Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

Unpredictability and the Fate of Health Care Reform

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 20, 2010

As Phil Lawler has so eloquently written, “The Kennedy dynasty has ended” (see his sparkling and finely-written In Depth Analysis piece, What happened in Massachusetts?). That’s a point which is culturally and politically significant enough, and yet there is a certain wonder about Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts that raises many other important points as well. The one I’d like to explore is the unpredictability of just about everything that really matters.

Let me say at the outset that if Brown’s victory means the end of constructive and creative efforts to improve health care for the poor, then I won’t be one of those who exults in that part of the outcome. There is great work to be done in health care, if we can find sensible people to do it. But I’ll be very happy if the current Federally-controlled, bureaucratically bloated, recklessly expensive and (above all) anti-life health care reform plan fails as a result of the end of the Kennedy dynasty. And if it fails, as it now seems likely to do, the point I want to make is that this wasn’t predictable.

Pro-lifers worked extraordinarily hard just to get abortion removed from the House version of the bill, but despite Herculean efforts they could not achieve the same success in the Senate. The entire battle (rightly but unfortunately) left little time and energy to focus on many of the other problems with what has come to be known as Obamacare. So here we all were, tuckered out, temporarily elated by the Stupak amendment, and thoroughly dispirited by Ben Nelson’s sellout, and never dreaming until the last minute that something might be brewing in Massachusetts that we couldn’t in our wildest dreams have foreseen.

This is a lesson in perseverance. We have to keep fighting for what is right, even if only through rear guard actions of harassment and delay, in the hope that something in the big picture will change that we can take advantage of to secure a victory. Put another way, we Christians must work and work and work against all the odds even while we pray that God will find a way—no, that He will rather choose—to beat the odds. In fact, it isn’t too much to say that our primary trust must be in God, and that part of that trust consists in doing our best to give God the human means He normally uses to bring salvation to the world.

We are like privates in the front line of a battle, preoccupied only with following God’s orders in the little part of the war that we see. But God is something like a great general who sees and understands the whole picture—and even that simile is far too weak, for God is God and there is no other. He can use anything—anything at all—for His purposes, to fulfill His own plan. It’s not just that we don’t know the half of it; we don’t even know nearly as much as one percent of it. But if we care, we can generally figure out our little part and play it reasonably well. And trust in God.

The future is always unpredictable, and that means I would be foolish to proclaim victory in this particular battle, this early 2010 battle to prevent the ascendancy of unhealthcare. But I will say that the unpredictability of human affairs ought to be a source of great hope. Our temporal future is not pre-determined by anybody. There will always be room for God to work.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2010 1:24 PM ET USA

    Why is it called "health care" reform? The discussions are all about money; all about payments. There is nothing in the bill about new hospitals or new clinics, about medical education.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2010 10:53 AM ET USA

    Excellent points, but they also illustrate the possible problems with the original strategy: which seemed to envision that the bill would be fine if only we could get abortion stripped out. But when a pro-abortion government controls healthcare, there will be abortion--if not this year then next. Could we have had better success in opposing Government-controlled healthcare? I don't know: but that was the logical approach.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2010 7:59 AM ET USA

    Good thing it came to be called Obamacare. That was political genius.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2010 7:56 AM ET USA

    Great analysis. Now I feel like I understand what really happened. So how do pro-lifer voters regain influence with such otherwise OK candidates? I am wondering 'what if we organized a national pledge political movement/website not to vote for anybody who does not espouse pro-life positions'? It could be called ''. As it got a few hundred thousand registrants, candidates would perhaps get the message.