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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.

kateslate
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. Jim Mc

    Darwin would say its natural selection, lets not interfere with nature.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • George Johnson

      Ha Ha!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  2. anon-i-mouse

    People who claim to be Christian and are Republican have missed Jesus's message.

    What is so sad is the Repubs have latched on to things they don't care about (like abortion) to grab "Christians" into their fold. Everything else they stand for is really totally against what Jesus taught. Jesus wanted us to love each other (regardless of our differences), care for those who couldn't take care of themselves, not be greedy. The GOP platform can be summed up as "More money for me, to hell with the rest of you. And oh yeah, we are against abortion."

    March 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • George Johnson

      You missed the point of the Republicans position who are Christians. Letting the government do something when the priivate and non-profits can do it is a big mistake. The government is inefficient and in many cases ineffective. Private industry and non-profits are almost always more efficient then government. If the government keeps getting bigger and bigger and further in debt, then the social safety nets in this country will be in jeapordy as our economy staggers. Also, the work ethic and personal responsibility ethic are very much bible based. Someone relying on the government (essentially their fellow citizens) when they don't need to is anti-biblical and not good for our society. Jesus never said let Rome tax its citizens more and have Rome give money to the poor, even though he was well aware of the Rome government and tax issues and could easily have been an advocate for this.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  3. Bryant

    This hypothetical about an ancient fairy tale character's stance on a modern day political issue is pointless. Do we care what Peter Pan would think, what the Easter bunny would think, etc.? No, this is a childish exercise, pandering to religious cult delusions. Grow up CNN and stick to news. Let's discuss these issues with facts, not mythology.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • George Johnson

      My understanding is that most people believe in God. Many people in America are either Christians, Jews or Moslems. Therefore it is appropriate for news outlets to address this issue in a religious context. Most people are not athiests. It takes a lot of faith to be an athiest based on the evidence.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  4. tommy mack

    We all pay for people without insurance. The costs of emergency room care gets handed to us via our taxes and raised insurance premiums. It's also the least efficient way of dealing with healthcare. The Affordable Healthcare Act is a solution... one that republicans originally thought of. But because it comes from Obama, they run from it and still offer NO solution.

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

      You are so right. I work in an ER and see everyday.... Tax $$$ at work and most of the people we see do work...

      March 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • George Johnson

      I think you are mostly right. However, no one including Obamacare has come up with the solution to the major problem with health care. The major problem is health care costs significantly exceeding inflation, year after year. This is a receipe for economic disaster. We need to deal with the costs!. I am only aware of two ways: Some type of Single Payer run by a body supported by the government or some type of free market system. Since we have never tried the free market system, I would like to see a try at it before we have to go to a Canadian or European type model of single payer. Insurance is the main culprit that got us to our current state of run away health care costs. We need to get rid of insurance except for catastophic events for which insurance was designed.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  5. Kev

    Don't you think your getting pretty desparate in bringing Religon into Oboza Care? Really? What would Jesus say about Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, or Rev Wright ?? Why not talk about that?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Universal health care is just what the name says - it's universal. And yes, it will even help a poor excuse for a human like you.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  6. Y'all disgusting

    Would Jesus support health care reform? Well, sh!t, dumb4ss why don't you go down to Mexico and ask him? Hell you might not even have to go that far if he's picking your fruit or building your deck. Oh I get it! You're talking about the Christian mythology guy. Hey, John Blake you really are an idi0t, but then you're writing an article for CNN so it figures. If you're going to ask what Jesus Henrietta Christ thought of healthcare reform, why not just ask what Odin, Zeus, the Buddha, Lord Krishna, Anubis, the tooth fairy, etc all thought of healthcare reform. I'm sick and tired of reading, hearing, or even seeing you dipsh!t religious fundamentalists.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • George Johnson

      Boy you missed the boat somewhere. Based on the evidence it takes a lot more faith to be an athiest or even agnostic, then it does to be a Christian. There is significant evidence of the world being created by an intelligent being, moral law being given by God, Jesus existence, Jesus being raised from the dead, the truth and accuracy of the bibile, etc. The majority of Americans are Christians. So it is not that far fetched to discuss any issue in the context of what would Jesus do. However, as the article points out there are no easy answers.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  7. Dale

    The answer to all of our problems is the government.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  8. RaKA

    Not if he didnt read what was in it. No intelligent person would sign off on something they havent read. Liberals made themselves look stupid on this one. Most liberals want it only because obama so they should.

