Has First Things, Richard John Neuhaus's conservative Catholic journal, finally jumped the shark? Perhaps. Peter Leithart has penned an essay addressing Barack Obama's concern with healthcare, or his "obsession" as Leithart puts it. He blames this "obsession" on secular humanism, which "cannot see how any good could emerge from human suffering" and "worship[s] the body itself". This then is the reason that "politicians, as well as the media, routinely accord priority to items of health-care policy." His bizarre conclusion is that "pain may be good for you" and that focusing on healthcare is misplaced.
Where does one begin with such idiocy? I've heard the argument many times on the right that healthcare is simply not as important as issues like abortion, and can be downplayed. I've heard spurious arguments against "socialized medicine" (these critics never seem to address why single-payer systems are both cheaper and achieve better outcomes than the US system). But I've never before heard a Christian argument that healthcare provision is actually a moral bad, because it denies the sick person a chance to suffer. I guess the Catholic church has it wrong, given that it is the single biggest healthcare provider in the world. I assume that when Jesus claimed that those who do not visit the sick or minister to the needs of the least among us, he was overly-influenced by secular humanism. But, you know, maybe Leithart has a point. In which case, I await his denunciation of Bush's tax cuts, as they deny the rich their fair share of suffering. I await his defense of torture on the grounds that expiatory pain is a positive good that should be spread throughout the Islamic world. And why not just start using those pesky nuclear weapons, since pain is good for you.
Yes, I do believe First Things has jumped the shark. Years of shilling for Republicans will do that to you.
(Via Andrew Sullivan).