The Hasting Center has published an online collection of essays called“The Values and Health Care Reform Connection” allowing the public to comment on health care and “American Values.” You have to admire the awareness of the academics – not only have they noticed that the conservative, pro-life, religious “American” is concerned with values, but they are trying very, very hard to appeal to those of us with a Judeo-Christian background. I’ve only skimmed a couple of the essays so farm but I have found a glaring inability to stay on task or a basic lack of understanding of the world view of the intended target, uh, audience.
For example, in “Stewardship: What Kind of Society Do We Want?,” Len M. Nichols misses the mark in spite of peppering the essay with terms like “stewardship,” “abundant life” and “covenant” and appeals to the writings of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson.
(Skip over the use of a faulty, biased 2009 Institute of Medicine report on the consequences of lack of universal health care insurance in the U.S., already thoroughly debunked by Steven Malloy’s “Junk Science” blog.)
In his appeal to “American Values,” Nichols attempts to define “stewardship” to include a “covenant” as a duty of property owners to ensure that the poor have food to eat. He refers to the book of Leviticus and Jewish Law that land owners leave “the corners” of their fields for the poor to glean, rather than going back to harvest all that is there. While noting that the rule was propagated the “other books that Moses wrote,” Nichols explains that only adult males could own land “in ancient Palestine.” He would have been better off referring to the “Torah” or “the Law,” which was given by G_d, not Moses, and to the Nation of Israel, since there was no “Palestine” at that time.
Nichols almost persuades me that he “gets it” in his discussion of the basis for rights: the belief that humans are created in the image of G_d. However, he asks what good is the right to life or the pursuit of happiness without access to essential health care and quotes Jefferson’s comparison of liberty with health. He does not seem to understand that both Locke and Jefferson described these as negative rights: the right not to be killed, and the right not to be enslaved or have ‘the fruit of one’s labor” forcibly taken. In other words, no one has the right to cause another to be sick, but there is no right to medicine or medical care.
Nichols does not resort to the usual call for Christians to remember the Good Samaritan. In fact, he turns to an argument that might be more appealing to Libertarians, whom he calls “a tiny group of argumentative people.” His discussion of rights and stewardship by is converted to support for the rationing of health care, noting that Leviticus does not require the landowner to bring the poor person home and cook him a meal. In this, too, he demonstrates his lack of understanding of the Judeo-Christian world view. The covenant to care for the sick and poor is between individual believers and G_d. Government hasn’t proven itself to be trustworthy enough for me to assign my duty to G_d over to its stewardship.