Last week, Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders engaged in a CNN debate about the Affordable Care Act, or, as it’s more commonly known, Obamacare. As usual, Sanders was a hot mess and Cruz made rhetorical mincemeat of the economically challenged Democrat from Vermont. During the debate, Sen. Sanders confronted Sen. Cruz with the question of whether or not Cruz believes that every American has a right to health care. Cruz responded, “What is a right is access to health care.” In other words, Americans have the right to be able to choose their own doctor and their own health care. However, Americans do not have a right to have others provide them health care. You can watch the exchange near the end of the video here:
I agree with Ted Cruz.
The thing is, my agreement with Senator Cruz on this issue doesn’t extend to agreement with many of Cruz’s supporters who also hold to the belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.
Agreeing with Ted Cruz’s statements in the CNN debate while holding to the belief that America is a Christian nation creates a contradiction. If American was a Christian nation, health care would be a right. Not just access to health care, but full and total health care. However, America is not a Christian nation and, hence, Ted Cruz’s claims about health care are correct.
In a nutshell, the United States of American was founded as a constitutional republic. Yes, many of this country’s ethics are rooted in Judeo-Christian ethics, but that’s not the same thing as being a Christian nation. The only Christian nation is the one which King Jesus rules over. When sworn into office, the president, members of Congress, judges, et al. swear to uphold the Constitution, not the commands of King Jesus.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights, and they were established to protect the citizens of this country from their government. The Bill of Rights codifies the fences that the Founding Fathers believed should cage in the government. One of the reasons for the fencing was to protect certain rights of the citizens: the right to peaceably assemble, the right to keep and bear arms, the right for homeowners to not have their house procured by the government for the government, to list three.
However, during the twentieth century, the concept of rights began to extend to resources—a concept foreign to the Bill of Rights. Liberals began to claim that citizens have a right to resources that have to be generated through the labors of others. For example, the people’s right to the fruit of their labors takes a back seat (if it’s even allowed in the car) to the claims of liberals that everyone has the right to a house. Reflecting mainstream leftist thought, this is what Senator Bernie Sanders believes. Reflecting mainstream conservative thought, this is what Senator Ted Cruz rejects.
Flipping Western rights theories on their self-centered heads, though, the Bible places an emphasis on our duties before God and man, and even commands Christians to surrender their rights for the sake of the gospel. In relation to health care, one such duty owed God is the duty to preserve life.
To help clarify, here’s a thought experiment: While dining in a restaurant, I notice that a gentleman at a table near me is choking. His dinner partner frantically asks if anyone knows the Heimlich maneuver. I raise my hand and loudly call out that I do, but I take note that I am the only one in the restaurant who knows the life-saving maneuver. The choking man’s dinner partner looks somewhat relieved and asks me to assist. Surveying the situation, I realize that my skill has exponentially increased in value. “Hold up,” I say. “The law of supply and demand dictates that my service is very valuable. Therefore, my life-saving services will cost you five thousand dollars.”
I’m willing to bet the five thousand dollars I would’ve earned from my imaginary scenario that the vast majority of my fellow diners would have been mortified by my capitalism. In fact, I’m willing to bet that political affiliation wouldn’t play a role in which diners would be mortified and which wouldn’t. And that’s not because they would have surrendered their specific theory of rights or political/economic theories. It’s because being made in the Image of God means that humans have an innate sense that life is valuable and should be preserved. In certain situations, most of us discard our political theories in favor of seeking to do justice and provide aid to the weak, helpless, or oppressed. In my thought experiment, I placed my right to do with my skills/resources how I saw fit above my duty before God to preserve life. Doing so would be obviously wrong.
If the United States were a Christian nation, we wouldn’t be governed by a Constitution that was based on manmade concepts like the social contract theory. Instead, we would be ruled by a King whose kingdom ethics include things like, “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (Matthew 5:40). In a nation ruled by King Jesus, our duty to preserve life would trump any supposed rights we have to our resources.
But the United States of America isn’t, nor was it ever, a Christian nation. It is a nation, however, that has been blessed by God with an abundance of sojourners who are citizens of King Jesus’ kingdom. If those of us who serve King Jesus would be committed to willfully sharing our resources with the less fortunate—if Christians would seek to obey God by preserving life through the sacrificial and willful surrender of our rights in order to help our neighbors who need medical care—Sen. Bernie Sanders and his comrades would have a harder time making an argument that the U.S. Constitution should be ignored and people’s property should be pilfered by the government.