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Open Theology

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Cognition and the Crisis of Citizenship and Care

Bonnie Howe
Published Online: 2018-02-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0008


The American struggle over healthcare policy is emblematic of the larger crisis of citizenship and national identity. We have a crisis at the structural, policy level, but the problem also goes deep into our moral lives as individuals and commitments as a society. We struggle to come to a workable consensus about why and how we should provide healthcare, and for whom. Who belongs in our circle of care, and what are our commitments to one anothers’ wellbeing? This identity crisis is spinning out into a breakdown of institutional structures and even loss of caring practices. As a Christian ethicist interested in how moral discourse works, my central concern is this: Why are so many American Christians speaking and legislating against health care programs - the Affordable Care Act, but even also Child Health Insurance Program, which covered children? They are using Bible verses to anchor and justify their policy stances. The American health care reform fight is a crisis of citizenship and national identity, but it is also a crisis of Christian mission and witness. A policy statement given by a conservative congressman is used as a test case with which to display how two experts on language could help us understand conservative Christian thinking on healthcare. Charles Taylor reflects as a philosopher on how “the politics of bringing about care” expresses our deepest commitments and our struggle with the impersonal forces of modernity. Charles Fillmore offers models for understanding how thought and language are linked and systematically structured, framed. There are alternatives to conservative ways of framing healthcare, ways that are arguably more coherent and more in keeping with biblical calls to love of neighbor and to building communities of the beloved.

Keywords : conceptual metaphor; conceptual blending; cognitive linguistics; conceptual frame; framing; moral discourse


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About the article

Received: 2017-11-11

Accepted: 2017-11-27

Published Online: 2018-02-02

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 99–116, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0008.

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© 2018. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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