Religion and Healthcare: Liberal Evangelicals Unite to Support Obama’s Reform against Conservative Evangelical Opposition

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting about healthcare at the Kroger Supermarket in Bristol, Virginia July 29, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES POLITICS HEALTH)

Recent headlines have been dominated by President Barack Obama’s plans for heal care reform. There is no shortage of debate over this issue. However, many may be surprised to find religious groups making faith-based claims in opposition to the reform efforts.

Is health care a concern that relates to faith? Some right-leaning religious groups think it is, and that Obama’s plans are in direct opposition to “God’s will.” The religious left has responded, and moderates may be left wondering what to make of all the fuss.

RedOrbit reports that “liberal evangelicals, including some Protestant and Catholic” are joining forces in support of Obama’s health care reform effort. On Monday August 10, “40 Days of Health Reform” was launched in order to counter the “unexpectedly fervent conservative” resistance resulting from Obama’s proposal. The liberal-evangelical group intends to create an internet call-in program featuring streaming video of Obama and religious leaders, as well as prayer meetings and nationwide television ads. The call-in website will be up and running on August 19.

News source Reuters notes issues related to the religious right’s opposition. Protesters have flocked to town hall meetings to get the attention of Congress. “Anger,” said to be fueled by conservative Christian radio and other such media, has convinced many that Obama’s reform will “lead to taxpayer funded abortion and even euthanasia for the old.”

Conservative Catholics who oppose abortion rights are siding with “Republican-leaning evangelicals.” But the “biblical call to help the sick and the poor” presents a point of tension for those who believe the reform would aid the “roughly 46 million uninsured Americans.”

Leaders of the religious right – or the conservative Christian movement that remains a key base for the opposition Republican Party – are speaking up. Many of them feel they are fighting a holy war against the evil forces of liberal socialism.

According to Digital Journal, “God and politics are the hot combination in the health care debate.” Conservatives are being asked to attend town hall meetings and “read the riot act to supporters of health care reform.” They claim that Obama’s agenda is “against God’s plan for health reform” and some of them consider Obama the “anti-Christ” whose latest agenda for health care is “against the law of God.”

Religious right organizations are piping up. Olive Tree Ministries broadcast host Jean Markell is encouraging her audience to attend congressional town hall meetings in order to oppose Obama’s reform – in the name of Christianity. Similarly The Minnesota Family Council views Obama’s reform plans as a rejection of God, arguing that “Obama expects people to trust government, not God.” They think he pushes “socialist models,” which they say are “against the laws of God.”

The Christian Coalition of America: “Defending America’s Godly Heritage!” offers an online petition cloaked in an urgent message (see image at left). It reads “Stop the Takeover!” and warns against “Barack Obama and the liberals in congress.” This reform, they claim, is “alien to God and Christian teachings” because it would “provide care to illegal aliens while rationing care to elderly and disabled American citizens” among other points of the plan they consider anti-Christian.

James Dobson’s Focus on the Family is also urging Christians to attend these meetings and “demand that abortion funding be explicitly excluded from any reform bill.” And the American Family Association warns Christians to be vigilant, exclaiming “Don’t let the liberal left silence you! The future of our country and our children and grandchildren is at stake.”

Digital Journal points out that significant factors involved in the debate which go unnoticed by the religious right. For example, the recent economic crisis has lead to unemployment and therefore loss of health insurance coverage. Further, many have lost health insurance as a result of pre-existing conditions. These issues are not addressed in the “Christian right message that declares health care reform as proposed not to be part of God’s plan and therefore to be rejected.”

Other religious right groups that are up in arms over this issue include Americans for Truth and The Family Research Council. The “40 Days of Health Reform” was developed to respond to these voices. Reuters calls this the “counterpunch by what has been called the religious left.” It is supported by groups such as Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Analysts are unsure how effective the liberal-evangelical call-in website will be. Political scientist at Southern Methodist University Cal Jillson says he thinks “the Democrats were surprised by the strength of the religious right and the insurance companies and those opposed to healthcare reform when they got their grass roots efforts going.” As a result “it took a while for the Religious Left to get their national campaign going,” and it remains to be seen “whether or not it has the same emotion and intensity,” he says.

Regardless of how successful this liberal-evangelical response to the religious right may be, it seems that the determining question is: Who listens to the voices of the religious right and are their numbers large enough to frustrate Obama’s health care reform?


Reuters article

Digital Journal article

Red Orbit article

Christian Coalition of America article

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