Skip to comments.Government Shouldn't Define 'Church'
Posted on 02/05/2013 6:45:34 AM PST by Kaslin
Under pressure from religious and conservative groups, the Obama administration has offered another compromise on the issue of birth control coverage within the Affordable Care Act. While exempting churches and some religiously affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities, from supplying the coverage, the new proposal calls for their employees to receive stand-alone private insurance policies providing birth control coverage at no cost. Insurance companies will foot the bill, but only the naive can possibly think the cost won't find its way back to the institution in the form of higher health premiums.
Numerous lawsuits filed against this and other portions of "Obamacare" will proceed and for good reason: the federal government seems intent on setting rules on matters of conscience and worse, defining what constitutes a church, or religious institution.
One of the litigants is Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores, whose CEO, David Green, is an evangelical Christian. Green says, "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate." That mandate includes, in addition to contraceptive coverage in employees' health care, "preventive services," including "morning-after" pills and other drugs, which Green considers abortifacients. After Hobby Lobby's appeal to Justice Sonia Sotomayor was rejected, the Christian Post reports the company then made plans to "...shift the beginning of its employee health plan to temporarily avoid $1.3 million a day in fines for each day since Jan. 1 that it did not comply with the Affordable Care Act." (According to the new health care law, businesses with more than 50 employees that refuse to comply can be fined by the IRS $100 per day per employee.) Hobby Lobby's appeals continue.
The core issue as I see it -- and there are others -- is whether the government has the right to define a church as a building in which people congregate on Sundays and whether a private company headed by a religious person qualifies for conscience exemptions. For government to decide such things violates the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment, which state "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." and appears to put the state in the position of supreme authority and arbiter of what constitutes "legitimate" religious faith and practice. The Supreme Court will likely have to resolve its constitutionality.
Permit me to offer the justices some assistance.
The early church was not a building with a towering steeple. The early church met in homes. If one accepts New Testament teaching (and what higher authority on the church could there be?), the concept of the church being an organism that resides in each individual believer is clearly spelled out in several passages.
Paul the Apostle writes in his letter to the Colossians (1:24) about the "body" of Jesus Christ, "which is the church." By this, he means the "body of believers" in whom Christ dwells. Wherever that body is, whether an individual, or a group of believers, that's the church. It was only later that this concept of church was turned into something with expensive buildings, tax exemptions and denominations.
The same theme can be found in Revelation where John is asked by Jesus to write letters to several churches. Those, too, were bodies of believers, not physical structures.
In the Old Testament, God told Solomon that while He was too big to live in buildings, He would "dwell" in the Temple Solomon built for Him. Ultimately, though, He said He had other intentions: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." (Jeremiah 31:33)
That was and remains for believers the authentic church, so when people say, "I am going to church," it is an impossibility because they can't go to themselves.
The administration's efforts to effectively gerrymander lines between what it considers legitimate religious practice and the secular is what the Founders hoped to avoid when they linked the establishment clause with the free exercise clause.
That is why, among other reasons, government should not mandate birth control coverage as part of any national health care plan.
II. THE CHURCH BODY OF CHRIST
The Church is communion with Jesus
787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings. Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. ... I am the vine, you are the branches.” And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit. As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”
789 The comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body. Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ.
790 Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body, become intimately united with him: “In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe, and who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his Passion and glorification.” This is especially true of Baptism, which unites us to Christ’s death and Resurrection, and the Eucharist, by which “really sharing in the body of the Lord, ... we are taken up into communion with him and with one another.”
791 The body’s unity does not do away with the diversity of its members: “In the building up of Christ’s Body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church.” The unity of the Mystical Body produces and stimulates charity among the faithful: “From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.” Finally, the unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“Christ is the Head of this Body”
792 Christ “is the head of the body, the Church.” He is the principle of creation and redemption. Raised to the Father’s glory, “in everything he [is] preeminent,” especially in the Church, through whom he extends his reign over all things.
793 Christ unites us with his Passover: all his members must strive to resemble him, “until Christ be formed” in them. “For this reason we ... are taken up into the mysteries of his life, ... associated with his sufferings as the body with its head, suffering with him, that with him we may be glorified.”
794 Christ provides for our growth: to make us grow toward him, our head, he provides in his Body, the Church, the gifts and assistance by which we help one another along the way of salvation.
795 Christ and his Church thus together make up the “whole Christ” (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity:
Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. ... The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does “head and members” mean? Christ and the Church.
Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself.
Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person.
A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”
The Church is the Bride of Christ
796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist. The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.” The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him. The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb. “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.” He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:
This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many ... whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.” And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union, ... as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”
From the Catholic Catechism. Part1:The Profession of Faith (26 - 1065)
Section2:The Profession of the Christian Faith (185 - 1065)
Chapter3:I Believe in the Holy Spirit (683 - 1065)
Article9:”I believe in the Holy Catholic Church” (748 - 975)
Paragraph2:The Church People of God, Body of Christ, Temple of the Holy Spirit (781 - 810)
The Democrats and RINOS see themselves as the church, they want Americans to put faith in the state and the laws of flawed men and women rather than the Laws of God!
Doesn’t the govt have to define a church when it assigns tax-free status?
When ObamaCare runs into a bump that requires legislative action, or even simply comes up for its annual funding, we need a patriotic Senator to stand in front of the bill like Gandalf in front of the Balrog or Davy Crockett at the gates of the Alamo. [Sorry, but history and literature are just about the only place left to find good examples and role models in Obama's world.]
Calling Ted Cruz....
Leftists want to do wha tthe fascists did - relegate the practice of religion to within the boundaries of the walls of the church.
This is why you see leftists using the phrase “freedom of worship” instead of the Constitution’s phrase of “free exercise of religion”.
For those who have eyes to see, the new “accommodation” throws into high relief an overlooked aspect of the contraceptive mandate: it is an economic absurdity.
Insurance shares risk for contingencies. Whatever your moral view of contraception, the use or non-use of contraception is not a contingency, but a choice. It might be rational for insurance companies to pay for a product their beneficiaries may chose to use or not chose to use, if their actuarial estimates show that use of the product will reduce claims on insurance by more than the cost of paying for the product, but this is a business decision for an insurer. The stand-alone contraceptive policy will necessarily cost more than contraceptives.
Fascists are leftists. The extreme left is government imposed tyranny while the extreme right is government devoid anarchy. In other words, leftists want to do what leftists always do with always the same results -epic and devastating failure that has left millions slaughtered in its wake.
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