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. Vaughan Wynne-Jones

    I think a more valid question is: Would the tooth fairy support universal dental care?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  2. Hadenuffyet

    I think his concern would be on the individual , not the collective.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  3. briffault

    Jesus would probably support anything that took care of the sick and dying. He probably wouldn't think too highly of the way the government behaves these days though.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  4. Matt

    It doesn't matter if he would support it or not. We have separation of church and state and we need to keep it that way.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • code0111

      You are correct Matt, although it is a freedom of religion, not from religion. Seperation of church and state is a big blow to Islam. Although libtards are now allowing and fight for cities to start calling to prayer.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • No Credibility

      Code0111...Oh my. You threw in the pathetic and third-grade level insult of "libtards." That'll make your case. Pathetic.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  5. dd

    The problem is that Obama and his super majority made a legal mess of the healthcare law. The Democrats had complete and absolute control over the bill They messed it up royally. Obama and his Democrats now look like complete imbeciles having demonstrated gross incompetence! Who elected these dumb people?

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

      This isn't really true. Obama was had a very difficult time gaining a super majority. In fact, the efforts to achieve one weakened the bill. The people who elected them, was us. We have only our selves to blame.

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

      How exactly did they mess up? Please elaborate...

      March 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  6. Laurel

    If history has taught us nothing else, it has taught us how selfish a person is and how far he/she will go, to justify their lack of caring for others in their society. THAT is the TRAP our forefathers and foremothers saw and worked hard to PREVENT. THIS is why Our government is BY the people and FOR the people.........ALL the people. THAT is WHY there is a SEPARATION of CHURCH and STATE............and ANYONE born into our society can lead our society.

    We pay taxes so ALL will benefit............it is the people WE elect who take that money and channel it. If the money doesn't benefit us immediately or ever benefit us we need to look at WHY. Is it corrupt practices by our elected leaders? Or is it that they loose the focus of what good government should do? THEY are US. Good afordable healthcare helps EVERYONE. That's what good government (who are US)............. SHOULD encourage AND provide.

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

      The government's job is not to provide Laurel. Not in a materialistic manner. Our country was founded on the concept of freedom. With that freedom comes responsibility. In other forms of government, perhaps the role is to provide all necessities for its citizens, but not in a democratic republic. You can overuse capital letters in your post all you want, doesn't make you any more correct.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • AleeJay

      I agree with you Laurel. The U.S. government governs by the statement "for the people and by the people" therefore the people are the ones who should be making the decisions, those who are in representative power only represent us. And also that there is a separation of church and state in our government for a reason. Not everyone is Christian in our country and not everyone believes in God, politics has nothing to do with government and it should be that way. The thing with our government (and I'm not going to list democrat or republican because both parties have failed at some measure to ensure the interests of the majority) is that they are now representing a small fraction of the U.S. population. Believe it or not, corporations are now considered people hence the "Corporate Personhood Amendments" that have been requested by some politicians to secure that our "economy" will thrive. If anyone wants to learn more about that, visit this site, it summarizes it nicely. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/personhood/ I want to go on to say that EVERYONE in the U.S. pays taxes, so I hate the exclusive terms of "tax payers". Saying you're a taxpayer does not make anyone more special or higher than another, when someone buys something we pay sales tax. So everyone pays tax on something at some time. Taxes put money back into the system and believe it or not, shouldn't we be excited for programs? Better schools, better roads, health care for your neighbor whose job does not offer any health care options? This money goes into our children's education for crying out loud! Why is it so important to protect those at the top tier of the pyramid? If they are claiming that the best interests are for the people... then what people do they mean? The Coca Cola company? Or Goldman Sachs? Because those are people too aren't they? They need healthcare? Why don't people question where money is going anymore? Why aren't you questioning what your politician says? Just because he/she displays that they believe in God or have a picture perfect family does not mean they are just like you! Before we can make any significant changes that will benefit everyone as a whole, that can bring us closer as American people, we have to educate ourselves on the issues. Because the mass media is not reliable and focuses on non-issues. We live in a free world democracy that has information out there for all of us to access, why aren't we using them? Instead of listening to these overpaid middle-aged greedy people who are telling us to vote against our own interests and demographics. If we are misinformed about our government, we cannot make good choices. And the cycle continues.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Laurel

      In response to your comment Tim .............nowhere did I state a government should provide ALL the neccesities for the people. HMMMMMM.. but a government by and for the people...say OURS, provides funding for the building and maintenance of roads and bridges etc., and not everyone drives. It provides funding to schools, and not everyone learns everything. These are just two of the areas where government provides funding where almost everyone derives some benefit from. You may not drive......but most of what you buy comes overland. You may not learn everything, but you have the opportunity to learn what you basically need. So tell me......what is so different about funding a basic healthcare program for EVERYONE...ensuring everyone adequate coverage in the areas of vacination, disease prevention etc., who may not otherwise get it. I can see where this may prevent an exposure incident, like tuberculosis. Besides, everyone can always pay for additional care, or different care themselves. It seems what you are telling me is government's last concern should be for the wellbeing, safety and security of its people and it should not come out of your pocket.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  7. cmcle

