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. nokat

    want a BIBLE verse on politicians ? read PSALMS 58

    but for all you atheists who deny GOD, you do know better
    you just insist on serving the devil you believe in

    July 19, 2012 at 4:47 am |
  2. lweba

    NO! It does not go far enough.

    July 19, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  3. ___-___

    Religion truly does poison everything. Would be interesting if people would actually apply some skepticism to their beliefs.

    July 18, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      Since religion is a product of human evolution, even if it is not supernaturally decreed, it must have some positive value.

      July 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  4. bo

    yse of course

    July 18, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  5. reader10

    Does Obama thinks he is Jesus?

    July 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Troll comment

      July 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  6. Scuromondo

    Capitalists are practical; they emphaize economics above morality.

    Jesus–the "sell all your possessions and give them to the poor" guy–was definitely NOT a Capitalist.

    July 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • john

      Nor did Jesus tell the roman authorities to seize control of the assets of the wealthy and redistribute the empire's wealth as part of a social engineering experiment, while placing zero thought on the possible negative downstream effects on the empire and it's ballooning debt.

      July 18, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      It was indeed the Roman capitalists who placed "zero thought on the possible negative downstream effects on the empire and its ballooning debt" caused by their insatiable greed. The Roman Republic invented the concept of citizenship; in exchange for it, the freeborn Roman agreed to pay his taxes and fight Rome's wars, and did it so well that even Alexander's former empire Became a minor province of Rome. But, the economic cancer that was eating away at Rome was a growing disparity between the wealth of the rich who worked their estates with slaves and the middle class who were underbid at every turn. Further punished be a regressive tax system, the Roman middle class little by little were forced into urban slums where, instead of Rome's strength, they became a danger to its safety.
      Did the rich care? Not at all. As aone historian put it, "[T]hey hid themselves behind the high walls of their pleasant villas and cultivated their gardens and read poems of a certain Homer ...."
      Eventually, a Roman emperor, desperate for cash accused all the wealthy of tax evasion and treason had all but his closest friends executed (who then arranged to have him assassinated).

      July 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  7. Mae

    Jesus is God

    July 18, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • Arvoasitis

      Your assertion is not Biblical, may be blasphemous, and leads to all kinds of absurdities.

      July 18, 2012 at 6:12 am |
  8. Mae

    Matthew 9:16-26 and Luke 16:19-31
    Jesus is God... just ask him.

    July 18, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • *facepalm*

      That's a wee bit difficult considering he's been dead for 2000 years, assuming he actually existed.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:16 am |
  9. LordEarlGray

    Of course Jesus would support the new healthcare law because it would mean the poor can finally get a doctor to see them. What he wouldn't support is big insurance companies who are greedy beyond measure and who try to refuse service to its clients whenever they can.

    July 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • ChristDidNOTProvideHealthCareDidHE???

      My name says it all.

      July 17, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • whaaaa?

      @ChristDidNOT – he also never opposed abortions. I guess that means that Jesus is pro-choice.

      July 17, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Scuromondo


      Obviously, in the culture in which Jesus lived there was not even a concept of "health care" so it's impossible to be sure what that might mean to them. For all we known, they might consider "health care" to include stuff like feeding the hungry, healing the sick, forgiving the sinner, and socializing with the marginalized as "health care." ...Was Jesus involved in anything like that?

      July 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • TwoTonTommy

      Lest we forget, Jesus also predicted the end of the world as we know it. And soon. Well, we are still here. Don't believe everything you read dude.

      July 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  10. Dave

    Jesus, can you heal this poor guy? Hold on, I'm getting my feet washed..

    July 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • sam

      psssh...he was the one who washed others feet....he didnt turn one sick person away without healing them....if you're hurting today...He is willing to heal you too even if you have a negative view about Him...He loves you...

      July 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  11. travelinpants

    He would require you and me to love one another as he love the church and gave his life for it. He was the Good Shepherd. He would leave the 99 to go and find the 1 lost sheep. He would cure the blind man. He would cast out the legions of demons from the man, he would dry up the blood condition that the woman had, he would convict those who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, he would teach his disciples of where he comes from, he would challenge the pharisee in understanding the new covenant, he would have prayed for his enemies, he would have admitted he was the Messiah, he would allow those unbelievers to murder him, he did rise after death and sits at the right hand of the power of GOD the Father. He will cause each man and woman to sit before his thrown and be judged with the scales that His Father Has prepared for him. He would give health care to every living human being as they required it.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  12. sue-helen

    Goodness me....why doesn't Jesus just fix everything through prayer? Honestly, surely we don't need any medical insurance at all if there is God to fix everything. Just pray instead. Take out a "miracle insurance" for the big emergencies! The medical insurance argument coming from the "faithful", is very very contradictory indeed!

