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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. Reality # 2

    Once again:

    Tis a matter of money and paying off our debts:

    How do we do that when we are paying huge amounts to keep Islam under control??

    November 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
  2. Jeff

    First of all Obamacare is a tax, so says the Supreme Court. It is not the governments job nor responsibility to ensure that every American receive health care. It is the mandate of the Church of The Lord Jesus Christ to care for the poor and the widows. So perhaps this pastor's time would be better spent preaching to the church that there are more pressing issues at hand than building bigger state-of-the-art church buildings. Personally, I applaude the states who have said NO to Obamacare. It is not healthcare reform at all – it is tax the working class to pay for the non- working class – with death panels to boot – such a deal – NOT!

    November 10, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Obviously, you have not felt the hardships of being laid off.

      November 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
      • karon adams

        #2, you are missing the ENTIRE point. I DO know the pain and hardship of being laid off. and I know there are a HUGE number of people who are losing their job or the possibility of a job BECAUSE of so called 'justice' for the poor. Yes, yea, you claim that it requires that we, as a nation, provide this or that benefit if the population has any desire to be considered Christian. so much GARBAGE! It is extremely easy to be generous with someone else's money. which is exactly what this article espouses. extreme generosity, providing the newly declared 'right' to health insurance enforced by government. The problem, as Margaret Thatcher told us, is that, eventually, you run OUT of other people's money.

        Yes, Jesus healed the sick for no fee. what people forget in that comparison and/or assumption is, he did so VOLUNTARILY. no one held him captive and forced him to heal. No one else made decisions FOR him regarding who he would heal. so, you want to provide free health care for poor people. hmm. GREAT! Let's DO that. anyone hungry? Well, food is a right, not a privilege, right? so let's feed EVERYONE for free!

        Here is my question. HOW? who is the doctor required to conducting the exams or providing the surgeries without compensation? are they REQUIRED to work for free? What about who will grow the food or raise the cattle? Providing these 'rights' at no charge to the recipients creates a system well known around the globe. slavery. so, you empower the government to force people to participate in the process of farming. you force people to attend medical school. when the harvest is gathered, the food then goes directly to the government warehouses for the purpose of distribution of the food guaranteed, by RIGHT, to those who 'need' it. the people who were required to educate themselves in medicine (at their own expense, BTW) are now doctors and since health care is a RIGHT, they must now work, as doctors, for no fee. after all, Jesus did. are these requirements to be called a Christian? or will they require people of different religious beliefs to become farmers or doctors??

        Requiring people to become farmers or doctors then requiring them to provide the 'rights' to the people trying to claim their rights to food or care, causes farmers and doctors to be slaves. do we want to start the practice of slavery? because THAT is what you are advocating.

        November 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          The society you have imagined will likely remain imaginary.

          November 10, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Aren't churches supposed to be the ones providing for the sick and the poor? Won't god make sure that needs are met for his chosen and the people they feed and care for? Why is the government having to ensure people's medical needs are taken care of?

          November 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
        • Steve Sands

          you are a moron

          November 10, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        I seem to be hearing you saying that if the church was doing its job properly taking care of the sick and the poor, there'd be no need for Obamacare or other government a!d. Did I get that right?

        November 10, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  3. Live4Him

    @Jeff Roem : The IRS investigated left leaning groups, as well. They were also scrutinized to make sure that these groups were not using their funds in an illegal manner

    Neither the Left nor the Right groups were flagged for using their funds in an illegal manner. However, the Left groups were expedited, while some of the Right groups were delayed for years (i.e. without cause).

    November 10, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Live4Him,

      Please list a RELIABLE SOURCE for your claim. Faux News is not reliable.

      November 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
      • Rob

        Seriously?
        How about this left puppet tabloid?

        http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/03/opinion/ken-boehm-irs-scandal-investigation/

        "The IRS inspector general released a report on May 14 describing how the agency had inappropriately targeted tea party and conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status.Then the IRS put these groups through extra reviews, substantial delays and burdensome requests for information."

        November 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • Ruby

          And opinion as a source? Really?

          November 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
        • Rob

          What?
          Wow.