    For Christians, it could not be any clearer. Matthew (25:34-45) spoke very plainly. We can only conclude that the millions of false Christians among us have a very different, non-Christian agenda.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    March 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  8. Jose

    Let's say for sake of argument that the option would be given to opt out of the mandate, those who opted out *would still benefit* from lower medical bills. This is in response to the gentleman interviewed by Brooke of CNN who was in the SCOTUS listening to arguments. So people are so selfish that they actually become dumb in the process. Either way this gentleman would benefit. The bill is just asking for everyone to pay the fair share. Whatever you have to pay in heath insurance premiums would be far outweighed in the savings in out-of-pocket expenses. I'm sure that's a lot less to what this gentleman current;y pays with his checkbook every time he goes to the doctor. Think about it, at some point in our lives we all have to go to the doctor at least once, no matter how healthy we are.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  9. taxedmore

    Jesus wasn't healing people with somebody else's hard earned money.

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

      Jesus also pointed out that the money belonged to the government.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • cartographer1973

      You shouldn't be keeping your 'hard earned money'.
      In fact, to be a follower of Jesus you should give it all away to the poor (Jesus's own words in Luke 18:22).
      If you say you're a Christian, but don't want to help others because it requires you giving away your money, you're a liar.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  10. dscon

    equating jesus with the federal government?
    cnn make big funny.
    racism+ religion...same ole talking points.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  11. Brad (Lutheran)

    Tom Prichard is strange. Perhaps he understood George H. W. Bush's "thousand points of light" solution to social problems like the lack of affordable healthcare. I never did. Neither did the non-profits, churches and other social organizations he was referring to. They knew that the problem was beyond anything they could even begin to address. The American government is an institution of the people as much as any non-profit and the only such institution with the resources to make healthcare universally available. As a people, we need to assume responsibility for making our government effective at arriving at coherent policies and delivering services that we need from it. We may begin by opposing people like Prichard who view government as something that needs to be weakened and even subverted – apparently because it is contrary to allowing God to meet our basic needs. As a believer, this appalls me. As Christ reforms people, they are called upon to work with everyone else to create or reform the societal instruments that meet our basic needs – first among these is government.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  12. Jesus Monster

    Would Jesus support abortion? I think so.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  13. christards

    jesus never existed dot com

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

      The link is allowed to be posted:

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

      Whatever gets you through the day Aethtard

      March 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  14. BADGUY

    If we first rely on charity to heal the sick...then find out it doesn't work because there are too many sick people, without insurance. for the charities to handle. THEN we go to Jesus and tell him: "Well, charity doesn't work because it's not enough. We STILL have people that are sick and have no insurance. Should we stop trying to "work the problem" or go to government as a provider?" What do you think he would say?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  15. wusa

    How hard is it for Jesus to appear right now? If He does, the whole world will convert and everyone will play nice.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  16. GS

    ((Would Jesus support health care reform?))

    NO, JESUS wouldn't support HCR for He didn't deceive and force people to make profit off of everyone. "PREVENTIVE HEALTHCARE, FAMILY PLANNING, HEALTHY LIFE STYLE" - Jesus would promote as His Preachings note.

    Universal Health Care like in Canada makes more sense, however, unless we all promote "PREVENTIVE HEALTH CARE by living healthy life style and family planning, it is horrible deception for money by forcing everyone to subscribe insurance paying for others unhealthy and costly life style and sicknesses.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  17. twh

    I really, truly, have no idea.

    But what I do know...is that the government shouldn't be involved. The US dollar is on the verge of collapse......the government needs to be downsized dramatically. America "going out of business" should be the only issue right now.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  18. nate

    Why would I support so many people that don't believe in Jesus and who want to take him out of everything associated with this country. Missions have been doing the work of God for years. Don't let this government claim it has those intentions when they want nothing to do with God, Jesus, or anything in between. How do you determine if someone can not afford insurance? We still cover those that do not have insurance already by the way. I worked with a lady who made it very clear she never had to pay a dime for health care costs. So what has changed besides the fact that my insurance costs have gone up and I received a letter from my employer stating that was the reason. I don't disagree with the preexisting condition portion of Obamacare, but that is such a small part and does not need the whole bloated package.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • code0111

      Nate, you are a scholar. Exactly. the government in sheeps clothing.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  20. Robert

    Jesus was not concerned with "social justice" he was concerned with the souls of you and I. He loved us so much that He came to die on the cross for us. He did not come to save us from Earth's governments. He would tell us to have faith in our Father, that he would take care of us. Just like the Bible says: he cares for the sparrows, aren't we more important then them?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:36 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.