CMDA's The Point

Policy Versus Politics: A Retrospect and Prognosis

January 25, 2021
Conscience Freedoms Protect Against Ideological Agendas April 5, 2018

by Jonathan Imbody

A physician member of CMDA recently asked me for a perspective on the tragic temporary takeover of the U.S. Capitol and the role of politicians before and after that tumultuous event. The physician’s email began, “I’m so saddened by this incident and so appalled….”

I’ve been asked to share the response to that physician more widely, so my edited response is below, followed by some thoughts on public policy ministry, the last four years and the next four years.

Thoughts on the Capitol Takeover and Surrounding Events

I responded to the physician’s concern and request for perspective about the Capitol takeover and surrounding politics as follows:

“If we as Christians view politicians as leaders whom God can use for His ends, we should be fine. For anyone who saw a particular politician as a savior, that’s another story, of course. But I don’t personally know of any believers who view politicians that way.

“A political loss can bare flawed character if a politician is not familiar enough with repentance and redemption and has never laid his or her ego at the cross. Such public personal failures can serve as a reminder to us all that the enemy will exploit the weakest point in our character. None of us is above such failure.”

Policy versus Politics

Those thoughts touch upon how I’ve personally navigated Washington, D.C. while serving as CMDA’s representative for well over a quarter of a century. Besides sensing a distinct calling from God to serve in this arena, the key consideration I have found helpful is distinguishing between politics and policy.

Politics focus on personalities, image, perceptions, peer pressure, emotions. Attaining and retaining power all too easily becomes the goal of politics and politicians.

By contrast, policy focuses on principles, ethics and real-world solutions. A politician can promise to save the world, but the dream can come crashing down with personal failures or, worse, assassination. A policy endures beyond personality because it is grounded in a principle, an idea, a value.

Non-partisan and Realistic

As a non-partisan, non-profit organization, CMDA works with political leaders as a means to an end, which is the advancement of policies that align with member-adopted positions and the restraint of policies opposed to those positions. We’re happy to work with the Republican Party, the Democrat Party or the Birthday Party—whoever supports our positions.

While we focus on policy and not politicians, we realistically recognize that some politicians are much more likely than others to advance favorable policies. Unfortunately, one of the major political parties has officially adopted a pro-abortion platform and has effectively driven out of the party any candidates who conscientiously object to that policy.

So realistically on pro-life legislation, that means I spend most of my time in Washington, D.C. working with the other party—not because CMDA is partisan, but because that’s where the pro-life politicians are at this point in history. Since my responsibilities include covering not only Congress but also the White House and federal agencies, focusing on the most likely productive paths to influence is simply a matter of efficient stewardship.

2021 and Beyond

Realistically speaking, we now face the prospect of four years with an administration and a majority in Congress who are on record supporting policies in direct contradiction to CMDA membership-endorsed official policy positions. Based on public statements and the positions of advisors and supporters, the symbiotic agenda of the new administration and Congress appears likely to include:

  • Ending efforts to enforce the 2019 HHS conscience rule that would have protected conscience freedom for healthcare professionals. CMDA has been fighting in court alongside the U.S. government to protect the 2019 rule.
  • With allies in Congress, removing Hyde Amendment pro-life legislative restrictions on government funding of abortions.
  • Overturning the Mexico City policy and opening the door to taxpayer funding to groups that promote abortion overseas.
  • Overturning the pro-life rule that reformed Planned Parenthood’s cash cow, the Title X family planning program, instead making grant partnerships once again hinge on presenting abortion as an alternative. Such a change would result in increased funding to Planned Parenthood groups while disqualifying any pro-life centers that otherwise could assist poor patients with Title X grant programs.
  • Advocating for the FDA to lift safety restrictions on chemical abortion drugs, which according to a review of CDC data, are already fueling a rise in the number of abortions.

Besides this assault on life-affirming policies, the new administration and Congress are also expected to:

  • Elevate LGBTQ rights over religious freedom, such as passing the Equality Act and also enforcing the 2016 HHS transgender mandate. CMDA has been in court fighting that mandate to protect our members’ conscience and medical judgment;
  • Entertain party pressure to at least attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with additional, abortion-affirming justices;
  • End the Senate filibuster that provides the minority party with a measure of power to block partisan legislation and appointments;
  • Admit new states such as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (and possibly also the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands), in a move to put a long-time lock on the party’s political power.

