Paul Kengor: God Gets His Healthcare Bill

Note: The recent healthcare reform certainly is historic, in the sense that it most likely will be considered an important, perhaps defining, event in the Obama Presidency. Whatever eventually happens politically as a result, there are important elements of public discourse which marked the debate. One of those elements –religious rhetoric– is the subject of Dr. Kengor’s column.  

God Gets His Healthcare Bill

By Dr. Paul Kengor 

The most frustrating thing I’ve dealt with in professional life was eight years of outrageous, baseless charges against President George W. Bush on matters of faith. Even when Bush was simply asked about his faith, and responded with utterly benign statements, like saying he couldn’t imagine surviving the presidency “without faith in the Lord,” or noting he prayed before committing troops, echoing every president from Washington to Lincoln to Wilson to Carter to Clinton, he was viciously assaulted.

“We are dealing with a messianic militarist!” thundered Ralph Nader.

“He should not be praying,” intoned Lawrence O’Donnell to the MSNBC faithful.

Repeatedly, I was called to respond to this nonsense. My retort was agonizingly simple: I merely ran through example after example of American founders, presidents—Democrats and Republicans—saying either precisely what Bush said or something far more extreme, like Woodrow Wilson claiming God called upon him to found the League of Nations, or FDR mounting a battleship leading troops in a rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

What I said rarely mattered. Every Bush mention of God was a signal, somehow, that this Bible-quoting “simpleton” was trying to transform America into a “theocracy.”

Alas, there was another tactic I used: I quoted current Democrats on the campaign trail, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, invoking the Almighty. I knew that if these politicians reached the White House, they’d say the same as Bush, or much worse—with no backlash from the secular media. Quite the contrary, liberals would roll out the red carpet, enthusiastically welcoming faith into the public square.

All of that is prelude to my point here today:

The Religious Left, from “social justice” Catholic nuns and Protestant ministers to the Democratic Speaker of the House and president of the United States, have been incessantly claiming God’s advocacy of their healthcare reform. That’s no surprise, just as it’s no surprise that the press is not only not outraged but silently supportive. There’s nary a whimper, let alone howls, of “separation of church and state!”

Consider a few examples, most telling in light of passage of the healthcare bill:

Last August, President Obama addressed a virtual gathering of 140,000 Religious Left individuals. He told them he was “going to need your help” in passing healthcare. Obama penitently invoked a period of “40 Days,” a trial of deliverance from conservative tormentors, from temptation by evildoers. He lifted up the brethren, assuring them, “We are God’s partner in matters of life and death.”

Like a great commissioning, in the 40 Days that followed the Religious Left was filled with the spirit, confidently spreading the word, pushing for—among other things—abortion funding as part of an eternally widening “social justice” agenda. The Religious Institute, which represents 4,800 clergy, urged Congress to include abortion funding in “healthcare” reform, adamantly rejecting amendments that prohibited funding. To not help poor women secure their reproductive rights was unjust, declared the progressive pastors. As the Rev. Debra Hafner, executive director of the Religious Institute, complained, federal policy already “unfairly prevents low-income women and federal employees from receiving subsidized” abortions.

Here we see the Religious Left’s continued perversion of “social justice.” Behold: social justice abortions.

Early last week, a group of 59 nuns sent Congress a letter urging passage of the healthcare bill. This came in direct defiance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which insisted the bill “must be opposed” because of its refusal to explicitly ban abortion funding. What the bishops said didn’t matter, one nun told Fox’s Neil Cavuto—supporting the bill is what “Jesus would do.”

The liberal media cheered on the nuns, gleefully exaggerating the sisters’ influence. In a breathtaking display, the Los Angeles Times beamed, “Nuns’ support for health-care bill shows [Catholic] Church split.” Quoting the nuns, the Times reported that the letter represented not more than 50 nuns but over 50,000. (I’m not kidding, click here.) Like Jesus with the loaves, the militantly secular/liberal Times had displayed miraculous powers of multiplication.

Finally, last Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, invoked the Solemnity of the Feast of St. Joseph on behalf of the healthcare bill. She urged American Catholics to “pray to St. Joseph”—earthly guardian of the unborn son of God. Such overtures are hardly new for Pelosi, who routinely exhorts Democratic disciples to vote the liberal/progressive agenda as an “act of worship.”

All of that is prelude, of course, to what happened the evening of March 21, 2010, A.D., with a rare vote not merely on a Sunday—God’s day—but the final Sunday in Lent, the week before Palm Sunday that initiates the Lord’s Passion. To President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and the Religious Left faithful, Jesus, presumably, has gotten his healthcare package.

Amid that process, secular liberals got religion, as their political soul-mates spearheaded this “change” in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s a quite radical departure from eight years of scourging George W. Bush every time he confessed he prayed. At long last, there is room for Jesus in the inn, so long as the Savior “supports” a certain agenda. Who says conversions don’t happen?

