Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Theology of Health Care

Back in the 16th century, when European merchants were energetically inventing capitalism, John Calvin arrived to tell them they could forget all that stuff about camels passing through the eyes of needles. God, he assured them, rewards His favorites in this life as well as the next, so their wealth was a sure sign they were saved. It followed that the poor, being congenital sinners, were not deserving of any consideration at all.

The twenty-first century version of Calvinism is called "Meritocracy." Meritocrats assume that those who prosper have earned their wealth by being better than the rest: their success is the fruit of their personal "genius" and "grit."  They claim to "make their own luck," and discount the importance of institutional barriers faced by others — like inequality of opportunity or discrimination. Hence, to their minds, those who fail to prosper deserve to fail; and certainly don't deserve any share in the wealth of their betters. It follows that taxing the rich in order to provide health care for their inferiors is nothing less than a crime against nature.

There seem to be some Republican Senators who genuinely believe in the New Calvinism (and some who still believe in the older version.) Many more, though, are just the lazy lackeys of their major donors, content in their safe, Red-State seats, mindlessly voting with their leadership.  A few, though, face more complex political situations -- and there even may be one or two who see a moral choice awaiting them after the Fourth of July.  Let's hope they bring their camels along.

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