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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. hopper

    Sloppy article that mistakenly regurgitates right-wing talking points as fact. The government will not be doing the healing. Doctors will be doing the healing. The government will only be deciding issues of access and payment.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • weaselboy77

      Amen Hopper. That's the most inane and off-putting question I have seen on here... lately. All they are doing is cutting bait for diviseness and argument among readers. CNN needs to burn to the ground.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  2. ELH

    Jesus has no place in the current discussions regarding health care, mandatory or otherwise. This country is on a course of self-destruction driven by the aristocracy and the ultra-conservative right wingnuts, all of whom would be more than happy to live under a plutocracy with strong theocratic tendencies.

    If we do not stop this idiot clamor about private healthcare as being the best in the world and put in place a government supervised universal health care system, the US will crumble and decay within the next 50 years. By then, even the aristocrats will be afraid, as all the economic slave labor upon which they depend will have perished.

    We live today in a toxic soup which is concocted by pouring vast amounts of money onto politicians then seasoning with a large helping partisanship all the while stirring in plenty of class and ethnic divisiveness. The stench of this stew has seeped into every corner of our lives and its slime has stained our very souls.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • SDH

      Actually, anyone who preaches compassion, fairness, love of the poor and powerless, and general acceptance of those who are different... as Jesus did... they belong in this discussion. Especially if their words are twisted to mean things like "there is always be poor (so I can ignore them)" or "healthcare is slavery (because I want to keep the money for myself".

      March 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  3. RegularDude, south bay, ca

    If the headline was "would Mohammed support Heath care?"
    There world protest and violence.

    Why envoke Jesus? C N N would never say anything about Islam.
    C N N is anti-Christian and pro Islam

    We need to take the MSM garbage to the dump
    Do not believe the liberal media

    March 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • jw567

      What would Time Tebow support ? That's what people should be talking about.. would Tim support health care reform ? Would he go to a hospital if he broke his knee ? Or would he just do a 'Tebow stance' for his knee to heal ??

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

      mentioning Mohammed does not incite protest. Sometimes insulting him, does however...

      March 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Faithful

      Respect to you, RegularDude for an excellent comment.

      CNN are using Christianity to divide the electorate and to promoting the idea that the Church is against women. And that is poor journalism; grossly unjust AND proves without a doubt that CNN is Obama's number one campaign manager!

      One thing I believe with absolute certainty – Jesus would NEVER support a health system that advocated, supported and encouraged abortion.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  4. galileo

    Jesus would have never supported the conservative of our day. He would support a healthcare plan that helps the sick and the poor. The conservatives of his day Crucified him. As a country we have the highest infant mortality rate in ALL the developed countries. Why is that? Because our poor do not have healthcare. No other reason. We can ban abortion, restrict access to birth control but we cannot help the babies live past one year old. How do you define a christian. Talk about an oxymoron Christian Conservatives. My dog will get into heaven long before any of you...

    March 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Tom

      The " poor" have kids as a paycheck, are on welfare and refuse to better themselves or accept any responsibility for their actions. There s a difference between can't afford and refuse to buy and make so eone else pay dor it.

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

      I know quite a few people on "welfare" or receiving "unemployment'. It puts food on their tables – but they still have to be responsible... in fact, I suspect that if you don't have the power to give someone some opportunity to grow and learn, then you either have gutted the educational system and load up your bank accounts, or you have abdicated your power to someone who does. Why don't you stop bullying the LEAST capable and start putting pressure on the MOST capable of actually making a change... and don't tell me there is no margin for investment, job creation, or wage increase – that would simply be a LIE (which, is in fact, a sin).

      March 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  5. Sumballo

    It seems that CNN should admit it doesn't know much about Jesus nor handle well topics concerning him.

    Jesus had direct access to 100% healing 24/7/365 at no cost, no co-pays, no forms and yet he did not heal all the sick. He did heal many.

    The reason I believe is because Jesus' purpose on earth was to restore relationship between man and God.

    We seen clearly in scripture that His love is not expressed by giving people resources or eliminating day to day problems or health problems from their life. He had compassion on those suffering. He stated that we would always have the poor. He allowed the Apostles to suffer all types of physical maladies and sicknesses.

    Mistakenly there is a notion in our culture that no one should experience suffering or hardship. And those who do not agree are uncompassionate. The truth is that the best sometimes comes from our struggles; that people do better by passing through hardship.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • galileo

      You sound like someone who has never been poor, sick or experienced hardship. Have fun at the pearly gates when your told to go away..

