The case against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, is not nearly as fun as an Imperial Fizz, though it's definitely fizzy. All of the law's ingredients, the whiskey, rum, lemon juice and sweet, sweet sugar of insurance policy arcana--all except the sparkling water of a mandate--have already been mixed and are being shaken as we speak. They can’t be taken apart at this point without dumping the whole shebang down the drain, which is not to say that the Supreme Court won’t do exactly that. And the glacial pace of the Affordable Healthcare Act's implementation, like the slow-motion process of its enactment, gives opponents plenty of time to whip up a frenzy of anti-Imperialism, before this drink ever hits the coaster.
I, ______________, should not be forced to pay for health insurance.
Fill in the blank with “taxpayer,” “small business,” “Utah” or “Catholic bishop,” and you’ve got the argument against ObamaCare. All of its critics base their opposition on that word forced, raising issues of liberty. Certainly, the recent contraceptive flap was initially introduced—by Republicans, not the media—and framed as a question of religious liberty. But if we’ve discovered anything from that debate, it’s that liberty is not the only value Americans hold dear. Liberty’s not the only value enshrined in the Constitution, either. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the big three, and it wasn’t long before the national conversation morphed against Republicans’ will into one about a different set of values: whether women deserve to pursue the kind of happiness that comes from choosing when they have children, and to have the kind of life that comes from preventing pregnancy when it poses a health risk. Guess which two values trumped the third in a contest between the religious liberty of bishops (total of 195 in the U.S.) and the life and happiness of women (more than 150,000,000 in the U.S.)?
Not only are bishops a tiny group, they don’t use contraceptives and nothing in the health care law is making them do so. But when they act as employers, rather than as leaders of spiritual flocks, they have to follow the same rules as secular hospital or university administrators. As employers, they can’t dictate the health care decisions of their employees. They are not Imperial, though they do have nifty regalia.
Leaving the contraception coverage rule aside, I look at the broader debate over health insurance and find it odd that so much resistance to ObamaCare has come from the religious community, particularly fundamentalist Christians. Jesus had a lot to say about taking care of each other, from loving thy neighbor to all those blessings on the poor and vulnerable in the Beatitudes. He spent quite a bit of His time healing people and feeding them, and none of it lobbying. While He never ran for office, it’s easy to imagine Him favoring universal access to health care. On this specific topic, He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.”
Here’s what the emphasis in the New Testament is not on: taxes, small business, states’ rights or, frankly, political liberty. What little Jesus said about taxes, “render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s,” seems to argue in favor of paying them. He never mentioned small business, unless you count the enterprising moneychangers and dove-sellers in the temple, whom He whipped. Judging from that rare example of holy rage, His policy was not pro-business. The Chamber of Commerce would have despised Him. Jesus talked more about divorce than taxes. Where is the fundamentalist Christian groundswell to make divorce illegal? And how do the 1 in 3 divorced Evangelicals—Evangelicals defined as Christians who attend church weekly, take the Bible literally, and proselytize—reconcile their own failure to stay married with Jesus, their Lord and Savior?
But on caring for others, Jesus had a lot to say. He was inclusive, embracing tax payers, tax collectors, Samaritans, women, and other “others”—one might almost describe Him as a single payer plan. ObamaCare, emphasis on “care,” is inclusive, too. Embrace that moniker, Mr. President. It’s the Christian thing to do.