Everyone’s Doing It or Stop It (another anti-civil religion post)

Inspired by a post that questions Reinhold Niebuhr’s contributions to foreign policy and national politics, here goes a few morsels I ran across while teaching Christianity and politics last fall.

As much as conservatives and (some) evangelicals perceived the former president as a captive to secularism and relativism, President Obama’s use of civil religion was down right gobsmacking, so much so you wonder what the secular left was thinking when he said this:

For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective. With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior. We reflect on the brutal pain that He suffered, the scorn that He absorbed, the sins that He bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that He gave to us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that He endured so that we might receive God’s light.

And yet, even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice, on Easter we can’t lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday. The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our Savior.

“Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day,” Dr. King once preached, “but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the drums of Easter.” Drums that beat the rhythm of renewal and redemption, goodness and grace, hope and love. Easter is our affirmation that there are better days ahead — and also a reminder that it is on us, the living, to make them so.

Or this:

Around the world, we have seen horrific acts of terrorism, most recently Brussels, as well as what happened in Pakistan — innocent families, mostly women and children, Christians and Muslims. And so our prayers are with the victims, their families, the survivors of these cowardly attacks.

And as Joe mentioned, these attacks can foment fear and division. They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us, or pray exactly as we do. And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge. That’s the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith, to weaken our best impulses, our better angels.

And Pastor preached on this this weekend, and I know all of you did, too, as I suspect, or in your own quiet ways were reminded if Easter means anything, it’s that you don’t have to be afraid. We drown out darkness with light, and we heal hatred with love, and we hold on to hope. And we think about all that Jesus suffered and sacrificed on our behalf — scorned, abandoned shunned, nail-scarred hands bearing the injustice of his death and carrying the sins of the world.

And it’s difficult to fathom the full meaning of that act. Scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Because of God’s love, we can proclaim “Christ is risen!” Because of God’s love, we have been given this gift of salvation. Because of Him, our hope is not misplaced, and we don’t have to be afraid.

And as Christians have said through the years, “We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!” We are Easter people, people of hope and not fear.

Now, this is not a static hope. This is a living and breathing hope. It’s not a gift we simply receive, but one we must give to others, a gift to carry forth. I was struck last week by an image of Pope Francis washing feet of refugees — different faiths, different countries. And what a powerful reminder of our obligations if, in fact, we’re not afraid, and if, in fact, we hope, and if, in fact, we believe. That is something that we have to give.

His Holiness said this Easter Sunday, God “enables us to see with His eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.”

To do justice, to love kindness –- that’s what all of you collectively are involved in in your own ways each and every day. Feeding the hungry. Healing the sick. Teaching our children. Housing the homeless. Welcoming immigrants and refugees. And in that way, you are teaching all of us what it means when it comes to true discipleship. It’s not just words. It’s not just getting dressed and looking good on Sunday. But it’s service, particularly for the least of these.

And whether fighting the scourge of poverty or joining with us to work on criminal justice reform and giving people a second chance in life, you have been on the front lines of delivering God’s message of love and compassion and mercy for His children.

This is the theology of progressivism. Jesus died to better the world, to advance equality, reduce poverty, spread peace. Conservatives have their own civil religion. It is just as bad. Jesus didn’t die for a stronger military or free markets. If reading Reinhold Niebuhr doesn’t prevent you from this excess, then reading Reinhold Niebuhr is pointless.

So cut it out. Join the 2k movement and hope in a kingdom (not a republic or democracy) not of this world.

63 thoughts on “Everyone’s Doing It or Stop It (another anti-civil religion post)

  1. Here is a little bit o’ Christianity and Politics, as the public school system for New Jersey, (and a typical practice nationally) was being developed ca. 1820’s, as per Princeton’s Mathematics Professor John Maclean’s “Lecture On A School System For New Jersey”, 1829.*

    He states:
    “The trustees for the several school districts should also direct what degree of religious and moral instruction should be given in the different schools, and we think that it would be a good rule, that each teacher should be required to open his school, with reading some chapter in the Holy Scriptures in a reverent manner. ”

    “According to these suggestions, the State, through its Board of Education and its several committees, exercising a general superintendence of the schools, and the people themselves, through their immediate agents, choosing their own teachers, fixing their salaries, and exercising perfect control over the religious instruction, would combine their efforts for the establishment and support of a system, dependent for its complete success on both, alike beneficial to both, and securing the integrity of the State by improvement of the morals, and by increasing the knowledge of the people; at the same time leaving the rights of conscience unimpaired.” Pg. 21.

    Now, why does Maclean require that Biblical moral instruction be a crucial part of education?

