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. SDH

    Since when is Jesus a "Savior of Convenience". Those who twist the teaching of Jesus to serve their political interests or their own personal opinions to pass judgment on others and set themselves "above" or "apart" – be it justifying wealth in the name of "freedom" (which shames so many of their supporters) or justifying a lack of charity in the name of "tough love" – they are no different than the Pharisees and hypocrites of the same order. Jesus would loathe what is done in his name – and considering we NEVER hear the word "LOVE" and what that means... well I'm done. No more GOP support for me.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  2. Rick

    In a perfect world....faith is the answer but....how do you know what is God's hand....it reminds me of the joke....a drowning man....a canoe...a speedboat...a helicopter...he drowns...in heaven asks God...why didn't you save me....I sent a canoe, speed boat....How do we know that God is intending...universal health care and not letting business decide??

    It's interesting to see how people will find their own truth, dig in their heals and be blind to any other idea...What would Jesus do is an interesting question...I consider my self a Christian and a spiritualist.....because I believe it's just not as black and white as one religion or another thinks.....there is way more grey area....but a fundamental truths that are a good rule to live life by, wether you are christian or not....treat others the way you want to be treated...do unto others....I am my brothers keeper....all apply. It's funny how people will mistrust Government and yet put all there faith in Insurance companies and Pharmaceutical companies who primary goal is profit....really? As long as money and the pursuit of material wealth is the basis of our society, neither government or business can be truly trusted to do the right thing.....so it becomes a choice of which is worse....

    March 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  3. Matt

    Why is the conversation always about the uninsured–as if many of those with some form of insurance have it much better. A lot of companies provide insurance that is basically junk. Heaven forbid you get cancer or have a long-term medical condition; here comes the fleet of Harvard lawyers to exercise the million fine print clauses. The health system in this country isn't a system so much as a mob scam, but with less integrity and transparency.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  4. .

    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 1:39 pm |
    • SDH

      He'd still love the mother, though... think he might not like that crushing boot on the neck of the teenage girl thing either...

      March 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  5. edwardo

    Jesus loves the cheerful giver. 'nuf said!

    March 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  6. Birth Control & Abortion: A Mormon’s Perspective

    Please refer to the link below for what one Mormon thinks about this topic.


    March 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • edwardo

      Don't care what mormon's think...or any other religion. Depriving your fellow human beings of medical assistance, is just plain selfish, and wicked.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  7. Stephen Johnson

    Jesus Commanded to feed his sheep. In as much as ye do it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me. The government is not working for salvation we are. It is our responsibility to care for the poor and the needy not the government and it will be counted unto us for rightousness.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • edwardo

      Great! Can I send you my Dr. bills ??

      March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  8. .

    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 1:38 pm |
    • edwardo

      Please! He doesn't care about little babies. He used to drown them in great floods. Kill the first born, if no lambs blood on the door step. He even sent in a bunch of bears to kill 40 children who were teasing a prophet about his bald head. He doesn't give a crapola about babies!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  9. Honestly

    I'm honestly embarrassed that a news agency would post an article like this and call it news.

    The correct category for things dealing with ancient man will henceforth be known as "olds" and "history"

    Moderator please respond accordingly. Pastor, please seek employment in a library, the only place where the bible, torah, quran, and other ancient works of fiction belong. Modern man no longer has use of fairy tales and unicorns, we prefer proof.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  10. tony

    Jesus's teachings and US Evangelical Christians behaviors are almost opposites.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  11. jj

    How about how do real living human beings think and feel about it today?
    A discussion based in rationality would surely be more productive.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  12. Joe Sixpack

    Religious wackos should go start their own country in the Mid East with all the other nut jobs. They'd fit right in over there.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  13. nigray

    Whenever I see god or jesus referenced in an article that is not overtly religious and advertised as such, my eyes glaze over. I don't believe in god and don't give a crap what jesus would do.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • MandoZink

      I got that same twinge when I saw the headline. It seems no different than "What would Batman do?" or "What would Daffy Duck do?" or "What would Paul Bunyan do?"

      Even those that believe in that one particular god, Jesus, cannot agree on an answer. It is so unbelievably irrelevant as a question.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  14. svann

    Jesus never said anything about how Caesar should run his government.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • akita96th

      Its all about keeping insurance companies in power over us..in order for them to keep making huge profits so they can buy politicians to keep the status quo...

      March 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  15. Buford

    Today's "neo-Christians" are actually supporting evolutionary theory by demonstrating the truth of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Jesus said it would be harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle. What did he mean by rich man? To most of the people on Earth, Americans are the rich people. Something to ponder neo-Christians of the extreme right wing.

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

      The eye of a needle is referring to small gate where camels would have to get down on their knees to pass through, not a needle as we know it today.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  16. Goat

    December 21, 2012 looks real. Many gods in different countries predict the world will end in december 21 2012 with great earthquakes.

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

      Would you mind planing a transfer of your estate to me on the 22nd then?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Joe Sixpack

      So give me all your money and I'll look after your pets when you called into heaven.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  17. EGB2

    Of course he would have supported health care, and in helping the least able of our brothers we'd be serving Christ. I'm sure pseudo-Christians can rationalize away the parable of the wealthy man and the beggar and other Christian teachings, to protect their wallets, but they'll find it harder to fool Christ.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  18. Rick

    We are forced to pay for a war, but heaven forbid that we have to help each other out to stay healthy.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bill dmuchowski

      It amazes me that many on the left cry out about separation of church and state when arguing against prayer in school or the words in god we trust on money. Yet these same hypocrites invoke the name of Jesus when arguing for government intrusion when it comes to health care. This whole mandate is nothing more than obamas grand scheme of wealth redistribution. Sure, the poor will have to buy health care, but their premiums will br refunded by tax credits. Who pays for those tax credits? People who work, whose premiums are paid for by themselves and their companies, and the taxes they pay. As per the IRS, 71% of all taxpayers take more out of the federal tax system than they pay. Look or that number to go up.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  19. Blame Bush

    Jesus would be disgusted that we don't have health care for all Americans.

    Jesus would be FURIOUS with our GOP and insurance firms....the modern day version of money changers in the temple whose only intent is to fatten themselves off the pain of others while denying millions of people the dignity of good health.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  20. Jesus Christ

    Let's face it folks: I'm not real!!!! Enough with the fairy tales. Take your own life more seriously and stop believing in hocus pocus.

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

      LMFAO....Awesome, jesus I always knew you weren't real.
      Its amazing how some parents scold their kids for having imaginary friend, when they themselves talk you their imaginary friend. FAIL

      March 31, 2012 at 1:42 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.