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. Pop

    You people believe tenth commandments more than Christianity. Wow!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • veggiedude

      The tenth commandment? You mean the one that says not to eat the goat if it was bathed in its mothers milk? LOL. Not many people know that one. They still refer to the original commandments as 'the ten commandments' conveniently forgetting that Moses had destroyed them and then went back for the real ones.

      July 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  2. Southern

    Jesus wouldn't lie. You should be ashamed of yourself trying to use Jesus to suit your agenda.

    The lie?
    If there are indeed 50 million without insurance, only a portion of these people can't afford healthcare.
    Man,if not ,most of that number choose NOT to buy healthcare. They Buy $200 sneakers and big screen TVs and Gold teeth. Some young people just run the risk so they can go onvacation or fund a drug habit.
    Me an' Jesus see no reason why I have to fund their bad choices.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  3. Roland

    if you dont think jesus would be for a law that far more protects the poor widows orphans and even people who low middle class that dont want to pay health insurance but will potentially need it ypu dont know jesus. its built sort of like the gleaning system in iisrael that had a far more government restrictive business rules

    March 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  4. Bayousara

    It is ridiculous to think that churches and private individuals can come up with the money for the super-expensive tests and procedures that can keep us alive. By denying anyone health insurance, you are playing God. How dare you! And the most selfish are seniors like me who are on Medicare and get good deals on prescriptions, yet there are those who think like pastor Prichard to let those who can't afford health care just deal with it however. Why I don't set foot in "churches." Jesus was poor, so I am sure he would be on the side of "government" because, you see, We the People ARE THE GOVERNMENT! Get it?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  5. Heck no

    The way the GOP revises history , it won't be too terribly long until your bibles read that Jesus charged for all his miracles. They already have you believing that Jesus didn't die on the cross because he kicked the moneychangers and politicians out of temple for doing business in God's house....No really is ok that your climbing into bed with the same types of people that had him killed.......

    March 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • greenaxe

      It's all used as a "convenience" factor to be able to do everything that's morally wrong, but it's okay because I go to church on Sunday. I was in traffic behind this guy that had the religious bumper stickers, the cross on his mirror and the elderly woman in front of him hesitated to go before going through the green light. Boy did he unleash fury on her......but church on Sunday makes it all better.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  6. mobius187

    Would Thor support healthcare?

    What would Hercules think about healthcare?

    All very important questions we have to ask in the 2012

    March 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • I hear

      I hear Hippocrates loves it.....You know, do no harm turning away those with pre-existing conditions....Its all moot anyway....You've got a conservative/corporate loaded , SCOTUS .....We know how this is going to play out

      March 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  7. Mary

    I won't post the whole ten but this was the best evidence out of all of them.

    Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True
    9. The Bible writers endured great persecution for what they saw
    They were eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection or His existence and held to their story even under great persecution. If the events in the Bible were false, no writer in his right mind would endure such torture for a lie. Matthew was slain with a sword in Ethiopia. Mark died by being dragged through the streets of Alexandria. Luke was hanged on an olive tree. John was banished to prison in Patmos. Peter was crucified upside down. Jude was shot to death with arrows. Paul was beheaded at Rome by Emperor Nero.
    Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True
    10. The Bible changes lives
    Prost i tutes have been reformed. Drunkards have become sober. The prideful become humble. The weak become strong, when they read the Bible. I, too, have been transformed. After I started reading the Bible, and believed in what it said about Jesus Christ, an 18 year old girl said to me, "Randy, you're really different. You've changed." Even my 17 year old sister said to me, "Randy, how come you don't fight with me, or do the mean things you used to do anymore?" And in my own church, there are hundreds of testimonies of drug addicts who came clean, violent men who became gentle, alcoholics who became dry, atheists who became believers, troubled marriages that became happy ones, because they read the Bible and what it said about Jesus Christ.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Bayousara

      Honey, you are living in the past, a time of stupidity and ignorance. None of your premises make any sense. Until we humans start living like Jesus taught us, it doesn't really matter if the Bible is true or not.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  8. milan milenkovic

