Dr. Cole Bennett
I wish to respond to the claim that dutiful Christians should support the political left’s call to fund a national health care plan through government channels. The president himself articulated such an appeal to faith-based organizations in a conference call with religious leaders last month, where he argued “the wealthiest nation is failing to live up to the call” to “be our brother’s keeper.”
While I concede the president and I both want sick people to get well, I object vehemently to his conflation of my roles as a citizen of the state and a citizen of God’s kingdom. I can explain my objections on both philosophical and practical grounds.
I think if my neighbor is sick, I have the responsibility to love him – not because I am an American, but because I am a Christian. I should visit him, take him food and even help him pay for medical care. If larger numbers in my community, state or country need health care, I should mobilize my church and larger private philanthropic organizations to take care of them through larger-scale donations of money and resources – offered willingly by all donors involved.
What I should not do is enact legislation that binds non-religious citizens to religious behavior of the state.
In the first place, New Testament Scripture records directives for Christians to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit prisoners, orphans, and widows; nowhere does it tell us to create a system of government that takes money from people by force – even very rich people – and redistribute it according to such directives. Jesus pushes Christians toward individual and churchwide collective action for people in need. He does not tell us to wield the power of the state upon non-believers.
In the second place, Christians are called to be good stewards. A dollar given to Abilene’s Love and Care Ministries, for example, goes a lot further to help people than a dollar taken by the U.S. government, whose runaway spending cannot be monitored or controlled efficiently. Christians should be careful with their resources and object when our government levies taxes that inhibit their ability to give to charities.
My leftist Christian friends often say, “The government must interfere because people might not donate enough to charity.”
My response is simple: Citizens of the United States are not required to love the poor; citizens of the Kingdom are. The president’s attempt to combine these roles rhetorically is erroneous and unpersuasive.