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A health care 'Judas' recounts his conversion
A clinic such as this, where countless uninsured line up at dawn for free medical care, convinced one man to quit his Cigna job.
June 27th, 2012
01:46 PM ET

A health care 'Judas' recounts his conversion

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - When Wendell Potter first saw them, he froze.

“It felt like touching an electrical fence,” he says. “I remember tearing up and thinking, how could this be real.”

Thousands of them had lined up under a cloudy sky in an open field. Many had camped out the night before. When their turns came, doctors treated them in animal stalls and on gurneys placed on rain-soaked sidewalks.

They were Americans who needed basic medical care. Potter had driven to the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia in July 2007 after reading that a group called Remote Area Medical, which flew American doctors to remote Third World villages, was hosting a free outdoor clinic.

Potter, a Cigna health care executive who ate from gold-rimmed silverware in corporate jets, says that morning was his “Road to Damascus” experience.

“It looked like a refugee camp,” Potter says. “It just hit me like a bolt of lightning. What I was doing for a living was making it necessary for people to resort to getting care in animal stalls.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is a colossal legal and political issue. For Potter, though, the issue became a crisis of faith.

For the last three years, Potter has been one of the most visible supporters of President Barack Obama’s health care legislation. He has testified before Congress, appeared on countless talk shows and written a tell-all book on the health care industry called "Deadly Spin." With his Southern drawl and mild professorial manner, he has been described as a health care industry “Judas” in some media accounts.

Yet none of the media coverage of Potter has explored what drove his conversion - his faith. Potter was raised as a Southern Baptist in Kingsport, Tennessee, where he says his parents instilled in him an appreciation for helping others.

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He says the New Testament is filled with Jesus providing universal health care - he healed the poor and outcast.

“Christians needed to be reminded of what Jesus did,” Potter says.  “It was important to him for people to have access to healing care. That’s what he did. A lot of people of faith lose sight of that.”

A health care hit man

Potter says he lost sight of that because the health care issue was an abstraction to him when he worked at Cigna as a public relations executive. Part of his job was to snuff out stories in the media that made the health care industry look bad.

But his visit to that free clinic in Virginia that July morning shook him. In a column that he wrote for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization, where he works as a senior analyst, he wrote:

“Until that day, I had been able to think, talk and write about the U.S. health care system and the uninsured in the abstract, as if real-life human beings were not involved.”

Yet even after that visit to the clinic, Potter says, he still stayed with his Cigna job. He had a son and a daughter, a six-figure salary, bonuses.  He felt trapped even as he resumed his job.

“It was always gnawing at me,” he says of the experience at the clinic.

There was another reason he couldn’t leave his job.  It was his identity.

Wendell Potter was moved by his faith to quit his Cigna job.

“Our egos are tied to our jobs even if the jobs we’re doing are not what we thought we were going to be doing,” he says. “Our jobs, to a certain extent, help define who we are.”

Potter found a new source of identity - his faith. He read the Bible and found particular solace in the New Testament book of Philippians, where the Apostle Paul advises Christians to “cast all their anxiety” on God. He also read “Profiles in Courage” to fortify his resolve.

He finally quit, and eventually became one of the most visible advocates for health care reform.

“I felt that if I were on my death bed and looked back on my life and realized that I had not taken this risk to do the right thing, I would have huge regrets,” he says.

Why churches are silent

Potter now spends some of his time talking to churches. He says an estimated 45,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have insurance that provides them access to the care they need.

“This doesn’t happen in any other developed country in the world, and it should not happen here, the richest nation on the planet,” he says.

When he takes this message to churches, some shut their doors, he says. They don’t want to hear him. Pastors know the debate over health care divides their congregations.

“A lot of pastors are just too afraid to get involved in this and step up and say this is a moral issue,” he says. “They’re afraid of offending their parishioners.”

Some of Potter’s most consistent supporters, though, are former colleagues in the health care industry.  "I've had calls and emails from people I used to work with in the industry who thank me quietly," he says.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, Potter says health care changes are inevitable. The current system of for-profit health insurance companies is not sustainable. He says some Americans dismiss the uninsured, but they don’t realize how close they are to joining them.

