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. Tracy

    I find it very interesting that the bible belt republicans could care less about helping anyone unless they are a soldier of course.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • think about it

      They dont even care about the soldiers! The have one primary concern! MONEY, AND GREED!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • A in Pa

      Amen Brother, it is amazing to me how the bible bellters show so little compassion for their fellow man, and then imagine they will sit on the right hand of God.

      Also, I keep hearing about the Robin Hood syndrome where they rob from the rich and give to the poor, let us remember that Robin Hood was only taking back what was stolen by being taxed and that kingdoms and nations are built upon the backs of the people. Too bad it's called theft to get back a piece of the pie that's owed you!

      All the worlds problems are solvable, the problem is that the rich, power brokers wouldn’t benefit from it. Their business model is the trickle down system that keeps them rich and powerful and keeps everyone else without the resources to change the system.

      Same thing even Jesus couldn’t fix, apparently.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  2. greenaxe

    Charge the churches tax and use that money towards better health care. Jesus would want it that way.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  3. Elmo

    Jesus said, "I took my stand in the midst of the world, and in flesh I appeared to them. I found them all drunk, and I did not find any of them thirsty. My soul ached for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart from the world empty.

    But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, then they will change their ways."

    March 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  4. Eric

    The democrats dont believe in Jesus so it doesnt matter to them what he thinks.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • think about it

      Thats simply not true! Democrats fight for those who Republicans want to enslave, yet again!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Rita

      Have always went to church, pray everyday and give to several charities. And I am a democrat What about you?? I bet you keep every dime you make and people like you need to know what poor people feel like and go thru. If I didn't worship God I would wish you an illness or members of your family and that the insurance company would say to you to bad you are over your limit.... Oh yea we are dropping you good luck finding another company....

      March 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Eric

      So maybe what i should have said, if you dont believe in Jesus, you are most likely to be a democrat.. or you are just using this arguement to chastis those who do..as Rita would say "I would wish you an illness or members of your family and that the insurance company would say to you to bad you are over your limit.... Oh yea we are dropping you good luck finding another company...."

      March 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  5. a disgrace

    end obama's failed presidency then get rid of his ridiculous healthcare bill

    March 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  6. Paul Anderson

    Absurd Question in its entirety. Why doesn't CNN just say what it really wants to say and get it over with. Jesus would love Obama if he were around today, because I actually feel CNN thinks this.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  7. RaKA

    When the liberals actually read whats in the bill they might be in a position to talk about. Several elements that obam snd pelosi promised were not even in the bill are being decided in court.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  8. crystalinwi

    Jesus would not be for a mandate, he believes in FREE WILL. God does not FORCE anyone to do anything, ever.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • think about it

      He forces you into a pit of burning fire for all eternity if you dont do the right thing! Right?

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

      maybe you should revisit the Old Testament. He commanded murder and slavery. So which god(s) are you talking about?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  9. Jim

    What is this article talking about? Jesus wound't give a hoot about health care. He said take no thought for tomorrow. This was his central doctrine. That you should abandon your family, your children, your savings, your thrift. Just follow me. This is a ridiculous and immoral proposition. As C.S. Lewis wrote, the man must have either been a maniac, a sick man, an evil man, or he must have known that the world was coming to an immediate end and that he was commanded to announce this fact. If not, his words were not only false, they were indeed very wicked. So if he did exist maybe this worked on the stupefied peasants in the Bronze Age.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  10. Holly

    If people were truly following the teachings of Jesus there would be no need for health care reform or for the government in general because we would be taking it upon ourselves to care for the sick and afflicted, not relying on the government to do it.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  11. C. Smythe

    He was a barely educated carpenter. He hated the 2 governments of his day – Roman AND Jewish. Then he died. I do not think for a moment he would be capable of wading through the financial mess our failing democratic governments have brought us to . . . and he ain't around to ask today.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  12. chris

    Seriously? Wow.....

    March 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  13. Norma Tyler

    Some Jesus heal and some he didnt.Now what Jesus will and can do change things through pray now if you didnt pray about it dont say what would Jesus do learn pray changes things and faith.My father is a real gentleman he dont make nobody do nothing they dont want to do. So cool it about Jesus.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  14. nik green

    Christianity has been reframed and redefined in the US in order to allow for capitalism.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  15. cliff

    Jesus was a fraud. I don't care what he thought. The rest of you shouldn't either, but you are all a bunch of sheep.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  16. A in Pa

    Who cares WWJD, he is not here now and hasn't done anything lately. (Even though we keep hearing about his imminent return while religious organizations make long-term financial investments.) Medicine and Science have cured more illness, diseases and offered relief to suffering than religion ever did. We have to deal with what is? Maybe we should put all the money that goes to religions into paying for health care?

