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Obamacare and the Christian Divide

Some people love it. Others hate it. Some say it’s about time. Others say it’s a sign of the end times. Christians are divided on Obamacare for various reasons. Interestingly, both pro and con defenders can and often do ground their conclusions in different biblical principles that stand in tension with one another. Unfortunately, rather than embrace and learn from this tension, both sides tend to minimize the “opposing” biblical principle, in favor of their respective, biblically neutral, political ideology – conflating a morally neutral persuasion with eternal, unmovable truth. When this happens, an intractable debate ensues, as one or both sides sets up a false dichotomy which always leads to misunderstanding, arrogance, and worst of all, the idolatry of assigning human bias to God.

My aim in the post is not argue for or against Obamacare – but to challenge the way many Christians approach the issue. To follow Jesus faithfully and find our hope squarely in Him, we must work to understand the biblical principles at stake in this or any issue. In addition, we must learn to embrace whatever tension exists between these principles, which, like the colors of the rainbow, point back to the prism that is the Gospel. I contend only this approach will allow us to pursue full-bodied, Gospel-driven solutions to this issue and others we face in culture. Let me explain.

Left-leaning Christians who affirm Obamacare often argue that advancing justice and mercy in society points to the perfect justice and mercy Jesus came to bring and will one day fill the earth when He returns (; ; ). Thus, they argue, obeying Jesus’ command to be salt and light in the world includes supporting political efforts that advance this end. After all, they insist, God establishes governments for this purpose ().

Right-leaning Christians tend to prioritize personal responsibility () over government responsibility, while emphasizing that the Church and her Gospel, not human institutions advance God’s Kingdom (; ). Additionally, and directly related to this issue, left-leaners tend to see market-driven capitalism as morally inferior to the kind of collectivism (soft socialism?) that undergirds Obamacare, because, they assert, collectivist/socialistic structures are kinder to the poor. Right-leaners, on the other had, argue the exact opposite and, therefore, reject the underlying ideology of Obamacare. Both sides claiming the moral (Gospel?) high ground provides the friction for the debate. But is there really a high ground here? Aren’t both sides affirming Gospel principles that must be equally considered and applied in this and all contexts as much as possible? Could it be that, just as both sides are wrong to assign a moral value to morally neutral political ideologies, each errs in devaluing the Gospel principle the other amplifies because each over-values their respective political ideology? Again, let me explain.

It seems to me that capitalism and socialism both fail, not in principle, but in the hearts of fallen man. Understanding there are various gradations between these ideologies, and at the risk of oversimplifying, it seems to me that capitalistic systems will always tend toward greed and income disparity, at least in part, because we don’t like to share. Socialist-leaning systems, on the other hand, will fair no better, because people tend not to work (as hard) when they know they will have to share the fruit of their labor, which means there will be less for everyone. If human hearts were not fallen, either system would succeed because we would actually love one another as we love ourselves. But, contrary to what many contend, neither system, in itself, is morally pure or closer to the Gospel. Instead, both reveal our need for Jesus to transform us into lovers!

But if this is true, how can it be God-honoring to undervalue the biblical principle held by another in order to uphold our political ideology? After all, each of the “competing” biblical principles in the Obamacare debate, by God’s design, must play an equal role in transforming us who are His and our relationship with culture. But this means pursuing parity with all biblical principles must take precedence over advancing our biblically neutral political ideologies. This, it seems to me, is our best hope, since only this will drive us back to the Gospel – which cannot be fully expressed or contained within a single political   ideology. And, practically speaking, if we have the courage to enter it, the beautiful tension between these principles will slay our idolatrous love affair with political ideology, compel us to lay aside our biblically neutral preferences, and provide the groundwork for robust, biblically faithful solutions (ideologies?) that will help us accomplish what both sides desire: for Jesus to be glorified as we love others as He has loved us.

And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (ESV)

27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (ESV)

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (ESV)

13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (ESV)

10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (ESV)

19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (ESV)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV)

2 Comments

  1. Good points, all. At the risk of being accused of missing your excellent central point, I would submit that despite the many Biblical arguments presented by the left and the right, one point that is missed in most all such discussions is that of our call to good stewardship.

    Government, whether led by the left or right, has invariably proven itself to be the very worst of stewards in the redistribution of taxpayer wealth, taking an unconsionably high percentage of the gross income for its own operating costs (including the myriads of otherwise needless bureaucrats employed to distribute the funds) and wasting another unfathomable portion on unqualified recipients. Compare the government’s efficiency rating (gross receipts vs. the net amount actually received by the needy after expenses) to that of any other non-profit and it becomes abundantly clear that any social need – medical, welfare, fire protection, water distribution, you name it – is more efficiently provided for by non-government organizations.

    In a fallen world, stewardship is invariably better performed by those who have a stake in the outcome and have no need to repay voters or seek reelection. In a redeemed world, we will see a dramatic decrease in man’s government and a dramtic increase in God’s government. In my experience, progress on either front is beneficial to everyone at every level, moving us toward peace through better care for one another and a better standard of living across the income spectrum.

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