He says many of the people who attended the Remote Area Medical clinic were working people. Their jobs simply didn’t provide enough good medical care. While many companies provide health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, most people with these maladies wouldn’t get coverage if they suddenly lost their job.

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“Most of us are just a layoff from losing it,” he says of health insurance.

Potter can’t guess what the Supreme Court will decide, but he has predicted what the United States will look like if the health care law is struck down.

We’ve already seen that future in a book and movie called “The Hunger Games," he wrote in a recent column.

"The Hunger Games" depicts a future America renamed Panem, where the government is disconnected from the people who struggle every day for basic needs such as medical care while the wealthy have access to modern medicine, he wrote.

“This society-gone-bad scenario of denying basic care to citizens based on their income or social status seems on the big screen not only cruel and unusual but even incomprehensible,” he wrote. “In fact, it’s occurring every day in what is still called the United States.”

Potter didn’t have to see that future on the screen. He’d already seen it in Virginia, where doctors cared for Americans in animal stalls.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Faith & Health • Health • Health care

soundoff (1,958 Responses)
  1. disgustedvet

    How many ways can one say B U L L ? Are the streets around hospitals in your city strewn with the bodies of folks who had no insurance ?

    June 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • ready

      Well since you never leave your upper middle class safe surburb i guess you will never know

      June 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      oh you are so blind!

      June 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Unitarian

      I personally knew two people who died on the floor of an ER because the doctors treating them wanted to wait out the problem and see of it got better with no intervention and why would they do that? Because they had no insurance because they had met their lifetime caps. I have the same genetic disorder that killed them (the mortality rate of people with the condition is 33% so there are considerably more dying than just the 2 I knew) and I have 4 years until I meet my cap. I'm only 21. So the bodies that you speak of, they're there, they just get swept out before the people with insurance stroll in.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Unitarian

      And when I say floor, I mean the actual floor. They weren't even admitted and given a bed. And before anyone makes assumptions about this being some backwards, rural, hospital it wasn't. Dallas, Texas.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • AGrey

      I was sitting at a bus stop in my city once across from a new St. John's hospital. I received treatment there once and it was a fancy place. On the bench next to me....a few feet away anyway, was a man who's legs and feet cracked, scabbed, weeping fluids, and what you might call "putrified". He had done his best to wrap them in dirty bandages and he was in very obvious need of intensive medical treatment but apparently since he was not in the throws of death, the hospital wouldn't do anything for him.

      You don't see these people dying in the streets because they usually die in the nooks and crannies they have bedded down in and are picked up by the morgue when they're discovered by friends, shop keepers, or trash truck drivers early in the morning.

      June 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • AnyNameWillDo

      I guess you got your answer. Hope you are satisfied...

      June 27, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • Jmdqk7

      ready and dyslexic dog,

      is that your best response? Your upper middle class so you wouldn't know of the struggles. What a weak response! Go to a hospital and you will see a load of people being admitted with no insurance. BTW I still haven't seen one argument that shows how the government will properly fund and provide quality healthcare? This new insurance plan will not provide nearly the benefits that regular commercial healthcare can provide.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • FL person

      @Jmdqk7: The insurance in the law IS COMMERCIAL INSURANCE. This is NOT GOVERNMENT HEALTHCARE.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Jmdqk7

      @ FL Person

      It is going to be a government controlled commercial insurance that will lack the coverage a normal private commercial plan would offer.

      June 28, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Jmdqk7

      NoEsc,

      Your numbers are misleading. 84% of people were covered under some form of insurance. Of those covered only 31% percent were covered under non-private healthcare. That would mean roughly 58% of the people had access to that quality healthcare. I would retract that statement of saying only the minority had access to such healthcare.

      June 28, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  2. KZ

    Jesus taught that people should take care of other people. He didn't teach that we should make the government force people to take care of each other. The key difference is that the government uses coercion.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      jesus spoke of the act, nothing about the method.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • analogpanda

      So if I need a heart transplant and the portion of costs not covered by my insurance would send me into bankruptcy, can I call on you to help pay for it as the good samaritan I know you are?