    “For we see, that men possessed of well finished and highly cultivated minds, but regardless of all moral obligation, are the greatest curses to the communities of which they are members, and are vastly more injurious to civil society, than they would have been without such great learning and moral refinement.”

    Abington School District v. Schempp, the USSC decided on June 17, 1963, put an end to the century plus practice of public school Bible reading anywhere in the nation, and posted Ten Commandments were torn off the bulletin boards. Many who were in the system back then, could sense a change for the worse in student conduct. Cause and effect perhaps?

    And most importantly now, by what means shall the damage be undone?

    *Source: http://commons.ptsem.edu/id/lectureonschools01macl


  2. The all-or-nothing approach says that because Jesus didn’t die to better the world, then we have nothing to learn from the progressive call to help the vulnerable and work for justice. But what does that position associate Christianity with? The association is quite clear: Christians can let the world burn while they sing the Psalms on the Lord’s Day while only helping those who live close to them. ON the other hand, what is associated with beliefs other than Christianity is a love that moves people to help other groups and they often do that without any reference to eschatology. It is a mistake to think that working for Social Justice must include some form eschatology.

    At this point, Romans 2 where Paul compares those who believe in God with those who don’t come into play.


  3. Curt,

    What do you mean “learn from the progressive call to help the vulnerable and work for justice”? I know plenty of conservatives making that same call, they just differ with the progressives on what will actually help the vulnerable and even on what justice is.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Curt, social justice has plenty of eschatology in it. That’s why they talk so much about being on the right side of history. I think they mean the left side, though.


  5. D.G.
    Some Social Justice does. King’s did, for example. So did Marx’s.

    But what eschatology is implied when one simply wants to improve the way life currently is?


  6. Robert,
    So how are conservatives addressing climate change?

    Or how are conservatives addressing the need for healthcare? Note that before Obamacare, which needs to be replaced, the number 1 cause for personal bankruptcies was healthcare costs and that could occur even when one had insurance. And it seems that the current Republican approach to healthcare makes things even worse for what people have to pay now.


  7. ‘Note that before Obamacare, which needs to be replaced, the number 1 cause for personal bankruptcies was healthcare costs and that could occur even when one had insurance.”
    This is false. Elizabeth Warren’s study has been criticized across the spectrum for its sloppy methodology. They included all bankruptcies that included any amount of debt from medical care. Of course, when someone gets sick and loses their job while having a lot of debt, they are also likely to have unpaid medical bills. The unpaid medical bills didn’t cause the bankruptcy though.

    Another canard is that people lacked access to healthcare in the US. This is false. In fact, adjusting for deaths from accidents and murder, the US has the longest life expectancy in the world. We just drive a lot and shoot a lot. Perhaps we should do something to discourage driving and gun ownership, but more health insurance isn’t going to help that.

    From what I understand, the majority of those who gained coverage under the ACA did so by signing up for medicaid that they already had qualified for but never bothered signing prior to the penalty/push. It isn’t clear that doing this has actually improved health outcomes.

    Perhaps the federal government should not do any thing to address healthcare? Maybe we should let state governments experiment with various ways of ensuring their residents get the care they want. Radical thought I know.

    No one is proposing anything that will have a measurable impact on climate change. Lots of symbolic gestures, but nothing that will halt the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. Perhaps a better strategy is to make the world richer and then let future generations use that wealth to design ways to mitigate potential problems from a slightly warmer world.


  8. sdb,
    Actually what I said about the costs of healthcare before Obamacare is true. And you are assuming the source of my information.

    Second, access to healthcare depends on whether one can pay for it. And no, Americans’ do not have the longest life expectancy in the world regardless of adjustments made for crime.

    Finally, if the Paris Accords are so meaningless, how can they have an impact on a nation’s economy?


  9. Curt,

    1. I took Zywicki’s criticisms of this claim (and Warren’s work is the most highly cited here) to be dispositive. If you have a citation to a source that provides a rebuttal to this criticism, I’m all ears. However, unless he and his colleagues were falsifying data, it looks quite clear that the bankruptcy data does not support the hypothesis that most bankruptcies were caused by medical costs.

    2. Part of the motivation for the ACA is that healthcare did not depend on the ability to pay for it. Hospitals treated patients regardless of their ability to pay and their rates to insurers accounted for their losses. The ACA was designed to ameliorate this by requiring everyone to get coverage (especially those who qualified for medicaid) so that providers could recoup their costs without hiding the umbrella in charges to insurers. Of course, the fact that most people who gained coverage from the ACA did so by signing up for medicaid that they already qualified for. This was by design of course and shifts costs from insurers and hospitals to the states and feds.

