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. Lila

    Jesus would be horrified with what has been done in his name. Here are these churches railing about taxes when they don't pay any and require their members to pay, I mean "donate"!!! Many of these Churches are meg corporations and their followers are just plain horrible human beings. How can they care so little for the suffering of others? This movement of being against the poor and sick is just plain evil, there really isn't a better word for it. They will support corporate welfare yet scream about money that is given to the old, sick and kids, the main recipients of welfare. Now healthcare? They think it's for people who can afford it only, everyone else, too bad.

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

      He said, A [...] person owned a vineyard and rented it to some farmers, so they could work it and he could collect its crop from them. He sent his slave so the farmers would give him the vineyard's crop. They grabbed him, beat him, and almost killed him, and the slave returned and told his master. His master said, "Perhaps he didn't know them." He sent another slave, and the farmers beat that one as well. Then the master sent his son and said, "Perhaps they'll show my son some respect." Because the farmers knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  2. JCG

    How can they expect churches and non-profits to take on the huge financial beast of healthcare, when they are barely surviving themselves?! That's just a lazy way out. Basically, they are saying, "I've got mine, and the hell with you!" Very Christian of them.

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

      Mother Theresa managed to proved over 500 hospitals and schools for the poor without the government with nothing more than the clothes on her back when she left the convent. It's not as impossible as you think.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Carl Nestor

      You should do research before making blank statements based on nothing.
      You're mad at God and the Church...for whatever reason.
      Not knowing, what all they DO to help the needy, the poor, and the hungry.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Brian

      The level of help that churches can provide is not sufficient to provide state of the art health care to any large segment of the population. Mother Theresa did not create hospitals and clinics that are capable of providing such health care either.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  3. Marcnj

    ok, so the mega-churches, with all of their profits can provide health insurance for those unable... bet that'd go over like a beer fart on Sunday

    March 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Stopthemadness

    Again I say keep your damn religion out of my politics!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Carl Nestor

      wow, so its YOUR politics!
      Glad to know who owns up to the mess out there!
      You need to CLEAN UP the mess then! because YOUR POLITICS need Christ.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Stopthemadness

      I have Christ and just for your further ignorant education

      Romans 13:1-2 tell us to be in subjection to the superior authorities even as we are to God. further, we are to be in relative subjection to kings and governors as they have their positions due to God's allowance. (1Peter 2:13-17)

      Only when man's laws conflict with God's as when early Christians were ordered by Jewish and Roman courts to stop preaching about Christ did they refuse. (Acts 5:41)

      Matt. 6:24 shows we can not serve 2 masters. John 18:36 shows Jesus talking to the Roman government that his Kingdom was no part of this world so his followers were not either. (Mark 12:17; John 15:19; 17:16)

      Now hows that for force feeding your own beliefs. You may not like what I have to say but the law is clear and so is the word. Law says separation of church and state and the bible says follow mans laws unless they require you to stop being christian. SO stuff that in your hat loud mouth. Keep your faith out of my politics and I won't have to school you on your own faith.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  5. Rosslaw

    According to the teatards, Jesus would take pleasure in personally cutting the throats of all uninsured persons who clearly have no right to live. Praise the Lord.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  6. Lifetraveller

    What a silly question to ask!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  7. loulou

    Are you all that stupid?
    really your asking if Jesus,
    a dead man/ son of god/myth etc.....
    would suport health care reform?
    and your a news based website right?
    god help you all,
    and god help us all because we live next to you.

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

      When writing God's name please capitalize the first letter out of respect. thank you.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  8. anon

    yes, he would. But not the Obama / Insurance companies version of it that we got. Also, if Jesus returned we most likely toss him in a mental health hospital.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  9. george

    My friend died in Montreal last week because she couldn't get surgery for to remove her gall bladder after as serious infection. She was put on a wait list to wait at least two weeks even though her condition was severe. In the US she would have received immediate care under our current system. I was on my way up to get her to bring her into Burlington where she would have received the surgery immediately. Heartbreaking and the fault of socialized medicine. I have found this is not an uncommon story in Canada. Those supporting nationalized health care have no idea the damage it will do to our system.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Stopthemadness

      If you had an inkling of a clue as to what you are talking about you would realize w are not talking about socialized medicine you republicans can't get that through your thick skulls. It is about every American having to pay for their own insurance at a set limit. Why is it so hard for you morons to get that?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • loulou

      something is missing in the story.
      with all due respect to your loss.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • george

      I am a registered democrat, moron. Attacks like "if you had an inkling of what you are talking about" severely limit your credibility. I fear it is you that has not an inkling of understanding as you see it only as a political issue. I have lived in Canada and the UK, the system mirrors theirs. Any experience with either countries system and the failures therin? Thought not!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Stopthemadness

      Again you lie to the people to prove your point and again I say read the bill before you lie. Your friend may have died due to canada's social medicine system but our healthcare reform has nothing to do with socialized medicine. But you sir are not a democrat in any way shape or form and that is more than obvious.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • george

      What is missing in the story is, it doesn't fit your nice belief that other countries systems are superior to ours. Montreal is home to one of North America's best medical schools, yet the graduates usually head south. Ask any expat that lives in Canada or the UK what they think of the perspective countries healthcare. Ask anyone who has a love one who has died because of substandard care in those countries. Just do a little research

      March 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  10. judith

    Of course, Jesus Christ would support providing healthcare for every one of us. How can anyone who calls him or herself a Christian believe otherwise. One of Christ's strongest messages was to "care for the least of these." If we do not care for the least among us, we are no longer a decent, humane society.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Reasonable Believer

      But he taught a voluntary life, not one compelled by government.......The Romans were all about the latter.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  11. RudyG

    Stupid article! So now CNN is using Jesus to attract readers! CNN will stop at nothing to keep us fools glued to the headlines.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Joiiicey

      Ha!! Isn't that what Fox News does all the time. I think that any network or website can explore the idea's behind true Christianity.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  12. Reasonable Believer

    Mr. Blake......Please don't trot out Jesus to rally support for government organized and taxpayer financed health care, while you skip the abortion issue.....gay marriage, etc.

    All American's who are working, retired or unable to work deserve full care care.......freeloaders do not.

    Find a way to provide a system for all those who deserve it but don't have it and I will support it.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • timatotoro

      Isn't the whole point of the mandate that there are not "freeloaders"?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  13. HispanicMan

    If Jesus were to support health care reform, then what would be the purpose of preaching about Gods Kingdom bringing to ruin these earthly governments and having a righteous and real government established in the heavens? Of course Jesus would have nothing to do with anything with worldy governments. Religion and governments are soon to be destroyed along with Satan and his rulership.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • testsite1808

      As an Hispanic person myself, please don't embarrass me with your ignorant "fire and brimstone" nonsense. You're a product of the Catholic church's brainwashing (who have been "in bed" with government and the money-handlers going back centuries.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  14. testsite1808

    If you want to know what the complete polar opposite of "Jesus' teachings and philosophy" is...look at our home-grown fundamental-case "Christians."

    March 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Reasonable Believer

      Sp says a non-believer?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  15. rob

    I wonder if Santa clause would... This is dumb.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  16. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Instead of asking "what would Jesus do?", we should ask "what would reasonable people in the real world do?".

    March 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Because CNN sees that the individual mandate might be struck down and they want to pull in the Faithful to try to presure the State to not let it die.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  17. JC

    Absolutely – and the first reform he would make would be to outlaw abortion and contraceptive mandates.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • gerald

      Yes. God said "be fruitful and multiply" and that ALL children are a blessing to the parents. Today motherhood is treated as a disease.

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

      gerald, you are a disease.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Dr Cat

      Actually, pregnancy is an excluded pre-existing condition on free market policies but a ticket to health coverage for women in poverty.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • gerald

      God bless you sue.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Elmo

      A woman in the crowd said to him, "Lucky are the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you."

      He said to [her], "Lucky are those who have heard the word of the Father and have truly kept it. For there will be days when you will say, 'Lucky are the womb that has not conceived and the breasts that have not given milk.'"

      March 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  18. Illeagle-j1

    Jesus Christ, would most assuredly be for the health care reform. Remember, Jesus (actually his name was wilfred) espoused the doctrine that we should love and care for our brothers and sisters, thus making him by current daffynitions, a SOCIALIST! Why have the religious fundementalist not embrassed the health care reforms, it is part of the teachings of Jesus Christ. LOVE THY NEIGHBOR! which includes making sure that his/her health care is taken care of. Including the education on how not to get pregnant. RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES, GO BACK TO THE ROOTS OF YOUR RELIGION, SEE THAT YOUR FELLOW MAN/WOMAN, HAS HEALTH CARE, SO THAT WHEN HE NEEDS IT HE IS NOT DRIVEN INTO BANKRUPTCY. Put your mind to proper use. CHRIST WAS A MORAL SOCIALIST, FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS, OTHERWISE, DO NOT CALL YOURSELVES "CHRISTIANS".

    March 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  19. BillyD1953

    As a devout Republican and Christian I can attest that Jesus only cared about rich folk. He would not have bothered with poor people who didn't buy their own health insurance. And as we all know the Bible clearly states that it is harder for a poor man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. A simple reading of the Gospel clearly shows that Jesus' message was about helping rich people get richer and resenting and punishing poor people and anyone else who could not fend for themselves.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • almxx


      March 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • testsite1808

      Hehe. You had me (slack-jawed) there for a moment.

      After hearing and reading right winger's views on compassion, Jesus, and personal wealth, nothing surprises me anymore.

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

      Man if you didn't just quote the republican party better than anyone I have ever heard quote them. Bravo sir Bravo!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  20. Lifetraveller

    What a dumb question that is to ask!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Illeagle-j1

      It is not dumb to ask the question , but it is dumb that is necessary to ask the question.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:31 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.