Ideas have consequences and often – unintended consequences. The ideological basis for the Supreme Court decision regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Acts (“ObamaCare”) I believe will be discovered to be such a case.
The merits and deficiencies of this decision will be debated between political parties for months and among legal scholars for decades. Yet the deeper realities of this and other such laws which touch deeply our personal lives, will craft our national consciousness and sculpt the “very soul of our nation” for centuries.
Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein (1818)1 is an illustration of this important concept. Her classic story was not just a great universal classic horror movie, but was also a profound early 19th century statement on the unintended consequences of good intentions that were ethically deficient in the scientific experimentation of a fast changing world.
Over the years, I have witnessed many sad souls living with their “monsters” – the unintended consequences of bad decisions like: tearful battles in family court, rebellious adolescents, alcoholism, and even suicide. These “monsters,” or unintended consequences, cannot all be traced to a singular bad decision. More often these monsters arise, as in Shelly’s classic, from a long series of decisions based on poorly conceived and erroneous ideas.
I have no credentials for making these statements beyond that of an arm-chair-quarterback-concerned-citizen trying to analyze the Obamacare SCOTUS decision from a minister’s perspective. But I would like to offer a pastoral-theological reflection on what I see as the precipitating event, in a series of bad actions, that appears to be creating an unnatural, godless and uncontrollable monster that will stalk us and affect our well-being as a nation long into the future.
I believe that our “Frankenstein’s monster”, the result of unintentional consequences is statism: the perpetual philosophical lie that human redemption can come from a centralized political collective and that it will lead us to the utopia we inherently desire.
The desire for betterment individually or collectively is not wrong. It is, as I say, inherent. It is a familiar longing in all of us. However, it is the “thing” that we chose for redemption that can destroy us or can save us. That choice is wrapped up in what we call a “worldview” – that is how we see the world and we understand the world to work.
Belief in statism as a redemptive power is a “worldview”. It is a very bad and dangerous worldview and it grips much of the world today. It falsely promises a better place, a utopia, if you will, with a Faustian devil’s deal, if ever there was one.
Statism contradicts the biblical worldview of God’s Creation-Man’s Fall-Redemption in Christ. There is no utopia save the Kingdom of love that is communicated in the Bible through redemption in Christ, available to all who receive it and the Kingdom of God that is inevitably coming in the form of a new heaven and a new earth. 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
Having 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.
Hayek believed that European people were making a deal with the devil by accepting the State’s promise for collective security by trading their personal liberty. He argued that Britain, as early as 1944, was in danger of a selfsame statism that would 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 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, 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.