Book Review – A Christian Manifesto

Francis Schaeffer wrote A Christian Manifesto in 1981 in response to a growing decline of morality in almost all spheres of life in the west, and especially in America. The premise of the book is that Christians have been largely asleep at the wheel while secular humanists have taken over the public square, and in doing so the control of all government and laws related to morality and right living. This occurred, he says, by Christians taking a myopic view of one issue at a time rather than seeing the broad picture of secular humanist philosophy which had it been seen from the start would have been vigorously opposed. The incremental approach taken by those opposed to God lulled Christians into a slumber that only the stark reality of where we are now can disturb.

My general impressions of the book are twofold. First of all, it is a really well researched and written text. It is short – only 138 pages – but covers a tremendous amount of ground. Much of the historical content is material I had heard before, namely that the founding fathers were generally committed Christians and had set up the United States with that mindset. I already knew that the founding fathers wanted the first amendment not to prevent religion from influencing the state, but to prevent the state from controlling religion as it did in much of Europe throughout the fourteenth thru nineteenth centuries. The detail Schaeffer presents to support this history is quite good, especially in such a little book. Did you know that while the federal government was prohibited from establishing an official religion, individual states DID have state religions and that was not deemed in conflict with the first amendment? In fact, Massachusetts used tax monies to support the state church until 1853.

My second impression is tremendous surprise at how little Scripture is actually in the book that promotes itself to be “A Christian Manifesto”. In the whole book I saw only one reference to how a believer should react to the government expounded from the Bible, namely how David responded to King Saul when he was wrongfully pursued. He ran rather than fought because he saw Saul as God’s anointed king. (of course he also ran from his son Absalom when he stole the throne from David but that was different). It isn’t that Schaeffer doesn’t make logical arguments from the character of God or the history of God’s people, he just doesn’t cite any actual Scripture to support his points. In a general sense I’m okay with that because we know we are to be salt and light to the world while we’re here. Salt is both a source of flavor and a preservative and Christians should take on both roles in the world. It just seems really odd to me that he’d go through all the effort to write this book and spend an inordinately great amount of time on the history of what preachers believed and taught in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries without providing a basis. This is especially true given he pretty much slams the secular humanists for not having a basis for anything they believe about government and law (which is correct).

As I mentioned in a previous post, I kept waiting for him to explain why something like the American Revolution was justified in light of the fact that Rome was certainly worse to Christians under Nero than King George was to the colonists and yet the first century Christians did not revolt. Romans 13 is also pretty clear that we should be praying for and submissive to our government BECAUSE no authority exists except that which God himself has ordained. He does do a very good job of explaining the options a Christian under governmental persecution has available and promotes the idea of taking the least aggressive action that will permit obedience to God, but I’m not sure he ever convinced me that revolution is the way to please God in the case of an extremely ungodly government. He repeatedly goes to the concept of Lex Rex by the Scottish 17th century preacher Samuel Rutherford that claimed the law is greater than the king. Rutherford actually based that on Romans 13 in that kings can only make laws because they are given permission by the great Law Giver, God. Therefore, anything that would violate God’s revealed will must be opposed.

To buy into his argument for revolution, you first have to accept his presupposition (actually not his but Samuel Rutherford’s) that there is a difference between government’s oppression of an individual verses a corporate body. For example in current affairs it would be one thing for the government to force a Christian to have an abortion and another thing to force the State of Georgia to violate its own constitution in some way. This is the basic argument he extends to the colonial fight for independence, namely that England was trying to force unjust laws on the colonies as entities. In such cases, individuals who organize under lesser authorities (for example the Governor of Georgia) have the right and in many cases the duty to resist. That’s his point anyway.

I’ll close with this provocative quote from the last page before Schaeffer’s closing remarks.

If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in place of the Living God.

What can I say? I’m still not convinced but I know that after reading about a sneaky way some in Washington wanted to try to force government control of healthcare on the states who believe it is wrong to do it my reaction was “there will be a revolution if they do that”. Still, even with my uncertainty I recommend this book. Given the current times and polar political climate it was a helpful text to prompt questions in my own mind about the role of civil disobedience and even resistance by force by professing Christians.

Political Christianity

Brian loaned me the book “The Christian Manifesto” by Francis Schaefer. I’ve been reading what I can of it these last few days. I expect I will do a book review on it, but sharing some thoughts on it may be worthwhile as well.

I am appreciating Schaeffer’s main point that if Jesus is Lord, then He is Lord of all. This includes mankind’s political ways. He highlights what happened between the 1940s and 1970s relative to the dramatic shift in Amerrica toward secular humanism, including how liberal Christians aided the movement. He describes liberal Christians as humanists with theological language who are humanists nonetheless.