      June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      religion is the biggest user of coercion. it's their main recruiting tool! How else could religioon get the masses to believe fairy tales like christianity or catholicism or mormonism or scientology. KZ you really are the pot calling the kettle black!

      June 27, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • homardy

      How do you know how Jesus felt about government other than to say "...give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s." Jesus also said we are our brother's keeper. Is not government "We the people..."? Can not government representing the people take care of out brothers through universal health care? Trying to use scripture to justify political positions on either side is a slippery slope. But don't say that Jesus would not want government-run health care because you don't know one way or the other.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • NoEsc

      The United States is the only country in the world that does not have a universal healthcare system. We are ranked number 37! Republicans go on television and speculate on what would happen if we had universal healthcare when every other country in the world could serve as an example. We spend more on healthcare than anyone yet we get less results and rank #37. To be fair the WHO chart is based off of preventable deaths. So while it's great the U.S. Healthcare quality is good , it doesnt matter because only a minority can actually afford that quality. Everyone of the politicians debating healthcare are members of that minority that get quality healthcare so they can take their time and go back and forth while americans die from lack of treatment. Some people say they dont want universal healthcare because they dont feel they should have to pay for people who cant afford when he works hard to make sure he can. Well your already doing it. Everytime someone gets treated in the emergency room and walks out or turns out idnt have insurance that cost gets passed on to you everytime. Since the ailement was never actually treated chances are he'll be back again so the emergency room can prevent death and send him on his way once again. Wouldnt it be better if the person can get preventative care and if something was wrong actually get treated and solve the problem so he doesnt have to keep going to the emergency room.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • motorfirebox

      Jesus said render unto Caesar.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  3. Jesse from KC

    I don't think people need God to come to ethical and moral decisions such as this. I am without and believe the same thing that this person does.

    That being said, whatever it takes to get people to open their eyes. The system is flawed, and needs to be fixed.

    I don't think Obamacare is the fix, but it's a step in the right direction, so it's what we've got.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  4. Cents

    Yes yes......demonize the insurance company. Whatever you do.....dont look at th root of the problem, which is the cost of health care. Dont blame the individuals for not provided the care........blame the insurance company for not paying for it. I just dont get it. How can you expect an insruance company to stay in business to generate money to pay the health care machine.....if they cannot evaluate the risk they take on. I guess we will see in 2014, if Obamacare stands.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • .

      Since insurance companies have bottomless .pockets, it creates an atmosphere where the hospitals and doctors think they can charge any amount. This drives the cost up for everyone. When I was small there was very little insurance, but healthcare was affordable to everyone.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      I have lived in 2 major countries with nationalized health. It works WAAAAY better than what we have in America.

      Thankyou Mr. Obama for trying to change it. Sorry that FOX News and the Right are in the industry's pocket and are fighting you on it. Sorry that the mindless religious FOX News watching mob are behaving like sheep and without even knowing why are against your efforts. What a mess.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Veritas

      The only thing wrong with Obamacare is the fact that Obama bulldozed it through without THINKING it through. He consulted with Medics and Congress only when it was – in his mind – fully in place.

      Rather than have consultations with Congress – Obama chose to do his own thing. Since the Republicans suggested Affordable H Care in the first place, a bi-partisan 'action' just may have been more productive.

      Sadly – since it has been an ongoing whine from president that Congress blocks everything he does, he COULDN'T be seen to be working with them, now could he? And see what happened. Obamacare has already added $340 Billion to the deficit.

      June 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • AnyNameWillDo

      Veritas, please do some research on how long the health care debate has been going on; with many of the same congressmen. You are just repeating the rubbish about the Obama plan that the opponents have been dishing out. Can you identify this $340 billion that you speak of, or are you just repeating more of the rubbish that has been handed to you?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Jmdqk7

      Anynamewilldo,

      How will the government run this program? Like the Medicare and Medicaid bleeding cash? Like USPS losing billions of dollars a year?