    3. The data disagree with you. The study by Ohsfeldt and Schneider puts the US at #1 after corrected for accidental and intentional deaths. Some have criticized this work for overstating the effect of these causes based on how they ran their regression. More careful work recently published by JAMA shows that poisonings, car crashes, and gun injuries account for over half of the gap between the US and OECD average. Of course, this did not account for the disparity in incarceration rate, other types of homocide/suicide that the original Ohsfeldt and Schneider study accounted for. So perhaps I overstated the movement of our life expectancy, but overall my point is well supported by the data. The difference in life expectancy between the US and other developed countries is not driven by our healthcare system.

    4. The fact that the Paris accords will not alter the observed warming trends does not entail that they can’t adversely affect economies. I might say we should all go on the gold standard to stop global warming. This would be economically disastrous and do nothing for the environment.


  10. D.G.,
    I didn’t start anything. This stems from a disagreement regarding social justice and eschatology. You believe that they are inseparable and I don’t. King’s approach, for example involved a certain view of eschatology. But to work for social justice merely to improve life here for those have been hurt is as eschatological as a police officer who stops a crime in progress. Note that the incentive here doesn’t look for justice to be on steroids. It doesn’t take an all-or-nothing approach to justice.


  11. sdb,
    First, I am not familiar with the people you cite. In fact, I am not in favor of ACA. The bill itself was written by the health insurance industry. But the contention that healthcare is a right is valid. And the AHCA, which is also written by the Health Care Insurance industry, will make matters worse in terms of healthcare accessibility for certain groups of people. Today’s republican approach to entitlements is based on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged mentality. A biblical example of that mentality can be found in Cain when he rhetorically asked God if he was his brother’s keeper.

    As for life expectancy, you’re going to have to adjust things quite a bit to get American life expectancy to exceed 89.5 years, which is the highest expectancy for a particular country. And in fact, outcomes for our health care system should be placed on a 2-tier system. Those who are wealthy can afford the upper tier while those who are not are going to experience variable results. And, btw, our nation isn’t the only nation that faces some of the variables you listed. So no, the data does not disagree with me.

    Likewise regarding the Paris Accords, Trump cited an MIT study saying that the results would negligible. Unfortunately, university officials answered by saying that Trump grossly misunderstood and misrepresented the research. In addition, Trump’s objections to the Paris Accords have nothing to do with any inadequacy in the Accords, they have to do with economic ramifications. And considering that Trump is gutting environmental regulations in a number of different ways, Trump’s objection to the Paris Accords is disingenuous.


  12. Curt,
    We agree that aca was bad law and ahca is worse. Cain’s dishonesty was not that he should of done something to prevent Able’s death and failed to do so much less that he advocated for a state to force others to care for Able. Cain’s muderous action does not bear on political theory. I don’t agree one has positive rights. Indeed, I am skeptical of the category of roghts generally other than as a rhetorical tool. I’m a terrible American – sue me.

    Regarding US life expectancy vs other OECD countries, most of the gap is cars, drugs, and guns. We drive waaay more than anyone else and it isn’t close. We also shoot a lot more as certain congress critters just discovered. The data here is dispositive…don’t disagree with the scientific consensus.

    As I said before, Trump is a know nothing blowhard. Read Judith Curry if you want to understand the limits of climate projection. Her work is quite good and accessible.


  13. D.G.,
    But if utopia is asymptote, one doesn’t have to afraid of progress. However, thinking in an all-or-nothing way means that progress = utopia just as being on the right side of history in issue is as well. So the issue isn’t a matter of Marxing up, it is a matter of not being afraid of improving lest one disproves one’s ideology whether that a spiritual or materialistic one.

    Of course how close progress actually comes to utopia is where the analogy fails. But the main point was that a Christian doesn’t have to afraid of either working for or recognizing progress in this world.


  14. sdb,
    Again, medical care in the US relies on wealth. Those without insurance or with little means, before Obamacare, saw a a not as long life span because they had to delay getting tested and treated. And medical expenses was the #1 reason for personal bankruptcy. But finally, the longest lifespan expectancy is 89.5 years. And there are a number of other nations that approach that. And car accidents, drugs and guns do not account for the difference and you know that. So we both disagree with the ACA: Is it for the same reason?

    As for Cain, remember the question he was responding to. As those in lower economic class continue to suffer because of an economic system that favors the wealthy, the wealthy are rhetorically asking Cain’s question with far more similarities to Cain than you care to admit.


