Government as Utopia

Statism and the Road toSerfdom: A Biblical-Theological Reflection on the Supreme Court Decision on theHealthCare Law

Michael Milton

Ideas have consequences—and unintended consequences.

The Supreme Court decision about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Acts (“Obama-Care“) is one such case. It’s merits, deficiencies,nuances and implications will be debated between legal scholars for decadesand, no doubt, between the political parties for months, and between newspundits of all ideological stripes for, possibly, hours, maybe even days. Yetthe deeper realities that touch our lives, craft our national consciousnessand, at the risk of melodrama, sculpt the “very soul of our nation” for centuries,often remain undetected. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1818)[1] may be helpful at this point (MarkHendrickson of Grove City College has found Shelly helpful, in a 29June 2012 article on the Center for Vision and Values, Dr. Hendrickson called the Euro a“Frankenstein currency”). Her classic novel was not just a great Universalclassic horror movie, but a profound early 19th century statement on, amongother possibilities, the unintended consequences of the Industrial Revolution. As a pastor, I want to help peopleconsider the “monsters” in their decisions. I have seen many saddened soulsliving, barely existing, with those unintended consequences from bad decisions:decisions that led to unintended consequences like tearful battles in family courtto rebellious adolescents to alcoholism and even suicide. “Frankenstein’smonster,” the unintended consequences, are not all traced to a singular baddecision. More often the monsters arise, as in Shelly’s classic, from a seriesof bad ideas that lead to the inevitable, horrendous checkmate; and theunleashing of the Creature.

 

I have no credentials beyond that of anarm-chair-quarterback-concerned-citizen to analyze the Obama-care SCOTUSdecision. But I do want to offer a pastoral-theological reflection on what Isee as a precipitating event in a series of bad moves that can lead to beingstalked by an unnatural, godless and uncontrollable beast that we seem to becreating. Again, my interest is the monster: unintended consequences. I believethat our “Frankenstein’sMonster” is Statism: a perpetual philosophical lie that redemption comes from acentralized political collective that will lead us to a Utopia we inherentlydesire. The desire for a better place is not wrong. It is, as I say, inherent.It is a familiar longing in all of us. The choice of a “redemption” to get youthere can destroy you or save you. That choice of the road to redemption iscalled “worldview.”

Statism is a worldview. It is a very bad and dangerous worldviewthat grips much of the world today and promises to feed that inherent humandesire for a better place, that Utopia, if you will, with a Faustian devil’s deal, if everthere was one.

 

Statism, with its toxic legacy of despots like Hitler, Stalinand broken dreams like modern democratic socialism, denies theBiblical worldview of Creation-Fall-Redemption. Here is a bite-size review ofthe worldview that has been the glue, sometimes unseen, often forgotten, thathas held Western Civilization together. The Bible teaches that God created theworld. Man disobeyed and fell into sin, and is in bondage to that sin and theworld itself is fallen with it, all needing redemption. Redemption comes fromGod, and through Christianity, my faith, and the faith that we teach at ourseminary, the faith that is enshrined in the very architecture of the nation’scapitol as well as embedded in our founding documents and proclaimed by so manyof our founders themselves, like Washington and Witherspoon, John Jay andPatrick Henry. That faith is that there is only redemption through Jesus Christ and through the truths of His Word, the Bible.Jesus Christ claimed that to know Him is to know Freedom (“You shall know theTruth and the Truth shall set you free,” and “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life“).He is, then, according to His testimony, the way to the place we instinctivelydesire to go. There is no Utopia, but there is a Kingdom of love that is here, available to allwho receive it and is also a kingdom on its way in the form of a new heaven anda new earth. That faith, explicitly stated in Christian theology, istaught, in similar ways in the writings of the Hebrew Old Testament prophets,whether Moses or Malachi. Statism, as Austrian economist F.A. Hayek pleaded in his landmark title, The Road toSerfdom (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 madethe state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it hisheaven.”[2]

 

Hayek left his native country in 1931, which eventuallycollapsed itself under the monster of Statism, and eventually handed herselfover to the shackles of totalitarianism and National Socialism. He became aprofessor at the London School ofEconomics. He believed that European people were making a deal withthe devil by accepting the State’s offer of promising a trade of personalliberty would lead to a collective security. He argued that Britain, as earlyas 1944, was in danger of a selfsame statism that could lead to devastatingconsequences. His arguments were, at length, exported to America as heimmigrated here to teach at the University of Chicago. Though “he being deadyet speaketh,[3] andHayek’s call to be wary of the “outsourcing” of personal security andresponsibility for State control and planning of our lives is the bedrock issue we are facing today asa people. I say again, as a minister and theologian, I am most concerned thatthe recent issues in healthcare and national debt and growing entitlements arelifting the curtain to reveal a mad scientist at work creating a monster thatwill not be silenced but by many sorrows. The voices of Shelly and Hayek areimportant, but they are yet lesser voices of warning echoing a greater voice toevery man, woman and child:

“Stand fast thereforein the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled againwith the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1 AV).

 

This Independence Dayis a good time to remember that America was founded by those whose worldviewexposed the lie of Statism and chose freedom and then were willing to pay theprice to keep it. Their selfless sacrifice for that liberty brought aboutconsequences that have been a blessing unto this day. It is never too late toreclaim that liberty again.

Sources:

[1] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein,or The Modern Prometheus (NewYork: Oxford UP, 1994).

[2] F.A. Hayek, The Road toSerfdom: Text and Documents,edited by Bruce Caldwell (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007edition of the 1944 original), 76. Hayek began this chapter with the quotationcited by German poet, Johann C. Hölderlin. For more information on Hayek andthe Austrian School of economics, see The Mises Institute (http://mises.org/). See also the Center forVision and Values (http://www.visionandvalues.org/),at Grove City College (http://www.gcc.edu).

[3] The Epistle to the Hebrews, 11:4. AuthorizedVersion (AV).

 

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