July 3, 2012
So, Leftist Evangelical Jim Wallis believes that the Supreme Court's ruling on the Obama health plan "is an important victory for millions of uninsured people in our country and ultimately a triumph of the common good." He offers the Democratic Party line that the "Affordable Care Act" (ACA), while imperfect, "is an important step in expanding health care coverage and reducing long-term costs."
Well, he's entitled to his opinion, however invalidated by simple fiscal realities and the inherent coercion of the mandate it might be. What he is not entitled to is to ignore the Constitution of the United States, which he does almost completely in his 850-word missive (at one point, he comments on a decision about life sentences for minors and the Court's reference to a related constitutionality issue).
This is not uncharacteristic of Wallis, for the whom the Constitution seems to be an annoying anachronism whose original meaning, if applied as intended by those who drafted and ratified it, would derail his project of implementing massive social change through the agency of the federal state.
Wallis is a theonomist, a man who would use the instrumentality of the state to achieve what he believes are biblical priorities --- redistribution of income, substantially reducing defense spending, treating those in need as what Herbert Schlossberg has called "the ontologically poor," victims too weak and weakened to overcome their economic circumstances. This he would do even while asserting that he simply is trying to live-out the words of Jesus. Again, he's entitled to his interpretation, however expositionally inadequate it is.
The charges Jesus gave to His church, and the demands the Bible place on the state, are distinct and in some cases wholly separate. Should the state be just? Surely. The Bible's teachings on this are copious and ineradicable. But should the state do injustice (e.g., engage in confiscatory taxation or suppress God-ordained religious liberty) to fulfill some discredited utopian dream? This is a question Wallis avoids assiduously.
For this reason, the Constitution --- with its limitations on the roles and duties of the federal government --- is anathema to persons of the Left, whose profession of faith is complemented by an allegiance to a "progressive" social vision. A written text is, after all, profoundly constrictive if understood in the normal way people interpret language. So, when Chief Justice Roberts convolutes the ACA such that a penalty for not doing something becomes, with the equivalent of a judicial shrug, just another item in the long retinue of federal taxes, what's the big deal as long as long as those in need have new "stability and security in their lives," as Wallis puts it?
The big deal is distilled in, perhaps, the most essential assertion of practical ethics: Ends don't justify means. Distortion of the role of government, intellectually dishonest misinterpretation of a law for political ends (in this case, as Justice Kennedy wrote, "The fundamental problem with the Courts approach to this case is this: It saves a statute Congress did not write), and pretending that we live in a world of only positive law, law not constrained or defined by a charter text, create not just individually bad policies but erode the lawful liberty whose "stability and security" are anchored in the Constitution.
Better to ignore the Constitution than take it seriously, right? Maybe, if we do, it will just go away. Seems to be heading for oblivion anyway.