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. Diest

    Jesus, yes, along with Juan, Jose, Chiquita and the entire family.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  2. Likealion

    Did Jesus ever force people to do anything? Seems if you force people to do "good" then it ceases to truly be good.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Raz

      Yes, he forced those money changers to stop operating in front of the temple.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  3. Foggy

    Don't hold up Canada as an example! My home is the poster boy for NOT how to implement universal coverage (public health insurance)!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  4. Steven

    If Jesus really did heal the sick through his miracles, then there wouldn't be much need for healthcare. Then again, no matter what his power was, Jesus only had so much time and resources available, especially while the Romans & Pharisees were going after him.

    So I think Jesus would support healthcare reform.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  5. John

    GOP and their supporters need to read the Bible. They have unfortunately created their own god. They need to stop listening to their Pharaoh Russ Limbaugh. They have no idea who Jesus was and what he preached.......

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

      You are correct.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • gerald

      Where did he preach partner with the government to provide health insurance? Grab the taxpayer by the ankles to shake the money loose to provide such healthcare? Give me the chapter and verse please. Mother Theresa did not need the government, which imposes its control and burdensome regulations when it gets involved, to build 500 hospitals and schools for the poor in calcuta. Partnering with governments is a mistake by religions.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  6. Carl Nestor

    why is CNN worried about what Jesus would think?
    For most of the time, the secular world wants nothing from Christians. They even fight to push out of Government buildings, wall placards, and even our American currency.
    Now that you're worried about health care laws - you ask about what Jesus would do?? Really? Seriously?
    You can't have it both ways - and not be a hypocrite.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • sam8131

      You can in the tiny liberal progressive mind.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • jakinak

      Carl, the purpose of this article is to cast Christianity in a negative light by demonstrating the divide between followers.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  7. Cq

    If Jesus' example can be used to justify both sides in this, and pretty much any other topic you care to, it becomes pretty useless, doesn't it? Might as well toss a coin; heads Jesus approves, tails he doesn't.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  8. sam8131

    Who has been turned away from an emergency room lately?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  9. Jeff from Columbus

    Absolutely, Jesus would support Health Care Reform. The Catholic Church supported the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

    Too bad Obama then turned around and stuck it to the Catholic Church by forcing them to pay for contraception in their health insurance policies. He had the Catholic Church as an ally. Then, he chose to make them an enemy.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  10. Leo

    When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

    6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

    10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  11. Guy Cannon

    When Jesus came upon the sick, he healed them himself. He did not expect nor require government to do it at exorbitant cost.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Bob

      Unfortunately, we are not all Jesus.

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

      Need a system that helps everyone till he comes back.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Shazam

      Magic sure is cool, isn't it?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • darth cheney

      Well, he certainly didn't expect insurance companies to deny care or charge exorbitant fees, either, now did he?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  12. Bob

    In the new earth and in heaven there is no distinction between religion and government because
    Jesus is the government! Unfortunately, until that time comes we live with a dysfunctional system.
    First step would be to stop "universal warfare." The money we spend on killing would be more than
    enough to provide universal health care for all. It's just a matter of priorities.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      ...and that would put how many people out of work directly (soldiers, defence contractoes) ...and those that are indirectly supported by the Military (military towns)?

      So far, as much as the Government wants to.. its hard to outsource the military. The funds for Universal Warfare you want to cut first, please think of how many in society will be effected.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  13. Ben

    I work for a hospital that provides healthcare for the poor. Notice I did not say healthcare coverage. What a dumb country we are when we cannot figure out that we are being scammed by the government. No one is denied healthcare. No one. So why the need to create a middle man, another layer of paperwork, added costs? The answer is power. There is not a concern for well being. There is a desire for power. Just think "Affordable Healthcare Coverage" translates to practically free healthcare which is what is happening now. At our hospital people without health insurance also known as "Self Pay" pay between 1-2% of charges. When the hospital can't collect after 6 months they write it off. City State and Federal cover the loss. So again how does Obamacare change the end result? It does not. What it does is add costs.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Charles Moore

      City, state and federal help cover the costs, meaning MY taxes pay for their health care.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Likealion

      Perfect! You hit the nail on the head, why won't people LISTEN???

      March 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  14. Dave

    Jesus never once helped the the poor and sick in the bible without them first paying their premiums and co-pays into his "Miracle Coverage Plan." Jesus would definitely want those people nowadays who can't afford insurance or those that have uncovered pre-existing conditions to be turned away at hospitals so they have to learn their lesson the hard way.

    Seriously think about it for a minute, when it comes to helping the poor and sick, who's really more Christ-like? Republicans or Democrats?

    Remember the line in the bible about "God helps those who help themselves"? You don't, because it's not in there. If republicans want to continue the work of Jesus and to be more christ-like, they need to actually read the bible.

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

      Oh, bad advice. People who actually read the bible tend to become atheists.... 😛

      March 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • nestor

      Just let in you know that that quote is not in the Bible.Jesus Healed the sick without asking nothing in exchange. Blessings

      March 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • sam8131

      Reading it isn't the problem. Applying it is another story. Living it is impossible. Go and sin no more is in the bible.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Mary

      Dave, I know of some verses where those who were sick, specifically asked Jesus to help them. And where in the Bible does it say anything about Jesus taking money. You blasphemous fool !!!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Ben

      “Who touched Me?”’ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and knelt at His feet, and trembling with fear, told Him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, YOUR FAITH HAS HEALED YOU. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’”

      March 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  15. Jesus Monster

    Would Jesus murder 17 Afghan civilians? Would Jesus murder 23 Iraqi civilians? Would Jesus lie in order to kill people in other countries? Would Jesus work at Walmart? Would Jesus support gay marriage? Would Jesus run for county commissioner? Would Jesus watch pronography?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  16. information

    "“Writing checks won’t solve social problems,” Raschke said. “One has to get involved.""

    THEN GET OFF YOUR AZZ raschke.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  17. Matt

    Would Jesus have ever commanded troops to the Middle East and other regions around the world and continuously bombed his enemies? I think that is a much better question, CNN.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  18. SoCalDave

    What an asinine little article...

    March 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  19. krehator

    If Jesus is real, and he is looking down on the earth now, he is probably ashamed of what Christians are doing and saying in his name. They hijacked a religion and turned it into what they wanted it to be, because their desires were no longer compatible with his guidance.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Carl Nestor

      and you are basing your comments on what?
      What is the depth of your faith to make declarative statements about Jesus?

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

      You are right krehator

      March 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Elmo

      Jesus said, "When you see your likeness, you are happy. But when you see your images that came into being before you and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will have to bear!"

      March 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  20. LMC

    I have no doubt that Jesus would go beyond our health care system as it is and support universal health care. Universal health care is the only fair system for all and it is beyond me why many people are against it. The only reason I can come up with is that so many people really don't care about their fellow man. If Canada can do it, our country ought to be able to find a way.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • DrD123

      "How did you care for each other?" is, I believe, the question that will be asked of each of us when our end comes. For those who may not believe in a Higher Power, relax, then you've got nothing to worry about. For those of us who do believe, there remains much more caring to do.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:43 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.