If you have not heard by now then you must have just returned on a time-travel expedition, but health care reform has been approved by Congress and has been signed into law. There has been much debate and will likely still be as the rules that support the law are fashioned. What has been especially interesting to me in these debates has been the tactics that each side has used.
Closing arguments by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and minority leader, John Boehner, had clearly distinctive differences in content, but what may have been more subtle is the direction of their appeal. This health care legislation is not popular, meaning that a majority of the American public do not approve. How, then was the argument of its supporters so strong? The answer, if your time travel took you back to the Garden of Eden, would be very clear.
Hunger for the Forbidden
In Genesis chapter 3 is the account of what is called “the Fall.” In this story Adam and Eve first sinned by violating God’s only law: eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was clear from what God had initiated that eating the fruit would lead to death. No, not because the fruit was poison, but because it was a violation of God’s law. Life comes from God and to violate his law meant to break from the giver of life, thus death.
The sin in the story can be adequately described by the term hubris. Essentially, hubris can be defined as arrogantly thinking that I know better what is good for me than God does. When Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan in chapter 3, what was so alluring was that they would become like God themselves, knowing the difference between good and evil. They could decide for themselves what is good and evil, and thus eliminating their need for God to set their moral and ethical standard.
However, the promise instantly became corrupted by the ironic fact that to eat the fruit meant to choose what was evil. So in effort to know what was good and what was evil, hubris corrupted the minds of those first people and set them on a course to their own destruction when they relied on their own judgment. What could have been a great gift had to have been bought by the corruption of sin itself.
What Does This Have to Do With Health Care?
Speaking first, Pelosi talked a lot about people who health care would support. She talked about how health care reform is in the tradition of the Founding Fathers (quoting from the “Declaration of Independence”) and of those who initiated Social Security and Medicare. She essentially said that it is good for the American people, even if they do not think it is true. Pelosi, essentially said that the Democratic party, along with the concessions that were made to the Republicans, was acting in the best interest of the American public. They decide what is good for us.
On deck was John Boehner, House Minority Leader, whose appeal was opposite. He commented on how he sees his task as representing the desires of his constituents, and that what they want is what he wants. According to Boehner, leader of the minority party but supporter of the popular opinion on the issue, said that it is irresponsible for the government to not act according to the will of the people, essentially saying that the popular opinion is paramount. The people decide what is good for themselves.
Satan Is Hissing in Your Ear
It may be easy to draw direct correlations between the role of the serpent in tempting Eve and the philosophy of John Boehner, but neither he nor Speaker Pelosi adequately avoid hubris. In fact, the nature of hubris is that it is subtle as it is deceitful.
Boehner incorrectly believes that the will of the masses is the best for the nation. He does not take into account that the national acuity for matters of state including the complicated nature of health care economics is within the grasp of the average American. Yet, even if we could generalize and say that every American understands the issues surrounding health care and altruistically think of others, we would still have to concede the point that this philosophy is that the masses should be able to decide for themselves what is good for them.
But perhaps Pelosi’s position was even more veiled. It is indeed a viable position that the well-studied members of Congress may be in a position to more adequately make a decision that is good for all Americans, but it does have its inherent arrogance as well. If a small group of well-educated, well-meaning people come together to make an important decision, they also bear their own worldviews and biases that do cloud their judgment. Since one decision cannot be good for everyone, in this case the decision is based on what is good for those who the decision-makers deem most worthy. In this case hubris comes in the guise of thinking that the government holds god-like authority over the people, and that the will of that body is the best for all.
What Hope Do We Have?
As Ms. Pelosi so boldly stated, health care reform is in line with historic creations of Social Security and Medicaid, both failing institutions. This is not a failure of Democrats or Republicans, both of which are elected and charged with making tough decisions for the rest of us. No, this is only a small picture of the brokenness that sin has caused in our world. This is not a simple judgment of the relative sin of Republicans and Democrats nor is this a claim that God has somehow turned his back on the United States. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that there is no organization, committee, or government that can solve the world’s problems. And often the harder we try the more problems creep up.
Sin equals death. It is the nature of sin that caused corruption, and we should ne’er be surprised to see it time and time again.
Our democracy is destined to fail. This nation was not setup by God nor ordained as his earthy kingdom (see this post and this post), though God does allow kingdoms to stand and fall. The Founding Fathers were not all Christians and did not intend to setup a Christian nation. Psalm 46 teaches that we are not to put our faith in our government, because all kingdoms fall. Our best intentions pave the road to hell. Our best logic justifies sin and opens the door to deception. Our most earnest desire to do good always falls short. These are the fruits of hubris.
As Christians, as those called by Christ and thus robed in his righteousness, we have hope. There will be a day when all sin will be cast out, and will not even be an option any longer. There will be a day when the corruptible will put on incorruption. There will be a day when the only government that is truly just and truly righteous, the Kingdom of God, will stand as the only one in the world. Psalm 46 reminds us that our hope is in the Lord, that he will be “exalted above the nations.” It is our hope, manifest in the life and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that is the only source of our hope. May we delight in his coming.