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The Obamacare 'scandal' you haven't heard about
Few Bible Belt pastors mention what's in their backyard, millions of poor people trapped in the Obamacare “coverage gap.”
November 8th, 2013
10:01 AM ET

The Obamacare 'scandal' you haven't heard about

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.

The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.

McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.

“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside.  Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”

McDonald’s congregation cheered, but his is a voice crying in the wilderness. He’s willing to condemn state leaders whose refusal to accept Obamacare has left nearly 5 million poor Americans without health coverage. But few of the most famous pastors in the Bible Belt will join him.

Joel Osteen? Bishop T.D. Jakes, and other prominent pastors throughout the South?

Like McDonald, they preach in states where crosses and church steeples dot the skyline yet the poor can’t get the health insurance they would receive if they lived elsewhere. All declined to comment.

When people talk about the Affordable Care Act, most focus on the troubled launch of its website. But another complication of the law has received less attention: a “coverage gap” that will leave nearly 5 million poor Americans without health care, according to a Kaiser Health Foundation study.

Learn more from Kaiser about the coverage gap in states that refused Obamacare

The coverage gap was created when 25 states refused to accept the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. The people who fall into this gap make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to qualify for Obamacare subsidies in their state insurance exchanges. If they lived elsewhere, they would probably get insurance. But because they live in a state that refused the new health care law, they likely will remain among the nation’s uninsured poor after Obamacare coverage kicks in come January.

The coverage gap has been treated as a political issue, but there is a religious irony to the gap that has been ignored.

Most of the people who fall into the coverage gap live in the Bible Belt, a 14-state region in the South stretching from North Carolina to Texas and Florida. The Bible Belt is the most overtly Christian region in the country, filled with megachurches and pastors who are treated like celebrities.  All but two Bible Belt states have refused to accept the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

Should Bible Belt pastors say anything publicly about the millions of poor people in their communities stranded by the coverage gap? Is it anti-Christian for state leaders to turn down help for the people Jesus called “the least of these"? Or should pastors say nothing publicly about such issues because they are strictly political?

CNN's Sanjay Gupta explains who falls into the coverage gap

Who speaks for the poor in the coverage gap?

When these questions were sent to many of the most popular pastors in the Bible Belt, they hit a wall of silence. Virtually no prominent pastor wanted to talk about the uninsured poor in their midst.

Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in the nation, declined to be interviewed about the subject. So did Bishop T.D. Jakes. Their megachurches are both in Texas, the state with the nation’s highest number of people without health insurance.

Max Lucado, the best-selling Christian author who is a minister at a church in Texas, declined to speak; Charles Stanley, the Southern Baptist pastor in Georgia whose In Touch Ministries reaches millions around the globe, declined to speak; Ed Young Sr. and Ed Young Jr., a father and son in Texas who pastor two of the fastest-growing churches in the nation, also declined to speak. 

Bishop T.D. Jakes declined to talk about the millions of poor people stranded in the “coverage gap."

The list goes on.

The silence is not hard to understand. Obamacare is a polarizing political issue in the Bible Belt. A pastor who publicly weighs in on the subject could divide his or her congregation or risk their job. And some prominent pastors like Osteen are popular in part because they  do not alienate fans by taking political stands.

The Rev. Phil Wages, senior pastor Winterville First Baptist Church in Georgia and a blogger, was one of the few Bible Belt ministers willing to speak on the subject.

He says he won’t preach about the coverage gap created by the state’s rejection of the Medicaid expansion because he has what he calls theological differences with the thrust of the new health care law.

Wages says the Bible teaches that the care of orphans, widows and the sick are given to the church, not to the government. Early Christians were the first to create hospitals, orphanages and hospices.

“I have an issue with the government coming in to get money through me - through taxes - to take care of people, when my argument is that I should be free to give to charities or to my church in order to take care of the sick and destitute,” he says.

Wages says he has no doubt that lack of health insurance is a monumental problem, and that many people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control. Yet there is no New Testament example of Jesus trying to shape public policy on behalf of the poor.

“I do not see any biblical precedent where Jesus ever went to Herod or Pilate and said you should be taking care of the poor,” Wages says. “Jesus told his disciples to take care of the poor and the apostles said the same thing to the early church.”

Wages’ position is impractical and unbiblical, says Ronald Sider, a longtime advocate for the poor and author of “The Scandal of Evangelical Politics."

Churches and charities don’t have enough resources to take care of an estimated 48 million Americans who don’t have health care. The Bible is filled with examples of God's fury over economic oppression of the poor, which Christians should regard as scandalous, he says.

“If you are not sharing God’s concern for the poor, it raises huge questions about whether you are a Christian at all,” he says about pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor.

“As God’s spokespersons, you ought to be talking about God’s concern for the poor as much as God. In the richest nation in world history, it’s contradictory to have millions without health insurance.”

“It absolutely stinks”

The coverage gap may inspire a religious debate, but for its victims the issue is raw and personal.

