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. trey

    just sayin
    Please name current ancient historical scholars that dispute the existence of Jesus.

    March 31, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |

    wait. dm murdoch is a scholar? really. says whom? anon? or is that dm?
    Here are three: Hector Avalos, Rober M. Price and D.M. Murdock.

    March 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  2. W.

    He probably just wanted a working knowledge of hell, no problem...

    September 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  3. jbyrd49@yahoo.com

    Jesus desrved to be just as unhappy as his neighbors.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  4. Charlie

    I study Hindu. Genuinely, God is within.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |

      The kingdom of god is within you. jesus christ

      September 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  5. a12yearold

    jesus would only support health insurance if it was your life at stake, but if ANYBODY ELSE's life or health were at risk he'd say, screw the guy, he's a bum.

    July 25, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • trey

      by golly, would you pay for my health insurance starting today? thanks honey

      March 20, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  6. barlowc

    If Jesus were real he would be filled with compassion for the sick and, using his powers, would wipe-out disease in an instant. So the need for healthcare would disappear, except for trauma. But Jesus would probably retrofit our bodies and systems with rapid-healing regrowth mechanisms so even losing a limb would be non-mortal and nothing but an inconvenience for a time.

    Of course he would do this. It makes sense.

    So there must be some explanation for, well, needing healthcare reform. I wonder what it is.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • trey

      thanks god. good to know you are on the job being god

      March 20, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  7. Annie

    No he wouldn't except for the truly indigent or handicapped. Remember what was said – that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime...
    We push children into college and ignore the trades. We spend millions on scholarships for college courses that don't lead to jobs and fail to even mention the millions of people without even GED's that can't even apply for jobs they could do because of a stupid piece of paper. Just like businesses turn applicants with out a college degree aside when many could do the jobs they need done.
    It's time we start doing the most good...help people get the skills (not the pieces of paper) to get and hold a job rather than trying to out do the rest of the world with how many college grads we have.

    July 24, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  8. Dicknee Elbow

    If Jesus was real, he would support giving blacks, who refuse to work, free health care.

    July 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  9. Moktor

    This article is loaded. For one, they are not "children" in their 20's, making me suspect language being used here for propaganda's sake. Second, Christ called on believers (not government) to support the poor. I agree with this, but it doesn't call for the government to be our caretaker. Individuals should be giving, the government should not be taking from individuals for the purpose of giving to others. In fact, the government's only job is to defend the population and regulate interstate trade. The government is getting far too big, and Jesus didn't promote huge government, ever.

    The fact is, there simply are not enough resources for the government to support everyone. If the gov is supporting everyone, no one is working and therefore the government can't support everyone. We need to cut the cord and be self-sufficient, the only people who want big government are those who want hand-outs. The Bible also tells us if we don't work we don't eat (2 Thess 3:10), so let's stop trying to shoehorn Jesus into politics as a means of changing opinion.

    July 21, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  10. Paul

    Why do you call it Obamacare? It is so disrespectful. On a previous story regarding your not accurately reporting why the president was not able to attend NAACP convention I quoted Justice Scalia It boggles the mind, It was the Immigration decision not the Affordable Care Act Decision. Your disresprect of President Obama is obvious. Jesus would have supported the Affordable Care Act. Let me compliment you however on your excellent theological question.. We gave
    Bush Jr. a hard time but nothing like this.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • NoObama

      The only reason you support Obama is because you are a black. Step aside and think like you dont belong to any particular race and you will realize what he is doing.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
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About this blog

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.