  15. @curt
    “Those without insurance or with little means, before Obamacare, saw a a not as long life span because they had to delay getting tested and treated.”
    And access to medicaid doesn’t affect health of those with chronic disease per the Oregon RCT study. Makes people feel better, but doesn’t change measurable health outcomes. Note also that mortality rates have not changed as a result of the ACA.

    “And medical expenses was the #1 reason for personal bankruptcy.” This is false. I provided you with a reference that showed that this was false. If you have a source providing evidence to the contrary I’m all ears. Repeating the same false assertion is not evidence.

    “But finally, the longest lifespan expectancy is 89.5 years. And there are a number of other nations that approach that. And car accidents, drugs and guns do not account for the difference and you know that.”
    You’ve asserted this previously. I pointed you to two peer-reviewed studies that show that car accidents, drugs, are major reasons for the shorter life expectancy in the US relative to other developed nations. If you have evidence to the contrary, I’m all ears.

    “So we both disagree with the ACA: Is it for the same reason?”

    “As for Cain, remember the question he was responding to.”
    Let’s see.
    (1) Cain actively murdered his brother (didn’t neglect him, fail to protect him, or fail to help him while he was hurt – he “pulled the trigger”).
    (2) God asks rhetorically, “where’s Able?”: Obviously God knew that Cain had murdered Abel.
    (3) Cain responds with the infamous, “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?” – Obviously he was not responsible for Abel’s well being, so why should he know. But of course, he did know because he murdered him.
    (4) God responds, “What have you done? Abel’s blood is crying out to me…” Abel was murdered (not neglected).

    The wealthy person who violates a person’s right to life and property is doing wrong (the analog to the case of Cain). How one votes is not relevant to this passage.


  16. D.G.,
    I don’t ignore total depravity. I just don’t reduce people and how they treat others to total depravity. There are a number of factors involved.

    And your universal statement that says for each step forward you go two backwards needs to be inductively proved rather than merely declared. Certainly the results and effects of social justice efforts aren’t permanent, they have to be maintained. One reason for that is total depravity. But we can’t fully serve God and fully carry out the Great Commission by taking a monastic approach to life. That certainly doesn’t fit into the 2KT model of living as exiles. That is unless living as exiles is there only to help our place of exile produce more mammon for people to worship and mistreat others. See, not everything from what Israel experienced during its exile transfers to our exile.


  17. sdb,
    Cain rhetorically asked God that question out of guilt. How much more guilty are we when people suffer from our neglect or our use of an oppressive system?

    But unlike when Cain asked the question, it is asked today so that people can store up treasures here and worship mammon. And in many instances, that part of storing up mammon involved not sharing with others who were in need and benefiting from a system that put many in need.

    As for references regarding the claim that half the bankruptcies were due to medical expenses, I will provide two links in the next comment. They come from consumer reports and the American Journal of Medicine Blog. The latter one addresses the issue more directly. I am putting them in a different comment because each time I have tried to provide a link in a comment on this blog, the comment was blocked.


  18. ” Cain rhetorically asked God that question out of guilt. How much more guilty are we when people suffer from our neglect or our use of an oppressive system?”

    Curt- your moral compass is not in good shape if you think not helping the working poor get health insurance is worse than murdering your brother.

    “But unlike when Cain asked the question, it is asked today so that people can store up treasures here and worship mammon. And in many instances, that part of storing up mammon involved not sharing with others who were in need and benefiting from a system that put many in need”
    You are assuming motives for a strawman. First your premise is wrong – those who tend to vote GOP are more generous volunteers, blood donors, and charitable givers. Secondly, most who oppose state entitlements do so because they believe it makes the poor worse off by weakening families. They might be wrong (I think they are), but it is uncharitable for you to assert why you think they really take the positions they do rather than take them at their word.


  19. Curt, that wouldn’t be the Himmelstein, Thorne, Warren , and Woodhandler 2009 paper would it? The one that was debunked by Zywicki et al. on the basis of their poor methodology. It was the only reference at the blog you pointed me to, but therr must be something I’m overlooking since you told me I incorrectly assumed that you were referencing the Warren study. I’m on a phone, so that is likely.

    The proper conclusion from this paper is thst 46% of people who declared bankruptcy had some medical debt. Note though that the cause of bankruptcy included loss of work by being sick, etc. .. perhaps using income subsidies rather than wage mandates would help this aspect of it.


  20. Curt Day says: It is a mistake to think that working for Social Justice must include some form eschatology.

    From today’s reading:
    Rev 11:18b And the time came …to destroy those who destroy the earth.
    Rev 184a I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people…7a To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously.
    From my bible note: religious Babylon lures the nations into spiritual drunkenness and fornication with false gods.(Rev 17) Commercial Babylon seduces the unbelieving world into a materialistic stupor (Rev 18)
    Bible note: The judgement of God on that society living in sinful, arrogant self-indulgence can be avoided.


