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. Peter

    People of America if we allow the healthcare bill to be recinded, we are disgracing ourselves and failing to live the type of life we profess to lead.
    How can anyone, regardless of their background not do what is right and care for our fellow citizens and fellow human beings. We, the richest or, at least one of the richest countries in history, find ourselves unwilling to practice the Golden Rule:Shame on us. These are our neighbors, our friends, our people, and yet we would rather rationalize away our responsibility by allowing ourselves to be swayed by special interests, big business and lobbyists whose only concern is how much money they can make. Let us be clear, this is not about government mandates, this is about how much it will cost the insurance companies to cover people who need it: Those that do not fit into their profit model.
    Anyone claiming that providing this coverage costs them more are allowing themselves to be deceived the lies of the insurance industry.
    The real shame here is not that we won't do this or can't do this, but that we actually did start doing what was right and then selfishly stole back the goodness that we had extended.
    America, look in the mirror, if you really look and are honest about what you see, you'll know that this is indeed a sad time for us as a people and a nation.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Hariom

    Forcing millions of unwilling people to buy insurance is dictatorship. These are good Americans who sacrifice health insurance to manage their monthly bills. Forcing them to pay health insurance which is as high as $400 per person, per month, will bankrupt these hard working Americans.
    Obama has already set the records for highest average unemployment, reduction in family savings, highest average gas prices (due to Obama's bad decision about Libya and Iran), and increase in American debt by 4.5 trillion dollars.
    We hope and pray that the wise Supreme court judges will halt this inexperienced president's unwise decisions and give relief to Americans!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  3. Jt_flyer

    Hypocrisy plain and simple.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  4. Ron

    Instead of asking what Jesus would do, ask what Louis Pasteur, Jonas Salk or Dr. Albert Schweitzer would do.

    “A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.”

    So, what would YOU do???

    March 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  6. Moby49

    So how does my local church provide me with healthcare when I can't afford it. Does it pay the insurance, pay for the doctor directly, run its own health clinic or better yet help me get a job so I can pay for it? The answer to all is no way, no how. Saying "leave it to the "faith based" organizations" only assures the problem will continue to grow.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  7. christards


    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Fiction is the answer. Reality is wrong.

    Prayer changes things. Talking to yourself enforces mental illness and makes reality out of what is not reality.

    In short – lie to yourself and your kids. Keep the world at war forever.

    god is imaginary . com

    March 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  8. mttrailboss

    WWJD ? Get another writer for this article..

    March 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  9. perennial2

    How about Buddha or Mohammed or that Mormon guy or any of the other fellows who've started up their own groupie mass hysteria clan?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  10. Dude

    Get this crap off my news site. It's just bait for blog hits and page views.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  11. Chuck Anziulewicz

    Like all of today's Limbaugh-style conservatives, Jesus would certainly say, "I'm happy with my health care the way it is! And why should I be forced to pay for anyone else's health care? Let them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps! I've got mine, and to hell with everyone else!"

    March 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  12. Descarado

    CNN is not suggesting, from its lofty pedestal of perverted propaganda, that Jesus has anything in common with Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, is it?


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

      And you're suggesting that Jesus has lots in common with GOP candidates? HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!!!!!

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

      I'm sorry. I just came in your mouth. Again.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  13. Faith-Isn't-A-Preacher

    It's not the role of government. Lucifer compels us to do things.
    It is the responsibility of individuals to make their contribution 'willingly' to care for one another, for which they will be judged as individuals and not collectively.
    There are charities, hospitals, and community services that help the needy. The government has been undermining charities is its effort to regulated, limit, dictate to, control, and get gain from imposing its own collective social doctrine.
    For the government to impose its will upon the masses is an effort to force the masses to worship it in order to receive basic necessities of living. Non-compliance to the government dictates will result in sanctions against cultures that do not comply with the monolithic dictates of a centralized Social Order of Government. All under the whim of the culture of the faction in power; which imposes its own ideology upon the masses.

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

      Get real. And when people dont help eachother? What then? You think Jesus, who healed people for free, would have had a problem with a system offering free care?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-A-Preacher

      To claim something is Free is a deception and a lie.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |

    Please dont try to speak for Jesus! None of you are qualified!
    But if opportunity arises where you can help your fellow man, please dont let that opportunity pass without giving your all! If you enjoy health insurance please support any measure that would ensure your neighbor may enjoy the same benefit! Lets do for others what we would want others to do for us!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  15. mike

    Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  16. patw2100


    March 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  17. christards

    jesus is dead, dead folks don't matter

    if he was so great, why did he get killed?

    if a guy did miracles today we would not kill him.

    i know, he did not perform miracles. he was an ordinary human with a human dad and mom. he was insane.

    his sky daddy is an invention of man.

    let's go to war arguing over who's imaginary friend is the best.

    religion has never worked in thousands of years. time to but it in the trash forever and get on with honest science.

    don't be afraid to tell the truth

    god is imaginary. com

    March 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  18. greg

    you have faith in the Market? the Market cares absolutely nothing about you. the Market is happy to grind you up. the Market runs on greed and self-interest and for those well-equipped to deal with it that can be rewarding but the rest are discarded. many of these same people fight so hard to stop abortions yet are so willing to discount the people all around them.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  19. glorydays

    Jesus would be so ashamed of many of today's supposed "Christians" I bet he'd change his name.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  20. Annie

    Jesus, wouldn't be involved in politics! Real Christians know this.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • David Martin

      You hit the nail on the head. No pun intended.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:46 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.