Archive for January, 2013


On January 1, 2013, under The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”),  a part of the law was enacted, giving authority (PHS Act section 2713(a)(4)) to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop preventative health regulations. These regulations mandate that employers provide insurance to eligible employees and that they pay for certain women’s preventative services at no cost to their beneficiaries. These services include “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity” (1). Some of these medications are drugs like, “Plan B” which the FDA says work “by preventing attachment (implantation) to the womb (uterus)” (6). The law does provide exemption from this part of the law to certain religious organizations. (2) However, on December 26, 2012, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected Hobby Lobby’s request to temporarily stop the enactment of the regulation (3) ruling that the retail store chain owned and operated by Christians (The Green Family), could not be classified as an exempt “religious organization.” On January 4, 2013, CEO David Green (Net worth: $4.5 billion)(4), penned a letter (5) that stated his heartfelt beliefs and concerns about these newly enacted regulations-it quickly went viral.

I have really struggled with this part of the law and I wondered how I would respond to such a mandate. These are a few of my thoughts:

1. An Assault on Religious Freedoms: This law, and the associated HHS regulation, imposes upon those who lead companies a “tax” that pays for abortive drugs. There is no doubt in my mind that if I were David Green, I would not be OK with this. It would tug at my conscience and I believe he did the right thing in filing the lawsuit that he did. But to say that this law is taking away religious freedom is giving the law way too much power – a power it has not earned nor deserves. This law is not mandating that the Christian doctors I work with every day prescribe these abortive medications. It is not requiring that I wear a certain type of clothing or head covering, or even bow to a certain idol or person. This law will change absolutely nothing in my personal relationship with Christ. It changes only a line on a Christian’s insurance EOB (explanation of benefits) and what her insurance premiums will pay for. Let us not give undue power to the law of our nation.

2.Paying to Caesar: On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate was a “tax.” Well, taxes, in fact, were discussed a great deal in the New Testament. They were a sort of hot topic at the time as well. In Mark 12:13-17, the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus in his own words and asked him, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” This was a loaded question for that community. Jesus answered to them to, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The word “Caesar” came with all sorts of baggage – not too unlike the word, “Obama” carries today to some as well. But Tiberius Caesar’s  government was crucifying innocent men, exorbitantly taxing the poor, and offered almost no religious freedom. Tiberius in his personal life was a pedophile, a murderer, and by the very nature of being “Caesar”, claimed to be a god. The denarius Jesus held in his hand was funding this man’s administration. This was the man Jesus said to give what was rightfully his. This story carries more than just a discussion of paying the government taxes. It is much more about giving to God what is God’s! I may pay 25% of my paycheck to a government that supports abortion, instigates drone attacks, and carries out capital punishment…but my allegiance does not belong to my government or to my country – my heart does not beat for the president but it longs for my Savior. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Do I respect our President and love my country? Absolutely. But I do not fear them.

3. Innovate, Don’t Stagnate: Hobby Lobby faces almost certain financial peril should the SCOTUS uphold their decision. Jesus was sending out his disciples in Matthew 10:16 and undoubtedly they were facing significant danger  as well. It was at that time that he warned them to be, “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Synonyms of “shrewd” are, “clever, smart, sharp, astute, and sly”. I truly hope that Mr. Green gets ridiculously creative and lovingly shames those who may impose upon him these regulations. What if David Green boldly switches his business model into a not-for-profit “religious organization” to incorporate abortion prevention services and ministries to those reeling from past abortions. What if he gathered the most creative innovators he could find to stage loving displays of dissidence. This could be Mr. Green’s most challenging yet brightest hour…and even better yet – our Lord would be glorified.

4. Commitment To Conscience: Several years ago, I purchased David Green’s book, More Than a Hobby and was impressed by his commitment to his faith. It’s a good read. I bought the book years before Hobby Lobby was all over the news so I pulled the book off my shelf several days ago to again peruse its pages. What amazed me was that the language we have heard Mr. Green using on all of the media outlets was the very same language he used years ago before his business was faced with near-certain financial ruin if he held to those very same values. Chapter 12 entitled, “This is Not a Secular Business”, could have been taken straight off the front page of today’s newspaper. I have deep admiration for this gentleman. He was committed to following Christ years ago when he was building a brand, and he remains committed to his walk when the road is difficult as well. “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” Proverbs 28:18.