  21. Curt, you’re amazing. You think progress is possible, social justice is possible, and yet, you likely think that most of U.S. history is characterized by racism, inequality, and injustice.

    So how would you possibly maintain social justice when you never have seen it. Unless you want the Soviet system.


  22. sdb,
    No the 4th link wasn’t and if you read the articles accessed through the links, you would not have to ask the question. And saying that someone debunked doesn’t debunk the study. When someone challenges a study, it means that they challenged the study. That flaws in astudy do not negate everything. And if you read the LA TImes treatment of the criticisms of the 2009 study., you would realize that. Your use of the word debunk indicates all-or-nothing thinking. You seem to be saying either an study is completely correct or that someones criticisms makes the study completely wrong.


  23. D.G.,
    All you are doing is using all-or-nothing thinking. You seem to be saying that the existence of some racism, whether that some means a lot or a little, proves that working for social justice never accomplishes anything. And yet, we know from the prophets, that mere preaching repentance doesn’t always help people avoid judgment ,but the prophets preached anyway.

    Are you saying that the Church should have never criticized and opposed slavery and Jim Crow because racism will always exist? Are you saying that we can never see improvements in race relations or a reduction in racism even if such improvements and reduction are temporary? And are you saying all of that because of theological reasons or because you didn’t see the urgency in addressing those issues? Seeing that you don’t suffer from what marginalized groups suffer from, it is understandable, though not right, that you don’t see the urgency.

    But two other things amiss here. First, perhaps it is because when one’s only tool is a hammer, one can become quite critical of those who uses screws to repair something. And seeing that special, redemptive grace is your only tool, you seem to have forgotten about common grace. Second, if one is working for mere improvements in the current situation, one doesn’t have to see the total elimination of certain sins, both individual and corporate, to see progress. And, again, even if there is no progress, weren’t there times when the OT prophets saw no favorable response from the people but they preached anyway because what they were saying is right?

    I don’t know if it would be more important to ask you what would H.L. Mencken have said about the racism of his day or to ask what did the OPC say about the racism that existed during slavery and Jim Crow. Feel free to answer either one.


  24. Curt,
    Your links showed up after I responded. The opeds aren’t useful, but the Austin 2014 paper looks interesting…thanks for sharing it. I note that he writes the following:

    “Overall, medical debt is a modest but rising component of debt in consumer bankruptcy.”

    That strikes me as a fair assessment. I need to read his paper more carefully, but I’m not sure I am sufficiently motivated though.

    The decline in bankruptcies don’t show much of an inflection at the role out of aca or full implementation. What inflection there is shows the downward slope decreasing. Insofar as one wants to infer causation, the aca slowed the bankruptcy decline coming out of recession. But who would make such a dumb mistake? As usual Consumer Reports is not a reliable source of information.

    From what I gather, most of the increase in coverage comes from medicaid enrollment, and most of that comes from people previously eligible signing up due to the mandate. That is congruent with my wife’s experience as a social worker. People would not immunize their kids, go to well visits, or sign up for medicaid because it was too much hassle even though all were provided for free.

    In summary:
    1. The gap in life expectancy between the US and other industrialized countries is driven by factors other than health care access. You rejected that in full because some countries are 89.5 and have cars too. You need to break out of your all or nothing thinking here. The data do not support your position.

    2. Medical bills are not the #1 cause of bankruptcy as you asserted. Illness and the subsequent loss of work and bills contribute in about a fifth of bankruptcies. I’m going to take a flyer and say that losing your income due to illness is a pretty good predictor for bankruptcy whether one has health insurance or not.

    3. The drop in bankruptcy is driven by improved employment. The impact of the aca (for good or ill) is uncertain.

    4. Methodological flaws mean that the conclusions of a paper are not supported, thus one cannot draw positive knowledge from it. Somethings in life are all or nothing – you wouldn’t want to be all or nothing about that would you?

    5. Your reading of Cain and Abel is seriously flawed and is suggestive of a malformed moral compass.


  25. Curt, you are the all or nothing guy. It’s social justice cheerleaders like you who tell us the US has nothing good about it. Let that sink in.

    As long as racism exists, you are going to be outraged.

    Earth to Curt: the fall happened.


