Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Exceeding Your Reach

I'm don't often comment on politics. It's a danger zone for pastors. More importantly we Christians, regardless of political leanings, too often confuse liberal or conservative causes with what God is doing in the world.  We attach divine significance to elections or candidates when our best contribution would be a polite skepticism that reminds all parties that the Messiah is not running for office.

That said, the latest move by the Obama administration to require Catholic hospitals and other entities to provide health care coverage that violates church teaching has bothered me greatly. I don't share the Roman Catholic perspective on birth control.  But I do share the concern that when the government drives a wedge between what the church teaches and what it's ministries can be coerced to do, then government has greatly overreached.  Since when is government qualified to determine the difference between religious institutions  that must left free of interference and religious ministries that can be compelled by the secular state?  This isn't a Catholic only issue.  When religious freedom is limited by government only to what one can think, then the practice of all religious believers is put at risk.

As Michael Gerson has pointed out, the administration's decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. "Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-clericalism."

The social teaching of the Catholic church was in many ways a support for the Obama administration's attempt to broaden the availability of public health care.  This new rule will be experienced as a religious betrayal by those who supported these efforts, and in the end it is the public that will lose when Catholic health care institutions close their doors rather than violate their consciences.

No comments: