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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. TG

    When Jesus was on the earth, he was totally involved in the "commission" given him by his Father, Jehovah God.(John 7:29) And what was that ? To act as a "healer" or promote healthcare ? After having healed "people sick with various diseases", and cast out demons, he then said to his apostles: "Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.”(Luke 4:40, 41, 43)

    Hence, Jesus was not sent forth by his Father as a "healer" nor was his intent to establish some form of "healthcare", but his healings were momentary, for those healed got sick again and eventually died. Instead, he directed people's attention to God's kingdom and of which the healings provided a foregleam of what he will do under his rulership as king of God's kingdom in the near future, when at that time: "And no resident will say: “I am sick.” The people that are dwelling in [the land] will be those pardoned for their error."(Isa 33:24; Isa 25:6-8)

    Jesus further said: "My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say that there are yet four months before the harvest comes? Look! I say to you: Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting. Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathering fruit for everlasting life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. In this respect, indeed, the saying is true, One is the sower and another the reaper. I dispatched you to reap what you have spent no labor on. Others have labored, and you have entered into the benefit of their labor.”(John 4:34-38)

    Jesus thus was assigned by God, a work of preaching about "the kingdom of God"(Matt 24:14), a heavenly government that God designed immediately after Adam's rebellion in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15) and built, becoming operational in 1914, at which time began the "last days" (2 Tim 3:1) of this wicked "system of things."( which is also called Jesus [invisible] "promised presence", not "coming" at 2 Pet. 3:3, 4)

    March 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • richk

      You are a fool (GULLIBLE: 10:3)

      March 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Chris

      TG

      It's people like you that scare the hell out of me!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  2. BobC

    What would Jesus do? Jesus would weep.

    The idea that private organizations will provide for the poor and disenfranchised if government would just get out of the way is utter bull.

    Where ARE these private organizations? There are 50 million people needing health insurance. Quit blaming government and step up to the plate. Show me that you can back up your words. Talk is cheap. Get busy and help those 50 million people. Or is it easier to rant and froth about government overreach?

    When in all of human history have the poor and disenfranchised been adequately served by private organizations?

    Yes. Jesus would weep because those that would subsume His name into their ideologies only use that name as a cloak to hide their own hypocrisy,

    March 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Jesus

      Thank you. I couldn't have said it better.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • crazyinthestix

      Perfectly said!

      March 31, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  3. richk

    "Would Jesus support health care reform?"

    Wow CNN, you have officially become the biggest troll on in the "news" industry

    March 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Robert (Atlanta)

      This section is called the "Belief Blog". If you don't like it, don't come here and don't read it. Troll somewhere else.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  4. Honestly

    Wake up people!

    jesus died a long time ago, while the rest of the world continued to build society into what it is, without him.

    Oh but you say he is still with you... Do you hear him? Yes, but only in your head.

    Do you realize that the modern world already has a term for those who hear voices? Insanity.

    Do you realize that the modern world already has terms for those who believe things on command without proof? Gullible and Children.

    I hope the insane gullible children enjoy this debate. The rational members of society will solve the problem with reasoning and discussion, just like we always have.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • richk

      No one is "rational" anymore, including you.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  5. David of the Poconos

    It has nothing to do with Jesus. IT has to do with you. People need to stop asking themselves "What would Jesus Do" and learn how to make sound decisions on thier own accord. When Car insurance laws were introduced in the 1920's we probably saw the same exact issue. But the problem is, with technological advances in both the automobile industry and medicine, more lives are being saved. If you got into the same car wreck today back in the 1980's, you wouldn't be around. How does this all fit together? Make health insurance mandatory and make people more responsible for what they do to themselves. It's a sad day when most people treat their cars better than their bodies.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  6. Chris

    Are you kidding me CNN? Seriously?

    We are in the 21st century! Let's ask questions from this perspective than referencing what would mythical deities do!

    March 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  7. JIm

    I am getting sick of seeing these religious articles on the front page of this news site. If I see many more of them, I may seriously reduce my reliance on CNN as a news site. This is not news in any way shape or form. When i come to CNN.com I want to see news stories, not what Confucius, Jesus, Gandi or any other human who has been dead for 100's of 1000's of years might think of what is going on in todays world. I just want to see news in a good easy to read fashion.

    This is not news, and should not be on the front page of any news site.

    Jim

    March 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Chris

      Well said Jim!

