The health care debate rages on and on- and it appears that religion, or more accurately the religious right and religious left- will have a lot to do with the outcome. During the August break, conservative groups and the religious right are making a concerted and coordinated effort to make their opposition heard.
Town Hall meetings, communication with various senators and representatives, and the standard drama on talk radio. The most contentious issues are whether the government funded insurance will fund abortion and pressure old people into not extending their lives. Both are dear issues to the religious right under the guise of protecting and respecting life as the sacred creation of God.
A new group the media is calling the Religious Left, meaning liberal-leaning evangelicals and some Protestant groups and clergy are moving to counteract the mobilization of the religious right. I would say that the damage has mostly been done as far as meeting with the senators on their break. It is possible that a mobilized “religious left” will have some effect- it will be interesting to see how the media reacts to this.
But anger tends to play better than support on the news, and the right has that going for them. The call for dialogue, both with the religious right and with Obama may serve to advance the generally tattered state of the health care reform movement. The aggressive campaign may in fact be the spark of public support for the health care bill that it is currently lacking.
The religious support is mostly attributed to the Biblical call to support the weak and the sick as part of being a good Christian. Taking care of the sick is a consistent theme in the Bible- as is respect for life. Both sides have a good leg to stand on as far as their general principle.
It seems to me that if the Senate would make explicit in the bill that government funds could not be used for abortions, which is pretty much the deal anyway, there would be little of substance for the religious right to complain about. And that is a concession or condition or however you want to think about it that Obama sounds ready to take. I have seen him say that while he is Pro-Choice, he also feels that Washington D.C. has a tradition of not using federal funds to pay for abortions and that he is ok with that.
That’s smart politics on his part- abortion is definitely not the issue to pick to fight with anybody over on this one. The House would probably figure out a way to go back in time and not pass it if that were the case. There would be major outrage in the religious right that would spread like wildfire if Obama came out swinging to get federal funding to pay for abortions.
As for Palin’s “death panels,” everything I have read and heard is that the goal is to give people the explicit option to choose what they do and do not want to be done to extend their lives. That seems like a reasonable thing for people to decide for themselves while they are able. Period.