A recent New York Times article about the coverage gap revealed that many of its victims are the working poor: cooks, cashiers, sales clerks and waitresses.

“These are people who are working people but they haven’t been able to afford health insurance or their employers don’t offer it and they’re stuck,” says Andy Miller, editor of Georgia Health News, a nonprofit news organization that covers health news in the state. “A lot of these folks have chronic health conditions.”

They are people like Shelley “Myra” Mitchell, a single mom with four children who makes $9 an hour working at a Chick-fil-A in Georgia. She makes $18,000 a year – too much for Georgia’s existing Medicaid program, but not enough to qualify for subsidies to sign up for Obamacare’s insurance marketplace in Georgia.

Mitchell’s voice grew edgy with frustration when asked to describe her health needs. She rang up about $20,000 in emergency room bills because she has no health insurance. She can’t afford to get pap smears, go to the dentist or get surgery for a two-year-old hernia. She can’t take medication for her depression and anxiety because she can’t afford it.

She thought she could get help under Obamacare but recently learned she can’t because Georgia did not accept the law’s Medicaid expansion.

“It stinks,” she says. “I’ve been dealing with this hernia for two years now, and I can’t get anyone to help me because I don’t have health insurance. It absolutely stinks.”

Why pastors should stay silent about the coverage gap

Mitchell’s plight may stink. But at what point should a pastor go public on such a complex issue, and what could he or she actually say?

Two prominent evangelical pastors openly wrestled with those questions.

Andy Stanley is one of the most popular evangelical pastors in the nation. He is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, a megachurch with at least 33,000 members. He is also the author of the forthcoming book “How to be Rich,” which urges Christians to be "rich in good deeds" instead of wealth. His church recently announced that it donated $5.2 million to Atlanta charities and provided another 34,000 volunteer hours.

Joel Osteen has the largest church in America. He also declined to speak about the coverage gap.

Stanley says the coverage gap disturbs him. The church cannot handle the needs of millions of uninsured people alone and should quit taking shots at government involvement, he says. But he adds that it’s not anti-Christian for political leaders in states like Georgia to turn down the Medicaid expansion for the poor.

“If you really want to know how concerned someone is for the poor ask them what percentage of their personal money they give to organizations that help the poor,” he says. “Ask them how much time they give to organizations that help the poor.”

Stanley says it would be difficult for any pastor to talk about the Medicaid expansion without addressing the entire law.

“I tried to imagine a scenario where I urged people to write our governor encouraging him to reconsider his decision regarding the expansion of Medicaid for the poor,” he says. “As I imagined that, I got the feeling that by the time I finished explaining the issue, people’s eyes would be glazed over.”

Pastors who don't preach one way or the other on Medicaid expansion aren't callous or apathetic, says Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. They may be suspicious of a bigger government and skeptical of whether this move will solve the problem.

“The Bible calls on Christians to answer the cries of the poor,” he says. “All Christians must do that. The question of the Medicaid expansion is a question of how we do that. I don’t hear many people arguing that we shouldn’t care about the plight of the poor when it comes to medical care. The question is a genuine debate about the role of the state.”

Moore says some people have a “utopian view” of what state power can accomplish.

“Government programs sometimes encourage dependency, unintentionally break down family structures, and become unsustainable financially,” Moore says.

Bob Coy, pastor of Calvary Chapel megachurch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wondered aloud about what he could, and should, say.

Florida, which has the second highest number of people without health insurance behind Texas, has not accepted the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

Coy says he hasn’t spoken publicly about poor people missing health coverage in Florida. But he has called the governor to get more information.

“I’m not an activist guy. I don’t tell the government what to do. I am a church guy. I teach the Bible.”

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care for the poor, though, Coy says. He grew up in a poor family that couldn’t afford to go to the dentist. His church also spends a large percentage of its budget on serving the poor.

Coy says he is suspicious of large-scale programs that are publicly funded because they are often abused.

“One side of our society is saying, 'We need this,' while on the other side is saying, 'This isn’t fair and isn’t going to work.’ So how should a pastor, who has a heart to help people, respond?”

Why pastors should speak out

The Rev. Shane Stanford’s answer to Coy is simple: Talk about justice for the poor like Jesus did.

Stanford is the senior pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis and author of “Five Stones: Conquering Your Giants.”

He is also HIV-positive. He was born a hemophiliac and contracted the virus when he was 16 during treatment for his illness.

Stanford says he publicly speaks out about the millions of Americans stranded without health coverage because he knows how it feels. Once, after heart surgery, he was getting a transfusion when a nurse came into the room and pulled the needle out of his arm because she said he had maxed out his health insurance coverage.

He says standing up for people in the coverage gap is a matter of justice.

“Sometimes pastors have to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”

Stanford ignores fellow pastors who counsel him to be silent about his state and others that refused to accept the Medicaid expansion.

“They say you have to be careful talking about political issues,” he says. “When I look at their lives, part of me thinks they never had that needle yanked out of their arm.”

