Last year, Republican lawmakers—with the support of many white evangelical Christians—found ways to undermine Obamacare. In Iowa, where evangelicals are a potent force, the governor recently approved legislation allowing insurers to sell cheaper plans that don’t comply with all Obamacare regulations. Opposition to Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), by evangelicals is puzzling to those who consider access to health insurance a moral imperative. Supporters tend to interpret resistance to the ACA as indifference or selfishness or racism. Why else would people not care about the millions who will lose their insurance as the ACA is whittled away?
The French have a saying: “to understand everything is to forgive everything.” Forgiveness is not the goal of this article, but understanding may be possible.
This matters because one in four Americans are evangelicals, and the majority are white. Most are also working- or middle-class (in a 2014 Pew survey, 86% had a combined family income of less than $100,000). A significant number have seen their insurance premiums rise under the ACA, so economics may play a role in their negative reactions. In addition, over the past few decades strategic political actors have succeeded in forging a tight bond between conservative politics and evangelicalism. But in addition to these factors, white evangelicals tend to support pushing back certain provisions of the ACA, or eliminating it altogether, for three main reasons particular to their religious group.