Now We Have an Issue

I have been quite dismayed in recent months about the nature of the criticism coming from conservative Christians toward the cuurent president of the USA. Don’t misread that into a statement of all-out support for the policies and initiatives of the Obama administration. I do think, however, that most of the criticism is ill-informed and inconsistent, given the fact (documentable) that some of the policies now berated were exactly what was promoted by Republicans not so long ago–and hailed as great solutions by the very people now hurling invectives against the same policies when enacted or endorsed by Pres. Obama. Makes one wonder. I’m especially disappointed by the tone of the criticism, which in no discernible way reflects Jesus. If politics trumps our commitment to representing Christ well, we have a problem–and it isn’t a political one.

I also doubt that many of us (if anyone) understands enough about economics to definitvely state that our current crisis/recovery/malaise owes to the current administration or to the debt incurred by our military actions in the Middle East, actions begun (unfunded) by the Bush administration. How can we know this without studying economics thoroughly, especially when those who have done so cannot figure it out? Whether it was right to go there or not, there is a bill to be paid, as there is a bill to be paid for all of the entitlements we have created for ourselves. Yes, ourselves. It’s okay to question welfare, but not social security for example. I’m not an economist; but I know there’s a debt that won’t be paid without more money coming in and less money going out. So don’t soothe my ego with talk of tax cuts.

But that’s not my issue today. What does bother me is the administrations’s inclusion of birth control as a requirement in all health care plans for all employers, including the Roman Catholic Church. No exceptions. This is indeed an instance of serious, probably unconstitutional over-reaching by the federal government. It does, in my mind, comprise a law that prohibits the free exercise of religion. And it is being done knowingly. Well, sort of. I have little confidence that anyone in the administration has taken the time or trouble to actually engage the reasons behind the Catholic opposition to artificial birth control; it is, on the whole, a carefully articulated, well reasoned, and biblically consistent extension of the overall pro-life position. But it is overrun without consideration by the edict to implement the Health Care Reform Act. Why?

There are several factors here that could easily escape our notice. One might be the assumption that “religion” is interpreted as a set of practices, none of which are being threatened by the new rules. That is, since no rites or ceremonies are involved, there is no interference with “religion.” One the other hand, there is a pervading sense in our supposedly enlightened culture that religion is a private matter, according to which one forms one’s own definition of life and its meaning. In that case, it is entirely up to the individual to define what practices, actions, etc., are to be considered morally acceptable; it is not within the purview of any doctrine established by a church. Interestingly, that is very much the line used by the Supreme Court when it struck down major provisions of the Pennsylvania abortion law passed back in the early 1990s. The majority decision declared that it is a fundamental aspect of freedom to decide for oneself the meaning of life. Note that it did not say how one interprets the meaning of life, something that is certainly true; it is the right to determine the meaning itself, which can only mean that no one truly knows.

It can therefore be argued that whether one actually practices artificial birth control is purely a personal decision, and one may choose to follow Catholic doctrine on the matter. But the Church must put aside its reasoned position, built on the premise that God has told us the meaning of life. And what He has told us precludes the artifical birth control that it is told by the government to fund when someone else’s idea of life conflicts with that teaching. If this decree of Caesar does not violate the separation of Church and State so often appealed to, I don’t know what would.

Am I missing something? What are your thoughts?