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GBCS Takes Liberal Hardline Barton Gingerich August 10, 2011
To no one’s surprise, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church strongly supports preserving fast growing federal entitlements from spending limits, despite the federal debt crisis. GBCS released a statement touting a very liberal agenda on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church.
Working with church and non-Christian groups, GBCS has joined both the Washington Interreligious Staff Community’s (WISC) political litanies and in U.S. Capitol publicity arrests. The statement, which summarizes the WISC manifesto, sheds light on the Religious Left’s defense of the federal Welfare State. The WISC document reported: “Medicaid is the only program that provides comprehensive health coverage to low-income women, men, and children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Medicaid’s reach into every aspect of health care at every stage of life is remarkable….” Politically speaking, Medicaid is currently the only option for low income Americans from the cradle to the grave. GBCS intoned: “All individuals deserve equal access to quality, affordable, inclusive and accountable health care.” It continued: “[t]he social safety net, including health care, must be maintained to reflect our shared commitment to protecting vulnerable populations.” Of course, if health care is an inalienable right, it must be provided and enforced by the sword of the government. GBCS also religiously asserted, “Concern for the most vulnerable is at the heart of our sacred texts and an affirmation of our common humanity.”
GBCS’s claim of medical care as a right of course mandates universal taxation to support government health care on ultimate threat of incarceration or death. Although sentimentally appealing, insisting on government health care as a right is troubling and is relatively new in history. Traditionally natural rights theorists have urged the chance to look after their own health via property or “the pursuit of happiness.” Funded by largely unknowing church members, GBCS does not typically think through its claims about “rights” and instead names every desirable goal of modern liberalism as a “right” while not so interested in other more traditional rights focused on freedom of speech, religion, property, and gun ownership (which of course GBCS ardently opposes).
The GBCS memo shows a narrow scope of imagination. It lauds Medicaid for its cradle-to-grave nature and as the only “live option” available to Americans in need. But it seems unaware of the tradition that the extended and multi-generational family used to care for each other over an entire lifetime. This dim, negligible view of the family is common to GBCS and the Religious Left, which de-emphasizes marriage, mothers and fathers, and traditional mores, in favor of a largely amoral and unaccountable centralized secular welfare state. This opinion made its way into the 2008 Book of Resolutions. The General Convention charged the GBCS “with primary responsibility for advocating health care for all in the United States Congress and for communicating this policy to United Methodists in the USA.” Such recent developments also found their way into the 2008 Book of Discipline’s Social Principles. The GBCS, entrusted with the domestic social witness for United Methodists everywhere, put its weight behind Obamacare to fulfill these requests. Many United Methodists are upset that a narrow state-funded approach is the contemporary policy for their denomination. The GBCS, however, embraces its role with gusto.
Mandated health care and health insurance presents several economic problems, not the least of which is setting a price ceiling for health care. Price ceilings cause shortages in medical personnel and services. The greater the government’s control over healthcare, typically the greater the lack of supply in staff, providers, insurance, facilities, etc. Under completely socialized medicine, even if everyone theoretically can afford care, many could not access it. Many doctors, hospitals, and other important providers are inevitably driven out of the market caused by the price controls of government regulation. The Keynesian school of economics holds that, with the right amount of brainpower and government finagling, prices can be engineered to avoid such problems. This view holds a disturbingly high regard for human ability to foretell the future. Such reliance in the theoretical and largely disproven is bad policy. Should GBCS defend a broken and doomed system in the name of United Methodism?
GBCS’s assertion that “concern for the most vulnerable is at the heart of our sacred texts” is sentimentally appealing. Of course defense and aid for the downtrodden is universally noble, and Christianity does demand it. But isn’t Christianity also something beyond this insistence on social amelioration? And is requiring Christians to uphold an entitlement policy that bankrupts a nation and creates scarcity not problematic? Traditional Methodists know the heart of the Bible is Christ, not humanitarianism. Many faiths and philosophies also affirm the Golden Rule, but none speak of a God Who loved sinners so much that He died for them. Unfortunately for the GBCS, Christ is a mission, not so much a Savior. That’s the government’s job.
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