      Dyslexic Dog,

      Explain to me why people from Canada make the trek down to the states for healthcare? I have an answer we have a better quality of healthcare that government's won't support. They can't provide that type of coverage without bankrupting the country. Hello Greece!!!

      June 27, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  5. QS

    Interesting how this issue of health care seems to highlight the partisan divide within the confines of "the church".

    Anybody who can call themself a Christian but then turn their back on what this man has to say is the perfect example of religion gone wrong. That any church could actually side with conservatives on this issue, who want nothing more than to make it even more of a for-profit industry, is quite telling to me about just how blind conservative/religious extremists have become.

    Romney on the other hand, is going around trying to convince those same people and churches that repealing the ACA is the moral thing to do! This country is in serious trouble if conservatives are allowed to remain in power at any level of government.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • DC Johnny

      You are the one who is blind. Just because something is "for profit" does not simply mean that profit is the only benefit.

      Apple is "for profit". BMW is "for profit". Even Facebook is "for profit". Things that are "for profit" are destined to outperform things that are "for failure", such as just about every government endeavor ever taken.

      Communist Russia had a lot of non profit endeavors. Turned out real well for them. Look at all the advancements we have to thank Russia for.

      When you use phrases like "that any [insert group] could side with... shows how blind...", it proves how incapable of discussion you are. And tossing in the aforementioned rant on anti-capitalism, you clearly do not see how valuable it has been for our growth as a nation over the decades and centuries.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      QS – thankyou for one of the smartest posts I have read in many a day!

      June 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Peace Now

      Yup DC Johnny, everything the government did has been a failure. That whole moon landing thing – huge failure. That whole defeating the Nazis in WW2 – man, did the government screw that up or what?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • NoEsc

      JMDQK7- There are more people who travel to Canada and abroad for basic healthcare than the otherway around. The only reason someone from abroad comes to the U.S for treatment is for something that is specialized IE Brain Surgery. However that is a minority compared to the amount of people who do the opposite and goto Canada and pay less for basic healthcare. It's all fine and dandy that the U.S. has great Neurosurgeons but only a small amount of people actually have to utilize a neurosurgeon vs the vast majority of americans who need basic healthcare. God forbid you do need brainsurgery in this country because it could bankrupt you.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  6. Jill

    Catholic Hospitals do NOT provide free health care. Someone earlier in this post mentioned that they do.... they do provide health care, and if you do not have insurance, you must sign a promissory contract note, and if you do not pay, your wages will be garnisheed. If they cannot garnishee your wages, they will get a judgment against you for the costs, plus interest, fees, and attorney costs. Most who cannot keep up with this kind of health care end up having to file bankruptcy.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Last November I was called by the manager of the senior apartment complex where my dad had lived for the past 6 years. She told me he was on the floor and asked what Hospital he should go to. As I knew he really had no insurance except for medicare, but was a registered VA patient, I had him sent there. My wife went up to the VA to be with him knowing that I was a wreck at that point. While there one of the nurses in the ER (she is a former ER Nurse, too) commented that Vets like my dad without good insurance went to the VA. Vets with excellent insurance went to the hospital run by the local RC Diocese. Don't get me wrong. The quality of care he received at the VA was outstanding. The problem is he and we would not have been able to afford it if he had been sent to a different hospital.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  7. bob

    Jesus never said Cesar(government) should take care of the poor and sick. Christ said you are your brothers keeper. He doesn't even know the bible. Bet he quit his Job in leu of getting fired.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      isnt the government representing the people? why does 'brothers keeper' cease taking effect?

      June 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • not surprised

      Bob, tell me when the last time you gave money or time to help heal the sick! Oh, wait... I know, like all good christians you give 10 bucks to a fund to help african kids... while driving by your dying neighbor.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • vulpecula

      Wow. are you ever dense. And you base your remark about his job on what? Thin air? Did it never accured to you that you might want some evidence before making such a bold a statement? Your an idiot.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • edinatlanta

      I hope you can afford the a$$ectomy you need to get you brains surgically removed from your butt and transplanted back into your head.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • njemnu

      Your logic is flawed. Taking care of the sick, fatherless and homeless would make you accepted by your heavenly father on the last day. If you are a christian your actions should show that. The man understands both Christianity and good business.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      oh no ... bob's back.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  8. Pete

    The question is how a man with morals became a health care company executive in the first place. And how could someone sharp enough to get there really be ignorant of the reality on the ground?

