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. Mojo Jack

    If Jesus was who they say he was then it wouldn't make much sense that he would be on the same side as the liberal bashers.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  2. GAW

    (Sarcasm Intended) Come on folks we all know that Jesus is a Republican! He would say " No insurance? " Too bad! Just give me your 10 percent every Sunday I need it badly.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  3. Joe Sixpack

    Jesus would want the faithful to die faster so they can all be with him in heaven.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • GAW

      That's the Republican – Evangelical health plan. Plus most hurch people shoot their wounded too. That's plan B.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  4. explorer

    Jesus was an illiterate carpenter about whom great myths have arisen. We stare at Middle-Age paintings of "Jesus" as if they were real. Asking what Jesus would do is meaningless. Asking what WE should do in our society, brought to its knees by policies based on these myths, is the real question.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Elmo

      Jesus said, "I disclose my mysteries to those [who are worthy] of [my] mysteries.

      Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."

      March 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  5. She's

    Would Mohammed.?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • exit 7A

      Heavy-weight champion in the 60's and 70's

      March 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  6. Veronica13

    This is so stupid. It's not like government run health care isn't already working in other countries. The people in those countries are healthier and live longer.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Joe Sixpack

      We're a capitalist country and that means that everyone should die young and poor.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • GAW

      Joe Sixpack Give that man a PBR

      March 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  7. jackenstien

    Jesus answered Pilate: "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36)

    March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  8. LisaM

    What a RIDICULOUS article! How absurd to assume ALL people have a belief and what does he have to do with health care?
    This is by far the STUPIDEST article I have seen.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  9. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    According to scripture, Jesus was a healer of the sick and lame. But this has nothing to do with Jesus. This is politics. Why is every aspect of religion being politicized ? Has the concept of the seperation of church and state been completely forgotten. Religion has no business being involved in this, just as they have no business trying to use leverage in elections. If they want to be involved in politics, let them pay taxes like the rest of us. The only reaction I could see Jesus having to all this, is him saying, " Oh ye hypocrites. "

    March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |


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

    Jesus would have made it free. In the GOP mind the mother can't abort the baby, but she can die from lack of proper healthcare.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  12. organically

    Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to save millions of lives, but this is being prevented by religious radicals and therefore religion is detrimental to the preservation of life. Religion has been the greatest cause of war and conflict throughout human history and has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people throughout history and is therefore detrimental to life.

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

      Agree with you. Religion has NO PLACE in medical care, unless the individual makes that decision. Keep religion out of politics/laws etc.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Veronica13

      You are wrong and a tiny bit of research would lead you to the truth about stem cells and secular wars.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  13. Michael

    Jesus gave everyone free health care. So, I find it highly ironic that the most religious GOP'ers strongly oppose this bill.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • For the 1%

      Jesus was a commie

      March 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  14. clee

    He will unravel everything that has been done.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  15. RaKA

    CNN doesnt care what Jesus would do. Nor do they care to eradicate racism. These articles are to evaluate their audience so they can best determine how to promote their agendas. This is an old marketing tackyic.

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

      Spoken like a GOP'er. Don't confuse them with the facts. Hey lets blame the article for people dying from lack of healthcare, nice try.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • exit 7A

      I disagree with you Mike, it's not spoken like a GOPer, but a fellow conspiracy theorist.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  16. christiem8

    Jesus WAS health care reform. He was the healer and he didn't charge. 🙂
    There are MANY hospitals supported by main stream churches that take care of those who cannot pay.
    The one thing that bothers me is that they say if you don't have insurance, you don't pay your bills. This is not true.
    Those without insurance PAY REAL MONEY for services. They get care, but they may have to forgo something they cannot afford. They should have that choice!
    If you don't want cancer treatment, which is what is SO COSTLY.... you shouldn't have to have it.
    If you want to use alternative doctors for your care, you should be able to!

    Many of the people who are bankrupting the system HAVE insurance! They don't have 100 percent coverage and they are getting care because that little insurance card says they can. But then, they can't pay their share.

    Churches need to take care of their own. I would be ALL FOR a member church having their OWN insurance pool and doctors. But for the gov't. to DICTATE that everybody should buy from somebody they choose? No way!

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

      Nice idea but probably wont happen here in the US for a long time. Mega-churches in particular need the money to keep up with their mega budgets.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  17. Rudeboy

    My Jesus didn't suffer and die on band-aids.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  18. GreedOverPeople

    Repubs loves complaining about healthcare system, but have no alternative solution of their own. The party of NO!

    March 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  19. eric

    Why are we still trying to make decisions based on what someone from the time of Augustus MIGHT have believed?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Veronica13

      Because He is God.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  20. Daniel6

    I find it funny that the anti-religious progressive media NOW invokes Jesus--? desearate??

    March 31, 2012 at 1:15 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.