    Health care reform was HISTORIC moment, making affordable health care accessible to more Americans ( NO more pre-existing conditions; you will NOT lost health insurance if you change job; children can stay on parents health insurance until age of 26; in new law, there is annual wellness visit…).
    I worked as General Surgeon in Europe and as Surgical First Assistant in VA and MD for 8 years , so I understand very well how important health care reform was for us, our children, next generations… for USA future.
    At 2009 everybody agree that status quo in health care was unacceptable; if we did NOT change anything, Medicare was facing bankruptcy by 2017; As you know, health care account for 17,4 % of US national economy ( as Pr. Bill Clinton said: “ If US spend 11,8% like France, we would save $ 870 billion per year”) , and still we will have a world class medicine!…
    In the beginning, ALL Republicans said NO to health care reform, until FINALLY they understood that change was necessary!
    I have NO doubt that Obama’s lawyers will defend health care law in Supreme Court Justice, because : This reform “ is NOT about politics. This is about people’s lives. This is about peoples businesses. This is about our future” – Pr Obama.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  9. John J. Puccio

    Just follow the money. If something is going to cost the rich (in this case the dollar-gouging health-care industry) anything, the Republicans will be against it. Besides, Obama passed it. It must be killed! No matter that most of the health-care bill was a Republican idea in the first place.

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

      Are you from Canada?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  10. glenglen

    Now let's see. Jesus said: "Whatever you do to any of these the LEAST of my Bretheren, you do unto me." But he was referring to folks who CLAIM Christianity by professing to love GOD but also find the act of helping others very difficult. Or they are willing to help THEIR OWN, as Mormons do, but rile at helping people of competing philosiphies or religions. Thus, the story of the Good Samaritan who helped a POLITICAL ENEMY. The bottom line is, much of this debate is political and the whole Christian thing has been hijacked. There is no question what Jesus would do, it's just that some people don't want to hear it–like the Minister a few years back who said if Jesus was living today he would be a War Lord who would: "Smite the unrighteous with a SWORD." What? How's THAT for messing up the message.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  11. christards

    jesus was a nut job
    if he returns, let's kill him again

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

      You are an idiot, go to Hell

      March 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • veggiedude

      JC (Jesus Christ) told you to go to hell! LOL

      We all know JC was the biggest liberal to ever walk the earth. That is why the conservatives of his time did what they always know best – capital punishment.

      July 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  12. Raz

    I think the root of the problem is in America's Protestant past. A major tenet of their faith is that faith alone is enough for salvation. As opposed to the Catholic doctrine of good works and faith. Thus many American Christians don't see anything wrong with being like Gordon Gecko and get full of righteous indignation that their money is going to help the poor.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  13. seyedibar

    Would Jesus support health care reform? hmm, I dunno. Would Batman? or the Easter Bunny?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  14. Dave

    Jesus taught healing, he also said that man will do this and much more in the age to come. An age is 2000 years. We are not doing much more where medical science is concerned. What makes you think he actually ever left.......

    March 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  15. Pop

    Did we really land on the moon or we faked with Hollywood Sfax?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  16. christards

    FAITH means not wanting to know what's true.

    FAITH – the greatest tradgedy in human history.

    FAITH – Believing to be true what you know in your heart ain't so. – Mark Twain.

    god is imaginary . com

    March 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Sangre Diale

      Typical Atheist troll... weakling in the physical world so you take up arms on the internet. How silly.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Spence

      You're as simple minded as any knucklehead I've ever heard of.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Bill

      I find people like you funny because you waste so much time trying to make people believe there is not God. Most Christians never bother wasting there time to negatively bring down non-believers. If they are negative they not true Christians according to the bible.When people act as you do they are generally scared about the things they are speaking against. Funny thing is if a Christian dies and there is no God, he dies just like you. If there is a God I fear for people like you when you die. You have to admit that is in the back of your mind.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  17. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Yes, Jesus is against health care. That's why He said, "A cheerful heart doeth good like a medicine." And He also said, "I am The Great Physician, who healeth thee." That's why the Apostle, Luke, who was a physician by trade, would be considered an outcast and liberal if he were alive today on Earth to face Fox News.

