The Religious Right and Health Care Reform

One of the most puzzling things about the debate over health insurance reform has been the religious right’s strident opposition. If the movement’s leaders didn’t constantly remind you that they are pastors and people of faith, you’d never know it from their comments about health care.

Instead of honest proposals for how our society can make sure the sick and vulnerable get the care they need (didn’t Jesus talk about that?), we’ve heard religious-right leaders rail against taxes, a supposed “government takeover” of health care and fictional “death panels.”

Case in point: today’s e-mail from Rick Scarborough, who founded the Lufkin-based group Vision America to “inform and mobilize Pastors and their congregations to become salt and light, becoming pro-active in restoring Judeo-Christian values in America.”

Scarborough uses his e-mail today to criticize abortion opponents for backing a measure that bars health insurance plans that could be offered under the U.S. House’s recently passed reform bill from covering abortion.

“Even without the prohibition on abortion funding, the 2,000-page health ‘reform’ measure will necessitate rationing. If it’s passed, rationing will be inevitable.

The plan calls for insuring millions who (for whatever reason) are currently uninsured. Even with the enormous tax increases on individuals and businesses envisioned by the legislation, it’s impossible to raise enough revenue to pay the initial trillion-dollar price tag.

Whether it’s ‘death panels’ or penalizing physicians who provide care above a mandated level to Medicare recipients, Washington will find a way to ration medical care to the most vulnerable. Is the life of an unborn child more worthy of protection than handicapped children, terminal patients or the elderly ill?

With God’s help, Obama care can still be stopped.

The right-to-life movement needs to re-think its strategy. By continuing to push a ban on abortion funding — instead of working to defeat Obama-care with or without such a prohibition — it could end up losing by winning.

Let’s ignore for a moment all of the numerous distortions and lies in that e-mail. (“Death panels”? Rationing care for handicapped children, terminal patients and the elderly? Get thee to a confessional, Pastor Scarborough.)

What really stands out is the callous disregard — the complete absence of Christian compassion — for the millions of Americans who simply don’t have access to adequate health care because, through no fault of their own, they can’t get health insurance. We realize that there are many reasons people don’t have health insurance, some by choice, some not. We also realize that honest people can honestly (and honorably) disagree about how best to ensure that all Americans have access to the health care they need. To be clear: TFN has taken no official position for or against health insurance legislation under consideration in Congress right now. But surely we all should expect that those who claim to base their political agenda on their religious faith will at least acknowledge the tragedies that many families face when they have no health insurance. Shouldn’t we?

But what we get instead are screeds like Scarborough’s that dishonestly assign the worst motivations to those who are working for a real solution. He even promotes opposition to reform as a political strategy:

“(A) lot of vulnerable Democrats (and more are moving into that category every day) are looking over their shoulders. We need to encourage that apprehension.”

This illustrates a point TFN has made repeatedly: the religious right isn’t a religious movement. Far from it. The religious right is a political movement that often uses religion as a weapon to divide people and advance a political agenda. “With God’s help,” Scarborough writes, “Obama care can still be stopped.” But who will tell us which side God is on here?

8 thoughts on “The Religious Right and Health Care Reform

  1. A few points:

    1) Whose side is God on? It doesn’t matter one twit what Rick Scarborough says or does not say about it. God has addressed it clearly and unequivocally himself. He is on the side of the poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned, etc. Pull out your Bibles, go to Matthew 25:32, and start reading. From these verses, you will see something important. Jesus does not just tell people that he is on their side. He says that he identifies himself as being in oneness with them. They ARE him and He IS them. In addition to this, a simple word search of the Bible on words like “poor” and “sick” will show you that the Bible has not one or two—but quite literally hundreds of verses that state God’s care for these people. In the Book of Genesis, Cain cries out to God, “Am I my brothers keeper?” The whole rest of the Bible from that point to the Omega in the Book of Revelations answers this question. You bet your sweet butt you are.

    2) Jacques Ellul, the famous sociologist and Christian theologian at the University of Bordeaux in France, has made the observation (a quite true one) that the gospel of Jesus Christ is deeply and fundamentally repulsive to basic human nature—the animal part of us. If someone kills our child, we are enraged and crave revenge and retribution. The whole idea of forgiving this trespass of the perpetrator is repulsive to us. As I have told you many times, but will again lest ye forget, the Christian Neo-Fundamentalists have played fast and loose with the Bible to twist, contort, and mold it into a form that is palatable to them. For example, they need a God that will bless their greed, selfishness, and preoccupation with the material things of this world to the exclusion of the poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned, etc. Here is an example of this distorted theology.