          November 10, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
        • Ruby

          http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/18/politics/irs-scandal/

          November 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
        • Rob

          I assumed cnn and opinion would suffice around here as that's all most seem to go on.
          I'm not sure how someone frequenting this type back n forth can't of heard of this. It really exposes what I thought. For so many here to say "prove it" to one of the biggest abuses of power in recent memory that was so widespread reported on....

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-the-irs-seeded-the-clouds-in-2010-for-a-political-deluge-three-years-later/2013/05/19/b707d940-bf10-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html

          November 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          I followed this story start to finish and the end result is NO INDIVIDUALS AMERICANS WERE TARGETED. The person at the center of this who admitted using key words to audit certain applications for tax exempt status was a republican and they targeted any group that had a name that was in contradiction to the status they were filing for. Also, NONE OF THEM WERE REQUIRED TO FILE you idiot Rob, all got the benefits immediately and the audits were later to see if they were actually eligible for the tax exeption they had already taken. So this is just another non-scandal that Fox tried to turn into a scandal just so they could fling more poo at the black man in their white house.

          Sometimes I do wish ignorance was more immediately fatal.

          November 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Jeff Roem

      Expedited? No, they were approved. As were the majority of the right's groups. And yes, both sides were scrutinized to make sure they were not claiming tax exemptions by masquerading as a charity when they were clearly political organizations.
      ThErr is no scandal. You're desperate.

      November 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
      • Rob

        Oh my. I think you're serious. 8-|

        You can debate whether or not you think the IRS had the right to do what they did. But it is factually disingenuous to say it didn't happen. Look it up. ....but I think we both know what's going on here. Youre credibility is lost.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2013/07/16/as-debate-into-tax-exempt-scandal-continues-heres-a-timeline-of-who-knew-what-and-when/

        http://bucshon.house.gov/two-year-timeline-ways-and-means-committee-investigation-irs

        November 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
        • basedonfact

          Not a single conservative group was prevented from doing their activities (Activities are allowed while an application is being processed). Nothing the IRS did delayed the groups or prevented them from acting. The only three groups that were actually prevented from doing anything were the 3 branches of Emerge America, a progressive group, who WERE denied.

          November 10, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      What point am I supposed to be taking away from this? The IRS is a private organization that does all sorts of horrible things all the time. So.......???

      November 10, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  4. Renee G

    You don't need a Bible to know the difference between right and wrong. Its not religion some people LA k its empathy. Leave it to a christian to be the first ones who believe in charity but not for those who need it. The purpose of government is to collect taxes and have programs to help the people. Some Americans should be ashamed.

    November 10, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Renee G : You don't need a Bible to know the difference between right and wrong.

      So, how do you know the difference? What is your measuring stick (i.e. reference line)?

      November 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
      • Observer

        Live4Him,

        Most people (including Christians) are bright enough to figure out that it's not a good idea to go around killing everyone, for instance. Some Christians, however, apparently need a 2,000-year-old book to figure this out for them.

        November 10, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • chubby rain

          I don't know. There tends to be a lot of murder and mayhem in the Bible and other holy books.

          November 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  5. Jack Torcello

    It doesn't take the Pope to tell us that Christianity
    centers around the poor: he sacked a German
    Bishop who spent millions of $$$ on his own,
    personal palace. We need to get out there with
    hearts and minds aflame with the justice to do
    good by the poor. "Celebrity Pastors" need to
    teach their people some humility – just a tad –
    but at least some humility, and attend to the
    needs of the poor.

    November 10, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  6. Rob

    John Blake,
    Careful there brotha. I bet Dear Leader didn't approve this 'news story'.
    The grass roots church movements were instrumental in his election. Watch biting the hand that feeds you.

    November 10, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
  7. Frank

    In a right to work state everyone suffers but the top 1%. The law goes way beyond the choice of entering a union but the politicians will never admit to it.

    November 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  8. Greg

    The whole notion that health care should be left to the churches is absurd. Since when has the churches ever had the ability or the will to address such an issue? If they felt driven to do so at any time in past history they would have already done it and there would not have ever been such a need for it. It would be outright dishonest to say that if Obamacare would be repealed that the churches will step forth and do so now. Not only do they NOT have the resources, they also do not have the will as history has shown. Some of the MOST criticism of the poor come from some of the most so called religious people in the country. That is just obvious fact to all.