    This argument over health care is nothing more than a battle between the poor and the rich over the authoritative allocation of values in society.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  18. Pete

    I think the Christians who don't want a government run health care system are Republicans hiding behind a religious interpretation that if anything is more a flight of fantasy than grounded in reality. And I think they are just plain cheap and unloving pople.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

      Agreed. Most Christians today get their sermons from Fox Factless News. I urge everyone to go to the Farleigh Dickinson University website and read the two studies they conducted showing that people who watch Fox News are less informed than people who watch no news at all.

      I am a born again Christian and it amazes me how brainwashed Christians have become in America. Also, check out a Christian author last name of Schaffer, who also cannot believe how Christians have allowed themselves and their beliefs to be hijacked by these extremist views advocated by the super-wealthy and powerful GOP establishment.

      I have not read the book by Frank Schaffer, but recommend checking out the Christian author’s book, “Crazy for God” who voted for Barack Obama after realizing how hateful Christians have become thanks to his own past evangelical activities he now apologizes for and those of his father and author, Francis Schaffer, James Dobson and other misguided Christians with an agenda of hate in the name of Christianity. Check out this online interview: http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/rachel-maddow-show-frank-schaeffer-how-hate

      March 31, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  19. john

    Jesus would not even support Christianity and all people do in his name. He would truly weep. Why would he support this?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  20. musicman

    I think we first should ask ourselves did Jesus heal everyone that was sick? The second question is what was the purpose of the healing and miracles. I think we know the answer. He did not heal everyone. He healed to show and prove that he was the son of God. He performed these miracles not to go around healing everyone but so that the people could see the power of God and believe he was the savior. I think we forget that Jesus preached about the hereafter and where we will spend eternity spiritually...not about this earth. Remember he said "my kingdom is not of this world" He also said "the poor you will have with you always" He did teach us to love each other and we should help those that need help but on our free will... he allows us a choice in doing so. So using Jesus to justify what the government wants to do which is take over and tell you how much and when is a very poor example. Two different situations there.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • nathandf

      ..I was about to say much the same thing but you did it so well. To equate Jesus teachings and actions with government run health care and mandates(many of which fly in the face of Christian principles) is not in the same universe of thought...

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

      He also died for everyone, he did not pick and choose which people he was on the cross for. He would want everyone to be treated equal and have the ability to have insurance. I would like to have the same insurance that our goverment has. I work at a hospital in the ER and I have insurance.... But I have seen families in the ER who work and couldn't afford it. Their kids were so sick before they came in sometimes it was a miracle they lived. I don't think Jesus wants that.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

      Right. Jesus only favors healing the wealthy. You are confusing health care access with the ministry of Christ, which was mainly to redeem mankind from their sins through His forgiveness. You need to fast forward to the 21st century where we now have the capacity to practically eliminate most health issues and curb sickness for ALL AMERICANS! Jesus would not be opposed to a health insurance plan for all Americans – only Republicans who hate the progressive movement does that. Jesus was not a politician and I know He is the living Son of Almighty God because I have personally put my faith in Him. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the GOP cannot stand the thought of all Americans achieving a sustainable life-long attainment of health, wealth and the pursuit of happiness and liberty. Yet, that is the goal of Paul Ryan, the billionaire Koch brothers, the GOP Senate, House of Representatives and the GOP Governors Association.

      America is in a war between the rich and the poor. This is a struggle between the haves and have-nots. The GOP hates the thought that Obama and the majority of Americans are close, very, very close to deciding the authoritative allocation of values in our society. The GOP has their own values: protecting the rich, while making it appear to be a benefit for all Americans – rich or poor. That is a lie and a deceptive tactic perpetrated by the GOP, the giant corporations and Fox Factless News.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:00 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.