Or, whom would Jesus coerce? That’s the question that comes to mind when I read the Center for American Progress’ latest attempt to argue that, if Jesus were a member of Congress, He would vote for President Obama’s individual mandate.
I was raised Catholic, and I don’t remember Jesus teaching that we should put people in jail for not buying health insurance. As I recall, He let the priest and the Levite go their merry ways.
OK, technically all the CAP report claims is that the Obama plan is consistent with Catholic social teaching.
The authors invoke all the right Catholic doctrines: “human dignity, solidarity, special status of the poor … concern for the common good … stewardship.” Except they omit the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity, which teaches that problems should be addressed at the most local level possible.
They left out what Pope John Paul II wrote about the welfare state in a 1991 encyclical:
By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.
They sidestep the small matter of whether the legislation would actually force taxpayers to finance abortions, which Catholic doctrine teaches is the taking of innocent human life.
They note that “the Catholic Health Association is the largest provider of nongovernmental health care in the United States,” and the CHA has essentially endorsed the Obama plan. They do not mention the material fact that the CHA therefore depends on the government for much of its revenue, and is susceptible to retribution if it doesn’t play ball.
But I keep coming back to the absurdity of suggesting that using government coercion to achieve social change is the Christian thing to do. The authors do not channel Christ so much as Richard III:
And thus I clothe my naked villany
With old odd ends stolen forth of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.
Or to put it differently, they cast their lots with Caesar, not Christ.