    3) Christian Neo-Fundamentalists appear to believe that poor people exist only in Biblical times or overseas but not in the United States. The poor in the United States are viewed pejoratively as the “so-called poor.” Their position is that the United States is so boundlessly wealthy and so rich in opportunity (by God’s hand of course) that every person who wants to do so can be a modestly comfortable middle class citizen. Therefore, any citizen described as poor must be that way simply because they are lazy bums who do not want to work and want to attach themselves like leeches to people who have more resources than they do (like say a Christian Neo-Fundamentalist climbing the corporate ladder for Jesus). They will sometimes point out a poor person’s possession of a satellite TV dish as evidence that such people are not really poor or say that they are actually rich compared to most other poor people around the world. Having defined the poor as not really being poor, they will then trot out the famous New Testament verse that says, and I paraphrase, “…people who do not work should not eat.” It had been in the scriptures for 1900 years, but just like the word “paranoid” in the 1960s, the “yuppie” Christian Neo-Fundamentalists of the 1980s discovered it like a long lost child, and it became one of the primary excuses for not helping the poor. You know. The poor are not really poor. They are just lazy, and Jesus says that lazy people should not eat. Therefore, if we help them, we are aiding the lazy and violating scripture—so let’s take our money down to Banana Republic instead!!! Along about the same time, I have always suspected they first discovered Matthew 26:11 (a true God send for the chronically selfish), “…for ye have the poor always with you…” It is a very short step from there to saying something like this in one’s heart, “Jesus says we will always have poor people. No matter how much we give them, they will never stop being poor and will never go away. They are hopeless. So why even try—besides they have a sale on at Victoria’s Secret.”

    I suspect that the Jesus of Matthew 25:32 is not very amused, and the Christian Neo-Fundamentalists would do well to pause and take a good long look at how they have distorted their Biblical responsibility to the poor and sick in this country and have sacrificed them on the altars of American consumerism and right wing politics. About 15 years ago, in a book by Randall Balmer, a Christian by the name of Doug Frank (who understood this sort of theological folly) was quoted as saying that he looked forward to the day when American fundamentalists would recognize these sins, fall on their knees, and cry out in sack cloth and ashes, “Forgive us Lord for we are sorry bastards. Forgive us Lord for we are sorry bastards. Forgive us Lord for we are sorry bastards.” Amen.

  2. What I want to know is why the religious right doesn’t scream about the government take over of religion through the Office of Faith Based Initiatives? They have no problem taking government money for what exactly? 100 million for feeding the poor, even though we have record number of people on food stamps. Why is government giving religion 100 million dollars under the evil socialist Obama regime and religious institutions are taking it? Why the silence over this?

  3. There are no neo conservatives, nor evangelical, nor religious right wing. There are only Christians who are humbly decent to there felloe man and love each other as Jesus loved us. The others are hellbound heretics. Only problem is They are not going to hell fast enough.

  4. Yankee, thank you for your comment. I have been asking the same question about the faith-based initiative (which was begun by George W and continued under Obama). I think the answer to your question is because the Religious Right is benefitting off taxpayer dollars. Naturally, they want to continue taxpayer largesse so, of course, they aren’t going to scream. They aren’t even going to make a whimper. It’s only if somebody else might benefit from the government that causes them to scream, they being the selfish, dishonest bastards that they are.

  5. Note that the religious right got especially desperately motivated after the Sotomayor confirmation to the Supreme Court. The abortion issue is the major source of adrenalin in their all-fronts opposition to Pres. Obama. The tea-baggers etc are all powered by the evangelical zealots.
    Because the right is so hysterical in its opposition, Progressives have a great opportunity now to enlist common sense people over to their side.
    Progressives should be very focused in co-opting all of the legitimate conservative complaints and criticism for their own ends.
    Tackle the problem of unresponsive bureaucracies and incompetent bureaucrats.
    The best way to keep government small is by making it effective.
    Take on “too big to fail” and break them up.
    Grease the skids for the small businesses.
    That’s what the Obama Admin. is trying to do. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
    The Religious Right are really the most brainwashed of the zombie slaves of corporate welfare. With persistence and focus the spell will be broken.

  6. You are right David. The Democrats have fed them some of their own medicine by inserting that abortion “no-pay” provision into the house health care bill. It’s looking that way in the Senate too. In the mean time, the Religious Right discovered that the RNC health insurance policy in effect for its members had a “we will pay” provision for abortions—one that has most likely been used over the years, which means that the fruitcake RNC contributors were themselves funding abortions without even knowing it. The most humorous aspect, though, is that they are not grateful for the Democratic stance against paying for abortions in the health care bills. The RNC whine is going up from sea to shining sea:

    “That’s not fair!!!! You Democrat guys are taking away our big issue!!!!”

    This should be a big wake up call to the millions of conservative church members who sit in the pews on Sunday morning. These right wing Republican leaders and politicians don’t give one flip about abortion or the unborn. All they care about is having an “abortion issue” that they can use to weasel money and poltical support out of the common man and woman. Can there be any doubt? Can their be any doubt that the Republican Party has FOR YEARS NOW taken their votes without giving them anything truly meaningful on the abortion issue—and has probably been working in favor of abortion on the sneak and behind the scenes. I find it hard to believe that years could go by before anyone ever discovered that “we will pay for abortion” clause in the Republican insurance policy. The RNC leaders just knew that they held the policy and would never let anyone in a Southern Baptist pew ever see it. Someone let the cat out of the bag. Like Jesus said, the things done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops.

  7. It is not amazing that the Bible Believing Christians are mad. They are told that they must get health Insurance when groups like the Mennonites and Amish do not belive in Insurance. The Mennonites and the Amish have been allowed to opt out of Social Security for this reason.

    Also, bill states that Americans must buy Health Insurance whether they want to or not. If citizens are told they face fines or jail time for not buying insurance so that they can finance somebody else’s problems, we have established a police state where the purpose of insurance is just to redistrubute wealth.