A Theological Interpretation Of Obamacare

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 1 month ago

We may observe that in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, for those searching for scholarly and learned legal analyses of the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”), the ruling by Judge Roger Vinson remains to this day the best there is.  A careful study of his opinion is all you need to know about the unconstitutional power grab by Congress we call Obamacare.  And practically speaking, the acceptance of the Congressional act and the associated SCOTUS ruling on the grounds that the American health care system is broken and in dire need of repair is ill informed.  The American health care system, while not perfect, is the greatest on the planet, which is why people come to America for health care from around the world.

Justice Roberts, who is now known to have changed his opinion during deliberations with his colleagues, was apparently concerned about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court if it struck down the act in part or in whole.  Professor Randy Barnett, who I respect a great deal, sees a silver lining in the cloud.  But the problem with all of this talk about recalibrating the Supreme Court of the future with a more federalist vision only goes so far as other (liberal) justices respect the doctrine of stare decisis.  With Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, this isn’t very far.  She sees reversal of D.C. versus Heller on the horizon with a “future, wiser court.”  So I see no silver lining in the cloud.  As one of my sons put it, Roberts was breaking a horse, and instead of bucking the horse out, he simply got off.  He gave up on his job.

Hopefully the monstrosity of Obamacare will be repealed in Congress, or at least, defunded by “future, wiser” Congressmen than the ones who voted in favor of it.  I suspect that the financial straits from which America suffers will make the decision for us all.  The entitlement system cannot long exist in its present state, and that which cannot continue, doesn’t.  But regardless of what the future holds for this monstrosity, it is important to understand more about it than the political machinations that brought it into being.

My own seminary professor, Dr. C. Gregg Singer, made the following observations on the social gospel (“A Theological Interpretation of American History,” pages 148 – 149):

The roots of the social gospel were theological in nature; it was essentially a new revolt against Calvinism and the evangelical position.  Its roots can ultimately be traced back to those developments which took place in European theology as a result of the rise of Hegelian Idealism, to the theologies of Ritschl and Schleiermacher in Germany which attempted to refashion Christian thought according to the prevailing philosophical currents and the attacks of German Higher Criticism on the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures.  The more immediate background for the new theology is to be found in Transcendentalism, the New England theology and writings of Nathaniel Taylor and Horace Bushnell, and the Oberlin theology popularized by Charles G. Finey …

These theologies not only seriously modified the doctrine of total depravity, but they presented a plan of redemption which was, in varying degrees, synergistic.  This synergism, giving to man some merit and some ability to accomplish his own eternal salvation, almost inevitably led to a view than man also has both the power and the mandate to make a heaven out of this earth and to transform it into a kind of Garden of Eden …

Regeneration was all too often regarded as little more than a willingness to join in a crusade for the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth … for the introduction of some kind of socialism into American society.

And this sort of thinking was prevalent among its adherents, especially Mr. Obama.  Do you doubt it?  Consider Mr. Obama’s own words in 2006 prior to his election.

Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting “preachy” may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.

Solving these problems will require changes in government policy …

Mr. Obama goes on to say that he believes in keeping guns out of inner cities (foretelling the Supreme Court dissent in Heller v. D.C. and McDonald v. Chicago, and the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court), and appears to blame the “gun manufacturers’ lobby” for the moral failings of inner city violence.  Thus does Mr. Obama’s policy decisions have a theological basis in the social gospel, but more specifically, liberation theology of the brand that was popularized in Central and South America in the mid-twentieth century.

On this view, religious commitment and the correction of the fallen state of mankind lies in the state and changes to laws regulations and policy.  Make sure to read again Obama’s view: the problems of poverty and lack of insurance are rooted in “individual callousness,” in the “imperfections of man,” and require “changes in government policy.”  Salvation and regeneration are corporate, or applicable to groups of people, not to be seen as a forensic phenomenon between God and individual men.

But health care should be seen as a commodity as much as, say, transportation, housing and food are commodities.  A person cannot survive (very well) without all of the above.  At one point in time these commodities were administered by Church deacons, with responsibility and accountability ensured so as not to encourage sloth and irresponsibility.  And giving was voluntary, not enforced by the power of a badge and gun.

But if health care is a commodity, then there is no prima facie reason to dissect it and severe it from the other commodities.  Any argument for forced provision of health care to other families by one with more means is disingenuous and hypocritical if it doesn’t include the same justification for the forced, shared provision of transportation, housing and food between families.  And such an argument should consider the history of socialism across the globe and the necessary questions it poses.  Does it share wealth or simply destroy it?  What role do families and the church play in such a schema if the state is responsible for cradle to grave security, and does this sort of thing usurp the authority of families and church?

In the end, regardless of the answers to the questions above, there is no question that there are theological underpinnings to Obamacare.  These underpinnings are to be found in liberation theology, the social gospel and ultimately in Hegelianism and Marxism.  The charge is reflexively leveled at conservatives and traditionalists that we mix church state.  But it’s just as easy to dismiss this charge on the grounds that one doesn’t have to be a member of any church to vote his or her conscience in the voting booth.  All laws are legislated morality.

But while this charge against conservatives is common, it isn’t nearly as common to admit or even see the religious foundations for progressivism.  It’s there nonetheless.  And as the savior said, and to the progressives I repeat, extract the log in your own eye before you go on any scavenger hunt for the spec in my eye.  Seriously study the religious foundations for your own views before we embark on a discussion of my own.  That includes Mr. Obama’s social gospel, Mill’s utilitarianism, or any other -ism or world view that presumes to inform me what I should be doing.