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include “God and George W. Bush,” “God and Ronald Reagan,” and“God and Hillary Clinton.” The topic of this op-ed will be discussed at length by several speakers at our coming April 15-16 conference on “The Progressives.” Click here for more information.

11 thoughts on “Paul Kengor: God Gets His Healthcare Bill”

  1. How eqality and justiced are handed out depends a lot on personal beliefs. This was a very philosophically charged issue.

  2. Public practice of religious beliefs by a conservative is viewed as corrupting.

    Often because they attempt to force their particular religious beliefs on others through legislation David – and often, it seems, because they care more about their beliefs than about equality and justice.

  3. Kurtis –

    I did not dislike Bush, for the record – In many ways I thought he was a good man, but there is evidence that he misled the American people – why did Bush and Cheney say things that even the bad intelligence of the day did not support? I agree he may not have done it for religious reasons, but I don’t believe that his reasons were selfless either, or that he was doing it for some grand democratic agenda. Why he did it you and I will probably never know, so its probably pointless to speculate –

    However, – this article which seems to whine about the treatment some religious conservatives get when they tolerate or foster so much fear-mongering! The anti-gay marriage ads, and the anti-muslim sentiments so prevalent in this country for awhile sure were not coming from the left. These folks may have been screaming because they are passionate about these things but that doesn’t mean the speech isn’t filled with intolerance or prejudice or bigotry.

  4. Well observed, Paul. Thanks for your contributions.

    Concern about the separation of church and state, is mainly verbalized by the left.

    From the right, involvement of church and state often involves moral demands on the individual

    From the left, involvement of church and state often involves moral and financial demands placed on the individual.

    Public practice of religious beliefs by a conservative is viewed as corrupting.

    Public practice of religious beliefs by a liberal is viewed as inspiring.

  5. I meant to say “don’t be a Kengor”. My point being you, Jayhuck, shouldn’t accuse the “right” of having a double standard when it’s two different people/organizations in question.

  6. I will tell you Jayhuck: the term Messianic Militarist implies that he went to war for religious reasons. He did not. Some may have supported him for those reason, but “don’t be a Nader”: the whole right doesn’t have the same standard. That’s why it’s an inappropriate label.

  7. The problem, Jayhuck, is that you only use extreme rhetoric if you feel extremely passionate about something. Very few people “scream” from the middle-of-the-road.

    Ultimately, while I am annoyed by the amount of money (and thus political traction) that both sides of the aisle generate with this stuff, I find being amused by it more satisfying that worrying about it. Thankfully it seems to (mostly) balance itself out.

    The volume and creatively of logic my four year old can reach when he wants a cookie and doesn’t get it is impressive, but it doesn’t make his argument any more valid. 🙂

  8. And please tell me how Messianic Militarist is an incorrect label? OK, maybe its a little over the top but I don’t remember Obama starting an unnecessary war? Nope – but he sure has to clean one up , doesn’t he – falling on his sword in the process

  9. What this guy wrote is the kind of polarizing, rhetoric this country does not need any more of. The difference between conservative Christians and some who are more moderate or perhaps “left of center”, is that the latter tend less, in my experience, to try and force their particular religious views on others through legislation. They seem to care more about equality and social justice than the former. I mean, where have all the anti-gay ads and some of the anti-muslim rhetoric come from? – not usually from the moderate or left of center. If conservative religious folk want people not to jump on them and call them theocrats, then maybe they need to reign some of their hate-mongering folk in just a little

  10. Rule of thumb: *never* be surprised when people evoke God in the public sphere in support of their opinions, and never be surprised when another group of people label them crazy theocrats. I’m not saying there aren’t people of real faith in politics (I’m sure there are) but the existence of the misrepresentations made by both sides of the aisle is easily demonstrated.

    Pulling an example from “The Religious Institute” (which a quick visit to their website shows has a statement only 3,300 religious leaders has signed) which claims a multifaith basis and a clear left-of-center bias as his example of misuse of faith is fine. To extrapolate from it that it represents the same views as Ralph Nader and Lawrence O’Donnell to show a double standard is incorrect: I suspect many members of The Religious Institute, while they might not agree with Bush’s decision, would’ve felt “seeking guidance” entirely appropriate. For a double standard to exist, it has to be the *same* standard (by the same person or well-defined group – and “the left” is not a well defined group) applied inequitably.

    I doubt Dr. Kengor likes being compared to Nader, but his rhetoric here is similar: as long as Jesus supports my ideology (i.e. told me it’s okay to go to war) then referencing Him is allowed in the public sphere. If He doesn’t (i.e. supports a pro-choice agenda) then it deserves to be labelled inappropriate.

    Keep in mind I’m not saying I disagree with Kengor’s views on abortion, merely that he’s engaging in the very double standard he says annoyed him under Bush.

  11. It’s time to stop the rhetoric and realize that we all have a faith (may be not the same), that no president is a god, and that people are scared.

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