  26. D.G.,
    Always condescending aren’t you.

    No one is denying the fall, That, again, is evidence of your all-or-nothing approach. That you can’t stomach attempts to improve things because such shows a faulty eschatology or denies the fall are strong indicators that all-or-nothing thinking is your approach. And btw, accusing all who work for social justice as being all-or-nothing thinkers, regardless of what you are accusing them of, is all-or-nothing thinking. I don’t know anyone who says that the US has nothing good about it. If you listened to Noam Chomsky during his C-SPAN interview, he says that the US is a complex country. Therefore, what you want to sink in is a groundless accusation.

    So do you think it was wrong for Christians to call for the end of slavery and for the end of Jim Crow?


  27. Curt, if you admit that the U.S. has accomplished some good then what happens to all of your talk of structural injustice? Your gig is up. Then you have to admit as I do that good and bad exists at the same time in the same society, and you may even have to admit that political reforms don’t accomplish full justice.

    But if you did that, then you’d have to leave the Left and you’d no longer have your schtick.

    Please notice, I am the one who says that America has accomplished good things, that Protestant Europe was better than Christendom. I can actually say some societies are better than others. I am not black or white.

    You though have Wesleyanism in your bones. Either society is perfectly just or you’re going to boycott and protest and complain about anyone who doesn’t see it your way.


  28. sdb,
    Actually, the US Is going through a period of post-industrialism thanks to offshoring. The strongest sector of our economy is the Financial Sector and it is that that rules over the rest of the nation. Why? Because ROIs have a chance to be far greater from the Financial Sector than from manufacturing.

    The drop in bankruptcies in correlation with the advent of Obamacare is simply that, a correlation. But correlations, even though they can’t be used to prove cause and effect, can still provide evidence indicating, not implying, something to be the case. And, btw, what you seemed to have missed from the Austin Report, which was cited in the LA Times article is the following quote:

    medical bills are the single largest cause of consumer bankruptcy

    That medical expenses play a significant role in causing personal bankruptcies is the consistent message of both the Warren and Austin reports.

    Also methodological flaws do not necessarily negate the data and conclusions of any report in the way that one can totally negate what was written. Not all flaws are equal and most studies have flaws. That the the warren study was too broad does not necessarily negate the fact that medical expenses play a significant role in bankruptcies. What flaws indicate is that other studies are needed. Flaws do not necessarily tell us that we need to start from scratch.

    Your final point is nothing more than an attempt to lash out. It is one thing to disagree on exegesis, it is another thing to assign a serious characteristic flaw to those who disagree on differences in exegesis. And that lashing out provides no real discussion on our exegetical differences in how we look at Cain’s response to God.


  29. Curt,
    1. The trend in declining bankruptcies started before the ACA was enacted. There are modest inflections, but they show they bend toward a slower rate of decrease. The correlation, such as it is, is consistent with the aca making things worse. But it would be incorrect to draw that conclusion from the data. Why argue this?

    2. The LA Times editorial is not a good summary of the paper. Medical debt is a modest component of consumer debt. The other related factor is loss of income. This is why we don’t see the decline in consumer bankruptcies accelerate with the implementation of the ACA and addotion of 20m on health insurance. Medical debt is a modest component and gets swallowed in rhe noise. I don’t see why you feel the need to argue what is simply a clarification. The results were exaggerated for political purposes to pass a bill you oppose. Seeing what really does harm (e.g., loss of income) might motivate wiser action, no?

    3. Methodological flaws in a study mean you cannot acquire positive knowledge from the study. It does not mean that the conclusions are necessarily false (stopped clocks and all that). The data could be ok and need to be reanalyzed, the stats might be ok, but misunderstood, etc… the Warren study problem was the definition of what counted as a medical bankruptcy. More careful work shows that medical debt is minor and the lack of a major drop in bankruptcies relative to the previous declining trend supports the conclusion that this conclusion.

    4. You wrote, “How much more guilty are we when people suffer from our neglect or our use of an oppressive system [than Cain when he killed Abel]?” I took that to be a rhetorical question making the point that opposing political action on your priorities is worse than bashing your brother’s head in and killing him. Is that a misreading? If so what did you mean instead? If not, I stand by my observation that your moral compass is seriously skewed.


  30. sdb,
    Personally, I am not a fan of ACA. Neither am I a fan of the free market approach especially when the price of pharmaceuticals can be more determined by shareholders’ fantasies than production costs. Where the ACA has made things worse for those who get insurance through employers is bigger copays along with less coverage. But for some people, ACA has helped. But again, the percentage of bankruptcies due to medical expenses is simply unacceptable. And don’t give me this garbage about adjusting our lifespans for gunshots, drugs, and reckless driving. Those from the lower economic classes had to delay getting screenings or treatments because of expenses.