      We all need to start standing up against nonsense! This is unacceptable!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Robert (Atlanta)

      You didn't have to click on the article, now did you? And yet you did...and took the time to leave a whiny comment...what does that say?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Chris

      Robert

      This crap is in our faces everyday! Enough already!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Robert (Atlanta)

      Chris

      Nobody made you or anyone else read this article. Ya'll freely chose to click on the link, read the article, and leave comments (you've left two now). Like anything else on the internet – if you don't like it, don't bother with it. Otherwise, troll somewhere else. Nothing about this article or the Belief Blog in general is "in your face" – you chose that so quit whining to CNN.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  8. JeffinIL

    How's that faith-based health care been working for us?

    Oh, yeah, there isn't any.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  9. Lori

    Who cares what Jesus would have done. The silly myth of Jesus, God and religion. Wake up and educate people better to overcome poor health and their silly reliance on religion. Simple as that.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  10. W.G.

    I think Jesus is Pro healthcare . He is against abortion but still loves women that have had an abortion . I also think he wouldn´t approve of the stinginess of republicans and the way the rich get tax breaks off of the backs of the poor and middle class .
    BUT ! That´s just my opinion .

    March 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  11. Brock

    I believe that Santa Claus would do a better job than Jesus.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  12. r\Rennie Foz

    Jesus would want everyone to have free healthcare but he might not like that crushing of babies skulls and sucking them out of the womb thing.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  13. truth

    Christ is our healer. America, turn back to
    God....and there will be no need for health care or reform of it.

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

      Yes just pray the cancer away. Works all the time.

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

      OMG!

      How long can people stay ignorant?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Jesus

      Look, I'm not taking the fall for these nut jobs, I never said 'stop using your brain". They're on their own.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  14. Gregory Faith

    What a stupid question about Jesus and what would he do. Find another job you idiot!!! That's not journalism.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  15. ☺GOP Sheeple don't have a clue what "Obamacare " is☺

    I work in healthcare and get tired of the GOP using this as a cliche. People throw around the term "ObamaCare" and don't take the time to investigate the FACTS such as:
    1. Insurance adds 10-20% to the healthcare bottom line
    2. Single payer versus "fee for services" means that MDs won't try to overcharge patients. Healthcare SHOULDNT be a biz.
    3. The US pays more money and gets worse results than any industrialized country in the world – we are rated #37
    4. "Obamacare" stopped insurance companies from dropping those with pre-existing conditions
    5. "Obamacare" introduced the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) which (for once) monitored outcomes
    6. "Obamacare" allowed keeping your kids on your insurance (which you pay for) until they're 26
    But today – We still cannot purchase prescriptions on-line from Canada (where many of our drugs are made) to save $
    The Supreme Court even admitted that a mandate would really be a tax.. but would ultimately be cheaper and provide better service just as our taxes pay for police, fire and the military...speaking of...1 yr of war costs more than providing healthcare for every person in the US

    March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  16. Tom Riley

    No, Jesus would NOT support this healthcare law. Yes, he was a proponent of helping all who need it and constant giving. The clear distinction is that he did it out of the good of his own heart, which is what we are supposed to do. He never advocated forcing individuals to help others against their own free will. If the government forces someone to be moral, then its not really moral. All of the good behind the transaction is stripped away, and it does nothing to show that our society is better. Requiring someone to give assistance with threat of punishment if they refuse is NOT something Jesus advocated, and it really is irritating when liberals try to twist his word into pretzels when they don't even know what he stood for in the first place.

    It is our job as human beings to help out others on our own time, and from our own free will. It is NOT the governments job.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • JeffinIL

      I'm glad that you feel qualified to speak for Jesus. He may be less than enthused...

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

      You fell for it. Took the bait. Couldn't resist, could ya?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Bob

      But Tom,
      doesn't that discribe every law in existance, forceing people to behave in a manner accepted as "moral" should we than allow anyone to do as they please? because its not moral to force morality against ones will

      March 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  17. Jamawani

    Government IS the people.
    What part of "We the People" has the dear reverend forgotten?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  18. mtillerco

    What a joke, for those who trust the market, well, todays over priced healthcare is the perfect example trusting the market. The religious right that don't want healthcare for 30 million more people are total hypocrites.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  19. Jesus

    face palm.

    These folks have perverted religion to the point that it has become a pure farce. And along the way dumbed down the national dialogue to the point that reason and common sense no longer matter.

    I'll take government over religious freaks any day, thank you very much.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • JeffinIL

      Hey, dude, is tomorrow Face Palm Sunday?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  20. Goat

    God created flood, earthquakes, hurricane, etc.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:25 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.