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

      Stupid?

      My wife and I make over 100k a year and have gov't healthcare. We pay a whopping $450 a year...........most families pay $450 a month.

      Who's stupid?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • rdeleys

      @sybaris - To answer your question, RaKA is stupid.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  9. Thomas

    What a stupid question! Who would Jesus root for in the Final Four? Who would Jesus select for the next class of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Would Donald Trump "Fire" Jesus? If Jesus was crucified in the forest, and no one was around to see it, would we be commemorating Good Friday next week? How would Jesus do in "The Hunger Games," or "Quiddich?"

    March 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • George Johnson

      Yes, you might be right. Somethings don't make sense to discuss in the context of what would Jesus do? Obamacare or health care may be one of them. However, a true and devout Chrisitian may do everything in the context of what would Jesus do?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  10. Rahsheem

    Don't even bring Jesus into this!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  11. Dan

    Prior to the Affordable Care Act, charities had ample opportunity to provide health care to the uninsured. They did not do it. Now is the time to help the uninsured.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Daniel6

      Actually they have/did provide lots of healthcare-

      March 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • George Johnson

      You might be right. Helping the uninsured is a noble and welcome social principle. That is not the issue. The issues are who is going to pay for helping the uninsured and what is this country doing to deal with health care costs significantly greater than inflation which will ruin our great country over time, I am only aware of two choices, and one of them is not Obamacare or anything the Republicans would be willing to espouse. The two are single payer (i.e. something like Canada or Europe) or some type of free enterprise system with no insurance except for catastrophic events of great cost. Insurance including medicare as currently structured is a major part of the problem.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  12. Cowboy

    Wouldnt Jesus just cure everybody?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  13. Mojo Jack

    Would Jesus support tax cuts for the rich?

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

      no he would support a flat tax...

      March 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Yes, and he would be opposed to the inheritance tax, lower the tax on capital gains, and make the three-martini lunch fully deductible.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  14. gerald

    Interesting how so many liberals like to do so much broad brushing on this thread showing their hatred and prejudice of those who do not think like them.

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

      i think you have that backwards......that's why you are funny.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  15. MJ

    Jesus would not approve of the health care plan because this plan provides for a panel of government officials to decide who gets treatment and who doesn't. It would mean the ending of one's life, not in accordance with God's plan, but on the government's plan. Waiting to get treatment for months and months could mean death to many, including the young.
    Please do not bring Jesus into this equation. It is just another method of attemepting to make the government look like our saviour and, believe me, it is not.

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

      Now it just's just up to the insurance company if they are going to pay for something or not. My son-in-law need surgery on his knee, his company said NO..... You just have to walk with a cane.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Where do you get this stuff?????

      March 31, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  16. Bill

    What about unicorns? Has anyone considered their position on universal health care coverage?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Mike Strasser

      Good point Bill.
      I think the Amurkin Publik has a right to know

      March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  17. suckit

    lslolololol

    March 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  18. Mike Strasser

    Ok. I didn't even bother reading this article. But, c'mon !!! Jesus IS Magic. You can make him say anything you want.
    That's why he's on your side when you want to kill me
    and on my side when I want to kill you.
    JESUS IS MAGIC
    It's all so crazy wonderful, ain't it?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  19. Ben

    Bottom line is it's not the governments role to make people make the right choice its there to protect us from one another and to keep the peace and law, if we want to help people you and me have to do it. This is why I give my time and money towards helping other less fortunate.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • George Johnson

      Ben,

      You are so right!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  20. GreedOverPeople

    Repubs, tea baggers and your trailer trash supports go out and get health insurance and stop freeloading the taxpayers. I don't want to pay for your hospital fee when you walk into the ER complaining of chest pain b/c you don't have health insurance. You need to be responsible and take a proactive approach with your health. You're hurting your health and the economy morons.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:09 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.