“Which of you, desiring to build a tower,” asks Jesus in Luke 14, “does not first sit down and count the cost…?” He spoke these words about becoming a disciple. But those in authority who seek to force God’s people into disobeying their consciences would be wise to take this advice as well.
I’m reminded of King Darius the Persian, who—flattered by a proposition to deify himself—passed a ridiculous law decreeing that everyone in the kingdom would worship only him, on pain of death by lions. Effectively, he abolished religious freedom for his subjects. And although we’re not sure how others reacted, we know that one worshipper of Yahweh ignored this law, and continued hitting his knees before the True God every day. Now, Daniel was the apple of the king’s eye—an administrator whom Darius planned to make second in command. When Daniel was caught and reported, the king had no choice but to carry out his own orders.
You know the rest of the story. (It ends happily, even for the lions). Daniel refused to dishonor God or his conscience. He had his priorities straight and was willing to pay the price for civil disobedience. Ironically, it was King Darius, not Daniel, who lost sleep that night. His fear of losing one of his trusted advisors was greater than Daniel’s fear of losing his life. Daniel had counted the cost. Darius had not.
Well, our own government doesn’t seem to have counted the cost of its decrees either. The HHS mandate is a law that requires people of faith to violate their most basic beliefs about the sacredness of human life and sexuality. In very blunt terms, it demands that Christian employers take part in what they believe is the destruction of innocent human life through abortion-inducing drugs. This they should not do.
In fact, as Cardinal Francis George of Chicago promised in a letter to parishioners in his archdiocese, the Catholic Church would shut down its hospitals, schools and charities before it will violate its teaching on life.
Let me put what you just heard in perspective. Catholic facilities account for roughly 15 percent of hospital admissions in the United States and provide $100 billion of care annually. They serve poorer clients and offer many of the less profitable but vital services that government-run hospitals often can’t. These include things like breast cancer screenings, geriatric services and trauma treatment—meaning that one in six seniors and disabled citizens rely on Catholic hospitals.
Add in the Protestant institutions which may also be forced to shut their doors under the HHS mandate, and this looming healthcare disaster gets even bigger.
And I haven’t said a word about religious “schools, publications, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy,” which Cardinal George also mentions. Few if any of these will meet the Department of Health and Human Services’ narrow criteria for exemption.
In the months before his death, Chuck Colson, along with many others, warned us about the cost of this threat. And clearly, many Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Orthodox groups have counted the cost.
The only question now is: has the government? Folks, I know it may sound crazy to talk about civil disobedience, but we’d better have that conversation now. In fact, on BreakPoint This Week, I talk with Dr. Alveda King, who, as the niece of Martin Luther King endured threats and actual violence during the Civil Rights movement. And she thinks, along with my other guest Father Frank Pavone, that the HHS mandate requires civil disobedience. Come to BreakPoint.org and click on the “This Week” tab to listen, or catch it on radio this weekend. For BreakPoint, I’m John Stonestreet.