    But hypothetically speaking, yes, Jesus would want universal health care b/c it's the right thing to do. So my question is, why are the religiously affiliated so against it? Mitt and Rick????? I think that speaks volumns about those two.

    for me it comes down to this, is access to affordable health care and health insurance going to a human right or a privilege reserved for the wealthy? The bigger question is why are we as Americans being price gouged? Corporations, medical intuitions, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies all rake in huge profits, maybe if we look at the price gouging going on health care would be affordable. Are so many "people" against it b/c corporations have spent a lot of time and money putting out propaganda about how bad it will be (for them) it may reduce their profit margins b/c they won't be allowed to throw people off or deny coverage or charge huge inflated prices (thus effectively pricing out anyone they see has a high risk, diabetic for instance) and pick and choose only those they view as low risk, meaning they will pay premiums for years without really having any out of the ordinary medical costs

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

    Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled....But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

    Jesus totally sounds like a right-wing Republican, doesn't he? I'm sure he'd be very into the racism many of them display towards our President as well. But back to helping the poor....watch how they twist his words and say "but he never said the government should take care of people!" The government IS people. There is a kid going hungry tonight but the Republicans are fine with that as long as not one nickel of their tax money goes to a "socialist" program to get him some food. Oh, they'll wring their hands and say it's terrible, but they'll want private charities to help the kid. Ok, fine. Are your private charities all funded up and getting the kid some food? No? Then why not be glad there might be a social program that is? What is the Republican bottom line....getting the kid some damn food, or worrying about how the food gets there? We know what their bottom line is. Their bottom line is "I got mine, now you get yours. Jesus loves you."

    I'm a Christian and there is no way on earth I would align myself with this so-called Christian Republican party. They disgust me.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • RaKA

      yes play the race card because your intellect can be bested by a 4 year old. Thats the liberal way. When you know your wrong you always have race to fall back on. I guess al the people who voted for him who now want him put of office caught a bad case of racism.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  18. Ben

    This one isn't to bad aswell...Who touched Me?”’ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and knelt at His feet, and trembling with fear, told Him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, YOUR FAITH HAS HEALED YOU. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’”

    March 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • C. Smythe

      fairy tales for children . . . sorry dude

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

      No Jeebus wouldn't support health reform as he states that salvation and healing is only for the lost sheep of Israel. Canaanite woman had to compare herself to a dog getting scraps from the master's table before he would heal her daughter. Whatever regular human being Jeebus was, well, he was racist and specified that healing was only for certain people. So no, this normal human being would not have supported this kind of health reform!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  19. Sardukar

    Would a Neanderthal support the Healthcare Reform..now that we are talking 2000 year old people...

    March 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  20. Mark

    Unlike what most conservative retards think today, Jesus is more of a socialist. Look at his teachings. Of course he would support universal healthcare for everyone, rich, poor, and in between.

    Ask yourself what Jesus would say to an insurance company if they denied to cover someone who needed a life-saving surgery.

    "Socialism". Oxford English Dictionary. "1. A theory or policy of social organization which aims at or advocates the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole, and their administration or distribution in the interests of all. 2. A state of society in which things are held or used in common."

    Mark Chapter 10:21-25 21.

    Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

    Matthew 25:41 . 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. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I 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, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life”.

    Acts 4:34-35 . Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

    Right-Wing Republicans DO NOT by any means practice and advocate Christ's teachings, they are not Christians whatsoever, and I will debate this with anyone on the planet.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • David

      Amen and Amen

      March 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Deal... I am a African American Right Wing Republican Christian.

      First, you lose on attempting to define what is and what is not a Christian. There is not a tax bracket to define that if you earn more than this you can no longer be a Christian. Romans 8:9 always trips up those that desire to say who are and are not Christians. While we all sin, it is that we hold Christ in our hearts or spirit that makes us Christians.

      Also in Luke, and I forget the scripture, Jesus spoke of ones that had pocessions but wasted them.

      Personally, I look upon Matthew and I have known many "Right-Wing Republicans Christians", that give, and serve in society. I mean I understand that the class warfare tactic has worked in the past for ones such as yourself but these days folks just are not biting at the bait that many on the left are throwing out.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:21 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.