    June 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Peace Now

      It's the same way ignorant people believe that all poor people are lazy. Unless they experience it, they stick to comfortable rationalizations for why things are the way they are.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  9. dave

    Evidently Mr. Potter believes Jesus was a thief.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      ok i'll bite, do tell us how you came to that conclusion

      June 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Robert

      "He says the New Testament is filled with Jesus providing universal health care – he healed the poor and outcast."

      Jesus willingly gave his own time and resources, and SUGGESTED that others do the same. Jesus did NOT condone enpowering a centralized government and did not condone MANDATING participation either by the payers or the recipients

      June 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • dave

      So-called universal health care involves the non-voluntary transfer of wealth to the consumer. Theft, by definition, and dissimilar in every way to the Biblical accounts of Jesus miracles.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • homardy

      You need to read the gospel more often.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      the form of how it is achieved is not the message of jesus, the act of looking after the sick and helpless was the message.
      However I do think that a cry 'but it will cost me money' would fall of deaf ears if you tried saying it to jesus.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • vulpecula

      Actually some of you have it backwards. the mandate would everyone everyone payed for coverage. Without the mandate, those that chose to not get insurance and then need care will walk into an emergency room and get care and then not pay for it. But it gets payed for eventually, because those that do pay in get stuck with he costs. The mandate makes everyone pay, where no mandate allows freeloaders, just like before.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • njemnu

      @Dave if you want to hold so much to your wealth then you better not be talking about Jesus. He is for transferring wealth. Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give all he had to the poor and "come follow me". You have the right to support a wicked system but not the right to say someone who clearly knows what he is talking about does not.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • dave

      The ends don't justify the means.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  10. another CNN shill for obama? how surprising....

    nuff said

    June 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      totally dismissing the content of the article purely because of politics huh?
      nuff said.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Joep199

      No, a person who came to an ethical and moral fork in the road, and made a decision based on his faith. Seems to me that the right wing should support that.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Andrew

      Why do you call him a shill? Just cause he has beliefs, and they don't match yours? bah,,,

      June 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • not surprised

      have you ever found a conservative who would take the word of God over the NRA? They don't want to hear about what Jesus did or would do, they just want to know what will save them a buck and allow them to sell more arms to the mexican drug cartells.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      you must religiously watch FOX News and believe all the baseless, factless tripe they dish out just like you believe all the baseless, factless tripe in the Bible.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • skytag

      Poor thing, can't handle realities you don't want to face so you attack the author.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  11. cedar rapids

    Ok as much as I agree with this guy, the whole 'hunger games' analogy was a bit of nonsense.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  12. dyslexic dog

    and Christian Republicans listen to FOX News and the cultist Romney's demonizing of "Obamacare" and somehow, without even understanding, believe it must be bad. These problems in America are solveable but not with a right wing government. Your choice.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Mclark

      AMEN!

      June 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • JMin

      Not necessarily. I am a Catholic Republican and believe that everyone shuld have access to health care as a human right. I just don't agree that it should come in the form of the plan initiated by President Obama.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • skytag

      So, JMin, what's your alternative to the ACA?

      June 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • AnyNameWillDo

      JMin, what is your answer to skytag's question? You are against the AHCA but don't have a single suggestion on what should be done. This debate has been going on for nearly 100 years; how much more talking should there be on this matter?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  13. myweightinwords

    Good on you, sir. May your words reach the ears that need them to move us forward to a better place.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Byrd

      Well, one can at least hope....

      June 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  14. Honey Badger Dont Care

    There is NOTHING that is done by a religious organization or person that cant be done better by purely secular means.

