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. peggy

    The "Right to Life" people should be the biggest supporters of Affordable care and the "Pro-Choice" people the opponents. Apparently, this is quite the opposite.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • nate

      Who says they are not? You apparently have preconceived notions about the whole group which is something someone with you apparent political background does not believe in. Don't judge less thee be judged.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • GAW

      Probably because they are too lazy. @ nate Haven't heard anything from the movement on the issue of Heath Care yet. So go calm down and take a long sit on the ice.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  2. nate

    Even if Obama has the best intentions I do not want and I don't think Jesus would want the government to take on health care. At some point in the not to distant future food, resources, and many other issues will be thrust upon us because of overpopulation. If the governments all have control of healthcare, what is to say that they will not decide when we die? Maybe some of you already agree that it should be considered today, but I am not sure the government should have any say in medicine. What if I don't believe in modern medicine and look for alternative methods? I now am paying for everyone else and their beliefs. It is no different than the government taking God out of everything. If we can't have God then we can't practice any beliefs even if not associated with God period. This is Ron Paul's position and while I don't agree it does somewhat make sense if you consider that the government is always pushing someone's beliefs on all of us. Economic, social, etc.... If you take one belief out you should take all out.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • rdeleys

      The government isn't planning on telling you when to die. But for-profit insurance companies are doing that right now.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  3. Tim

    So this article, and many supporters of this law, toot the horn of the 50 million Americans that can't afford health care. So the geniuses in D.C. decided that the solution is to mandate that those same 50 million that they've stated over and over can't afford health insurance, must now purchase health insurance or else pay an annual tax penalty. But I thought you just said they can' afford it? Am I the only one that sees how ridiculous that concept is? This entire law is smoke and mirrors and a pretext for the universal healthcare agenda. It has little to do with helping anyone out, at least in the short term.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • sarah

      They can't afford to pay what the insurance company would charge them. But they can afford to pay something and if they all pay something it will ease the burden for the rest of us. Right now they don't pay anything and rely on us to pick up their bills through higher health care costs. The only choice health care providers have is to turn away the poor or raise their costs for the rest of us.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  4. RaKA

    Gravity is invisible, yet atheist believe it exist. hypocrits. It takes much more faith to belive there is mo God. I actually heard a professor say that once uppn a time a fish decided to walk pn land so they evolved. Now thats funny.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • retief1954

      It's also NOT how evolution works. But you wouldn't know that, because you listen to "profs" who ALSO don't know how evolution works.

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

      That post shows just about the best example of argument from ignorance that I've ever seen. If you don't even make a basic rudimentary attempt to understand something, don't try to discuss it. Religion is taylor-made for ignorant fools like you. Now be quiet while the adults discuss reality – go play with your bronze age fairy tales in the corner.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • rdeleys

      @RaKA - You know, sometimes it's just better not to say anything than broadcast your ignorance for everyone to see.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Eduardo

      Evolution is the only "THEORY" worthy of discussion. Wandering around in an intellectual void fantasizing that Magic made everything in the wink of an eye is childish. What type of organism is God anyway? How did he evolve? Why can't we find any archeological evidence of his existence? What does he like to eat? Where does he mate? What does his old lady look like?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • GAW

      So what does this have to do with the topic on hand? Got ADD?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  5. retief1954

    As someone of modest means, all I can tell you is, if I had a disease that required months or years of treatment, perhaps a fatal disease with no known cure, or a chronic disease that required daily treatment, medication, or assistance from a health care professional, I surely wouldn't want my fate or my treatment to depend on charities or churches for payment.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • nate

      Believe me the government would have paid for you prior to this Obamacare debacle. This changed nothing. Not sure why people think it now magically supports people. We even treat illegal aliens today all of the time.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • sarah

      Having seen people turned away for treatment, I know that's not true Nate. They aren't taken care of.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  6. jk

    There are millions of people who claim that Jesus talks to them every day. Why not just ask him? Because it's a nonsensical lie and thus an uninteresting question. It is more interesting and illuminating to speculate what Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton would have thought. You know, people who actually knew something about government instead of promising to come back from heaven and then never did.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • sarah

      I agree that the question is ultimately beside the point. People use the government to do "God's work" all the time. It comes off as incredibly hypocritical.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  7. Barbara

    I'm not sure who is qualified to say who a "real" Christian is. Or who can say what Jesus would do. Nor do I support a blanket agenda of Government=Bad. What I do see is that in the Bible it says to respect the authorities (hint=government), to provide for the poor and needy, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to put a love of God above all else. The way I try to implement those things in my life does make up my political viewpoint, but it does not render me senseless nor make me rigidly dogmatic one way or the other. God not place us here to mindlessly do nothing or to be so locked in fear that we choose to do nothing (i.e., the parable of the talents). He showed us to care for Samaritans (foreigners), the widowed, the poor, the diseased and to do so with an eye toward compassion, not toward our bank accounts or our individual freedoms. He never told anyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps! Clue===if you had to depend on yourself and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, you would never make it to heaven. The whole message behind what Jesus did was about self-sacrifice and love for those that can't do for themselves. I did not find anywhere where it said only if you judge them to be worthy. There is a middle ground here, a way that Jesus perhaps would have approved of. But what I do is based on my relationship with Him, not on my relationship with a Church, or other believers. Pray about it and listen to what Jesus guides you to do. Discard the fear, and the dogma.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • peggy


      I agree with you 100%.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  8. Portland tony

    Any historical Biblical person, be it Jesus or Moses or Abraham, would look at the foolish system in this nation and compare with health care in other developed countries and shake his head in wonderment. How could so many believers turn their backs on so many sick and in-need Americans?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Ben

      who is turning thier back on them? can they not go into a hospital and recieve coverage TODAY if they needed it?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • peggy

      Well said.

