• OPINION \ Oct 30, 2020
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    Why this Strange Position from American Evangelicals? Shukri Habibi
Why this Strange Position from American Evangelicals?
Shukri Habibi

Christianity Today recently published in its November 2020 issue a comprehensive report on the history of the struggle in the US to provide medical care for all citizens. The report was shocking in in terms of the position of Evangelical fundamentalists in the US. The report tells us that in the beginning everyone, including the conservative Evangelicals, acknowledged the importance of  medical care for all. It also mentioned how the attempts of former president Bill Clinton to present such a medical proposal in 1994 were in vain. The report attributes this failure to the opposition of Evangelical conservative to this proposal. Pat Roberson’s Christian Coalition worked tirelessly against the project. He spent a 1,400,000 USD to stop it. In the 2010, when President Barak Obama announced his proposal to provide medical care for the poor, again Evangelicals opposed him without significant reasons. The report pointed to a study published in 2019 which reveals the position of different sects and groups to this project. The result was shocking. Only 23.8% of white Evangelicals supported the proposal, against a support of 84.8% among black Protestants, 66.2% of Hispanic Catholics, and 40% of white mainline Protestants.

            The position of white fundamentalist Evangelicals was strange and very much disconcerting. They came in last in their support for medical care for millions of poor Americans, while they should have been on top of that list as they are Evangelicals who call for the gospel principals of justice and mercy for the oppressed. The reasons they gave, according to my judgement, are not significant enough to warrant their opposition to a humanitarian proposal seeking to help millions of people in need.

            The question becomes, why did Evangelical Fundamentalists take this upsetting negative position? I think there are several reasons, and chief among them is the fusion of Evangelicals in the free capitalism whereby they have strayed away from the gospel principals of justice and mercy. There Christianity has been tied to the principals and values of a capitalist society, chief among them being complete individual freedom over and against the other members of society. The individual decides what type of health insurance she wants, and she freely goes on to get it without government interference. They held on to this position knowing that millions would lose their health insurance for lack of funds. What is worse more yet is that those same fundamentalists speak of Christian salvation in individualistic terms, and this individualism is reflected in other areas of life such as health insurance, which is now for them an individual’s responsibility.

            This has become an extreme view. I recently read someone arguing that his tax money should not go towards helping the unemployed or giving food aid to the needy. Knowing that he probably has no problem if his tax money went towards the budget of the ministry of defense, some costly military project, or to wage war against other people.

            Hence, we have an essential problem whereby Fundamentalist Evangelical have lost their spiritual compass and need to return to the gospel principals of justice and mercy. That is why we see them holding tight to other issues such as abortion and fighting nail and tooth against them. Abortion is an important issue, but they do not give any attention to issues of justice, mercy, and peace. On the subject of peace, these Evangelical Fundamentalists were one of the most supportive groups for wars on other people under the guise of nonsensical reasons; these wars killed thousands of people. Add to that the fundamentalists’ support for the possession of individual guns which has begotten many accidents and killed hundreds of victims, especially school children. Furthermore, they support Israel and its settlement projects wholeheartedly. Here we see clear contradiction between the stance of these Evangelicals and the values of the gospel. The words of Jesus to the Pharisees ring true yet: “you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23b).

            The structure on which these fundamentalists stand has led them to adopt the Right’s position on political, social, and cultural issues in society. That is why we see them fight hard against governmental programs to help those in need socially, culturally, and educationally, such as increasing the food aid for the poor. It is noteworthy that in their position in the right-wing camp means they have chosen not to address the problem of racism in society, ignoring it completely.

            May the Lord help us in these troubled times to see things as they are, and not try to cover up the facts with barriers and carefully constructed illusions which keep us away from a healthy biblical understanding. May we come back to the path of righteousness, to the true gospel values of justice, mercy, peace, and standing by the oppressed.