Conservative pastors who urge their colleagues to avoid politics are hypocrites, says James Cone, a prominent theologian who has spent much of his career writing books condemning white churches for what he says is their indifference to social justice.

“When their own interests are involved, they are very much involved in politics,” Cone says. “Same-sex marriage and abortion – they have no trouble politically opposing them.”

Cone, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, says a nation is defined by how it treats its most vulnerable members. But there is an entrenched hostility to poor people in America that goes unchallenged by some white, conservative Christians, he says.

“When poor people get food stamps, they get mad,” Cone says. “When the rich and corporations get tax breaks and pay no taxes, they don’t say anything.”

McDonald, the pastor who spoke out on behalf of poor people from his Atlanta church, says Jesus provided universal health care. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus healing marginalized people.

“He did it for free,” McDonald says of Jesus’ healing. “The reason the crowds gathered around Jesus primarily was for healing. People want wholeness.”

Perhaps the gap between Bible Belt pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor and those who do is also rooted in history. 

Conservative Christians have traditionally emphasized providing charity to the poor - soup kitchens, donations to impoverished people in undeveloped countries - while progressive Christians have blended charity with calls for public policy changes that help the poor.

The distinction between both approaches was distilled by a memorable quote from the late Brazilian Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara, who said: "When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist."

That may be changing as a new generation of evangelicals rise in the Bible Belt and elsewhere. One minister who speaks to them is the Rev. Timothy Keller, a conservative Christian author who pastors a megachurch in New York.

Keller is the author of “Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just,” a popular book that argues that evangelicals should do more than preach personal salvation; they must “speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.” He is a role model for many younger evangelicals.

“God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to ‘do justice.’ ’’

CNN.com recently contacted Keller to see if he would talk about "Generous Justice" and how it might apply to health care and the poor. Did he think pastors in Bible Belt states should say anything publicly on behalf of poor people being denied basic medical insurance? His publicist said she would contact Keller with the request.

Several days later, she returned with Keller’s answer.

He had no comment. 

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Baptist • Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Church and state • Courts • Culture wars • Ethics • evangelicals • Fundamentalism • Politics • Poverty

soundoff (3,619 Responses)
  1. David

    It's about time this issue was raised. I for one am sick of these phony Christians who profess to follow Christ but don't give
    a you-know-what about the poor and unfortunate. They're selfish and prideful and arrogant. Shame on them.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Michael

      The average annual giving among the religious is $2,210, whereas it is $642 among the secular. Similarly, religious people volunteer an average of 12 times per year, while secular people volunteer an average of 5.8 times.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
      • Joe Jones

        They give to their churches who use the money to build more lavish churches and to attack gay rights.

        November 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
        • KSmith

          Not true at all.

          November 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
        • Texanbychoice

          Not true of all churches. My church built a medical clinic that provides free healthcare for our community. We've had medical equipment donated by our congregants and have had many doctors donate their time to serve. This is what American churches should be doing. Personally, I think it's the churches responsibility to take care of the poor, not the government. Unfortunately, there are far too many churches who pour their money into big buildings and dressing their pastors in nice suits. It is messed up, but blanket statements that all churches only spend money on big churches and attack gay rights just isn't true.

          November 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
      • PMD2011

        Have you seen the mansion of Joel Osteen? Google it, if you haven't seen it. You wonder where these donations are being spent. BTW, in what language were the Bibles written and who wrote it?

        November 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
        • Dorian3333

          Hey...all you know it all, anti-church bigots out there....in yo face!

          Now...here is a little 101 for you bigots.....a relationship with God is not dependent on a church or how much a church costs or who has what kind of car, house, whatever. Sounds to me like a lot of anti-church flamers have issues with themselves. They wish they had what the other guy has so they lash out against an easy target...religion. If Olsteen has a big mansion so be it....if he feels comfortable living that lifestyle then he will have to answer for that one day and I hope he can. What is sad is that we have a society that has not just asked to be equal but has said we are now equal and you are not....that is the liberal commentary today. The group that CHAMPIONED the rights of all now says they are the ones that will decide who is right and who is wrong....that in the end will end this country. Once and for all....it is coming...and it won't be pretty. Then I expect those that pushed for a socialist state will wish they had not been so absolute.

          November 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
        • rayosun

          Why shouldn't a man who professes to teach what Jesus taught not live a lavish life style, when Jesus taught ""If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when the young man heard this, he went away sadly, for he was very rich." and " . . . Then Jesus said to his disciples, "It is almost impossible for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. I say it again – it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God! " and "" No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God."

          November 10, 2013 at 12:14 am |
      • hfranqui

        "Christian" charities have the worst record when it comes to actually spending what they get on the poor.
        Bill Gates alone donate more to charity (mostly education as opposed to proselytizing) than all talibangelists combined.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Bob

      Thou Shalt Not Judge. Ring a bell with you?

