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. Rose

    The fact is that for many of those among the right who call themselves moral and Christians, they actually value their money more than their faith. They have made money into their God. All of the facade around pro-life is BS to get the votes. Money is all that matters to them. And those in power have soooooo much money and power than the working class Republican who might as well be packing up their money and loading it in the cars of the rich. They have no understanding of how much they are getting ripped off and smiled at by the upper class of this country. They've bought the rhetoric and swallow it all without question. "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do." Finally, my father in his seventies realizes the lies he's accepted all of these decades, and asked me why he never saw. And as a Liberal Democrat, I'm of more faith than the majority of those who would let people suffer and lose their lives because of money they lack for care. Jesus would absolutely help the least of his flock, and God commanded that we are our brother's keepers.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Mike

      Not exactly. The leaders of the Republican Party care more about money than faith. However, those they conned into voting for them are true believers. Lower-middle class republicans are the dumbest and most easily manipulated group in the country.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  2. Goat

    Does anyone know what's going to happen on December 21 2012?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Elmo

      We will prepare the soil for the spring garden and ready the pastures for calving season. Anyone with two ears had better listen.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  3. Surfer George

    '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."'

    SERIOUSLY? A self declared man of God trusts the market more than scriptures? Is THAT what Jesus would do? Maybe I don't understand Religion, but is LOOKS like he trusts humans ("the market") more than God... Am I missing something?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  4. Chris

    Do not worry, then, about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry for itself. Sufficient for the day [is] its own trouble

    Basically Jesus said not to worry. I feel comforted all ready. Jesus helped some poor people randomly but over all left them to die, rather like it is today. The only miracle out there is the one you can afford.

    The church hasn't cured anything since Jesus was around, employers are cutting health care which we are helpless to act against for fear of getting fired, which leaves the government. As the government has successfully ran medicare for years, I'll settle my lot with them. You my friends are free to choose.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  5. AesopsRetreat Dot Com

    Jesus said: "Help those who cannot help themselves."

    He never said to Help those who will not help themselves, nor to Help those who would sneak in line to take advantage of your kindness.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Surfer George

      So, your solution is to let those "who cannot help themselves" (you admit that there ARE people in this category?) rot with those who (Republican Talking Points) "will not help themselves" and those "who would sneak in line to take advantage of your kindness?"

      Seems barbaric to me, but what I expect from UNBRIDLED profits first Capitalists. Capitalism without a moral compass is NOT, in any way in keeping with God's will or intentions.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • John D

      Actually, Jesus said this:

      You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
      And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. I
      f someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
      Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  6. Goat

    911 was inside job

    March 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • David

      You're an idiot – further, that's not relevant to this conversation.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  7. Mike

    Wow, what exactly is the collective IQ of this country? We are now looking to fairy tales and imaginary people to decide weather certain laws are justifiable. Why don't we just flip a ****ing coin?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • David

      Whether you believe in God or not (which you clearly do not) – Jesus Christ was not an imaginary person, nor were the people who wrote the Bible. One could still look to the Bible for guidance without believing in a deity. So educate yourself before you make such absurd statements.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • exit 7A

      I don't think Jesus was an imaginary person. While the concept god creating man in the image of himself is quite far-fetched, I do think a man named Jesus was also called Christ.

      By the way, if Jesus were governor, would he have granted Barbaras clemency?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Surfer George

      For the purposes of responding to your post, let's leave any of the "imaginary people" out of the equation and talk about ethics and morals – Capitalism and the ethical/moral integrity of the Nation and our humanity:

      I'm one who believes (like the virtual totality of the remaining Industrialized world) that health care is, more or less, a moral imperative, a right. Allowing the least of us to suffer and die because they cannot feed the corporate coffers seems inhumane to me. Telling ANYONE that they do not deserve/have no right to health care because they don't make enough money seems inhumane to me.
      its not a matter of flipping a coin, its a matter of doing what's right, what you would want others to do for you if you were in their position.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Surfer George

      You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. My aproach is not to try and convince others of the (seriously, not to me, but seriously) questionable existence of Jesus.
      Jesus (as I understand him) would be more concerned with following his path, living his values than proving his existence.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  8. think about it

    The bible (new testament) says that believers in Jesus can heal the sick with thy hand! And can drink any poison, without dying! Lets put that to the test! If you believe drink some nuclear waste, and see if you survive!

