Are you a Christian? Do you oppose Obamacare? Well, according to MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, those two are mutually exclusive. Schultz claimed on the “The Ed Show” this Saturday that only “phony Christians” oppose the Affordable Care Act. “They’re phony Christians.” Schultz claimed, “Phony Christians when they say that they are Christian but then they want to take away from their next door neighbor. They don’t want to be their brother’s keeper.” Obamacare, Schultz believes, was “the most moral thing this country has ever done… If ObamaCare is repealed, Americans will die. Children of God will die.”
Christians on the left and right constantly disagree on the merits of certain pieces of legislation. It’s one thing to say that your opponents have an incorrect view about how this or that law aligns with biblical principles. But it’s another thing entirely to go beyond these criticisms and question the sincerity of their beliefs. In doing so, Schultz has clearly crossed a line.
The claim that Christians who oppose Obamacare do so because they don’t want to be “their brother’s keeper” is nonsense. Most Christians who oppose Obamacare do so because they believe God’s command to care for the sick and needy are personal commands that should not be supplanted by government mandates. There’s no Christian charity in giving when that giving comes at the threat of fines and legal action. All Christians agree that that communities should do more to care for the least among them; the only squabble is over the methods.
Schultz’ claim is particularly frustrating, because the clips he uses of religious Republicans specifically show their concern that the law will harm the neediest in America. “Vulnerable children, vulnerable women, vulnerable senior citizens, now get to pay more and get less” Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) says in one clip. Later in the segment, Schultz interviews Focus on the Family’s Ken Klukowski, who reiterates that he believes Obamacare will lead to “denial of care, delay of care” (Over Schultz’s yell of “Those are lies!”). Conservative Christians clearly don’t disagree with helping the poor, they question whether the law will do so.
The notion that an often confusing and mostly unimplemented 2,700 page bill ought to be litmus test for one’s Christianity is patently ridiculous. With so many provisions and rules, it was almost inevitable that many of them would give Christians pause. Just last week, the Obama administration announced that at least $655,000 in Obamacare funds will be going to state Planned Parenthood affiliates. Before that, liberal and conservative churches alike complained that Obamacare as currently written would negatively impact the healthcare of their employees. Not to mention the dozens of religiously-backed lawsuits over HHS rules requiring employers provide contraception coverage.
Of course, when it comes to labeling someone a “phony Christian,” Schultz is throwing stones in a glass house given his years of unchristian-like conduct. In 2011, he called conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut.” Angry at a story that characterized MSNBC’s move of his show from weekdays to weekends as a demotion, Schultz once labeled POLITICO “a bunch of freaking whores”. The NY Post once reported that in an angry phone call to MSNBC staffers, he declared “I’m going to torch this ****ing place,” before hanging up with a scream of “****ers!” That earned Schultz a mandatory meeting with MSNBC president Phil Griffin, who promised he’d be fired if he ever did it again.
All things considered, Schultz is guilty of doing exactly what he claims his opponents are doing; using Christianity as a rhetorical tool in a political battle. Anyone with even an elementary knowledge of rhetoric will recognize his argument as a “No True Scotsman” fallacy. That well-meaning Christians can disagree on the best way to care for the poor and sick isn’t exactly that much of a stretch. But understanding and nuance doesn’t sell on cable television. On “The Ed Show” in particular, hateful attacks and ignorant posturing reigns supreme.