      November 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
      • Rett

        By their fruit you shall know them

        November 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  2. Unknownhost

    reading this article felt like someone was trying to sell me on their agenda... is this really news?

    November 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bob

      Nope. This...is CNN.

      November 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      yeah what Bob said

      November 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • hfranqui

      So that over 5 million people will not be able to benefit fro ACA due to their states wanting to stick it to Obama is not news?

      How many you need, 10 millions? Or like other "Christians" you hate the poor- funny Jesus would weep if he saw those megachurches and the blatant display of idols $$$$, Cars, cars, cars,, trophy wives getting all types of plastic surgeries on the back of the southern semiliterate poor. You are a cancer consuming America and you sure as hell are not a true Christian.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  3. bill

    The Christian church does more good for the poor than any and every liberal on the planet, its just not reported on. You people are so stupid.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Spoken like a true Xtian.
      You don't actually understand your religion, do you?

      November 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • bill

        I am an atheist, but my mother is a Christian, who with her church have outreach missions to help the poor, provide soup kitchens and meals to the poor, her church in addition to every other church. When was the last time you saw a group of atheists helping anyone in the community? LOL, you people are sad.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
        • Jack

          LOL. That is just the typical atheist seeking to bash Christianity, bill. Fred Evil cannot help himself. Freedom exists in this country for guys like Fred Evil, except to Fred Evil when it comes to Christianity.

          November 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • Ann

          That's very nice, Bill, but it's not really that difficult to get a church enough funding to prepare meals for 100 people at a cost of, what? Around 5 bucks each?

          How many times has your mom's church, or any other church you know of, funded someone's entire hospital bill for a surgery that might cost $75,000 or so?

          A church can't do that. Health insurance can.

          November 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
        • Droop

          Uh, I see non-Christians, and for that matter atheists, helping in their community pretty darn frequently. I have a kid who rides horses as a Special Olympian. Her coach is an atheist. I belong to a liberal Jewish synagogue. Many of our members are atheists, including me, but we belong because we believe in Jewish values– such as caring for others. Members of my congregation volunteer in a shelter, collect food and toiletries for the homeless, and have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. I'm chair of the Social Action Committee.

          November 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
        • MacHaggis

          Ann, Catholic Hospitals foot full medical bills all the time. 😉

          November 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
        • Gary

          So you're an atheist but you finish your post by bashing atheists as uncaring and unwilling to help people. I think you're a believer pretending not to be just to make your point.

          November 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
        • Rett

          Gary, Bill May simply be an atheist who thinks it is laughable to lump all Christians under the umbrella of lack of compassion and greed. Is there some party line all atheists must tow?

          November 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
        • SimJimmer

          Yes Bill listen to Ann. Unlike one hundred five dollar meals which are funded through charitable giving, health insurance is funding my magical government gnomes. The money doesn't come from the same people who donate to the church. Nope, insurance money is a different kind of money.

          Medical care for the needy was funded by charity for generations. There really is no magical government gnomes. Don't tell Ann though...if she's a typical lib she'll never believe us. There may not be a God, but there's definitely a magical government gnome.

          November 9, 2013 at 2:15 am |
    • Steve

      Are you saying a liberal can't be a christian and that you are smart?

      November 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Zeus

      You don't know that as a fact. You only assume that because it fits your agenda.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • ft

      You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”
      — Bertrand Russell, Why I am Not a Christian, 1927

      November 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  4. Matt

    . A pastor who publicly weighs in on the subject could divide his or her congregation or risk their job. And some prominent pastors like Osteen are popular in part because they do not alienate fans by taking political stands.

    There you have it. Religion tells people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. Hitler would be proud.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Steve

      Where do you think the Catholic church would be today it they had taken a strong stand against slavery or military conflict?

      November 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Jack

      Did you bang your head on a wall today? In a car accident? Your logic is insane.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Scott

      Olsteen is not a minister is a disciple of Satan. MONEY MONEY MONEY !

      November 9, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  5. Atoadaso

    I am "sick" of all this insurance talk. If we want insurance for all we need to look to the countries that have it. It should be free and everyone should be treated the same. In the past, the rich got good health care and the poor and middle class got stiffed. It will be same under Obamacare, or any other plan because the insurance companies are in bed with the politicians and that will never change. Get over it and take Obamacare and let it work itself out. The middle class may come out better, the rich are still going to get better heath care, and the bills of the poor always get passed on to everyone.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      EXCELLENT POINT.
      This country has NO PROBLEM if someone gets their pocket picked, with sending teh cops out to find the guy, detectives to gather video, and eventually lawyers to try AND DEFEND the guy. He gets a year in jail.
      How much did that cost the guy whose wallet was stolen? NOTHING.
      NO BILL.
      We all foot the cost.
      I have a weapon and can defend my wallet, I CAN'T cure my own cancer!!

      November 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • Your post is Ignorant

        Protecting your wallet and providing free health care have no correlation. But, I'll play your game. Taxpayers will still need to pay for all of the civic services you just derided.