    July 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • caring dude

      No prayer goes unanswered, and sometimes the answer is no. God has a plan for everybody's lives. Your illness or death may have an impact on somebody else's lives and you don't even know it. We are all so selfish and worried that we don't let God take control and give us the things that we really need in life to make us happy.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      So I guess that whole thing of:

      "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7)
      "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 18:19)

      "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matthew 21:22)

      "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." (Mark 11:24)

      "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John 14:13-14)

      Is just a lie. Good to know.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  13. watchmandave

    NO...DUH...they'd all be out of business! LOL... he'd Heal them with HIS WORD, He would give them Therapy like HE did in Galillee...He'd spit in the dirt, make a mud pie and make new eyes! And the Obama Thugs would throw HIM in Jail for practicing without a licence...what a dumb a** question...

    July 17, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  14. Mario

    It says a lot that people who call themselves christians like "Jane" are filled with hatred and disgust by people who need help and compassion. Yes Jesus would support universal health care, he wanted to heal the sick and wanted everyone to care about and love each other. He wasn't sitting at a private country club talking to Mitt Romney about how to help the rich pay no taxes while turning a blind eye to the middle class and poor and letting them suffer and die.

    July 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  15. Janes

    Jesus did not promote 'universal' anything to non-believers. He came to save the world from God's displeasure with man's sinful nature. He stated clearly that belief in his divinity as the Son of God was the ONLY way to eternal life after death. He instructed his FOLLOWERS to love God above all else and 'thy neighbor as thyself.' That last can be stated another way as 'the Golden Rule' of treating others as you want to be treated. For most of us, we would like a 'hand up', not a LIFETIME 'hand out.'
    So, for those who invoke Christ to make some political point, shame on you!! Let me point out: (A) Taxpayers' money comes from the religious and the NON-religious citizens of this country so for some, 'what Jesus would do' is irrelevant and (B) There is no such thing as societal salvation, only personal, so don't preach what our country should do so all its citizens get into heaven-that's a nonsensical argument!
    Most discerning people realize that CHARITY is something FREELY given, not FORCIBLY taken from some and given to others. Churches and many, many charitable organizations have been taking care of the less fortunate among us for hundreds of years. And just as a reminder, hospital emergency rooms are required by law to treat any who come to their doors-citizens and non-citizens alike. As for the POOR, half this country's population is on food stamps and/or welfare and/or subsidized housing. The government funds to pay for those programs come from the HALF of the US citizens who PAY taxes. For Liberals to say we are not a generous country is to deny facts and use falsely sanctimonious arguments to beat Conservatives over the head. It's curious that, in general, Jesus only comes up when Liberals want to spend more taxpayers' money!

    July 16, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  16. Emily Anne

    You know people often quote the passage about paying to Cesear what is Cesar's etc. to defend not taking care of people in need, and to justify a society which is unfair and uncaring.

    But one needs to consider that the Jewish people in Jesus time were not living in a democracy. They were under the thumb of an occupying force, and this advice may also have been concerning a very specific tax. This tax was levied against jewish people and it supported some kind of a temple, I forget the details.

    It's also pretty weak to suggest that someone who died refusing to go along with religious leaders and the government of the time, who saw through and pointed out that the welfare of each person was what needed to be focused on, not impersonal restrictive laws or judgements which hurt people (the woman 'caught' in adultery-note that men never had this problem, since they could have as many wives as they liked, and women had little power: secondly, for instance, the case of the ox (was it?) who fell in the hole and those who believed in arbitrary rules said you couldn't get the Ox out as it was the Sabbath), was making some huge philosophical remark about the authority of government (or the rich and powerful) by his response to probably a specific question about paying a tax.

    As for things like peaceful resistence, you could NOT do such a thing without being killed in those days. Christians did not have the power to ever gather freely or speak of their beliefs without putting themselves in danger.

    Not so unlike, for instance, those who are gay, or of various races, or religions, etc., in various countries at various times.

    This is why I feel that Christ identifies with those who are disenfranchised, treated as less than, and looked down on by society. He was always around such people and no doubt often criticized for it. But that is one of the most powerful teachings we could have-that there really is no such things as 'less than' when it comes to people. All are one.....

    July 15, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  17. csx

    Ignorance abounds. Jesus cared not about slavery or governmental matters.

    July 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  18. Alisha C

    Jesus would expect each of us to care for our families, pool the family funds necessary to reduce suffering and extend life. With a fractured society, families are no longer looking after one another and it is falling on society to pick up the care. Jesus would also not support those that gain from other people's misery....alcohol sales, gambling, prositution, tobacco and other additions that add billions to the cost of health care. He would want us to understand and cover the cost of our knowingly wrong health choices, that is how we learn. All of us will die, that is part of the program, but he would want us to live healthy productive lives complete with service and sacrifice for others.

    July 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  19. Mr Everyman

    YES!!! Jesus would support universal health care. Using his name to endorse the program is like the Temple having money changers at the enterance to the place of worship. Money changers serve a useful purpose but they are not part of worship. So, I think Jesus would not let his name used to endorese Obamacare or any other program. Jesus would tell people what principles he supports. If they support those principles, Obamacare would be passed by the Jerusalem Council as it did pass Congress.

    July 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  20. geraldh

    Jesus would not align himself with someone who wages war on the unborn with one dead one wounded each abortion!

    July 15, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So Jesus doesn't like god? After all, god is responsible for 5 times as many deaths of unborn children than abortion, via miscarriage. Perhaps god should stop waging war on unborn children.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:24 am |
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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.