    March 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  9. Marsha

    Jesus help the sick and poor? Duhhhh, you betcha. Read Matthew 25:34-40. He couldn't have been clearer.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • AesopsRetreat Dot Com

      Jesus said: "Help those who cannot help themselves."

      He never once said to Help those who will not help themselves, nor to Help those who would sneak in line to take advantage of your kindness.

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

    HAHA it's 2012 and people still believe in fairytales HAHA

    March 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • David

      I'm sad for you.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  11. Glh1

    If individuals, churches, charities, and the private sector writ large could be trusted to do the right thing, then and only then could we conclude that the government has no place in issues like health care insurance reform. But alas, we haven't been able to count on any of those in any organized sustained manner for hundreds, if not thousands, of years... Oh sure there are some tried and true individuals and charities who have been fighting for years, but their efforts arent enough to combat the problem. Others, they step up eventually, after decades of suffering, but by then the problem is compounded and requires government intervention if it is to be solved.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  12. TomCom

    Conservatives throw that Christian badge around all the time, but they are the most selfish and hatefull group of people on earth

    March 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • gerald

      And liberals are the least tolerant. Spewing venom and ad hom at anyone they don't think is as charitable as them without proof.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  13. John D

    As he's essentially a mythological figure, there are as many Jesuses out there as there are Christians.

    So, sure, some of those Jesuses would support health care reform.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • David

      He's actually a historical figure, John D. Even staunch atheists acknowledge that if they have any sort of education.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • John D

      I'm not one of those rogues who claims the stories in the Scriptures aren't at least based on a real person.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  14. Ashley Barnett Smith

    Ask the conservatives, they seemed to be expert on that. They're the ones who block anything that will help the poor.The photo is self explanatory, but the Conservative Republicans actions are mere selfisshness.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  15. kenneth swedroe

    this is so silly. debate based on a legend and out-an-out lies. who ever he was, he had a great PR team. silly.

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

      Why are you reading a religious article if you don't have any stake in it? Your comments add nothing to the discussion.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  16. Oscar

    I think it is a question of humanity not one of a single religion or religious icon. The neolithic peoples buried their infirm with flowers, and obvious love was extended to them. Why is that not a societal norm now? Why are people fighting over doing this or not? I'm not someone who can quote fancy verses from the Bible, but do know that Health Care Reform is couched in kindness and care of those who cannot care for themselves, and that is how things ought to be folks. Jesus or no Jesus,

    March 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  17. Steve

    I'd rather rely on the government than the church. The church will judge you and guilt you into living your life to their narrow-minded standards. The govt will just make you jump through their hoops.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  18. njfromok

    Wow! Do you even know Jesus to even ask Him? Does anyone pray and read the Bible WITH UNDERSTANDING anymore? Leave Him out of this political mess! Democrats, Republicans, religious scholars, theologians, evangelists, and atheists...everyone...just stop using the Lord in vain! Seperation of Jesus and state please!

    March 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  19. Somebody

    Tax everybody(I mean EVERYBODY) 12%. The government would make more money then they are now and have health care included. Deficit would be gone in 10 years.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Surfer George

      Tax everybody(I mean EVERYBODY) 12%. The government would make more money then they are now and have health care included. Deficit would be gone in 10 years.
      EVERYBODY? Including people who are already living in squalor and poverty? And 12% of what, even minimum wage? Should we include ALL income? What about deductions, keep em, get rid of em?

      Personally, I think taking from those who live at or below the poverty line is obscene. If they already can't afford health care, for instance, taking them further from that goal with taxation seems inappropriate.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  20. p harvey

    Is CNN running out of stories? How about this, "how many licks does it take jesus to get to the center of a tootsie pop?"

    March 31, 2012 at 1:04 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.