        Your gun will do you no good if you aren't threatened. Let's play your scenario out a couple of ways:

        Secnerio 1 –
        A) You are pick pocketed at a street fair. You realize it immediately and chase down the prepertraitor. Remember – he hasn't threatened you, nor has a weapon, so you cannot shoot him. Someone in the crowd sees the confrontation and calls the police. All of your above arguement still happens.
        B) Since you chased him, you probably grabbed him. He'll sue you for assault. Since you were chasing him, you probably ended up tackling him when you grabbed him. Now he also has battery on you. Keep in mind, police will still be called.
        C) He'll ask for an ambulance, since he gets free health care. He'll use the medical results against you.
        D) Since he can't afford an attorney, he'll find some lawyer that'll work the case on contingency. You'll be sued for assault, battery, & suffering.
        E) It'll still be settled before a judge, hopefully without a trial.
        You have caused taxpayers to still pay for everything you listed, but now you have a record.

        Scenario 2 – You use your gun to "protect" your wallet
        A) You just killed an unarmed man. Murder charge. Taxpayer's will probably have to pay funeral expenses.
        B) You fired a weapon. Police will be called and you will be arrested. Police costs.
        C) You will be arrainged. Remember, you used your gun to "protect your wallet." Court costs.
        D) Bail may be set & collected. More court costs.
        E) Since you are released on bail, you will be monitored. Gotta pay the monitors.
        F) Murder is a charge from the state. Taxpayers will have to pay for the prosectuter, baliffs, court reporter, judge.
        G) Jury selection. More hours being collected.
        H) It is a murder trail. Jury may be sequestered. Jury payment, hotel charges, food costs, security costs.
        I) You are found guilty of murder for killing an unarmed, non threating person. Jail sentence. Staggering cost to house an inmate.
        J) You can no longer support your family. They go on welfare, divorce court costs.
        K) Parole hearings, denied release. More court costs & incarceration costs.
        L) You are released. Who wants to hire a convicted felon? More welfare.

        Yeah – you're right. Either way you're getting free health care. Since you cannot "protect your wallet", you might as well just give away all of your money. The ironic thing is that after you've "protect(ed) your wallet", you'll finally get all of the free health care you're promoting.

        November 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  6. lunaluna

    What about separation of church and state? If we are taking God out of our government houses, why should we be expected to bring government into our church houses? It's a two way street.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • gladiatorgrl

      WHY are they TAX EXEMPT?? They should have to write off their "charitable works" against income like everyone else. The FACT that they WEREN'T doing anything to help the poor is WHY we have SS, Welfare, Food Stamps etc..

      November 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • jimmyva18

        gladiatorgrl – You are a miserable Liberal shill. Blame everyone but your failed P*TUS. We are onto you, troll.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Sandor

      Christians get slammed for helping out and slammed for not helping out .....good job CNN on bashing religion

      November 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • Fred Evil

        No, XTIANS get slammed for not helping.
        The very few CHRISTians out there get nothing but praise.
        I can see where you stand.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • BelieveIt

          Fred, don't let the actions of man steer you away from the Good Lord above. None of us are perfect my friend. Anyone in any relegion.

          November 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  7. Cory111

    -“Jesus told his disciples to take care of the poor and the apostles said the same thing to the early church.”-
    That is what we are attempting to do. If these churches would really help their flock and not spend millions on churches that would disgust their God they might be of some use.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Michael

      The average annual giving among the religious is $2,210, whereas it is $642 among the secular. Similarly, religious people volunteer an average of 12 times per year, while secular people volunteer an average of 5.8 times.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • rhel

        Care to back that up with some verifiable data?

        November 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  8. Steve

    Even a broke clock is right twice a day.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  9. stevie68a

    Funny how some christians believe that the "shroud of turin" proves jesus existed. Why would he leave behind a rag, when
    he could easily appear in Madison Square Garden? He cannot, because he's imaginary.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • MacHaggis

      You might want to read a little more. While his existence as both God and man could be debated, his existence cannot be. There are historical accounts outside of the bible that Jesus was indeed real.

      More of a problem than religion is the complete lack of education in the US.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • Zeus

        actually there are no official records of a man named Jesus performing anything like the fictional character. No Roman death records, no stories outside of religious recycled tales stolen from past religions. There is no factual account of a magical Jesus alive around 2,000 years ago.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
        • MacHaggis

          Josephus and Tacitus

          There is Roman (non Christian) record of the existence of a man named Jesus who was executed by Pilot. As far as magical Jesus, I think I covered that in my statement "the existence as both God and man can be debated."

          Reading for comprehension.

          November 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
        • rhel

          Jesus is real! He cuts my grass every Friday.

          November 8, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
        • G to the T

          MacHaggis – These ancient historians did NOT validate the historical existence of Jesus (though I personall believe he probably did exist). All the really say is that christians existed and explained what THEY (the christians) believed.