Next Steps

I ended my communication with the physician friend who queried me about how to respond to recent political chaos by saying:

“Now we are left, for the moment, without a clear political leader while facing perhaps the greatest political threat to our values and our country’s carefully built foundations since the Civil War.

“So for those of us who know the real Leader, this is a time for prayer and carefully considered, courageous action as He leads.

“I’m thankful that you are one of those who will do so, like Daniel and Esther of old. God equip us and use us for His purposes in these dark times.”

Like this concerned physician, many members of CMDA have banded together precisely to address the challenges of steering an increasingly secular culture back toward biblical, life-affirming policies.

I encourage you to pray—earnestly and regularly—for these efforts in Washington, D.C. and in the states.

God may well be leading you to take a stand personally and professionally. You will find here a number of engagement options to consider, including working in the government, serving on federal commissions and providing congressional counsel and testimony.

Consider if God is calling you as a Christian healthcare professional to follow the examples of the biblical Daniel and Esther, by:

  1. Committing now to following God’s commandments and conscience principles, as Daniel did: “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself…” (Daniel 1:8, NASB).
  2. Deciding now to be prepared to sacrifice your career, your reputation, whatever it takes to faithfully follow God’s principles, as Queen Esther did: “…if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16b, NASB).

“See how great a love the Father has given us, that we would be called children of God; and in fact we are. For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know Him.    Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3, NASB).

Addendum: Highlights of Policy Accomplishments 2017 to 2020

Jonathan Imbody

About Jonathan Imbody

Jonathan serves as Director of Federal Government Relations with CMDA and directs the Christian Medical Association's Washington Office. As CMA's liaison with the federal government, he has participated in over 30 White House meetings and events and makes over 200 personal contacts with Congressional leaders and government officials each year. Jonathan testified on euthanasia and assisted suicide before a U.S. Senate committee. A veteran writer of more than 30 years, Jonathan authored Faith Steps, which encourages and equips Christians to engage in public policy issues. He has published more than 100 commentaries in The Washington Post, USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times and many other national publications. World magazine featured his essay summarizing the major medical accomplishments and challenges of the past millennium. He has also written numerous magazine articles, marketing materials and educational curricula. Jonathan's writing focuses on public policy issues including freedom of faith, conscience and speech; human trafficking; abortion; assisted suicide; stem cell research; the role of faith in health; international health; healthcare policy; sexual risk avoidance and HIV/AIDS. His on-site research on euthanasia in the Netherlands formed the basis for the No Mercy video and a presentation at an international conference in The Hague. Jonathan received his bachelor's degree in journalism and speech communications from the Pennsylvania State University, a master's degree from Penn State in counseling and education and a certificate in biblical and theological studies from the Alliance Theological Seminary in New York. Jonathan's wife Amy is an author and leads the Redemptive Education movement. They have four children and four grandchildren.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Richard Sams on February 1, 2021 at 10:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing Jonathan. I appreciate your seasoned reflection after years of dedication to serving Kingdom principles in the realm of policy in Washington D.C. As a fellow non-partisan, I agree w/ the points on policy. I think there is a 3rd dimension beyond politics and policy – and that is character. We need to consider the character of the leaders we vote into office. Many astute conservatives (unlike the majority unfortunately) certainly applauded the smattering of policy elements of the Trump presidency that were consistent with Kingdom principles, yet they spoke out clearly about the appalling character of the former President. Unfortunately it wasn’t policy or even politics that resulted in some of the most devastating events we’ve seen in our federal government in recent history. It was the wholly corrupted character of a man (fueled by arrogance and pride coupled with a lust for attention, power and money) that resulted in Truth being placed on the chopping block. While we healthcare providers cared for the millions of lives affected by COVID19, we had a world leader in our midst spew wholesale lies and deception on the pandemic, resulting undoubtedly in significant harm and resulting in utter chaos in our nation. Wholesale lies on par with other past and present autocrats like former Iranian President who claimed the Holocaust did not occur. That is reprehensible and goes beyond politics or policy. Christ followers need to not only consider the policies of a leader, but I would argue as or more important is the character of the leader.

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