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. seyedibar

    I wonder what Paul Bunyan thinks of health care reform? Where does Pecos Bill stand?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  2. Lori

    Educate them and feed them better.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  3. James

    "He was a healer, a provider of universal health care, a man of compassion who treated those with preexisting medical conditions." A quote from the above article. Jesus did heal, but to say that He was a provider of universal "health care" is really stretching the issue. And to attempt to turn a Christian belief into a pro-Obamacare statement really smacks of irresponsible journalism. When anyone speaks or writes about Jesus the issue should be faith. Sadly, the church in the world today speaks more of abundance than faith or grace. And the media (liberal or conservative) will do just about anything to ridicule the church today. Frankly, I doubt very seriously if Jesus would attend any church in the US. Instead, I believe we would find Jesus under the overpasses where homeless people live and in soup kitchens where the hungry go to find something to eat. And the healthcare issue is nothing more than a smokescreen. I believe God (through His Son Jesus) expects humanity to care for one another. What about the issue of "care" as opposed to healthcare? Just how many people really care about their neighbors? That's the issue–and where the true issue lives. Just how much do we care about one another.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  4. martog

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian

    March 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm |


      March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • GP


      March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Sowhat

      martog – I saved this excellent list to my computer – thank you my friend.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  5. aaron

    oh please, jesus would not even think twice about providing health care for people who needed it. and really, if you want healthcare costs to go down, then start being healthy. you know, that economic creed of supply and demand? much demand, much cost. simple. get off your fat butt and stop being wasteful!! problem solved.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  6. Charles

    They would throw Jesus in jail for reading from the bible in today`s society.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Jesus C

      Throw me in jail? They'd call me a blasphemer and crucify me all over again. I wouldn't come back to the world again for all the tea in China, which I of course, created.

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

    When did the left start caring about religion anyway...most of them are agnostics or atheists anyway...the only time they invoke Jesus' name is when they invoke it in vain against the commandment, "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain".

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

      This is yet another article that parallels broacast CNN's habit of reporting something that isn't "news."

      No wonder other media outlets are eating their lunch in viewership and marketshar.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-A-Preacher

      To them religion is a tool. The call out or twisting of doctrine that makes the believers seem hypocritical works; because the believers tends to be shamed into silence and give a pass to the bullies. It's not that they care to comply with religious doctrine, it's that they can use it to manipulate people.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-A-Preacher

      It's intended to be a derisive and divisive article.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • JMD

      That is pure prejudice in action, liberals are not mostly atheists! That's just a typlical way that conservatives demonize liberals so they can feel like God is only on their side. I wish that I could hear a conservative actually talk about real facts instead of just talking about rumors they know about liberals. I have known a lot of liberals in my life and none of them were atheists.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  8. Bob

    Jesus: "Give to the poor".

    Obama: "Give what your neighbor has to the poor."

    March 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Republicans: Let's make everyone except the top 1% poor.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Marvin

      I would like to take the ability of sinayg thanks to you for your professional suggestions I have constantly enjoyed viewing your site The Unanswered Question Hope Lutheran Church I will be looking forward to the particular commencement of my school research and the whole planning would never have been complete without coming to your blog. If I could be of any assistance to others, I'd personally be delighted to help through what I have gained from here.

      June 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  9. Honestly

    Please remove the belief blog, this question is one of many which insult proven modern methods to dealing with problems.

    An acceptable alternative would be to create a reason blog for rational human beings to hold meaningful discussion, and allow those who live in a fantasy world to remain in their sandbox with jesus.

    I used to be of the opinion that CNN wasn't biased, that was until the creation of the religion blog, without it's rational counterpart. Our voice will be heard by all, our numbers grow every day, reason cannot be defeated by unicorns, glitter, and stories which always have happy endings. Grow up and begin dealing with real issues with real solutions. Norman Rockwell is dead, along with his vision of pure white christian America that you all cling to.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • meemee

      CNN has always been biased, but you didn't notice it because their biases likely matched yours. I do agree with you concerning the bias of the Belief blog, however.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

      You are not me, and I am HONESTLY!
      you and meemee are racist trolls!
      Can't you be original enough to come up with your own name, instead pretending to be someone you are not!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm |

      The great thing about my god. Is even if you dont believe in my god, you are bound by his laws, regardless if you want to believe me or not. You simply have no choice. And there is no man written bible god that can change that. Have all the faith you want In any pegan, you must still abide by my gods rules!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  10. Pat Lundgren

    Jesus supports anything good and that helps others , the reason we have Doctors, nurses ect his his gifts he gave, he would never want a person to not receive healthcare due to money, we took God out of healthcare just like everything else
    Matthew 6:31-33
    “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • glades2

      Yes, that is truth – but as a patient for the first time last year I can tell you that it was totally disheartening to learn that most doctors now treat their patients as - customers - apparently they forget that people go to them because they are suffering...