          November 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
      • ft

        Tell a devout Christian that his wife is having an affair or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else and to be persauded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.
        Sam Harris – The End of Faith

        November 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
        • Inigo de Ona

          So what. Sam Harris believes in something that he cannot prove - that there is no God. Do not say you cannot prove that something does not exist and then use unicorns as an example of silly belief. You cannot, after all, prove they do not exist.

          Atheist governments have killed their people since their inception with the French Revolution. Robespierre, Stalin, Hitler, and Chairman Mao make the inquisition and religious wars look like rank amateurs.

          The so called Nordic Atheist paradises all have an official state church and a Christian ethos. When that ethos disappears in fifty years or so they too will descend into atheistic barbarism or Islam. Take your pick.

          November 10, 2013 at 12:41 am |
        • Observer

          Inigo de Ona,

          When God got done with his killing spree, the Bible says there were only EIGHT people on the face of the earth.

          No atheist ever came close to that.

          November 10, 2013 at 12:46 am |
    • Jack

      And this has what to do with this topic? DUH

      November 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • TYPICATHEIST

        Well, we should blame cnn in putting this article in the believe blog. However, atheists have been hanging out in here turning every issue into a religious debate. No difference at all.

        November 10, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Iowan

      To dispute the validity of Christian belief is one thing, but to claim that the historical figure of Jesus never existed is akin to claiming there are no pyramids at Giza.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
      • Michael

        Even the Muslims honor him as a prophet of Allah. Should be an indicator

        November 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  10. Fred Evil

    If you Xtians truly think you are your brother's keeper, you have a whole lot of 'Manning Up' to do.
    Right now it's the liberals and the atheists picking up your slack, as you scream and cry about your selfishness.
    Good luck facing your Lord, you're going to need a junkload of excuses.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • MacHaggis

      Considering Catholic hospitals server 1 in 6 in the US and far more globally, coupled with the fact that Catholic hospitals will not turn away anyone... I think your statement is a tad blanketed, misguided or uneducated.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • dave

      Liberals and atheists?? Really?? Christians don't pay taxes?? Well what is the $185.00 federal and $ 95.00 state that was taken out of my check for??
      The soup kitchen in my town is run by Christians, and many people Christian and non donate to it. the largest Non Profit in Maine is the Catholic Charities. They do a lot for charity in this state, but most of it is under the radar, because they are not looking to blow their horn like most Politicians. Many Christians are liberal... I don't know any atheists that donate to charity.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
      • Iowan

        Contributions to the church are tax deductable.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • MacHaggis

          Deductible, yes, just like donating to AmVets, etc, etc, etc. Full reimbursement, no.

          November 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
        • Pinewalker

          ANY non-profit 501C group donation is tax deductible.....be it Christian, atheist, LGBT, Budhist, I Love Obama PAC, etc.

          November 8, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
      • derrick

        wow bill, if that's all they take out in taxes from your weekly salary, you sure as hell should not be voting with the rich, get real man, you are soon to become part of the working poor.

        November 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Michael

      The average annual giving among the religious is $2,210, whereas it is $642 among the secular. Similarly, religious people volunteer an average of 12 times per year, while secular people volunteer an average of 5.8 times.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
      • rhel

        If you are going to keep saying it you need to back it up with factual, verifiable data.

        November 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
      • jclovegren

        Tell me how much of that goes to church building/ pastor/staff salaries, "foreign missions", evangelism, and how much actually goes to charitable works in the US. I grew in a town where the big local church spent huge amounts on "foreign missions", but would not assist with any services for the poor across town or in nearby rural areas. There was a local food bank and clothing bank that were purely secular. AND, they received nothing from local churches, but were supported by groups like the local Women's Club and Rotary.

        November 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  11. Jesus Boy

    Oh those whacky Christians.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  12. ora pike

    you fit right in with wolfe biased, cheeseburger candy, and borderline gloira–you guys are the joseph goebbels of the leftist admin. wow--you use the church like IF the church did their part. In other words you pick and choose to make a point. You at CNN supporwhen people do opposite of what the bible teaches-you find one preacher--then you use God to get what you want. Karl Marx did the same thing, Hitler followed the same line of thinking. fyi: my wife and i set up a foundation years ago to help the black kids in the cities--we give and give to help others while JOE BIDEN GAVE A TOTAL OF $5,000 IN AN ENTIRE YEAR???? what if-the billions wasted on obamacare would be put into a pool to pay for "the poor" health issues, or those on food stamps who drive new cars/have cell phones/eat at the nice places--cut out that fraud. YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND GOVERNMENT HAS ZERO BUSINESS RUNNING A BUSINESS. Obama is on schedule--taking over our health system for what?? socialized medicine. Then he will WRITE THIS DOWN-then he will take over education to brain wash the young like marx teaches and obama's mentor taught. Then he will take over our energy sources by using the environment to use. GONE WITH THE WIND is now the motto in DC for our country.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • zman

      You sir are truly a complete utter idiot. Obamacare is NOT socialized medicine or socialism because the insurance is PROVIDED BY PRIVATE INSURANCE CORPORATIONS FOR PROFIT NOT THE GOVT!!!!!!! How many times does one have to keep pointing this out to you clowns? The Republicans during their negotiations on the bill that was PASSED by Congress insisted that their big money donors the insurance corporations were not cut out of Obamacare. If Obamacare was a SINGLE PAYER system then you could call it socialized medicine which countries like Canada, England and every other western democratic country in the world has in place for its people. Please pull your head out of the ass of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and actually learn the terms you are trying to use against Obama and Obamacare!

