"For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see the public option."
Yes, it's finally come to this. We've dragged the Almighty Lord into the debate. It's Yahweh or the highway.
This week, President Barack Obama claimed his version of health care reform is "a core ethical and moral obligation," beseeching religious leaders to promote his government-run scheme. Questioning the patriotism of opponents, apparently, wasn't gaining the type of traction advocates of "reform" had hoped.
"I know there's been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness," Obama said, invoking the frightening specter of the Ten Commandments.
On Team Righteous, we have those who meet their moral obligations; on the other squad, we must have the minions of Beelzebub -- by which, of course, we mean profit-driven, child-killing, mob-inciting insurance companies.
Why wasn't this multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders offended that a mere earthly servant was summoning the good Lord in an effort to pass legislation? Certainly, one of the most grating habits of the Bush administration was how it framed policy positions in moral absolutes.
As CBS News recently reported, Obama has thrown around the name of God even more often than George W. Bush. Then again, no group couches policy as a moral obligation more than the left. On nearly every question of legislation, there is a pious straw man tugging at the sleeves of the wicked.
What isn't a moral imperative these days? As if they were chiseling commandments into stone tablets, Democrats refer to budgets as "moral documents." Thou shalt compost, or climate change will descend upon the lands and smite the wicked and innocent alike. Extend alms to the downtrodden moneylenders and carmakers, for it is just, and the president commandeth thee.
If the apostate argues that dependency programs keep poor people poor or that progressive environmental policies are ineffective and create poverty or that free will is more important than free stuff, they will be dealt with like the Amorites. And you know what happened to those swine.
Morality -- whether derived from religion or a Starbucks coffee cup -- is only one of the many considerations Americans take into account when thinking about policy. As an atheist, for instance, my core moral concern is that elected officials stop telling me what my core moral concerns should be.
While we have no clue what Jesus would make of a public option, we do have plenty of evidence that government tends to act immorally, corruptly and incompetently -- especially a government with too much power. And the self-righteous elected official who has complete moral certitude on his side also has a tendency to ignore any other concerns. That detail has been painfully obvious in this debate.
"It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies," wrote C.S. Lewis, a man who knew a thing or two about religion. "The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
We now know that the advocates of government-run health care have full approval of their own consciences. That is surely comforting to them. Now, I don't know about you, but I gladly will champion the policies of any president who can walk on water. Until that time, though, I'll take my chances with blasphemy.
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