Dr Michael Bird, an Australian theologian, recently updated and shared his post originally written a few years ago, “Evangelicals and Heath Care“. It is well worth a read.
He begins, “I have to confess to always being perplexed not only by American opposition to universal healthcare, but to opposition to universal healthcare by evangelicals on purportedly theological grounds.” The same is true for me and, I think, most other evangelicals outside of the USA.
In particular, I liked his challenge of Wayne Grudem’s approach, which he notes (and I agree), “looks in many places like Grudem has already made his mind up on politics and seeks to give his political perspectives biblical sanction”, and his warning of “The Cult of the Individual and the Idolatry of Greed”. Dr Bird writes:
Beware of The Cult of the Individual and the Idolatry of Greed. American and evangelical opposition to universal healthcare has nothing to do with the Bible or Theology, but is driven purely by a cultural and economic ideological bias; a bias (or at least a disposition) of which very few are even aware that they possess. The American emphasis on freedom, civil liberties, individualism, low taxes, laissez-faire economics, and small government has always predisposed them against too much government regulation and intervention in the life of the individual.So it goes: Why take my money and redistribute it to someone else who is too lazy to work? Tell’em to get a hair cut, a real job, and then get their own healthcare! I get the point, I enjoy freedom, I benefit from a free market, I don’t like taxes either, and I don’t want my country to turn into the next Eurozone catastrophe where there is low productivity and a culture of entitlement. But it seems to me that this emphasis on individual liberty is advocated at the expense of commitment to and compassion for our wider community. There is no mitigation of economic opportunity and no disparagement of individual responsibility to think of ourselves as socially responsible for each other, working in and for our wider society to achieve a collective good that we cannot otherwise achieve individually. What is more, the libertarian approach is really a form of social Darwinianism, namely, every man for himself and survival of the fittest. To an outsider looking in, the American mythology of freedom is the cult of the individual. The libertarian view of “leave me and my money alone” owes more to Darwin and Nietzsche than it does to Jesus or Moses. Our treasure is in heaven with our good deeds, not in the Bank of America. In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan did not baulk at the cost of paying for the healing for the wounded stranger, an action that is irreconciliable with certain tenets of conservative American economics. So I don’t mind paying taxes, especially if it means that no child will ever go without needed medical attention, and to prevent any person from having to choose between financial ruin and seeking medical attention. The challenge I have for my American friends is to see their history and culture as things not to be baptized with Christianity, but to be weighed and measured against the biblical worldview and its ethical corollaries. American is a truly great nation (they saved Australia’s butt in WWII!). You guys have the best and worst of everything: great prosperity and great inequality; Chik-Fil-A and White Castle; Billy Graham and Benny Hinn, Jim Hamilton and Denny Burk (or is it Denny Burk and Jim Hamilton – I forget which one is the bad guy!), but it is not perfect as ya’ll know, and among its imperfections I think are the cult of the individual, a near-worship of economic prosperity, and a cultural inclination on reneging on moral obligations to anyone other than ourselves. The opposition to universal healthcare can only be given religious currency by either repeating the words of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” or by quoting the apocryphal saying, “God helps those who help them themselves!” It has no traction in the Judeao-Christian ethic, nor in the teaching of Jesus, the instruction of Paul, and has no place in the testimony of the Christian tradition.