Would Jesus support health care reform?
Jesus depicted healing a sick child.
June 28th, 2012
08:45 AM ET

Would Jesus support health care reform?

Editor’s note: This piece ran earlier this year, but we’re spotlighting it now because of Thursday’s health care decision from the Supreme Court. The story generated more than 3,000 comments, including these two:

David Nelson
It is sad that Jesus has been demoted to being a politician. Jesus plainly said "My Kingdom is not of this world." Movements to use Him to promote their agendas, whether they be on the Left or Right, are extremely suspect in the eyes of this Christian.

Jesus would SO have been a democrat. He taught us to care for the sick...not to profit off illness. I don't know how Republicans can live with themselves and call themselves Christian.

What’s your take?

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - He was a healer, a provider of universal health care, a man of compassion who treated those with preexisting medical conditions.

We don’t know what Jesus thought about the individual mandate or buying broccoli. But we do know how the New Testament describes him. The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus physically healing the most vulnerable and despised people in his society.

References to Jesus, of course, didn’t make into the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s hearings on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Yet there is a moral dimension to this epic legal debate:

How should the nation help its “least of these,” an estimated 50 million Americans who can’t afford health insurance, as well as those who could go broke or die because they can’t afford medical care?

Christians are as divided about this question as others. Many cite Jesus, but come up with completely different conclusions.

Trust God or government?

Tom Prichard, a Lutheran and president of the Minnesota Family Council, said it’s ultimately about faith.  Who do we trust – God or government?

He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government.

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“Here Jesus’ words come to mind about not worrying and trusting God to meet our basic needs,” Prichard wrote in an online post warning about the dangers of “government run health care.” “Or if we believe it all depends on us, we’ll look to government.”

When reached at his Minnesota office,Prichard elaborated: He said the nation should empower families and individuals to make health-care decisions. If families can’t afford health insurance, private and public entities like churches and nonprofits should step in, he said.

“We all have the same goal,”Prichard said. “We want all people to have health care, even people who can’t afford it. I would argue that having the government be the primary vehicle for providing it is not going to get us to that goal. It’s going to make the situation worse.”

Carl Raschke, a religious studies professor at the University of Denver, evoked Jesus’ words about Rome and taxation.

Raschke cited the New Testament passage when Jesus, after being asked if Jews should pay taxes to Rome, said that people should "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

Jesus was against strictly political or economic solutions because he thought they were too easy when it comes to the real challenges of human life, Raschke said.

“Writing checks won’t solve social problems,” Raschke said. “One has to get involved. If we see someone in need, we just don’t throw a dollar at him or her. You get to know them, you offer yourself, and ask what you can do for them.”

Helping the Good Samaritans of our day

There are some Christians, though, who say that charity isn’t enough to solve the nation’s health care problems.

An estimated 32 million Americans could lose health insurance if “Obamacare” is struck down, including children who can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 and seniors who get help paying for their drug prescriptions. Most observers say health care costs would continue to rise.

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Some people believe the health care situation in America would be scandalous to Jesus because he was a prophet concerned about social justice.

Steven Kraftchick, a religious scholar, said Jesus comes out of the tradition of Jewish prophets who preached that the health of a society could be measured by how well they took care of “its widows and orphans,” those who had the least power.

Kraftchick said there’s a famous story in the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus heals such a person. He was the man who called himself Legion. He might have been called homeless and mentally ill. The man roamed a graveyard, so tormented that even chains could not hold him and everyone feared him, Mark wrote.

Jesus healed the man not only physically, but socially as well, according to Mark. The man returned to his community with a sense of dignity, said Kraftchick, a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.

“A move toward universal health care would be fitting with the prophetic traditions,” Kraftchick said. “When you read the New Testament and look at the signs of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, it’s always connected to being physically healed.”

Yet Marcia Pally, an authority on evangelicals, said many evangelicals are wary of government doing the healing.  Their reasons go back centuries.

Many are the descendants of people who fled Europe because of religious persecution from countries and state churches. They fought a revolution against a government in England.  And they settled a frontier, where the virtue of self-reliance was critical, said Pally, author of “The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good.”

Suspicion of government is part of their historical and religious experience, said Pally, a professor at Fordham University and New York University.

Those attitudes, though, may be changing. Pally said she spent six years traveling across America to interview evangelicals. She discovered that a new generation of evangelists now believes that certain issues are too big and complex to be addressed by charity alone.

“Some note that charity is very good at the moment of emergency relief but it doesn’t change the underlying problem  unless structures that keep people poor, sick or deny their access to health insurance are changed,” she said.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, the legal debate will continue. If more Americans go broke or die because they do not have health insurance, more Americans may ask, what would Jesus do?

But don’t expect any easy answers from the Bible, said Raschke, the religious studies professor at the University of Denver.

“People are always looking for support from the Bible for American political positions,” Rashke said. “Would Jesus be against abortion, or would he support a woman’s right to choose? It’s almost become a standard joke in the theological world that you quote Jesus in American politics to support your political views.

“The teachings of Jesus do not fit into the views of any political party."

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Health care • Jesus • Politics

soundoff (5,234 Responses)
  1. drgene

    Jesus always used the language of exhortation–to the Individual:IF you can, you should fulfill MY radical Ideals.
    But He ejected the language of Laws–the language of rights(demands on others) and duties(absolute requirements)
    as part of what was a fatally Flawed Jewish(and Islamic 600 years later) perspective.

    In this Jesus is more like the Buddha/Buddhism,Taoism,and Hinduism than Judaism or Islam.

    Most important, Jesus would call all to understand the Life of one's own deepest spiritual self is always more important than bodily life–always be willing to sacrifice bodily health If it for the sake of one's own, or another's Soul's Life! Real SALUS(health) is of the innermost Self–not the body(which gets ill,decays,and dies).

    Priorities matter very much to Jesus. Bodily health care is NOT a highest priority. Yet compassion inspires removal of heavy bodily illness burdens on the inner self. That's why Jesus healed:free the soul from body's heavy burden & bondage.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Elmo

      His disciples said to him, "Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel, and they all spoke of you."

      He said to them, "You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence, and have spoken of the dead."

      March 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  2. Lee

    American Jesus would rather develop a cool new stealth bomber, yeah! Besides when Bob Dole's name on it, Newt's. or Mitt Romney's name on it, then it would be "okay" but with Obama's name on it, it must be opposed at every level by every means! Praise the Lord!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Mark

      why didnt jesus help the millions who were slaughtered in ww2? but he'll come to fix the healthcare problem.??.........go back to school, get a brain and a life

      March 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  4. paul

    I trust government! God is personal! Jesus would support health care for everyone! We are all human when it comes to helping someone we are helping ourselves. It's comments like this that I find disturbing

    Tom Prichard, a Lutheran and president of the Minnesota Family Council, said it’s ultimately about faith. Who do we trust – God or government?

    He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • jasie

      This article just shows how much trouble the libbers are in.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Elmo

      Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you [will] kill you."

      March 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  5. John

    Jesus would definitely not be on the side of the 1%...................

    March 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  6. Dave

    Using the Name of Jesus Christ (My Lord and Savior) to push their globalist agendas and government contracts designed to enslave the world.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  7. information

    "Tom Prichard, a Lutheran and president of the Minnesota Family Council, said it’s ultimately about faith. Who do we trust – God or government?

    He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government."


    March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • John

      You need to read the Bible. Jesus was on the side of the poor,downtrodden,meek and the forgotten. You are spinning right wing rhetoric.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  8. rcflyer8410

    Come now – Jesus would be a huge supporter of the Republican party. After all, he believed in taking from the poor and giving to the rich. He would have been proud that the USA is one of the richest countries in the world, yet at the expense of inequality and the greedy, we have millions homeless and living in poverty. He would have been fine watching thousands of people needlessly die because they didn't have reasonable access to health care.