  • TS Alfabet

    Well stated, Herschel.

    It is indeed important that conservatives understand that Leftist thinking is very much a religion to which the Left adheres. It is the overriding belief that mankind can be redeemed and reformed in this life by State action, applying the right policies and principles and, if necessary, compelling behaviors for the greater good.

    This is the view that guided the French Revolution and has fueled every Statist social model since then, whether it be socialism, communism, fascism or any, other form of authoritarianism.

    The American Revolution was a polar opposite: the complete distrust of the State, born out of the well-known horrors of Europe with its religious wars and State persecutions. The American scheme emphasized the power and sanctity of the individual wherever possible and put in place the famous checks and balances to keep the Tyrant of centralized government in chains.

    Now we have a confirmed State Religion founded upon the principles Herschel has laid out in his post. The State Religion will seek to reform us all in the name of the greater good. So, everyone will get some form of healthcare, for example, no matter how poor it will be, at the expense of every productive member of society which will necessitate ever greater levels of confiscation by the State in order to keep even a pathetic level of care alive. The State will have to compel doctors to provide free or nearly free services as the pace of doctors leaving the profession accelerates. It will be permitted via a “tax,” of course. The State Religion will compel us to fund ever more generous benefits to the children of illegal aliens. And when the ever-shrinking private sector is bled dry, finally, the State will take over the failing industries and appropriate all the means of production unto itself. All in the name of the greater good. Heaven on earth.

  • http://Www.Skywatchmap.org Rich Buckley

    Very well put Herschel and T.S. I’m not certain where my thoughts fit in to the wisdom of both your comments.

    Socialists’ leaders appear drawn to liberation theology (LT) linked more by the deadly glamour of attraction-to-power and its central top-down state controlled consolidation, than to evidence of real distribution of wealth out comes. The inevitable path of LT seems always to lead to a disconnected form of government that does not liberate but simple ends up regulating. 

    Perhaps the largest problem facing all governments today relates more to our reckless financial reliance on our “privately owned” so-called Federal Reserve Bank, a theology of faith and blind-eye ignorance, of a pivately owned banking system driven by and owned by a few families whose historic livelihoods appear to be soon modified by a true liberation of openness and transparency. Just Google “White Hats Report #43″ for a brief glimpse of factual information on the scope of collective temerity our Christian moral upbringing enabled us to tolerate. 

    Not one of the empaneled Supreme Court Judges, coddled as they are through our structure of lifetime appointments, is the “seer” their collective wisdom was designed to empower. They are as blind to the magnitude of the costly global fraud the Federal Reserve is participating in, as 3rd World residents are to the projectable historic failure of the adoption of Liberation Theology as it always turns out. The shadow side of centralized power always seems to win in place of the individual. But perhaps that’s about to change.

    As you point out so well, Christ Consciousness, a manifestation of spiritual awakening, dealing with the log in my own eye to discover to my own surprise, I’m the one who put it there, … changes everything. The power to experience a sense of personal liberation, for me at least, only seems attainable through my own realization that life is eternal. Once that concept set in to my consciousness and awareness as reality, I began to see my actions in life differently, and I started looking at my fellow beings in a completely different light. Standing on principle took on new relevance. Putting your needs on par with my own becomes an act of love as opposed to a compromise. Recognizing your needs is not to project my own needs upon you, but to really try to walk in your shoes and feel what you feel and see what you see first, and always be prepared to walk away if what I find can not harmonize with my own sense of right and wrong.

    Liberation Theology lacks this operating insight and always ends up imposing itself.

  • Rev. Mike

    Herschel, what IS the Kingdom of God?

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    From a pre-mil, a-mil or post-mil perspective? Presuppositions and hemeneutics dictate the answer.

    Point is: there is no calculus in which a political administration can usher it in.

  • http://www.firstcontactproject.org/ Rich Buckley

    Rev. Mike,

    Nassim Haramein, seems to come as close to touching on the answer as anyone, if you like scientific explanations. Google some of his many YouTube videos.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Oh Patrick, you’re just confused. Augustine’s doctrines aren’t “mistaken,” the doctrine of total depravity is embedded within the WCF, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, the Philadelphia Confession, etc., etc., and the church certainly hasn’t rejected such doctrine. Only the followers of Pelagius have.

    And Dr. Singer wasn’t wrong. Patrick, try again some time, but do check your facts first and do your homework before posting comments. I don’t mind robust debate. I DO mind sloppiness and ignorance..

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  • Rev. Mike

    How about PRO-mil? :) So what IS the Christian role in the public square?

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Well, that’s not really germane to the post, but as you and I have discussed, the role of Christians in the public square should be multifaceted and robust. I could recommend Greg Bahnsen, “Theonomy in Christian Ethics,” and R. J. Rushdoony, “Institutes of Biblical Law” for starters.

    But the point of the post is still the following. In God’s economy there are three institutions: state, church and family. They are not supposed to be subservient to any other, and each has their own sphere of influence and authority. Submission of one insitution to another is to usurp God’s authority since this is the way He manages His creation.

    Whatever the role IS, here is what it IS NOT. (1) the denuding of the authority of the family and church in ministries of mercy, (2) the destruction of wealth (because wealth is from God – e.g., Job and Noah) via social engineering, (3) theft from the family, or (4) invitations to sloth and irresponsibility. Obamacare has the ignominy of being all of those things wrapped up in a single package.

    Or as I said in the post, a “monstrosity.”

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