My issue with pieces like this one comes down to a question of good-faith. In a certain context, given some mutual assumptions and amongst people who share particular convictions, arguing from the New Testament to a certain political program can be persuasive and valuable. The trouble comes when such an argument appears ex nihilo in a secular worldview universe. Then it becomes a transparently manipulative attempt to appropriate a belief system that the author clearly sees no transcendent value in–aside from the value of momentarily making his opponents look like hypocrites.
This is the kind of theological co-opting that harms the gospel, whether it comes from the right or the left. I have Christian friends who believe, as Kristof apparently does, that the teachings of Jesus lead us to a particular system of healthcare in government. Their perspective is informed by Scripture and Christian ethics. But it’s also informed by a more general humility toward the lordship of Jesus Christ and the inspiration and authority of the Bible. My Christian friends who argue from a biblical perspective for their healthcare policy also believe that, for example, Jesus really was speaking through the apostle Paul when he says that those who practice fornication, adultery, homosexuality, idolatry, covetousness, etc, will not inherit the kingdom. Their perspective on healthcare comes from a place of good faith, and even if I do not agree politically, I have to reckon with their arguments as if it is indeed possible that they articulating a genuinely Christian position.
But Kristof’s op-ed comes from no such place. There is little evidence that Kristof himself operates on a biblical worldview, and there is even less evidence that he really believes a Christian-oriented political governance would be good for the country. In 2004, Kristof issued a strong rebuke to Christians who opposed same-sex marriage, attacking them for their transparently theocratic attempt to force their religion on their neighbors:
In any case, do we really want to make Paul our lawgiver? Will we enforce Paul’s instruction that women veil themselves and keep their hair long? (Note to President Bush: If you want to obey Paul, why don’t you start by veiling Laura and keeping her hair long, and only then move on to barring gay marriages.)
Given these ambiguities, is there any solution? One would be to emphasize the sentiment in Genesis that “it is not good for the human to be alone,” and allow gay lovers to marry.
This quotation does not flatter Kristof’s healthcare column. It exposes a mercenary use of Scripture and a disingenuous instinct toward religious belief. Those who warn against theocracy and the apostle Paul when talking about marriage are not entitled to appeal to the lordship of Christ when the topic turns to healthcare. As C.S. Lewis said, Christ did not leave us the luxury of dismissing him as merely a good moral teacher. He is a liar, a lunatic, or a lord–and the right choice doesn’t depend on which party has a majority.