a time when we are all too quick to confuse secular political policy with what Wallis and his cronies quite terribly call ‘God’s Politics’.