The Catholic author of the book I mentioned before, Mary Eberstadt, said in an interview with NPR, something to this effect, “There is a place for those people who want to allow married clergy, birth control and gay rights. That place is the Protestant church.” I am a member of the mainline Protestant church, and I know plenty of people who have made this very choice. How apt she is. Choices in religion are critical to a vibrant American culture. Variety of religion is a founding principle, and necessitates tolerance, another basic practice. The wording of the first Amendment is telling. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”.
Eberstadt went on to say in the interview that the trend in mainline Protestantism is a decrease in membership. She is accurate. Her point was that orthodoxy maintains members, and progressive policies are associated with less membership. Here, she misses the greater point. What is growing more than either the mainline Protestants or the Roman Catholicism is ‘none of the above,’ the nonreligious. These are people who have either lost faith in general, or in institutions, or have particular grievances with the church. As they feel empowered – and American culture shows a steady expansion of this, to be sure – they are more comfortable making choices, and that absolutely includes choosing nothing, or whatever somebody conceives of.
Choice is fundamental to the American system. Henry Ford’s famous pronouncement could not last. “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black." The consumer will find a way, somehow, to get what she wants, considering all factors. The wording of the first Amendment has no vision, no plan, and no philosophy. It is a blank slate. And that is best. When the Catholic Church tells Americans what to believe, they are free to accept that, or quietly disagree, turn elsewhere, or tune out. It works this way in religion, and it works this way in health care.
Choice is good, but when inequities and holes become manifest, then fixes are needed. A moment of silence is better than forced prayer in public. It is appropriate for the government to require seat belts and safety lights. The duty of the government is to secure freedom, not define our choices. The Affordable Health Care Act has both a lot of good and a lot of bad. I’m fine with that. We have found we need to help every American get access to health care. It will save money in general. We need to push competition that encourages electronic records, an emphasis on wellness, cost control like in Medicare, and grease the wheels of transparency in choice of care for consumers. The people who don’t like Obamacare have been scared by hotheaded conservatives in the media. And there are a lot of growing pains that have already and will show up in the program. I think it is designed that way; a vague vision that allows for tweaking along the way. How do you get a system that maximizes benefits for consumers, reduces waste, controls cost through competition and provides access for everyone? I like this approach, though there are bumps and burps. We are seeing them, and we are finding we do need some changes and rules.
No strict vision; but it preserves the good aspects and delivers some justice. People will find a way to get what they want, despite whatever system is imposed on them.