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

      No they can not get coverage if they don't already have it. If you think so, you're incredibly naive.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  9. sarah

    I don't trust charity. It wasn't there when people were sold to poor houses. It wasn't there when children starved to death in tent cities in the US. It wasn't there when thousands of people found themselves sick or injured, followed by jobless and uninsured. Where is charity when even now most of our homeless population is made up of former military? And when people are charitable, its too often about making themselves feel superior and the receiver as someone who needs to be pitied. It's also naturally biased. People will help the ones that they like, avoid the ones that they don't understand. Be charitable if you want, if you can muster the humility to make it genuine, but understand that it will never be enough. And understand that many people go to bed praying that God will give them a miracle. Why question how they came by it? Why stand in the way of God giving that to them? If the government can help, why?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • rdeleys

      That's right, and charities are free to discriminate as well. No one has an intrinsic right to charity.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  10. LP

    several interesting points:
    1) it seems our SCOTUS has not taken the time to read the entire legislation, so i am unsure if they are in a position to decide on it.
    2) regardless of how the SCOTUS comes down with their decision, healthcare is approaching 20% of our gdp and growing
    no other civilized nation even comes close to that, not even the ones providing "socialized" medicine. so one can conclude that we in the US are doing something wrong(or the healthcare lobbyists are way too powerful)
    bottomline, even if the law gets scrapped, we need to elevate the conversation to begin to solve this problem, and i'll give obama credit for taking a stand on it, even if you don't agree with his solution, you must agree its needs to be addressed(oh btw, all polls indicated that healthcare reform was an important topic to all americans in 2008/9 over 80% of our population wanted it....that's a fact)
    3) if the us is truly "exceptional" then why can't we figure out how to tackle this issue....we have social security, that's a mandate, many people won't even get their social security if they don't live long enough to receive it due to skyrocketing healthcosts(maybe that's part of the grand scheme!!!) i can't think of a better way to secure our national interest than keeping our populace healthy, educated and engaged in policy...otherwise the rest of the world will continue to clean our clock!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  11. john john

    Who cares what some dead Jew would have to say about our modern national health care system? It's as irrelevent and absurd as asking what Zoroaster would think of the graduated tax structure.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  12. Ben

    I like this one it my favorite... "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7

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

      And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

      23Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  13. Mark G.

    Universal health care is not the bogey man that it is being made out to be by certain people. These certain people are making vast fortunes the way it is set up now and of course they do not want to threaten that. But they are making their fortunes at the expense of millions of Americans.Like Universal education and the federal military and more, universal health care is simply Americans working together to ensure the entire nation is healthy. It is actually helping yourself by making sure your friends or family or neighbors can work themselves because they are healthy. Canadians have been enjoying top notch universal health care for decades because they care about their fellow citizens and have created a kind and compassionate society, something the American people need desperately.

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

      Love your post.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • rdeleys


      March 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  14. Abner Mallity

    And while we are at it, several other questions beg to be answered. Would Jesus favor photo ID's to vote ? Would he sign a two year contract for a cell phone, or do the " pay-as-you-go" plan ?? Which 100 songs would he have on his I-pod ? Would he look good in plaids, or would he steer clear of bright colors and button-downs ?

    And of course, we must also ask- would he prefer to spend his spare time doing crossword puzzles, or riding a unicycle ? Also,would he prefer boxers or briefs ?

    Would John Phillip Sousa pick up a chicken leg and eat it with his fingers, or would he use a fork and knife ? Would Confucius have liked hockey, or would he have preferred baseball ? Would Christopher Columbus liked to square-dance, or would knitting scarves and mittens been more to his liking ? What three toppings would Atilla the Hun liked to have on his pizza ?

    What a phenomenally stupid stupid topic for an article . Clearly, a new low in the world of news media.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |

    Maybe if we would kill our first born! The population wouldn't grow so fast, and there would be more opportunities for more people. Lets do what the bible says. Kill our first born. And stone every child that talks back or disobeys their parents!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

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

      So does getting off your duff and doing something about the problems out there.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • think about it

      Atheist took a moral stand to protect their children from child molesters. Atheist children were not molested. Christians prayed, to an invisible sky daddy, and refused to physically protect their children. It is their children who were molested.
      You should be ashamed of yourself for supporting such a dangerou8s organization!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  17. Army Wife

    Jesus wouldn't bother with Health Care. He would just heal folks. The question is stupid and typical of CNN.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  18. GAW

    Well I can admit that the Republican/Evangelical take on this issue for those without health insurance is quite simple....1. Don't get sick 2. Die young.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • am

      catholic hospitals all over the country and treating people in need

      March 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Paul Anderson

      Actually, christian groups are the biggest charitable donors, so they would probably take care of their own, much like the local jewish economies and health care.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • GAW

      Sorry but I don't see most churches helping thousands of their own people who who owe thousands of dollars to hospitals because they have no insurance or not enough to cover expenses. Most Christians would just say " We'll pray for you"

      March 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  19. nate

    disregard all after "my invisible friend says..."

    March 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Spence

      This is a philosophical question. If you don't want to play then go back to watching your Saturday morning cartoons. (Simpleton)

      March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  20. Spence

    I think He probably would support Health Care Reform.

    Problem is that Obamacare isn't Health Care Reform. It's a payoff to the insurance companies that supported Barry for his fraudulent bid for the White House. Demoncrats are famous for calling something just the opposite of what it really is.

    Obamacare is a classic "Bait and Switch". It's unfortunate that so many American's are too mindless to see it.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • pdx001

      Any facts to support your claim?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Rita

      You are as dumb as a bag of rocks....

      March 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
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About this blog

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.