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.