Fr. John Whiteford Responds to Dr. David Dunn: The Hypocrisy of the Christian Left

Source: Fr. John Whiteford’s News, Comments, & Reflections

In a Huffington Post article, David Dunn has pointed out what he sees as hypocrisy on the part of Christian conservatives:

It is the view that Christians should vote their values, and this means we should legislate moral evils into oblivion. Thus if we believe life begins at conception, we should vote against abortion! If we believe marriage is between one woman and one man, we should vote against gay marriage! And if we believe in caring for the sick and the poor, we should vote against “Obamacare!” …Wait a minute! Do you see the political hypocrisy? The Christian Right votes for candidates who are anti-abortion and anti-gay (at least on paper) because it believes we must pass laws to protect marriage and protect life (at least embryonic life), but it is unwilling to apply the same principle to “Obamacare.” Infants in the womb have a right to life, but apparently adults do not have a right to life-saving medical care.

There are several problems with the logic here. For one, you could simply flip this question and ask why the Christian Left thinks a baby has a right to free medicaid after it is born, but doesn’t think we should prevent that baby from having a doctor induce a partial delivery, stick a pair of scissors in the back of its neck, and then suck out its brains with a suction machine.

Another problem is a failure to recognize where the government’s powers can rightly be used, and where it cannot. Does anyone have a right to medical care? Everyone should certainly have a right to purchase it, but if you say that you have the right to medical care, you are saying you have a right to someone else’s labor. Last time I checked, that was slavery. I don’t have the right to go to a doctor, hold a gun to his head, and make him treat me or my family members.

On the other hand, does a baby have a right not to have a doctor insert scissors into the back of its head and suck its brains out? Yes. Regardless of what the Supreme Court may say, every human being has a right to life, liberty, and property that comes from God, not the government. The government cannot grant those rights, they can only respect and protect them, or allow them to be violated.

Now do the Scriptures say that we should give to the poor? Yes. The Scriptures do not say that we should lobby the government and force our fellow citizens to give to the poor. The Scriptures say that we should give to the poor.

The Scriptures certainly do not forbid a government from providing charity with tax money, but whether or not that is a good thing, and how that should best be handled is not a matter that the Church has a definite teaching on. Christians can disagree.

I have spent 20 years now, in my secular job, working in social services, which have included Medicaid, Food Stamps, TANF (formerly AFDC), and Child Support. I think some of these programs have some good aspects and should continue, but there is also a lot of waste, fraud, and abuse connected with these programs, and there are also problems with the way the government delivers them that encourage dysfunctional behavior.

Further, while all Christians agree that helping the poor is a Christian responsibility, it is not a self evident truth that the best way to accomplish that is more government welfare, or universal health coverage. I certainly would not suggest that those Christians who disagree with my take on that are not Christians because they don’t see it my way, but they should return the favor, since the Church has no clear teachings on how government should handle public charity. For more on my opinions on welfare, see: podcast.

However, when it comes to baby killing or gay marriage, these are questions that the Church does have a clear teaching on. If you think it is OK for the government to not only allow for babies to be murdered, but have no problem when the government wishes to make Christians pay to kill those babies, then you are not only a hypocrite, you have departed from the Christian Tradition.


  1. cynthia curran says

    7. If a woman is carnally known and, becoming pregnant, tries to produce a miscarriage [abortion], she shall be whipped and exiled.

    8. Those who are guilty whether actively or passively of committing unnatural offences shall be capitally punished with the sword. If he who commits the offence passively, is found to be under twelve years old, he shall be pardoned on the ground of youthful ignorance of the offence committed.

    9. Those guilty of “abominable crime” [homosexuality?] shall be emasculated.
    The Ecloga of Eastern Roman Emperor Leo III (717-41) was meant an abridgment of the Corpus Juris Civilis, but there are several modifications to be noted in it. These have led some scholars to term the Ecloga the first law code to be influenced by Christian principles. This influence is apparent in the following list of criminal punishments, taken from the Ecloga.

    The Ecloga on Sexual Crimes

  2. Geo Michalopulos says

    Cynthia, I’m not sure what your point is here. These laws were au courant in the later Roman Empire. No one is calling for them to be reinstated.