    I think you right wingers need to actually read the book you supposedly stand by before you vote. The party you refer to as "godless" is actually the only one – at least to some extent – that actually tries to practice and adhere to those words. The bible is more than a means to justify your hate for gays and good cause to dictate what a woman can or cannot do with her body. It seems that is the extent of usefulness the right wing finds in the bible... if I recall, hate was not one of the qualities of Jesus – but it is the core of the republican party.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  9. Idol Girl

    My answer to the question is: Yes, he would support it.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  10. Bob

    Of course you can come up with different conclusions. That's the joy of christianity: You can make it into anything you want and god is on YOUR side.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  11. krehator

    There is no way they can admit Jesus would support it. Their devotion to their political agenda is greater than to their bogus religion. Everything they do and say is counter to what Jesus spoke, but they cannot afford to let that get in the way of their personal views.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  12. mike from iowa

    Christians are just like their Muslim brothers. The all want to cause Armegeddon so that their god can come back and rule. Religion is a mental disease.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Praying for you

      Don't worry, we'll keep praying for you, whether or not you want us to. God bless.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  13. str8whtguy

    I'm an agnostic from a Christian background, and I have tremendous respect for all religions (or lack thereof). I'm spiritual, but not religious. I believe that Jesus Christ walked the earth and did good things, but I'm not convinced of his divinity. That said, I believe that he would be completely in support of universal health care. Does that make sense, or am I rambling?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  14. Sara

    CNN makes me sick. They bash religion when it meets their point, and they hold it up when it meets their needs. I teach middle school, and that is who CNN reminds me of: middle school boys. They don't get it either.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  15. John

    GOP and the Wall Street boys destroyed America and the GOP and their supporters continue to blame the poor and middle class. How shameful.....

    March 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  16. tinysview

    In spite of the hype, we don't have a free market medical system. The AMA regulates how many doctors are produced every year. We either need to break that hold, or regulate the prices that doctors and hospitals charge. The system does not work like it is now and won't be fixed when the insurance companies can force EVERYBODY to pay too much..

    March 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Kevin

      Read the law. It limits how much insurance companies can charge by limiting the percentage that isn't spent on healthcare. It also denies them the easy outs that currently make most health insurance policies meaningless. When you get sick, insurance companies try their hardest to avoid paying. And the current way of doing things ties you to your job because if you switch, the new company's plan won't cover any "pre-existing conditions". The new law deals with all of this. It's far from perfect because the Republicans put up such a fuss to avoid cutting out the insurance companies altogether. That's where your money's really going. Americans pay way more and get inferior health care compared to other developed countries. If you're poor and sick, you're better off in Cuba. It's a bit of a joke in the rest of the world, but it's not funny.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  17. Jonathan

    If you want to form opinions based on what Jesus would do – you first have to get right what Jesus did. In the first line of this article it says Jesus "was a provider of universal health care"! No he wasn't! He didn't heal everyone in the world! He only healed those with whom he came into personal contact. And nowhere in the Bible does it EVER indicate that government should take care of all the problems in the world. It's just not there.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Ted

      Jesus healed people he happened upon. Not everyone he healed had sought him out, though there were many of them.
      Nice try.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  18. Chris

    What's up with all the incindiary stories lately? Seriously...a few days ago CNN runs a story about how religion justifies slavery. Now they are running a story about how religion justifies government health care programs. Please make it stop...and write articles that discuss facts and not hypothetical questions that play on people's emotions.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  19. Briolan

    Anyone that thinks Jesus would not support Health Care reform is worshiping other gods. Those of greed and money.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • John

      Right on.....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Aaron

      Whether or not Jesus would support Universal Healthcare is a completely different question than whether he would support a flawed version of such. Don't confuse what Jesus was/is and what we do. There are many aspects of the current bill Jesus would support, I don't disagree, but it is not the flawless implementation of His will.

      Just because someone thinks that this version is too flawed to work and that a mandate REQUIRING people to get something that is not required to live and should be a personal choice (and is not Biblically based), doesn't mean that they are worshiping "Greed and money". Please step off your high horse and come down here to stand in the masses with the rest of us.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Aaron

      Law, sorry, not bill. My apologies for the mistake.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  20. bam

    would jesus declare Incas and Mayans to be heretics and burn them alive?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Jay S

      Would Jesus declare modern Christians evil heretics and burn them?"

      March 31, 2012 at 12:25 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.