      November 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • zman

      I should also point out to your childlike intellect that Karl Marx and Hitler were EXTREME RIGHT WING FACISTS!! not liberals!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!

      November 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • jclovegren

      No business except for things like the VA Healthcare, which has roughly a 7% overhead. Their record keeping and admin systems are studied worldwide as an example effective heathcare delivery.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  13. Shawn

    So, now the left is blaming pastors.

    Puerile.

    The goon tactics aren't winning minds anymore. The results are speaking for themselves.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • tallulah13

      They are simply pointing out that a lot of pastors in Southern states are more willing to pander to wealthy politicians than they are willing to help the poor and the needy. Men who pretend to speak for Christ are doing exactly opposite of what Christ preached - can you not see the hypocrisy?

      November 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • Shawn

        I can see hypocrisy just fine.

        I see it everyday when I turn on the tele and see our president.

        I'd rather let God deal with pastors, and let the American people deal with leftists.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • Michael

        The average annual giving among the religious is $2,210, whereas it is $642 among the secular. Similarly, religious people volunteer an average of 12 times per year, while secular people volunteer an average of 5.8 times.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
        • Greg

          Back it up if you're going to repeat it like a broken ass record.

          November 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  14. Rocket

    The reason states are refusing obamacare is because it will be bad for the poor and everyone else. That's how we stand up to the liberal garbage that is obamacare by refusing it

    November 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Shootmyownfood

      Please explain how receiving medical care is bad for the poor. Otherwise, your position makes no sense whatsoever.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      Well I don't know about states but Obamacare certainly is bad for the charities I provided for. We had a $447 per month increase coming in january for our healthcare, so i was forced to reduce my charitable contributions to the United Way, Salvation Army, County Food pantry, etc by $300 a month starting in January.

      November 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
      • jclovegren

        ANd, of course that was the insurance company's replacement. They present the situation like you have no other choice. But you do. Please tell me what the equivalent costs on the exchanges. I have yet to see an independently verified case where ACA care cost more that about $50 more after subsidies. I work as a patient advocate for cancer victims. Pray you never get cancer. I know hundreds of thousands that blow through their policy limits shockingly fast. And then have nothing left to cover them. Charity organizations would be overwhelmed trying to help them all.

        November 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
  15. Name*dave

    Anti religious and pro Dear Leader. how many points did that get u Blake?

    November 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      It's actually pro-CHRISTIAN, and anti-XTIAN.
      Typical Xtian doesn't know the difference.
      You suck at your religion.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • Jack

        What do you care? You don't. You just want to bash, bash, bash.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
      • MacHaggis

        You realize that using an X instead of Christ doesnt bother Christians, right? Χριστός...

        If you are going to troll, at least be good at it.

        November 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  16. tyrajam

    Jesus taught that we should help the poor, feed the hungry, and cloth the naked. He did not preach that the government should steal money from those who work to do it. True Christians practice this charity and donate to help others. Liberals don't donate or help anyone, they just try to force others to so that they can feel good about themselves.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Yeah, the government 'steals' the money, because the Xtians have the homeless covered already, right?
      Nope. You missed his point, Xtian.
      Now go learn what it means to be a CHRISTian.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • tyrajam

        You really have no idea what you are talking about. Here in Indiana, when my dad couldn't afford his blood pressure medicine, he was referred to a Catholic hospital. He gets the medications and the care he needs for free! I am not Catholic and neither is he, but when he needed help it was the Church, not the government, who stepped up. They can do this because of all of the millions of Christians who donated money to make it possible.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • emck

      Hmmm. . . I could have sworn there was something about Christ asking whose image was on the money and telling those who questioned him to render unto Caesar that which was Caesars' and unto God that which was God's for their rewards would be in heaven. . . then again, maybe I just imagined that part.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • Shawn

        You did.

        And there are numerous articles to show the error of your thinking.

        Best find them.

        November 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
      • Greg

        You're only partly correct. Here's the actual passage: 14They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15Should we pay or shouldn't we?" But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." 16They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose image is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. 17Then Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." And they were amazed at him. Mark 12:15-17

        November 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I wonder if Christ would split hairs about helping others. It seems to me he would be happy that the poor were getting help, no matter the source. But I guess Christians only want to give if it doesn't hurt their own bottom line. Another way christians are not at all like Christ.

