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A Reformed Fellowship

Does truth matter in Washington, D.C.?

Quite the brouhaha has erupted in Washington, D.C., over a simple promise which President Obama made when he and his Democratic Party were trying to get their congressmen and senators on board to pass the so-called Affordable Care Act (the very title of the act brings the concept of truth into question). The president said and has continued to say, “If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.”

Because the Democrats had large majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the president’s party controlled whether the legislation would pass or not. Some legislators were reticent to go along, fearing the backlash from constituents back home. The president was able to squelch some of the potential fallout with his now-infamous promise, “If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.”

The word “period” used in this context means regardless anything else. It means without equivocation. Period. That’s it. Nothing can change this. Millions of Americans are discovering that the statement not only is not true now but was known early on not to be true.

According to Lisa Myers and Hannah Rapplelye of NBC News, the president’s statement was not true when he uttered it: “Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, ‘40 to 67 percent’ of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, ‘the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.’

“That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

“Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, ‘if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,’ was still saying in 2012, ‘If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.’

“‘This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,’ said Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms. Laszewski estimates that 80 percent of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today.”

The president and many in his party are now spinning the story that the fault lies with the insurance companies who had been selling “lousy” plans to unsuspecting Americans, that now citizens will be buying quality plans. Well, spin it any way you like, but a lie is a lie is a lie. Glen Kessler, writing in the Washington Post, gave the president four Pinocchios for his repeated statement. On a scale of one to four, getting a four means you told a whopper.

Some evangelicals particularly dislike saying that the president lied about something. Their thinking goes something like this: Most of our unchurched neighbors are Democrats, and we want to reach our neighbors with the gospel. If we say that the leader of their party has lied, we effectively cut them off from the gospel.

While I understand and am sympathetic towards the logic, I really consider that a worldly way of looking at things. Jesus said to those who opposed him, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Did Jesus not care about the souls of those who opposed him? John the Baptist would be beheaded because he has said that it was unlawful for Herod to have his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:1-11). Did John not care about the souls of Herod and his supporters?

In the Scriptures, we find that truth matters. A lie is a lie is a lie, whether you or I or even the President of the United States tells it. We do not have to be uncivil when we observe that a lie has been told. We must not sacrifice the truth about telling a lie in the name of evangelism. Period.