    Less money being siphoned off to the church and the sandwhich isnt held hostage till the sermon is over.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      Then why aren't there secular organizations out there doing it? The Catholic church is the largest provider of healthcare and other social services to the poor and sick outside state and federal government. I know of many hospitals and schools and shelters and food banks run by faith based organizations. Why does the secular effort come no where near what people of faith achieve. Your claim is an empty boast until secular organizations step up to the plate and do some actual work. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of secular organizations who do lots of good work, but it comes nowhere near what faith based organizations do.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Probably because 80% of the people in the US claim to be religious and there are a corresponding number of religious organizations.

      Dont worry, as your numbers wain we will be there to take the reigns from you. And we wont take our money and build glass cathedrals to show how important we are. We will use it to take care of people, exactly what you can only claim to care about.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      er, Dliodoir, because there are far more believers than non-believers? are also organized already as part of the church? get donations from its followers? secular equivalents simply do not exist to the same level because there is no requirement to do so.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      So the great good and selflessness of people of faith is bad? And someday you'll step up and replace the good works done by people of faith? How do you know this? Isn't it just as likely that the Ayn Randian uber-libertarian, supremecy of the individual ethos will replace the Judeo-Christian ethic of selfless service and sacrafice for others?

      June 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      Cedar Rapids, what do you mean by "there is no requirement to do so?" Do you suggest there should not be a requirement or any moral/ethical compulsion to provide for the needs of others? If that is the case, doesn't that mean that secular organizations won't match the amount of charity and services provided to the poor, sick and hungry? Or are you suggesting that all provision for the needy should be done through government?

      June 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      Dliodoir - religious charity is never selflessly offered. There is always a religious person there trying to convert the poor and the hungry to their religion. religious charity is religious marketing!!!

      June 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      I am saying there is no secular verison to the church that says believers need to gather to pray, to donate, etc. My wife and daughter are believers and when they found a church they liked they 'felt' they needed to join it to fit in, to donate, to take part in bible discusisons, classes, confirmation etc. Atheists do not have the same organizations, they dont have anti-bible classes where they meet up every sunday. The result being that the church is able to organize things easier as they more or less have a captive audience as it were.
      That is what I mean by the requirement to do so.

      As to the last part, I have no issue with government providing care for its people, none at all. The reason why these programs started in the first place is that charities have never, in the whole history of mankind, been able to provide all that is required, even with such huge numbers of religious followers supposedly doing good works.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      dyslexic dog, charity by people of faith is NEVER selfless? They are ALWAYS trying to convert the beneficiary of the charity? You like to deal in absolutes don't you? Suffice it to say that your assertions are patently and demonstrably false. There are MILLIONS of people in this country and throughout the world who have benefited from a faith based charity who were never prosthelytized.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      Cedar Rapids, I agree that priviate charity, faith based or otherwise, can never alleviate all need and there is definitely a role for government. To be clear, I'm in FAVOR of some type of government funded/supported health care system. Government and private charity should work in tandem to alleviate the greatest amount of suffering possible. That said, as Jesus said. . .the poor will always be with us. Thus, there is no "solution." All we can do in our private communities and through our government is try to keep the number of people suffering as low as possible.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There are plenty of secular/atheist charities.
      Kiva, The Red Cross, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, United Nation's Children's Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Oxfam, The Mercy Corps, The Atheist Centre for India, EARTHWARD Inc, Fellowship of Freethought, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Atheists Helping the Homeless, American Humanist Association, Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort (SHARE), Humanist Insti/tute for Development Cooperation,Secular Center USA etc.
      Faith in miracles, divinity, resurrections, and other fantastical flourishes isn't required to live a life of pacifism, charity and humility.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      Doc, I acknowledged that there were plenty of secular charities. The point was that the amount of people they serve does not even approach the numbers served by faith based charities. And as to the Red Cross, the Red Cross began as a specifically Christian charity and is now a quasi-government agency, so that doesn't count unless you consider all government aid programs to be a form of secular charity.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • AngiG

      I would argue that, between them, the Red Cross and the Gates Foundation provide more assistance to the needy than religious organizations. The Gates Foundation 2012 donation to WHO was equal to the organization's ENTIRE OPERATING COSTS of the previous year. However, the majority (possibly all) of medical assistance provided by the Gates Foundation goes to helping *other* countries with immunizations and AIDS treatments. In the US, they fund schools. As for the Red Cross ... well, blood banks would be a heck of a lot emptier without them, but most of their funding goes to disaster relief – both in the US and abroad.