      As a non-christian, I am happy that my tax dollars go to people who need it. It is not a perfect system (too many scammers) but it gets help to those who truly need it more consistently than sporadic church efforts.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
      • Pinewalker

        No, we actually just think things through and look at the bigger picture. We also know you can't ahev your cake and eat it too. Our insurance premiums are going up $447 a month due to Obamacare. I took down my charitable giving by $300 and took another $147 out of activities I don't deem life necessity (one restaurant meal, hair/nails, etc). This will put a big financial strain on our family and if anything were to change in our revenue stream coming in, we woudl now need to have assistance to make ends meet. So basically what you say is just hurting my bottom line has actually put my family inpotential financial hardship and from a family who was in the positive and pouring fnds intot he system, now may be reversed and neeeding to pull fro the system. How is that progress? Surem there are things that could & should be done but obviously weren't done in the correct manner or timing or we wouldn't be in the situation we are currently in and it really hasn't fully begin yet. Wait till all hell breaks loose I'm predicitng around the mid-March to mid-April time frame.

        November 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Matt

      Nailed it!

      November 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • MacHaggis

      Lot of liberals are Christian... While I wouldnt consider myself liberal, I am certainly not conservative.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      Our friends and family are pretty split Conservative/Liberal and Christian religious/agnostic ro atheist. Any time there is an offering taken up at work, a freind is in need, someone's moving and needs a couple buddies to go over and help out, potluck luncheons, anything....be it actual money or just time/food, every single time without exception those freinds who are conservative and/or religious are the ones who show up to contribute and every single time the liberal and/or non-believer friends just show up with an excuse as to why they're not giving or didn't bring something or couldn't help that weekend. It's actually a running joke now amongst co-workers and friends because its so noticable.....and I live in a pretty liberal-minded state so there are plenty to be had.

      November 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
      • MacHaggis

        Purely anecdotal. Best man at my wedding is atheist... PURE atheist and doesnt miss a chance to rib me for being Catholic. However, he is probably one of the most generous and kind people I know.

        Religion doesnt make you a good person no more than hanging around a school makes you smart.

        November 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  17. Lou Stool

    I have a better solution than Obamacare that won't cost taxpayers a dime. Anyone who doesn't want health insurance needs to sign a "refusal for treatment" if they get sick, in an accident, injured on the job, etc. doctors and hospitals must refuse to treat them. Current laws state that hospitals MUST treat the injured and sick. Change this one simple thing and we don't need the ACA.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  18. Trina Schewe

    B.S. You lefty tree-huggers make me sick! Why are these"millions of poor people" not on Medicaid already (like all the "poor" people everywhere else in this country)?

    November 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Dennis

      Duh! because they don't qualify, which is why they tried to expand it in the first place.

      November 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Steve8271

      Did you even read the article?

      November 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Durundal

      clearly to try and dupe you and the masses. Congratulations, with that superior intellect of yours you managed to send those lefty socialists packing. Now every poor person can go to bed hungry and coughing knowing full well that you manged to save them from being had. Grow up or troll elsewhere – you may have freedom of speech, but you also have a responsibility to not abuse it by being the loudest fool in the room yelling

      November 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
      • MacHaggis

        Freedom of speech doesnt apply here. FoS only protects you from the government.

        Again, educational fail in the US. What is new?

        November 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  19. Cinman

    False Christians and their churches are not new. They think they can fool God by holding a bible and reciting lines. When they meet God and he asks them why they let his children suffer, their answer will not be accepted.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  20. Caribou meatball

    Ah yes, blame the Christians. Nero did it. Why not now? If the pastors had been complaining about this then there would be an outcry for them to stay out of politics. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • James

      The pastors are not staying out of politics as it is so they should probably be involved in a way that lines up with their faith...you know, all of that help the less fortunate stuff that seems to be ignored in favor of getting angry about what people do in their bedrooms. http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/img/3.0/1px.gif

      November 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • flasher3838

        so you are going to decide how a pastor should act. why you? why mr blake?

        November 8, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
        • Scott

          I think 80% of americans will see hell as their eternal home. Yes I lower cased this septic tank country for a reason.

          November 9, 2013 at 11:01 am |
      • peterwimsey

        It is a sign of how far "evangelicals" depart from the Gospel when speaking on behalf of the poor is considered "political".

        April 23, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
    • bspurloc

      The Pope already blamed the Christians, the selfish me me me christians. which in the USA is basically 95% of them bra

      November 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • Dorian3333

        Hey bra....tell you what....why don't you take your blunt and go smoke it somewhere else...or here is another idea....send me all of the hard earned cash you have....I deserve it because I know how to spend it better than you do. See how that sounds to you?

        November 8, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Shelia

      The fact of the matter is Obama signed the bill it is his and every short coming.

      November 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
      • hfranqui

        So if your state finds a way out of one of the most important provisions so millions don't get coverage is Obama's fault?

        Wow, talk about illogical thought- bwaa Obama made me a dummy- everything is Obama's fault!

        December 20, 2013 at 1:02 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.