  3. cynthia curran says

    Not talking about restating them,just mentioning that the east Romans that a lot of orthodox admired had a view against the sex acts mention above.

  4. I agree that a debate can be held on how best for the gov to spend our money on charity, but what is sad to me is to leave my “evangelical faith” and enter the “….one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church….” only to find an untold number of parishioners who try to justify their support for liberal candidates/policies. When I was an evangelical, there was a greater conscience of collective morality from a biblical and traditional stand point. If there were parishioners who supported liberal policies/causes that were counter to our Christian faith, then they would be called out (whether individually or as a congregation). I have been Orthodox for 10 years now and have not noticed this in the Orthodox Churches I attend. When it comes to these kind of issues (political or not) we seem a little “loosey goosey”. I scratch my head sometimes trying figure this out. I believe this can only be possible by willful consent of our leaders. If our church leaders were taking clear stances and preaching thus on a sustained and open basis, then I believe we could root out such hypocrisy. Am I alone on this?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      These are good points Maksim. We saw what you call “a greater conscience of collective morality” in works like the resettlement of victims after Katrina in New Orleans. That was an overwhelmingly Christian enterprise, mostly Evangelicals as I recall.

      Met. Jonah has made the same call you are making here. He asked, where are schools, hospitals, and orphanages? Very good question. Fortunately, there is some good work taking place, IOCC, FOCUS, the OCMC and others but certainly not enough. There are numerous local efforts as well.

      And yes, this is due in large measure to a failure of leadership. It has been “loosey goosey.”

    • Fr. John W. Morris says

      I certainly preach traditional Christian morality and have heard our bishops speak very forcefully on the subject. At our last Archdiocesan Convention we passed a resolution reaffirming our belief that homosexual acts are sinful. We certainly teach the youth at our camps that sex outside of marriage which is by definition between a man and a woman is a sin. In the case of an individual we do not usually make a public case of it, but certainly do speak to them privately and place those guilty of sexual sin under penance. Recently the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North America reissued the old SCOBA statement opposing the acceptance of homosexuality and affirming the Orthodox teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman.

      Fr. John W. Morris

    • You are definitely not alone on this sad and deplorable issue. A sustained informed talk from the Orthodox Christian pulpits is what’s necessary to stay vigilant and check the consciences of those who have doubts. And the Orthodox Church and its hierarchs aren’t saying enough. They have cowered under the mantle of “best kept secret.” And another thing… political candidates and what they represent are not mutually exclusive entities from the teachings of the church. They are one and the same!! How can one go to church on Sunday and receive Communion yet vote for someone who is a proponent of partial-birth abortion?! I have had to seek other Christian denominations on the issue of voting my Christian conscience because I hear nothing but craven tumbleweeds in the Orthodox Christian pulpits. So, I ordered a wonderful 2008 two-c.d. sermon by Pastor John Hagee called “Vote the Bible.” This man has the stones to ante up biblically and call a spade a spade.

  5. Father, your essay gets off to very bad start:

    >There are several problems with the logic here. For one, you could simply flip this question and ask why the Christian Left thinks a baby has a right to free medicaid after it is born, but doesn’t think we should prevent that baby from having a doctor induce a partial delivery, stick a pair of scissors in the back of its neck, and then suck out its brains with a suction machine.

    The fact is, “the Christian Left” does NOT believe in the legitimacy of abortion, much less the “partial birth abortion” you allude to. I don’t, and there is no evidence that Dr. Dunn, to whom you were supposedly responding does. In fact, the whole sense of the sentence you quote is that Dr. Dunn OPPOSES abortion, he simply opposes the hypocrisy of the “Christian” Right in advocating for justice for the unborn and tolerating or even supporting injustice as a whole. We on the “Christian Left” are simply for catholicity in the application of traditional Christian principles of justice, compassion and the respect for life. Newsflash: We aren’t keen on “gay marriage” either.

    >since the Church has no clear teachings on how government should handle public charity.