I guess I will need to be thinking more and more about some of his points. If you read this blog at all, I hope you see a thought process that basically says Christians should not fret and fuss over politics because God’s purposes are not generally political – they are related to the Gospel. He does make a compelling point however that being salt and light means we must be engaged and use the freedom that is peculiar to very few countries to maintain the freedom we have as a result of our founding fathers’ belief that law is greater than king because law is provided first by the great Lawgiver, God Himself.

Overall, very thought provoking for me and I believe I will write more after I get my thoughts in place.

Health Care Cure

I wrote on someone’s Facebook page recently that it would be amazing what would happen if instead of these “comprehensive” health care reform plans (which are really mostly needless government meddling) Congress should decide what issues have 60-70% support and draft/pass one bill per month for the next several months. We’d have a better system that does repair some undeniable problem areas without utterly destroying a system that isn’t particularly broken for 85% of the population.

This post highlights some of what I think those areas are and invites others to chime in as well. When I say 60 – 70% support, I don’t mean me and the 60-70% of people who are closest to me politically – I expect some ideas would not sit well with me but have good solid support from the center-left “coalition”.

1) Let insurance companies sell health insurance across state lines. Even hometown newspapers agree this is a good idea. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-perspec0823insuranceaug23,0,2946061.story). It’s no surprise the Wall Street Journal supports it. We need to let the marketplace compete in real terms and stop forcing people to buy coverage they don’t want or need just because they have the misfortune of living in a certain state. Different regulatory requirements from state to state impede innovation because a company’s investment to creatively solve a problem can only be used in a fraction of the population. It also drives away hungry start ups who can’t compete with well established incumbents in one state. Granted the incumbents got there because they offered a consumer option that was better than the alternative, but that’s not the point here.

A separate but related point is that providers should be able to offer services across state lines. The Mayo Clinic offers remarkable service via tele-medicine to Qatar, but is not permitted to do it in North Dakota because of silly state regulators.

2) Decouple health insurance from (specific) employment. I understand that health insurance companies underwrite the total number of lives in an employee pool, but seriously if they insured me at $X when I worked somewhere they don’t lose any money to continue that same coverage after I leave. It would be so easy to extend COBRA benefits duration to double what it currently is as an interim step so long as you had all the rights as an employee (e.g. not being treated like a month to month customer). Experts have been saying this is an issue for 30 years for lots of reasons.

3) Pass tort reform that would apply to every state as demonstrated in California (very blue state) and Texas (very red state). Premiums have plummeted in these two places by simply capping non-economic damages to $250k (still a lot of money).

4) Do something to control insurance companies ability to revoke coverage from people once they get sick. Clearly if someone lied on an application they should still be able to bump them, but if the information was available to the company at the time they offered coverage and the company still elected to insure the person, they should be prohibited from dropping coverage. (P.S. Very grateful to a very liberal friend of a friend who pointed out to me that this issue – known as rescission – is a bigger problem than I ever realized.)

5) This isn’t something I’m very much in favor of, but there seems to be good support for creating a government funded high risk pool to let insurers hedge their bets against the kind of people they typically deny coverage for, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

6) Repeal the medicare payroll tax and the accompanying joke called “earned income tax credit” which just aims to repay lower income earners for what the government took from them in the first place. Rich people are already funding poor people’s social security and medicare so let’s just stop kidding ourselves. (okay – this is just something I made up but I will never understand why we tax people like crazy just to give them their money back so they can have a free ride)

7) Prohibit doctors from taking payment from medical device manufacturers so they do not focus on their meal tickets instead of better, cheaper or less invasive technologies/procedures. There are huge conflicts of interest in this area, especially in orthopedics but other practice areas also.

8 ) Find a way to promote total case management over the duration of an illness/condition. This would mean better cooperation between providers, capping the total monies available to all parts of the health care delivery system to help ferret out waste such as rerunning tests and doctors visiting patients on rounds not because of medical necessity but simply because they had free time and a charge code. It would help the problems of fragmented care and medical errors tremendously. (5x as many Americans die every year from medical errors than from being uninsured).

8a) We need to transform the current year by year pricing mechanism to a multi-year model. Paying for per patient per procedure on a yearly basis penalizes innovation, quality, results and entrepreneurship. No other segment of our economy acts so counter-productively. Creating a multi-year system will provide incentive to do something in year one that would reap medical and financial benefits in year 3, driving down overall costs in the process.

9) Promote transparency of provider quality so we can make educated consumer choices like we do everything else. I actually believe this is the #1 problem in the whole system – we live in a free market system but none of those principles exist in health care delivery. Paying doctors on results of their performance not number of procedures would be an attractive way to accelerate this idea.