      June 28, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  15. dyslexic dog

    christians should be more like Wendell and follow Jesus' works rather than living life picking and choosing phrases from the Bible to cast judgement on others and feel superior. Well done Sir. You have set a great example.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  16. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Yet Cigna is still taking people's money, people are still going without healthcare, and this guy is still eating with gold rimmed silverware.

    Poor rich white guy. I feel so sorry for him.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      he isnt asking you to feel sorry for him, at no point is he saying 'woe is me'.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • DCBuck

      Guess you are too filled with atheist bile to have adequate reading skills. He now works for the Center for Public Integrity.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • SoSueMe

      Yeah, I can't believe this loser hasn't fixed the problem yet.

      What the he// is wrong with you, Badger?

      June 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • MrE

      Duh..... try reading the article more closely. He quit his job....
      Now write something nice about the guy...

      June 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Joep199

      He isn't asking for your forgiveness, or your pity. He's made his decision, and it was a good one.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Do you really think that this guy gave away all of his money and he's living in a cardboard box? This is nothing but a tax shelter for him and a soap box for him to stand on and shout about how great he is.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      again, giving away money and living in a cardboard box is nothing to do with the article. The article is to raise awareness of the problem, the first hand account of this guy is the method used to convey that.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Joe

      Apparently Honey Badger didn't care enough to read the article where it says he quit his job.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Guest

      Did you not read the article? He quit his job at Cigna. He no longer dines with gold rimmed silverware.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Honey Badger
      This guy isn't a priest who took a vow of poverty.
      He's doing more to help his fellow man than most rich white guys – or poor white guys, or middle class black women for that matter....
      Isn't being charitable a good thing?

      June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Being charitable is always good. It is part of the trait of altruism that we evolved as societal animals.

      Why does religion have to come into it though?

      June 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • skytag

      He doesn't work at Cigna anymore. Might want to work on that reading comprehension thing.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  17. Ecc. 7:17

    Good job Mr. Potter.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  18. The Knight of God

    Now this is the true definition of a Christian radical. Going to extremes, risking a lot to get the message across. Gave up his job that paid so much to help those in need. This is what we should be like. People need to see more Christ-likedness in us as Christians these days. It can be hard to tell us apart from the world if we continue to act like them. It is time for a change.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Agreed.
      If more people found inspiration for such humanitarianism in the Bible instead of using scripture to rationalize their own selfish ends, you'd see a lot less Christian bashing on these forums.
      Christ's character is a good one to emulate whether or not one believes His divinity.
      The world needs more charitable, humble healers.

      June 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      maybe we should start a religion based around Wendell Potter's good deeds and in 2,000 years it could be one of the world's dominant forces and Wendell could be revered as part of the holy quadrinity.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • noly972

      I agree.

      I also agree with Doc Vestibule when he says that there would be less Christian bashing if Christians would act Christian and stop attacking others.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Solomon

      Knight of God you are absolutely right.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  19. Primewonk

    I'm an atheist. But if this guy's god is real, he truly has a special place in his god's heart.

    Well done sir, well done.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Agreed. If your faith motivates you to help others and to be more selfless with those in need instead of hounding and cursing anyone you consider non-Christians and telling them they will be tortured for eternity if they don't do as you do, then i fully support it.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • There. Are. No. Gods!

      If you were an atheist you would not talk of "this guys god" as if it were possibly real.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Scott

      No True Scotsman, meet No True Athiest

      June 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Scott

      Yea, just keep in mind that not many atheists are that hard lined. Most I know, including me, are able to deal with a hypothetical to make a point if needed.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  20. Friedman

    " Wake up " signs like these are needed for a lot of people who are out of touch with people who are struggling. And as Americans we need to reach out to others in need. And as God fearing and Jesus loving Church goers we also need to do the same.

    June 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.