Dr. Benjamin Carson addressed the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 7 because, as a globally prominent pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins whose autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” became a TV movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr., he is the kind of Christian who has earned the right to speak into people’s lives about faith.
He said he flirted with a life of crime as a youth and was redirected by a strong-willed parent whose outlook on life became his own — and thus he thinks that if faith matters in personal relationships, it also matters in public.
So he described how being raised by a single mother in inner-city Detroit turned him from “a horrible student” with “a horrible temper” into a man the Wall Street Journal calls “probably the most renowned specialist in his field.”
But he didn’t stop there. While his comments were billed as “confrontational” because President Obama was on the dais and Carson’s views are the exact opposite of what the president has promoted, the confrontation isn’t merely between two accomplished black men at a gathering of secular and religious leaders.
Instead, it is between two worldviews. One holds that people are helpless before impersonal forces and require the aid of government not only to succeed but to survive. If there’s ever been a president devoted to the aggrandizement of government power, it’s Obama, as he proved again in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
The other view says we all have God-given talents that, if we pursue them whole-heartedly and take advantage of every opportunity, we have a good chance to accomplish worthwhile goals in a nation that, more than any other, values and rewards such effort.
Carson not only holds that view, he personifies it. And he spoke for millions of Americans when he expressed deep concern that we are turning away from individual values to embrace collectivism.
One symptom of that is “political correctness,” a long-standing campaign by the left to exclude topics from public debate by scorning and ridiculing those who raise them.
Those decrying how often they are “offended,” however, don’t care to note how offensive some of their opinions are to others — who still bear with them for the sake of free speech.
As Carson said, “It’s not my intention to offend anyone. But it’s hard not to. The PC police are out in force everywhere.” Still, he told Fox business anchor Neil Cavuto this week, “Somebody has to be courageous enough to actually stand up to the bullies.”
And one of the things “the PC police” find most offensive is people who cite religious principles to support public policies — even though that has long been common when civil rights or pacifism are the issues under discussion.
So, Carson asked, why not taxes?
“What we need to do is come up with something simple. And when I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the universe, God, and he’s given us a system. It’s called a tithe. … So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality. You make $10 billion, you put in a billion. You make $10, you put in $1. Of course you’ve got to get rid of the loopholes.”
And he added, “Some people say, ‘Well that’s not fair because it doesn’t hurt the guy who made $10 billion as much as the guy who made $10.’ Where does it say you’ve got to hurt the guy? He just put a billion dollars in the pot. We don’t need to hurt him. It’s that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands. That money needs to be back here building our infrastructure and creating jobs.”
Then, he turned to health care:
“Here’s my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account (a privately controlled medical care fund) to which money can be contributed — pretax — from the time you’re born until the time you die. If you die, you can pass it on to your family members, and there’s nobody talking about death panels. We can make contributions for people who are indigent. Instead of sending all this money to some bureaucracy, let’s put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care. And very quickly they’re going to learn how to be responsible.”
Such talk is considered un-PC because it holds that people can be responsible even if they face serious obstacles — and, even more un-PC, that overcoming those obstacles builds character and produces mature, self-reliant adults.
Of course, mature, self-reliant adults don’t need officious politicians passing 2,700-page laws telling them how to live.
But that’s the point, isn’t it?
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: