Here’s a pop quiz. Who said this in the last week: “It’s not about contraception. It’s about economic liberty; it’s about freedom of speech; it’s about freedom of religion. It’s about government control of your lives and it’s got to stop.”
It sounds like someone taking a principled stand against government dictating to people, doesn’t it? It sounds as though it could have come from a libertarian, even. But it didn’t. Those words were said by GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum in response to the Obama administration’s mandate that every employer (including churches) pay for contraception. Does this mean he’s changed his mind about everything?
The people who are talking big about individual liberty when it comes to not paying for contraception forget all about those fine words when it comes to other things. Santorum was a big supporter of the Patriot Act and thinks that government intrusion into our lives is just fine in other areas. He’s a typical social conservative who wants to impose his views on everyone, but when it comes to government doing something he doesn’t like, he piously intones the rhetoric of freedom. Why?
I heard a Catholic bishop being interviewed on Fox News last week, but I didn’t catch his name. The bishop blasted the Obama administration’s mandate that every employer — including church agencies — provide insurance coverage for contraception. He said this was a violation of their religious freedom, yet he made sure to point out that the Catholic church was completely in favor of forcing everyone to buy health insurance. They just didn’t want to be forced to be the coverage they don’t want.
In other words, the Catholic church believes that other people should be forced to buy what they don’t want. There’s apparently no violation of freedom in that. But the church shouldn’t be forced to buy what it doesn’t want to buy. That’s a violation of liberty. In other words, the Catholic church position is just as hypocritical as that of Santorum.
I’m in complete agreement with Santorum and the various churches who are opposing the Obama administration about this policy, but I’d like to know why it’s taken them this long to speak up for freedom. Why have they suddenly discovered that it’s a violation of conscience to be forced to pay for something when it happens to hit upon one of their hot-button issues?
I’m happy that leaders in other church groups are speaking out about the insurance issue. As I reported last week, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s agency dealing with government affairs said that Southern Baptist agencies will not comply with the law. He said that Christians are going to go to jail rather than obey. I learned Tuesday that the president of the conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod released a statement expressing sharp concern about the administration’s position and saying that it’s unacceptable.
I’m happy that these churches and others are noticing the conflict between obeying government and having the liberty to pursue their religious beliefs, but I’d like to know why they only discover this when it comes to abortion. Why aren’t they offended by their members’ money being taken without consent and used to kill people around the world? Why aren’t they offended by a criminal justice system that makes a mockery of its use of the word “justice”? Why aren’t they as concerned about freedom of conscience to raise and educate children as we see fit, instead of being forced to pay for government-run systems that don’t work well and that brainwash kids into being loyal servants of the coercive state?
I’m opposed to abortion and don’t want a nickel of my money being used for it, but tax money has been used for years to fund abortions. If we’re willing to risk going to jail over a mandate to buy health insurance that covers Plan B and other forms of contraception, why aren’t we willing to risk going to jail over withholding tax money that’s being used to kill people already — both born and unborn?
I don’t want to see churches involved in electoral politics, because I don’t want to encourage anyone to do that. I also obviously don’t favor any kind of theocracy or having churches dictate public policy to everyone. But I think there’s a strong case to be made that the church leaders who are making noises right now about contraception and abortion need to find the backbone to teach their members about the morality of civil disobedience when it comes to allowing our money to be used for destructive ends, both at home and around the world.
The Catholic church is at least the nominal home of about 68.5 million Americans. The Southern Baptist Convention is the country’s largest Protestant denomination, with about 16.2 million members, mostly concentrated in the conservative South. If just those two bodies could discover the courage to be consistent about the morality of the right of individual conscience, how much difference could it make? How much difference could it make if other church bodies discovered the same thing?
Most libertarians and anarchists aren’t Christians and they’re pretty disdainful of Christians, historically. But the American church is the greatest “mission field” for libertarians and anarchists today. While the Gospels don’t prescribe any particular form of government, they’re most consistent with a view that says people shouldn’t be forced to “be good.” (It takes a shallow interpretation of the story of Jesus talking about “rendering unto Caesar” to say that Jesus wanted us to set up coercive governments.)
Sadly, the Catholic church is hypocritical about private conscience and individual rights. The bishops like people being forced to do what they agree with, but they virulently oppose them being forced to do what they don’t agree with. If they could work out the internal contradictions of their position, maybe they could make a difference.
Even church groups which don’t officially endorse coercive government policies need to realize the contradiction of their becoming active about this issue, but remaining silent about the theft and killing that are done every day while they remain silent. I hope they can find the consistency and the courage to deal with the issues honestly and teach their members that it’s a good thing to disobey government when government violates conscience. It’s time for them to teach their members that the statist roads they’re traveling aren’t reflections of what Jesus taught, so it’s time to turn around.
It’s interesting that those who favor abortion and every type of contraception have hung their hat on the word “choice” for all these years. When these groups have talked about the legality of abortion, they have assured us that all they want is for women to have the choice to be able to choose abortions or contraception of any kind. Now that these same people support forcing everyone to pay for these services — whether they want them or not — it’s clear that their position is a lie. They don’t want choice. They want government policy to reflect their own views.
And that’s the problem on both sides. The churches talk about freedom when it comes to the insurance issue. The pro-abortion forces talk about freedom when it comes to women being able to choose abortions. Both sides are hypocritical in some ways. If abortion is going to be legal, every individual should have the right — at the very least — to choose for himself whether to participate in this system of destroying unborn children.
It’s time for American churches to look seriously at their ethics and understand that their silence on the horrors being perpetrated by the U.S. government is tacit approval. Jesus was never shy about condemning evil, even when evil was popular and powerful. We shouldn’t be shy about emulating Him.