    November 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Pseudipegriphal Jones

      Facts require a little something called 'proof' and not just wild assertions. That's just 'common sense'.

      November 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • northcoast

      Regarding your second sentence, haven't there been a few religious organizations that have been devoted to health care and other charity serving the poor? Mother Teresa comes to mind. I would agree that the church can't claim exclusivity, but I see no reason for the state to discourage private charity.

      November 10, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        Do some research on the bitch known as Mother Teresa. You probably won't use her as a positive example again.

        November 10, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  9. RocksCryOut

    Go to an emergency room. By law you can't be turned away. Lack of access to care in this country is a myth.

    November 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Ok...Go to an emergency room...say you broke your arm, requiring surgery. Average bill will be around $15,000....now, without insurance, you are responsible for the money.

      Now try to get care for something non-emergency, such as psoriasis....requiring long term medicine, without which, you are in pain and discomfort without it....I can go to emnergency, where I will still get the bill, but then I will be turned away with nothing, since I can't afford the medicine, and would require it for life.

      Access to affordable health care is a myth.

      November 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • chubby rain

      People without insurance receive far less preventative care than people with insurance. They are not able to afford the medications that control their hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol. By the time they are seen at the emergency department, their condition has become catastrophic, requires hospitalization, and can leave them disabled or dead and the hospital and tax-payer absorbs the cost. It is not only more human to have universal coverage, it is more cost efficient. Paying for blood pressure medications, insulin, and statins is much cheaper than paying for emergency and critical care.

      November 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  10. nousapeironlogos

    Reblogged this on Isorropia and commented:
    Reading through the entire article, one can get the sense that it's very difficult to get from Christianity to a political ideology. And this is in fact the case. Christianity cannot and does not provide a political programme, and this is easy enough to see from the New Testament so long as we refrain from doing what is so common in our ideology-obsessed culture, which is reading our own ideology into it by selectively quoting the text and making invalid inferences from it. To get from Christianity to an ideology, we must import a theory about the proper scope of government, an economic model to provide a means of distributing resources, and a theory about law in terms of its source, means, and ends. These are not things found in Christianity, but they are compatible with Christianity. Christianity is orthogonal to political ideology, not equivalent to it or mutually exclusive with it.

    November 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • netprophet1

      The Bible clearly states that the purpose of government is to deter evil and promote the good. Compassion in the Bible is always described as 1-on-1 assistant in which the provider of the assistance is to "suffer alongside" the one receiving the assistance. Justice is described in the bible as treating everyone equally. There is no concept of "social justice" for anytime you modify justice you pervert it. Consequently, while this pastor is correct to say individual Christians should sacrificially give to the poor there is absolutely no biblical mandate that this is to be an effort by a Federal government to provide healthcare to everyone. There is no basis for healthcare being a "right" in the bible. Rights as enumerated in the Declaration come from God, not government.

      November 10, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        Since there is no evidence that there are any gods, do not try to legislate from your bible. I know it to be false, and it is inappropriate to use the bible as any reason for government to do anything.

        November 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  11. Faith isn't a Preacher

    Religion of ? Just about anything.

    Some follow Lucifer's plan of compelling compliance.

    Some promote 'Free Will' as the only true expression of Grace and Charity. "Come Follow Me"

    Now we have Statist compelling us to engage in their legislated Social Doctrine. Which plan is that one?

    November 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Shill elsewhere

      Who is doing that?

      November 10, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  12. Rob

    Lol.
    How pathetic and amateurish of this "author". Deflect much john? Trying to draw fire away from the obamacare debacle by employing the "yeah... well you suck too" approach???? That's mature and hard hitting investigative journalism at its best.
    Oh and if that wasn't enough... of all the things you could point to, you go after religion????? LOL.
    Christianity has done more for charity, helping the homeless, etc, etc, etc than your "I want to help only if I can use someone else's money" party EVER will.
    I don't even know what city you live in (and couldn't care less) but drive out to the local mission or soup kitchen. What to bet who is running it? Pelosi? Reid? Lol. No its a religious group and 99.999999% its Christian.
    You people are having a meltdown. I hate it had to come to this. (There are actually a lot of good ideas in the democratic party) But so be it.
    But again.....
    "Oh yeah? We'll your party does bad things too!" Ha ha ha. Good work John.