      March 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  11. RichS

    This question asked of a nation who is PC, does not want God in it;'s schools or any of it's conversation? Rediculous!
    Much of Biblical healing had to do with SIN.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  12. glades2

    ...sorry for the double post...

    March 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  13. tbreeden

    If Jesus was for real, would we even need health care?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  14. glades2

    The Bible teaches us that Jesus not does not want Wall Street investors getting rich through the suffering of others (a/k/a drug company stocks) – how many people suffer physically or even die from drugs that should have never been approved for use – but instead are dispensed – to the joy of investors – only to have patients suffer as a result. Blood money is the outcome, and the Bible teaches us that this is offensive to God because He knows how every penny is earned...

    March 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"Wall Street investors getting rich through the suffering of others"

      Question, what about the private sector and muncipal pension plans of many in society which are invested in Wall Street. Do you count those in your "getting rich" example?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  15. TomCom

    Bottom line, we need a national healthcare plan. Maybe a national sales tax is needed to pay for it. when you consider the goverment is already paying for Medicaid, Medicare, goverment employees insurance plan, the military and families that's
    most likely 70% of americans there.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Slavi

      obviously there aren't any since there isn't even the smallest scrap of edveince he or any of his followers existed, the gospels were written 120 years later by unknown people in greek so it's difficult to see where they got all the stories from , even nazareth didn't exist until 79AD but greek writers would not have known that

      June 26, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  16. Johnnie

    Christians who profess "In God we Trust" are facing a huge challenge of their faith at these seductive period of history. Many would proclaim Jesus, but few would stand still to obey and know that he is God. The mark of the beast is identifying and marking his followers and only those who have spiritual eyes and ears would know and resist.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  17. Goat

    Easter bunny ? Why?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  18. glades2

    The Bible teaches us that Jesus not does not want is Wall Street investors getting rich through the suffering of others (a/k/a drug company stocks) – how many people suffer physically or even die from drugs that should have never been approved for use – but instead are dispensed – to the joy of investors – only to have patients suffer as a result. Blood money is the outcome, and the Bible teaches us that this is offensive to God because He knows how every penny is earned...

    March 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • rdeleys

      AND, how many people die because drugs that are available are never developed because there's no money in it.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  19. abdc1

    Well,#1 Everyone now pays into Medicare whether thy want to or not .Think for one min. Will they go broke ? we all pay into Soc?Sec and will we go broke. That was decided by congrees ! So if it not legal for the healthcare ,should it be legal for SOC/SEC ? And to top it off ,when the poor go to the hospital for anything ,Who should pay ? And who are the ones complaining to stop this Healthcare bill ? the vast majorty that complain are the ones that will pay for those that can not pay .The real question about the bill is will Congrees going to Rob it like SOC /SEC ? thats the real Question

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

    FYI: There is no government run healthcare other than veterans benefits unless you count medicare and medicaid. "Obamacare" is not either of these. Saying the government is going to take over healthcare is a lie people who dislike Obama are constantly pushing. Look it up on White House.gov: " one independent group even called this myth the “lie of the year.” The Affordable Care Act puts people, not health insurance companies or government, in charge of health care. The new law strengthens the existing employer-based health insurance market while making the market fair for consumers by implementing landmark consumer protections. Families and individuals that don't have access to affordable coverage can receive tax credits to help them purchase coverage in the private health insurance market. There is no government-sponsored, public, or "single payer" plan in the law". And Jesus also talked about the letter of the law vs. the spirit. All of you people who don't want to assist those less fortunate by utilizing healthcare reform are basically saying we should let others help the poor. I will bet none of you would sponsor someone with chronic or life-threatening conditions. Try paying a thousand dollars for a drug for rheumatoid arthritis when you have no insurance and no medicare. How about $250 for some drugs to assist with mental illness? Cancer? A hospital bill? (By the way, you are paying for that anyway.... if Obamacare was kept, everyone would have the insurance to cover it). The issue here is that we are allowing people to die because they are poor or cannot earn enough to buy insurance. Seriously, how can any Christian refuse to want to help others? NONE of us can afford these kinds of bills and the only way to help them all is through this bill. Frighteningly, Mitt got it right and now is the biggest hypocrite out there. How could it work in one state and not the nation? Because they are too busy giving away our money to corporations and extremely rich people. Maybe one day they will be the only ones who have healthcare (oh, and the government).

    March 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Mike

      Truth and facts two things the GOP hate, but one thing they love, is to kill. War, lack of health care, kill the economy with their policies. Either way Die.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:24 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.