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Statism and the Road to Serfdom: A Biblical-Theological Reflection on the Supreme Court Decision on the HealthCare Law

Michael Milton

Ideas have consequences—and unintended consequences.

The Supreme Court decision about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Acts (“Obama-Care“) is one such case. It’s merits, deficiencies, nuances and implications will be debated between legal scholars for decades and, no doubt, between the political parties for months, and between news pundits of all ideological stripes for, possibly, hours, maybe even days. Yet the deeper realities that touch our lives, craft our national consciousness and, at the risk of melodrama, sculpt the “very soul of our nation” for centuries, often remain undetected. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1818)[1] may be helpful at this point (Mark Hendrickson of Grove City College has found Shelly helpful, in a 29 June 2012 article on the Center for Vision and Values, Dr. Hendrickson called the Euro a “Frankenstein currency”). Her classic novel was not just a great Universal classic horror movie, but a profound early 19th century statement on, among other possibilities, the unintended consequences of the Industrial Revolution. As a pastor, I want to help people consider the “monsters” in their decisions. I have seen many saddened souls living, barely existing, with those unintended consequences from bad decisions: decisions that led to unintended consequences like tearful battles in family court to rebellious adolescents to alcoholism and even suicide. “Frankenstein’s monster,” the unintended consequences, are not all traced to a singular bad decision. More often the monsters arise, as in Shelly’s classic, from a series of bad ideas that lead to the inevitable, horrendous checkmate; and the unleashing of the Creature.

 

I have no credentials beyond that of an arm-chair-quarterback-concerned-citizen to analyze the Obama-care SCOTUS decision. But I do want to offer a pastoral-theological reflection on what I see as a precipitating event in a series of bad moves that can lead to being stalked by an unnatural, godless and uncontrollable beast that we seem to be creating. Again, my interest is the monster: unintended consequences. I believe that our “Frankenstein’s Monster” is Statism: a perpetual philosophical lie that redemption comes from a centralized political collective that will lead us to a Utopia we inherently desire. The desire for a better place is not wrong. It is, as I say, inherent. It is a familiar longing in all of us. The choice of a “redemption” to get you there can destroy you or save you. That choice of the road to redemption is called “worldview.”

Statism is a worldview. It is a very bad and dangerous worldview that grips much of the world today and promises to feed that inherent human desire for a better place, that Utopia, if you will, with a Faustian devil’s deal, if ever there was one.

 

Statism, with its toxic legacy of despots like Hitler, Stalin and broken dreams like modern democratic socialism, denies the Biblical worldview of Creation-Fall-Redemption. Here is a bite-size review of the worldview that has been the glue, sometimes unseen, often forgotten, that has held Western Civilization together. The Bible teaches that God created the world. Man disobeyed and fell into sin, and is in bondage to that sin and the world itself is fallen with it, all needing redemption. Redemption comes from God, and through Christianity, my faith, and the faith that we teach at our seminary, the faith that is enshrined in the very architecture of the nation’s capitol as well as embedded in our founding documents and proclaimed by so many of our founders themselves, like Washington and Witherspoon, John Jay and Patrick Henry. That faith is that there is only redemption through Jesus Christ and through the truths of His Word, the Bible. Jesus Christ claimed that to know Him is to know Freedom (“You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free,” and “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life“). He is, then, according to His testimony, the way to the place we instinctively desire to go. There is no Utopia, but there is a Kingdom of love that is here, available to all who receive it and is also a kingdom on its way in the form of a new heaven and a new earth. That faith, explicitly stated in Christian theology, is taught, in similar ways in the writings of the Hebrew Old Testament prophets, whether Moses or Malachi. Statism, as Austrian economist F.A. Hayek pleaded in his landmark title, The Road to Serfdom (1944) is the antithesis of the worldview of Christianity. As he begins his chapter on “The Great Utopia,” he exposes the rotten-core worldview of Statism:

 

“What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.”[2]

 

Hayek left his native country in 1931, which eventually collapsed itself under the monster of Statism, and eventually handed herself over to the shackles of totalitarianism and National Socialism. He became a professor at the London School of Economics. He believed that European people were making a deal with the devil by accepting the State’s offer of promising a trade of personal liberty would lead to a collective security. He argued that Britain, as early as 1944, was in danger of a selfsame statism that could lead to devastating consequences. His arguments were, at length, exported to America as he immigrated here to teach at the University of Chicago. Though “he being dead yet speaketh,[3] and Hayek’s call to be wary of the “outsourcing” of personal security and responsibility for State control and planning of our lives is the bedrock issue we are facing today as a people. I say again, as a minister and theologian, I am most concerned that the recent issues in healthcare and national debt and growing entitlements are lifting the curtain to reveal a mad scientist at work creating a monster that will not be silenced but by many sorrows. The voices of Shelly and Hayek are important, but they are yet lesser voices of warning echoing a greater voice to every man, woman and child:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1 AV).

 

This Independence Day is a good time to remember that America was founded by those whose worldview exposed the lie of Statism and chose freedom and then were willing to pay the price to keep it. Their selfless sacrifice for that liberty brought about consequences that have been a blessing unto this day. It is never too late to reclaim that liberty again.

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[1] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (New York: Oxford UP, 1994).

[2] F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents, edited by Bruce Caldwell (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007 edition of the 1944 original), 76. Hayek began this chapter with the quotation cited by German poet, Johann C. Hölderlin. For more information on Hayek and the Austrian School of economics, see The Mises Institute (http://mises.org/). See also the Center for Vision and Values (http://www.visionandvalues.org/), at Grove City College (http://www.gcc.edu).

[3] The Epistle to the Hebrews, 11:4. Authorized Version (AV).

 

http://michaelmilton.org/2012/06/30/statism-and-the-road-to-serfdom-a-biblical-theological-reflection-on-the-supreme-court-decision-on-the-healthcare-law/




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Book Recommendations:


Statism: The Shadow of Another Night is an anthology on the subject of statism, with a special emphasis on early indicators and movements. Many aspects of statism, and even the word "statism" itself are clearly unknown to the public; so a book warning about these dangers that are faced "when the government is seen as ultimate reality" (R.C. Sproul) is urgently needed. The cover (the memorial at Dachau concentration camp), depicting the "final solution" of a statist government gone completely mad, is deliberately ominous and serious as this subject should be. The winds of war can be halted, but only when law-abiding citizens, who understand what is at stake, are willing to engage the enemy and teach others to do the same. Article contributions and documents from: Peter Lillback, C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Tim Keller, John Frame, Francis Schaeffer, Michael Milton, Richard Hannula, Nell Chinchen, D. James Kennedy, Douglas Kelly, Jerry Newcombe, Mostyn Roberts, George Grant