    November 10, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • ?

      Ha. Way to contribute a valid, corroborated, and substantive point to the conversation.

      November 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • Rob

        Thank you. I thought so too.
        I addressed both the invalid attempt to deflect to religion (and away from the libs) as not helping the poor AND points showing where religion does actually daily and tangibly assist the less fortunate

        November 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
        • ?

          Except, of course, you've done nothing of the sort. You're just showing the same partisan hatred that politics has become today.

          November 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
        • Rob

          Man I can agree to disagree if you would say something tangible instead of retreating to the security blanket of "blaah blaah partisan hatred. Republicans are evil.. blaah blah".
          But you are an ignorant yes man. I spoke directly to the point of this article, refuted the premise, and gave points that are verifiable.

          November 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
        • ?

          No, you didn't. You have your version. Which is strictly partisan. And because someone questions you, you instantly go for the "blah blah blah yes man" insults.
          This tells me that you are less interested in discussion and more interested in showing your contempt for people whose politics you don't agree with.
          And while I never stated where my personal politics lie, you went on the offense immediately.
          I wrote that partisan hatred is prevalent in politics today. I said nothing about Republicans.
          That you instantly jump to that conclusion is telling. Why so defensive?

          November 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
        • Rob

          Sigh.
          Does anyone have an actual point to support the validity of this 'news story'. Any proof of a scandal? Any honest point why on 1 hand religion should stay our of everything yet is wrong for not helping here? Further, any proof other than this authors attempted character assassination of religious leaders?
          That was unfortunately rhetorical. Because as we've seen throughout this thread, the libs will reply not in point but rather in finger pointing and whatever

          November 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • ?

          While I do not agree with the premise of the story, I do not agree with your partisan insults either. Rabid partisanship is destroying our country.

          I don't expect that you will answer me in a civil manner, so I will bid you good afternoon.

          Those leaves won't rake themselves.

          November 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
        • Rob

          ?
          I think that you are 100% about the partisan gridlock. I think you are also correct in that too many people hate the other side. We will not find a path fwd if we do not find common ground.
          If I offended you, I apologize.

          Rob

          November 10, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's unfortunate that there is no longer a plausible Republican Party. The descent of the Republican Party into bigotry and prostitution of patriotic values outwardly, and recrimination and division inwardly, helps no one. Rob sounds like one of the people who will end the contribution of its conservatism to national politics. There will just never be enough votes for the shrill opponents of social progress who have taken it over. In 1934 the Nazi's purged themselves of competing factions in the Night of The Long Knives. Perhaps the Republicans will, non-violently I trust, apply something like it to save themselves.

      November 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
      • Rob

        Ha another example.
        You cannot dispute not one single point. So in typical lib fashion jump immediately into the "republicans kick puppies" approach.
        Ironic you speak of Nazis. The lib socialism, NSA spying on everyone domestic and otherwise, using IRS to target political opposition parties, creation of a 'national security service' (or whatever the hell Dear Leader called it, etc, etc... you finding any similarities with the nazi party? Hummmm..

        AGAIN, not opinion. Look it up

        November 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
        • Jeff Roem

          No, but your confirmation bias is hilarious to behold.
          Every single one of your point has been refuted again and again but as the good little parrot you are you keep repeating the same old BS.
          It would be laughable, except you are completely and totally serious in your beliefs, which is scary as hell.

          November 10, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
        • Rob

          Jeff. You drank the kool aide. Those points have not been refuted EVER. They cannot. They are facts. Holly cow? Serious? Can you be that stupid? IRS targeting republican and tea party groups: investgation held and corroborated. NSA spying on just about everyone's communication without a warrant or cause: been in the news constantly for a month.... etc.
          Idiot

          November 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
        • Jeff Roem

          Refuted. Over and over.

          Kool Ade is poison. Along with tea.

          Do some research from sites that don't have Breibart, Fox or Inforars in its name.