    You might want to consult the governmental benevolent institutions of the Eastern Chrisitian Empire (aka “Byzantine” Empire), or the manifold writings of the Fathers, particularly St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom, on the duties to the poor. I particulalry suggest the recent publication by St. Vladimir’s Press, *Basil the Great on Social Justice*. There is no doubt in my mind that if St. Basil were teaching today, he would be castigated by most Orthodox, including a great many Orthodox clergy, as a “Socialist” or “Marxist”, much as those lables are falsely applied to “Obamacare”. This is because American Christians, and unfortunately Orthodox Christians, in their social and economic thinking, are under the sway of western Deists and Protestants of the 17th-19th centuries rather than Orthodox Tradition.

  6. Joseph makes excellent points here. I do not know who are these imaginary Christian Leftists who support abortion, but I have never seen them. All the Christian Leftists I know – myself included – agree with Dr. Dunn that we must oppose all forms of injustice as much as we oppose abortion. We argue for consistency, and we criticize the Christian Right for picking and choosing which sins to be outraged about. We cannot understand the way the Christian Right insists that certain sins must be made illegal and stamped out by government, while other sins are to be tolerated as purely private matters. Generally, we are socially conservative and economically left-wing, and hold this to be the consistent Christian position.

    Fr. John, the language of “rights” that you are using is taken directly from classical liberal philosophers of the 17th century, who – as Joseph pointed out – are completely alien to Orthodox Tradition. Orthodoxy does not recognize the individualistic, self-centered notions of “rights” that form the bedrock of Western conservative and libertarian thought. Neither do we make an idol out of the US Constitution, as many Protestants sadly do.

    The question “Does anyone have a right to medical care?” is meaningless to us. We do not think of rights, we think of obligations. So the correct question would be, “Do we have an obligation to provide health care to our fellow man?” And the answer is absolutely yes. This doesn’t make us “slaves” any more than the commandment to love our neighbors makes us “slaves” to our neighbors.

    To say that it is slavery to have a duty to help another – with its implication that it’s ok for people to exercise the “freedom” to be selfish and not help others – is deeply anti-Christian. As Christians, we must never recognize any “right” to turn a blind eye to the needs of our neighbors.

    I also take issue with the following line of argument:

    >”The Scriptures do not say that we should lobby the government and force our fellow citizens to give to the poor. The Scriptures say that we should give to the poor.”

    Technically speaking, the Scriptures always talk about what we ought to do, and never about what we should ask the government to do. Thus, you might as well argue that “the Scriptures do not say that we should lobby the government to stop our fellow citizens from having abortions. The Scriptures say we should not have abortions.”

    Would you be satisfied with that argument? No? Why not? Why do you insist that the government should legislate some moral matters (such as abortion), but not others (such as charity)? Do not say that the first is a matter of life and death while the second is not. They are both matters of life and death. People die from lack of charity.

    The Church has a clear teaching on the immorality of abortion. But the church also has a clear teaching on the immorality of greed, selfishness, hoarding wealth, and failing to provide for the poor. Why do you assume that the Church’s teaching on abortion is at the same time a teaching on the government’s role to stop abortion, but you do not assume that the Church’s teaching on greed or poverty has anything to do with government?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Most on the left don’t oppose abortion. Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

      And please, no moralizing about how the left values the rest of life more than anyone else. The left loves to moralize, but they are always short on facts.

      The Boomer ideals are a failure. Boomers require the next generation to pay trillions in debt accrued by their profligacy while aborting half of that generation along the way. Jim Wallis and devotees are the amen corner for a system on the brink of fiscal collapse. Meanwhile, they still defend policies that contributed to the destruction of the Black family infrastructure, refuse to allow Blacks to better themselves through education (America’s worst performing schools are in Democratically controlled inner cities), and more.

      The days of being able to justify such catastrophic social policy by accusing its critics of not having the requisite amount of compassion are over.

      Tell your Progressive friends the greed always starts at home. Progressive policies decimate the Black family, yet Planned Parenthood has nearly 70% of its abortuaries near Black neighborhoods. Nice cycle they’ve got going. Destroy the family, then profit from its collapse.


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