The Division of Politics and the Unity of the Church: Patriarch Craig Bates Responds to the Supreme Court’s Decision on Healthcare

I have been struggling at how to respond to the recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Healthcare Act. What is clear is that I am not a politician, though I have political views. Nor am I by any stretch of the imagination a legal expert, particularly a constitutional legal expert. So when it comes to politics and legal issues I tend to take the posture of listening rather than speaking.

The issue of government involvement in the life of the citizenry has been a discussion that has been taking place since our very foundations. This discussion has always been tense and resulted in a Civil War that almost divided our country and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. That discussion continues today and has again divided our country right down the middle between so-called Red States and Blue States. There is also a division being created along economic and racial lines. And, from what I hear, this upcoming Presidential election will be extremely close and will be decided by a small majority of people who call themselves independent.

Though I have a political position, my heart is distressed by the divisions in America and what appears to be a total lack of real leadership from both sides of the divide. Those who make the claim that they want to unite are often the same people who fuel the division. It seems that all agree on the need to reform our health care system and address some very tough issues like the uninsured, pre-existing conditions, removal from health care plans because of serious illness, and affordable insurance for the most vulnerable in our country. Yet, the issue has become so politicized that both sides cannot reason together because they would lose the base that has put them in office. At the heart of the issue is not health care reform, or concern for the citizenry, but re-election.

Where is the Church? The Church is as divided as the nation. Even when Church leaders have made declarations, they have found that the person in the pew isn’t much interested in what they have to say. There are numerous reasons for this, but at the core it is because Church leadership has failed in the past to hold itself accountable and has immersed itself into the political fray, often times not for moral reasons, but because the government has funded its various programs and ministries and they fear the loss of finances.

When the Church’s religious liberty is challenged and she speaks up regarding her conscience and faith, it is immediately taken over by politicians who see the opportunity for votes. What is, in fact, at stake is the potential loss of millions of dollars from the government. I admire the courage of leaders like the Cardinal from New York who knows the risk and yet has been vocal and willing to confront the power of Caesar. He is a model for all Christians. The Church must make it clear that she will continue her ministry whether or not there are funds from the government attached. Will it cost? Of course it will, and it will be a serious set back for religious schools, hospitals, and charities. But God is our provider and not either political party. Men and woman of faith must be clear in whom they put their trust.

Leaders fail to speak up because they fear loss of funds or, in some cases, loss of membership in the pews. They fear removal from positions in their denominations or even removal from the pulpit by their congregations. They have been unable to address and teach on the evil of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and sterilization because they have, for various reasons, allowed these issues to be taken over by politicians. So, when they speak on what are clearly moral issues, the congregations sees them as political.

What we can learn from the recent Supreme Court decision is that even the court is divided along political lines and will act in its own self-interests. So, when the Chief Justice attempts to find a middle ground (and it is debatable whether he did it or not) the other Justices strongly decent along the lines we already knew existed. What is disappointing to the conservatives is that “one of their own” didn’t go along with the other conservatives. And, what angers the liberals is that, in the perceived middle ground, their staunch doctrinal positions were ignored.

I am not saying whether I support the Chief Justice or not. His motives are a matter of speculation by the political pundits and candidates. What I am saying is that the outcome was not a surprise to me.

Again, I will leave the legal questions to the lawyers and the political questions to the politicians. But, when it comes to the murder of the preborn, the unspoken question of euthanasia for the disabled and elderly, or the rapidly growing practice of genetic engineering, the government, whether it be limited government or a strong central government, will always avoid listening to the voiceless. The least will be pawns in a political struggle and politicians will continue to sneak abortion and euthanasia into laws and regulations for political and monetary gain. The Church must not only advocate for the least, they must also identify with them. She must do so, not because it is the right political thing to do or whether or not it is constitutional, but because it is the right and moral thing to do.

The Church must be willing to risk loss of membership, loss of income, and loss of government support in order to gain back her voice in the public square. The Church must not allow herself to be co-opted by politicians who are speaking at prayer breakfasts — not out of faith, but out of trying to gain support or firm up their base. The Church must address her own division along political and racial lines, finding her unity in Christ particularly as Christ is found in the homeless, the hungry, the prisoner, the naked, and the stranger.

Our victory will not be found at the election booth or in the halls of the Supreme Court. Our victory is in the Risen Christ. And, our victory will be found in our willingness to know what is right and pursue it. No victory will come without suffering and persecution. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Though I have a political position because I am a citizen, and though I am registered with a political party, I am a Christian first and foremost and my ultimate citizenship is in heaven, where I assume I will find conservatives and liberals, republicans and democrats. And, because I am first and foremost a citizen of the Kingdom, I will go to the polls with my citizenship in hand and vote Pro Life. Until there is an end to the murder of our most vulnerable at the rate of 4,000 a day in the United States and 115,000 a day worldwide — often paid for with American monies — the division in our country will continue and our healthcare will fail. We will pay the price with higher taxes for less services and more government control. We will pay the price of high debt in the trillions and perhaps the collapse of our economy. The blood of the innocent cries out from the ground. Will the Christians hear their voice and do all they can to end these atrocities? For unless there is justice for the child in the womb, there will be no justice for anyone.

The Church’s task is not to make Conservatives or Liberals. The Church’s divine call is to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity, and teaching them to obey the commands of Christ. There will be no moral government without a moral people with faith in God.