      March 31, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Faithful

      galileo – there you go – making judgements and presuming you know all there is to know about a man you've never met on the basis of a general and thoughtful comment!
      What arrogance, to tell him he'll be turned away from Heaven. Be careful – "Judge not, as you shall be judged"

      March 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  6. Time Warner Inc.

    Who filed this under news?

    This article was meant for the tabloids John!

    My vacation ends tomorrow, just wait until I get back, I always knew this "belief blog" thing was a terrible idea. I'm shutting the whole thing down. Consider this the last ride of the unicorn.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  7. Bob

    Okay, let's make a list of all the problems mankind has encountered that God has solved. Ready................I'm waiting............

    March 31, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  8. Mike - WA

    Of course the true Jesus of true Christianity would support health care. But the distortion created and workshipped by today's fake Evangelical Christianity is nothing more than a "god for profit". That god supports selfishness, greed, corruption - anything that makes money. What you see in the U.S. today is not true Christianity. Do not be fooled by it.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Jon

      When you think of it like that, it's a little strange right. Considering true Christianity came from the middle east, doesn't it seem strange that almost no one in the middle east cares about Jesus or believes him to be a Messiah. Funny how the passage of time changes history.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • galileo

      AMEN

      March 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Assumption at its finest

      Who was the TRUE jesus? What is the TRUE christianity?

      All you have is 2-5000 year old hearsay and collected stories.

      We should deal in truth and reason exclusively. Sadly for you, neither can exists without proof.

      Whether it is crazy US evangelicals or other christians around the world, none of you can meet the burden of proof.

      Stop living in augmented reality, and start living rationally.

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

      The TRUE Jesus made it quite clear – "Love one another as I have loved you." "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me" "Love your neighbour as yourself" "If anyone harms a child, it would be better if he had been thrown into the millpond with the millstone around his neck" "Let he little ones come to me for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven"

      He would NOT, however, based on his own words have supported a Healthcare that advocated, supported and carried out abortions.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  9. Jim

    What would Jesus choose ? Blue Cross or Aetna ?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Sarah

      Would Jesus support cholesterol-lowering medications or simple home remedies ? Would he support Atkins ??

      March 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  10. trahart

    Well, I think that we know for certain that churches and non-profits are not going to solve the problem. The Church, in particular has been around a rather long time and there is no universal health care in America. Let's take a survey of sick people and see who they think would solve the problem. I would bet that they would vote for government. The trouble with big government is that it just often does not work very well, not that it is big. And it does not work well because there are people who benefit from it not working well. Solve that problem and the hunger and health care issues will be quite manageable by the government. This would involve campaign finance reform and the end of lobbyists.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Bill55

      Big government would win that argument, especially if you compare it to no health care at all. 40 million will go back to no health care at all if Scalia et al kills it all. Quite sad for a country once boasting to be the (formerly) most powerful country. Sheeple wake up. Turn off the propaganda machines. Just a thought from your richer, healthier friends north of the 49th.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • charles

      Great point. How many people has Jesus gotten into a private health care plan? I think the answer is 0.
      One key point is true, however, capitalism is a direct contrast to Christianity. The two simply cannot exist symbiotically.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  11. Lori

    Only if it helped Republicans and Libertarians.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  12. rdeleys

    Maybe one way to sell this to Republicans is to argue that this plan will ensure the availability of healthy recruits to fight their next war.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  13. .

    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.

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    March 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Lori

      He might?

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

    All forms of religion are voluntary. Government is not.

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

    David of the poconos hits it right on the head. Personal responsibility is the key word here. A comment about CNN...pathetic. Now we have 50 million citizen who can't afford insurance, really? Wasn't that number 30 million just a few days ago? You have no right calling yourselves a news organization, you are sensationalists with only one goal, which is to increase viewership...actual news be damned.

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

    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.

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    March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  17. John

    What is difference between Harry potter and holy bible?

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

      nothing!!!!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  18. .

    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.

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    March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  19. Birth Control & Abortion: A Mormon’s Perspective

    Please refer to this link for one Mormon's Perspective on this topic: http://www.mormonperspectives.com/2012/03/31/birth-control-abortion-a-mormons-perspective/

    March 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  20. .

    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.

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    March 31, 2012 at 1:39 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.