          And stop the silly cliched insults. You look uneducated.

          November 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
        • Rob

          You are actually going to say that these now historical facts didn't happen? Not only that but refuted time and again. Wow.
          Would you like to cite a reference? Please show (in even cnn, msnbc, huffpost, etc if you'd like) where the NSA or IRS were vindicated from this horrible slanderous baloney.

          November 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
        • Jeff Roem

          The IRS investigated left leaning groups, as well. They were also scrutinized to make sure that these groups were not using their funds in an illegal manner when they were claiming tax exempt status. Non scandal; so? And the NSA was expanded under both Bush and Obama administrations WITH CONGRESS'S BIPARTISAN CONSENT. so where is the freaking scandal?

          November 10, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • Rob

          IRS targeted everyone? Incorrect. http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/03/opinion/ken-boehm-irs-scandal-investigation/?c=&page=1
          Even this left leaning rag and obama had to admit it.
          NSA a bipartisan scandal? Geez. Pick a news report on that one. But I pulled one again from here that is as courteous as possible to obama. But again. His administration. His direction to expand NOT to reign in as was the campaign flag waving.

          http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/28/opinion/zelizer-obama-nsa-world/

          November 10, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
      • jack2

        The democrats are the only ones talking about a one party system. Sounds communist?

        November 11, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Steve

      Yeah, soup kitchens, that'll solve all their health problems. Don't hear of these self proclaimed "christians" paying for anyone doctor or hospital bills!

      November 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
      • Rob

        Geez. And you? How much have you paid for someone else's healthcare?
        I can't believe the ignorance. The dems had a GREAT idea. I am not sarcastic there. The republicans shouldve done more a long time ago. Their fault. Agreed. But why didnt the dems take advantage of that? Why can't you people demand a valid plan from your leaders? Did that idiot look at a strong jobs plan so that those without could afford health care? Did he attack the run away medical costs in order to make it easier to pay for insurance? No. Instead he chose a blanket approach to tax everyone and to bundle plans (maternity care for and elderly, etc) across the board and peanut buttered the tax out to make it cheaper for others even though we now are all paying for services we don't need.
        Why didn't he bundle a jobs plan? Why didn't he attack the high friggin costs? Simple. He doesn't care. He's buying votes. Telling people that ge wants to help them and that republicans want to eat their kittens.
        And now that the numbers are out (a whole 10-20 people of these 'masses' that want healthcare signed up), he got busted LYING... what do the democrats do? Hold their leaders accoutable? Demabd a sustainable plan? No. They come on CNN and say religion sucks.

        Go ahead... rebutt. Reply with "rob's a zealot", "republicans are evil", etc

        November 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • €:^)

          First of all? The numbers are significantly higher than 10/20 that have signed up. The state exchanged have signed up hundreds of thousands. Secondly, I have the feeling that no plan would ever measure up or please everyone. This is evident with your apparent distaste to a plan that hasn't been fully implemented yet.
          And before you start slinging insults at me, since condescending contempt seems to be your preferred form of debate, I am beholden to no party; I am a registered independent who has voted all parties before.
          I simply think that since there portions of the ACA can be tweaked, Congress should get their dumb butts in gear and FIX IT. There has been no plan to replace, only repeal. Not conducive to the greater good of the citizens of the US.

          Oh, and replying to posts with "you've drank the kook aid" is a pretty good indication that the person saying it has partaken in the beverage. Tired and cliched.

          November 10, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  13. D Clay

    Yep According to the tea baggers in the south Christ said' " Hate the poor and kill the sick! """

    November 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Rob

      Ha. Way to contribute a valid, corroborated, and substantive point to the conversation.

      November 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
      • ?

        He adds to it just as much as you do.

        November 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
      • PennyDreadful

        Actually, I did hear a very popular TV Evangelist by the name of Hagey, say that if people were poor it was because they had sinned against god.

        November 10, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  14. drefromla

    Religion and hypocrisy? I'm shocked, shocked!
    These people are phonies. Just like most people who spout they are religious but turn their backs on the less fortunate.
    Ban religion for the sake of humanity! It's our only hope!

