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I can’t believe how many Protestants have suddenly become Roman Catholic in their anti-Obamacare arguments.
Please listen carefully, all you who oppose the Affordable Care Act. I’m not weighing in on whether overall Obamacare is a good thing or not, whether or not it will work in the long run. Rather, I’m dismayed by how religious arguments are now being used by many evangelical opponents of Obamacare. People and institutions, many of whom I respect, and all of whom share a common Lord with me, tell me that their obstinacy toward Obamacare is really about issues like “religious freedom” and “protecting life”—hardly trifling topics. Frankly, I think it is more about stoking the fires of fear that keep the dollars flowing in.
Discussions about the beginning of life and religious freedom are too poignant, too complicated, and too important to be trundled out for blunt-force efforts to stymie Obamacare. Bringing almost-sacred topics into what is really just a corrosively partisan fray feels analogous to taking the Lord’s name in vain.
For Protestants to assail all forms of birth control is a bizarre notion. It demonstrates the folly and danger of taking things to their “logical” extreme. To be anti-abortion doesn’t mean that “every sperm is sacred,” as Monty Python once spoofed. If some Protestants want to mimic Roman Catholics (or more accurately, the Roman Catholic hierarchy), then they need to import or adopt a whole different system of moral reasoning.
Opposition to the “morning-after pill” usually signals more about distrust of women than protection of life. It is not an abortifacient. When I hear people speak against it, it isn’t long before attitudes surface of “enforcing consequences,” “instilling responsibility” and “they had their fun, now they must pay.” Too often anti-abortion Christians take the low road of shaming women, rather than the high road of caring for the vulnerable. (I understand that RU-486, which is an abortifacient, is morally problematic.)
Christians, especially Reformed Christians, have always recognized moral ambiguity. It is what Jason Lief recently called, “The In-Between Spaces” Can we charge usury? Well, that’s complicated… Divorce? Not ideal, but in the grace of God… War? Sinful, but sometimes tragically necessary… These have been Reformed responses.
In our polarized political world, morally ambiguous questions about the beginning of life must have absolute answers. A zone of enforced non-conversation. Issues, policies, and practices that are connected in only the most extremely tangential way, the Pluto of that solar system, are made to carry huge significance. This might suit perfectionists or pietists but doesn’t comport well with a Reformed way of thinking.
Just as I want to be a serious and thoughtful participant in conversations about the beginning of life, I also understand that “religious freedom” should always be a genuine concern. In any nation, under any regime, the state is prone to seep into the realm of the church. But when opponents of Obamacare play the religious freedom card, it is like using a bazooka when a sharp pencil with a good eraser is the more appropriate tool. And given the slurs and code-language many evangelicals have hurled at this president, when “religious freedom” is tossed into this discussion, it isn’t heard as something complicated, where fair-minded Christians can disagree. Instead, it comes across as a scare-tactic, ringing with those cataclysmic images from Christian pulp fiction, where brigades of secret, secular brownshirts are just waiting to seize our Bibles, and arrest those with fish stickers on our cars.
Straining at gnats—that’s what this Christian resistance to Obamacare is. I am left to conclude that the deeper issue is desperately wanting to deny this president his “signature accomplishment.” We all know that issues of life and religious freedom are complex. But this intransigence toward Obamacare is less about these complexities, and more about pungent antipathy for the person who occupies the White House.