    And declaring LA Times article not to be a good summary or source doesn’t make your case. That is simply an attempt to discredit. And you might find it interesting to know that job loss can be tied to the time needed to get or search for medical treatment for a family member as well as oneself. Citing consumer expense says nothing since everyone has consumer expenses. You are simply downplaying how a system that is built for profit is failing.

    And again, methodological flaws have to be judged on a case-by-case basis and seen to what extent the flaws affect the figures. One could cite flaws in almost every study. That doesn’t mean that you toss out the whole study.

    Finally, let me restate what you have so much trouble understanding. Yes Cain deliberate killed his brother out of jealousy. Cain didn’t pretend to be innocent. But we claim innocence when out of apathy, neglect, or some other reason we say nothing about the systems and policies, which are a part of our society, that make death inevitable or directly kill people. And in a democratic society where there is free speech, we can speak out. That is where we are more guilty than Cain. He didn’t pretend to be innocent, we do.


  31. D.G.,
    Why insist on thinking in all-or-nothing terms. For example, you wrote:

    Curt, if you admit that the U.S. has accomplished some good then what happens to all of your talk of structural injustice?

    Why does some good translate into the absence of significant structural injustice?

    And when you write:

    I am the one who says that America has accomplished good things, that Protestant Europe was better than Christendom. I can actually say some societies are better than others. I am not black or white.

    When you state that Protestant Europe was an improvement over Christendom and that American society has accomplished good things and that some societies are better than others, why then do you still believe that any attempt to improve the current situation as being an attempt to reach ‘full justice’? Doesn’t that imply that America is as good as it can possibly get and thus any attempt to improve is an attempt to reach for the unreachable star? Doesn’t that imply that the problems we have are tolerable and should be counted as fixed costs? But are the problems we see today equally tolerable for everybody?


  32. Curt, your standard for injustice is Christian and not even churches employ such standards to their officers and members.

    You have yet to admit that the US has been a good society for much of its history. The reason is that you employ an ideal of egalitarianism that is radical, denies the fall, and responsible for inspiring the terror of the French Revolution and Soviet Communism. If you want to come along and present as an FDR or LBJ democrat, great. But so far you traffic in leftist radicalism and then accuse others of being either-or.

    Are you for real?


  33. D.G.,
    Like many societes, the US contains a mix. Thus, labels like good or bad gloss over significant parts of many societies.

    I(n addition, where do I employ egalitarianism? It isn’t that I don’t deny that I want egalitarianism in some respects. But when you call what I want ideal and radical, it seems to me that either you have misread what I have written or you assume, from the groups I associate with , whatt my view of egalitarianism is. THe same goes for whatever standard of injustice you think I employ. So perhaps you need to be specific in what you call leftist radicalism. Your comments are lost in abstraction right now.


  34. Curt, so now the U.S. is a mix. What happened to all the talk of structural injustice? The left’s basis for opposing that kind of injustice is because a society tolerates forms of inequality. If you want to come out for hierarchy and elitism, fine.

    But until then own our socialist radical ideas. And seek to overthrow the American government because it is unjust.


  35. D.G.,
    I’ve always said America was a mix. I don’t look at America in all-or-nothing terms. It is you who implies that being mix implies that there are no structural injustices.

    Btw, I don’t need to own what I disagree with. At the same time, I believe in a nonviolent, democratic revolution or overthrow–your word. But note that such an overthrow requires the vast majority of the people agreeing and working for such a revolution and that takes time and gradual changes. The word that some on the left have for that is re-evolution. And such a revolution doesn’t mean that we don’t keep some of what was there before. Note that not all on the Left are Bolshviks.

    In addition, there are other parts to structure of society in addition, to our political system. Also, the results of no revolution lasts forever. And there is no utopia being sought. THere will be plenty of problems to either solve or live with if such a revolution takes place.


  36. Curt, once again you’re wrong. I’m not either-or. I accept a fallen world. That’s why America is mixed.

    You seem to think that re-evolution (how clever) is going to reduce (or eliminate?) social injustice? Hah!

    But you do admit that the American system has to go. That’s either-or. Either we stay with America’s social sin, or we overturn it.

    Marx up!


  37. D.G.,
    It seems that you read my statements with assumptions. The changes I believe should happen could possibly reduce injustice, not eliminate it. I’ve said from the beginning that improvmen is the goal of any legitiamte social justive movement.

    As for me being wrong, I don’t see any comment I made about you in my last note. SO how am I wrong about you?