    November 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Rob

      Bringing us back on topic just a bit..... hypocrisy and Obama himself and obamacare go hand in hand.
      Per his own admission, did he (Pelosi or tge otger flunkies pimping this so hard) actually read the obamacare plan? No. Will he use obamacare? No. Are key political contributors either getting or still seeking exemption from obamacare (because its such a horrible and unsustainable mess)? Yes.

      The above is not opinion. Look it up. ....those pesky facts again

      November 10, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • ?

        So, it is your position that everyone who currently gets insurance from their employer should drop it and go to the exchanges to obtain new insurance?

        November 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
        • Ruby

          Crickets.

          November 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  15. edmundburkeson

    Churches have done more for healthcare in this country and in history than Democrats or government will ever do.

    November 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • drefromla

      please site some concrete facts and examples please

      November 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Shill elsewhere

      Yawn. Democrats gave us SS, the New Deal, and the safety nets that pulled people out of the Great Depression. What did the Republicans do? Tear down. Destroy. All in God's name. What is YOUR side doing? Praying for guidance on how to make Christianity as far from Christlike as possible?

      November 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Elbonian

      What we think of as "health care" today has only been in existence for a little over a century. Before Louis Pasteur discovered germs, we had no idea what made people sick. Later, the virus was discovered, and eventually vaccines. So, you can't really compare the church-run hospitals of ancient history with modern-day medicine based on science. Sure it helps to give a sick person a bed and meals, but it doesn't do much to cure them of the germs and infections you don't even know exist.

      Now, it is true that some religious organizations have founded modern hospitals. And it is also true that some private companies have built and run modern hospitals. But the vast majority of the most-respected hospitals in the USA are those associated with state-run universities. In California we frequently see references to County-USC Medical Center or UCLA Medical Center, and in most smaller states, perhaps the only major hospital is the one associated with the most-respected university, like the University of Iowa's hospital in the State of Iowa.

      These state-run teaching hospitals are the places where medical treatments are invented. By and large, far more new cures come out of state-run hospitals than from church-run hospitals because the number of church-run research and teaching hospitals is very small (those associated with church-run universities).

      So, with those facts in mind, I call your statements, above, a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the true state of affairs.

      November 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      edmund
      The fight against Bubonic plague that wiped out huge numbers in Europe was directly harmed by beliefs and by the relgious doctrine.

      The plague was spread by rats, but the natural enemy of rats, the domestic cats, were rounded up by the thousands and killed because they were the devils familiars. As a result, one of the greatest eneies of the plague, the cats that kill the rats, were exterminated whole sale, leaving very little defence against the rats who brought the fleas who brought the plague.

      All the praying in the world, didn't help at all....You'd figure if god wanted to help, he could have clued the people in that the cats were their best defence, but instead, your god chose to be silent on the matter and let his religious followers to harm themselves....in his name no less.

      November 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  16. Charles

    Thank you CNN. Since you always give such high honor to the Bible and those of us who believe it, we are grateful that you are now telling us what we should teach.

    November 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Mike

      Uhhh, Charles? It was Jesus, not CNN, who told the faithful to protect and advocate for the poor and the powerless. Your problem isn't with CNN. It's with these pastors, who have the role of keeping Jesus' teachings alive and extending them to as many people as they can. You don't think it's legitimate to ask, why do the pastors fall silent when faced with the reality of poor and powerless people who are unable to get their health care needs met, because their states' governors and legislatures won't implement the ACA? Do you and these pastors believe in and live Jesus' teachings, or not?

      November 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • Common Sense

        You already know the answer. They are busy buying new cars, and homes to care about their poor parishioners and poor in the community. They have a new coffee room and activity room for the children to build as well. How else will they indoctrinate the next generation.

        November 10, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  17. metzitzat b'peh is so gross

    the woman with four kids and the hernia didn't have to have four kids. And she wouldn't be able to afford Obamacare anyway.

    November 10, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Name*

      That's the point. If her state accepted expanded Medicaid under ACA, she would get help paying her premiums. Federal government pays 100% for 3 years and 90% after that. A bargain for states. As to her 4 kids, they're here and a blessing.

      November 10, 2013 at 1:18 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.