5. De-Politicize It: The two foes have taken their respective corners and the fighting has begun. The GOP has rallied around Hobby Lobby as they hold high their banner of the “Evangelical Right”. The Left has rallied around the Affordable Care Act and the Obama Administration as they hold high their banner of the “rights of women.” But these divisions only clarify for me even more that God’s Kingdom is not of this world. The Left is blind to the fact that though they are the party of the underdog, they trample on the lives of those most helpless. And the Right is blind to the fact that though they are the champion of the unborn, they often turn away from the poor. I realize that these are over-generalizations. But my point is this: Our hope is not in laws, lobbyists, or lawyers-it is not in our Country or our President-it is not in our freedom from worldly oppression…it is in the Salvation, Grace, and Mercy that our Redeemer has freely given. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7

A recent post has gone viral around Facebook:

“Last month, the Senate Budget Committee reports that in fiscal year 2011, between food stamps, housing support, child care, Medicaid and other benefits, the average US household below the poverty line received $168 a day in government support. What’s the problem with that much support? Well, the median household income in America is just over $50,000, which averages out to $137.13 a day. To put it another way, being on welfare now pays the equivalent of $30 an hour for a 40-hour week, while the average job pays $25 an hour. And the person who works also has to pay taxes, which drops his pay to $21 an hour. It’s no wonder that welfare is now the biggest part of the budget, more than Social Security or defense. And why would anyone want to get off welfare when working pays $9 an hour less?” (1)

This post refers to a Senate Budget Committee report lead by U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee. As much as I am for budget reform and fiscal responsibility, I immediately saw several flaws and/or disturbing aspects of this report.

1. The “Welfare Programs”: The 83 “Welfare programs” that total up to the $1.03 trillion in welfare costs include programs such as the “Additional Child Tax Credit, Pell Grants, Federal Work Study Programs, Child Support Enforcement, Improving Teacher Quality State Grants, Adoption Assistance, Foster Care, Weatherization Assistance Program (2). These programs are portrayed as the programs that directly go into the pockets of the poor. This is hardly so.

2. Below the Poverty Line: This report divides the total “welfare expenditures” ($1.03 trillion) by families living below the federal poverty level (FPL). In 2011, the U.S. had an estimated  61.3 million people below 100% FPL (3). However, the key problem with these numbers is that many of the above, “welfare programs” are provided to individuals with incomes up to 200% FPL. For example, in Ohio, children and pregnant women may be eligible for Medicaid services if their income falls below 200% FPL (4). If you include the individuals whose household incomes fall between 100% and 200% FPL, you add tens of millions of people. An estimated 8% (25 million souls) of the U.S. population have incomes falling between 100% and 138% FPL (5). Add in those falling between 138% and 200% FPL and that number nears the 50 million mark.

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3. Simple Math: If you take $1.03 trillion and divide it by 61.3 million souls, you will get a number that is (falsely) higher than if you took $1.03 trillion and divided it by 100 million souls. It is not clear exactly where the committee got its numbers but I did a little calculating on my own.Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 12.38.57 AM

If the average household size is 2.64 souls (U.S. Census Data, Average Household Size, (6), I figure that with my numbers, the “below 100% FPL” should be $170.14 ($30.94/hour) per household of “welfare program costs”. When you include those with household income “below 200% FPL”, the per household welfare costs drop to $104.30 ($18.96/hour). Even using this committee’s math (which I feel is faulty), the numbers change dramatically when you near reality.

4. Painting a Picture: Probably my biggest problem with this entire report is that it paints the picture of the poor getting wealthy off “the system”. It implies that all of these welfare dollars are going to people in cash form when this is simply not true or accurate. It compares government assistance (apples) to hourly wages (oranges). It “villainifies” a people who are oppressed by their circumstances (and sometimes bad decisions) and who have complex socioeconomic challenges (mental illness, chronic disease, criminal histories, developmental delays, histories of abuse, and drug use). My friends, I dare to go so far as to say this is sinful. We as Christians are to be the champions of the oppressed. At the very minimum, we should be accurately portraying the truth (truth in love would be icing on the cake). Is the system broken? Absolutely. Is abuse of the system rampant? No doubt. But we as followers of Christ should be the fighters on the front line working to give “cups of cold water” in His name.