    As for your marx it up imperative? Again, why can’t you accept the fact that I have disagreements with Marx as well as agreements? This goes back to my first comment:

    The all-or-nothing approach says that because Jesus didn’t die to better the world, then we have nothing to learn from the progressive call to help the vulnerable and work for justice. But what does that position associate Christianity with? The association is quite clear: Christians can let the world burn while they sing the Psalms on the Lord’s Day while only helping those who live close to them. ON the other hand, what is associated with beliefs other than Christianity is a love that moves people to help other groups and they often do that without any reference to eschatology. It is a mistake to think that working for Social Justice must include some form eschatology.

    BTW, your exhortation to ‘Marx i up’ is prefcisely what I wm referring to in that first comment. It is an all-or-nothing approach to social justice. And it seems that you think people must take that all-or-nothing approach if they believe in working for social justice. But since those working for social justice do not form a monolith, then there are people who work for social justice who lie outside the models of your thought.


  38. Curt, so you want to be radical while being moderate.

    Got it.

    But radicalism is either-or. Moderates live with the system.

    So which is it. Do you want to improve or destroy and rebuild? I know what leftists say. Your hesitancy is revealing.


  39. D.G.,
    I want what works. It is you who seems to think that I should want what is radical.

    And you think leftists are a monolith? Of course all of this is distract from the issues at hand. It’s a game you play and you play that game as a way of looking down on people.

    You apparently don’t believe in working for social justice in order to improve things. And that brings up some historical questions. Do you believe that it was wrong for Christians to work for the abolition of slavery and Jim Crow?


  40. D.G.,
    You asked before about me being a radical and what changes I want. the article linked to below offers a good distinction between the left and liberals. The difference between leftists often comes in the time frame in which they want changes made and the method. THose who want revolution, want changes now. THose who are stagists or opt for re-evotlution, which is not my term btw, see this happenng over time with support from the people. Except for a couple of points, I agree with what is written in the article linked to below:



  41. Curt, I think you are a strange kind of conservative Protestant if you recommend this:

    A critique of patriarchy, the oldest of these domination/subordination systems, is at the heart of any credible left politics, though it is the social system most routinely ignored by leftists. The patriarchal claim that such hierarchy is inevitable is one of the most dangerous myths in human history, long used to justify men’s control of women’s reproductive power and sexuality.

    Defending women’s reproductive rights, including abortion, is a core principle, and just as central is challenging men’s claim to a right to buy and sell objectified female bodies for sexual pleasure. We must confront men who buy women for sex as we act in feminist solidarity with prostituted women (what liberals call “sex workers”), supporting programs that help women and vulnerable men exit the sexual-exploitation industries.

    Realism? It’s all cliches.


  42. hahahaha. That was a horrible read. Social System most ignored by leftists? Not in these United States. But, yes, I regularly turn my anger toward racial minorities so that the ‘bosses’ don’t feel my wrath. The Man has it rigged. This is Undercover Brother but without the tongue in cheek comedy relief.


  43. If he is representative of journalism profs, it explains a lot about the sorry state of journalism. In other news, the minimum wage hike in Seattle resulted in a decline of $125/wk for minimum wage workers. One might suggest that arbitrary wage mandates are less efficient at aiding the working poor than wage subsidies (e.g., expansion of the EITC). But evidently all right of center critiques of leftist positions are just the outworking of Randianism, so wage subsidies must be evil ways of subsidizing corporate greed…or something.

    One might think that the new-liberal consensus that emerged in the west in the 70’s-80’s and then took over the world in the 90’s resulting in explosive growth in longevity, decline in violence, drop in hunger, poverty, and infant mortality, steady increase in literacy, decline in birth rates, improvement in ecological protection, and improvement in virtually every metric of human flourishing might get just a little more respect. Alas….


  44. D.G.,
    I believe that I worte what’s below in the same comment in which I left a link to the article:

    Except for a couple of points, I agree with what is written in the article linked to below:

    BTW, why would Iyou use Illinois in the comparison? And for whom does Texas work better?


  45. Curt, because you are a social justice warrior. What happens in society is right up your alley.

    Or did you finally become a fundamentalist and start ignoring this world?


  46. D.G.,
    Yes, what happens in society is a concern. But that doesn’t answer the question. Why would the comparison between Illinois and Texas be a concern to me? Or in other words, why would the comparison damage my point of view?

    BTW, interesting false dichotomy you presented.


  47. D.G.,
    First, what about the reality in the comparison between Texas and Illinois hurts my cause? Implied in the comparison is that Illinois represents something I support. There, it is easier to assume that connection than to show it.

    Second, who said I was utopian? We might also ask if supporters of Capitalism believe in a relative utopia. And such is the reason for comparing Illinois to Texas.


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