I want to highlight two thoughtful and compassionate articles out today that present Christian conservative arguments for caring for the most vulnerable among us.
First, Leah Libresco Sargeant in The Dispatch argues that at the moment, while policies to aid vulnerable mothers and families exist, the application process is so cumbersome and difficult to navigate, that only 1 in 5 families with children in poverty receive the aid for which they qualify.
In the wake of the Dobbs ruling and subsequent state-level actions on abortion, this is the season for the pro-life movement to make big asks on behalf of vulnerable families. Leading politicians from both parties have endorsed expanded support for families and children, even if they haven’t agreed on which approach to take. But to have a real win for moms and babies, the pro-life movement needs to make sure that any program it backs will be designed to actually reach the families that need it most. After all, an aid program matters little without funding to support the last mile of work to deliver aid to the most vulnerable families.
Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Nancy Mace have introduced the “Standing with Moms Act” which simply proposes creating a national website where mothers can look up local and federal relief programs. That’s marginally useful, but the more common problem is that even when parents know about programs, the promises are only good on paper, not in reality.
Second, Matthew Loftus presents “The Conservative Christian Case for Single-Payer Healthcare” in a powerful essay in First Things.
Despite what some may believe, there is such a thing as a conservative Christian case for single-payer healthcare. By “conservative,” I mean someone who wishes to conserve the institutions, structures, and communities of human life, which have been given to us by God and maintained in our common traditions—in particular, families, religious communities, and local networks of care that provide for the most vulnerable among us. By “Christian,” I mean that the principles found in Scripture and church teaching guide how we reason about politics and common life together. Christian love is not directly imported into politics with chapter-and-verse correspondence, but it is made manifest in various ways through political judgments that prevent harm, reward good, and punish evil. As Oliver O’Donovan puts it in The Ways of Judgment: “Wrong, and nothing else, is the necessary condition, but also the sufficient condition, for governmental intervention.”
Christian conceptions of “holistic health”—the flourishing of our minds, bodies, and souls—can help us understand that communities, familial and religious, are critical to our health. But the healthcare system qua healthcare system that we wish to fund through the state is not meant to be holistic because it never can be. One need only look at those who receive the most intervention by the state to see how awful it is at providing holistic care. Every healthcare professional encounters people who are not only personally miserable but are also usually inflicting misery on others despite having state-provided housing, food, and healthcare. These people, many of them victims of significant trauma, are just as deserving of love and care as any hard-working pillar of the community or saintly grandmother. We should not, however, expect that simply meeting their material needs will suddenly change them for the better; rather, we should ensure that they are getting what the state ought to give them as citizens and children of God. We must then be working in and through all institutions of human care to help them live better lives.
A conservative “healthcare system” is one that protects life and prevents disability.
The Affordable Care Act, designed by compassionate liberals and based on the conservative RomneyCare model piloted in Massachusetts, met all the criteria for the “thoughtful Christian conservatives” highlighted above. So where were they in 2009-2014 when the Act was being implemented? They were cheering on lawsuits by groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor over minor contraception compromises, or the Catholic Bishops who pulled out all the stops to kill the Act over the same issues. They were high-fiving Marco Rubio for his budget maneuvers that gutted the risk protection provisions of the Act and put many health insurers out of business for having covered risky, formerly uninsurable people to begin with. They were lauding the states suing over the Medicaid mandate and demanding they be allowed to opt out. The result today is an uneven implementation of the ACA with the worst examples in states with the poorest and most vulnerable populations, all of whom are solid Red and presumably led by “thoughtful Christian conservatives.”
In 2011, I went to a fundraiser for an evangelical pastor, badly injured in an accident, whose health costs were picked up by the VA since he was a veteran and had been pushed into indigence by his medical costs. At the bake sale, which raised perhaps $5,000 in comparison with the $1.5-$2 million paid by the VA and the taxpayers, all I heard was complaining about the ACA, “socialized medicine”, and how unfair it was to expect the taxpayers to pay for general health care for low income recipients. The irony was rich and one needed a saw to cut it.
Thanks for posting this. Completely agree that thoughtful Christian conservatives need to address these issues. Current needs to feature them more than just our partisan divisions.
One question for you, Stephen, since you took time to write a poignant and powerful response. What do you think we should be doing?
Nadya Williams says
I appreciate both of these comments very much. I will note that the authors of the two pieces highlighted here are calling for action! As Leah Libresco Sargeant argues, in particular, policies mean nothing if benefits that technically exist are not accessible to those who need them and qualify for them. I think the example you noted, Stephen, highlights the breakdowns in the system, and also raises the moral problems that I personally find particularly troubling in this pricing of human life.