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. me

    Excellent post from Marva at 1:45

    March 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  2. Tom

    So Tom Pritchard has more faith in people and markets. Well the problems in our health care system (and our tax system and in our financial system) have been growing for a hundred years. Can he please tell us when the people and the markets are going to work. They won't because they are being subverted by wealth and power. So the people through their democratically elected representative Government have to make changes. If religious people have a true religious belief system they would support changes to the health care system to solve affordability and universality problems. Otherwise love God and love your neighbor as yourself is one big joke.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • me


      March 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  3. eric calderone

    I believe Jesus would favor providing universal access to basic health care. This belief is based on the respect for human life which pervades Jesus' teachings. The private market system is based on profit; it is not based on compassion for life. Health care is one service which is more compatible with government delivery than it is with market based delivery. While there are many aspects of the ACA which I feel need to be cleaned up, it represents a major advancement in American politick since it is predicated on providing maximum coverage for all citizens, regardless of their income. For this reason, no sincere Christian can intelligently oppose it.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Chris

      Christian and intelligently used in the same sentence?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • debbie

      I am a christian an I oppose it so please speak for yourself. BTW Jesus hates our government system it is pro choice and He is PRO LIFE

      March 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • jerry9997

      Religion is a private matter and should be focused between the believer and his/her faith. They should not stick their nose into politics. If Christians want to caring for other people volunteer time at shelters or adopt unadoptable foster children. Obamacare is socialism intended to steal more money from taxpayers to give even more money to lazy deadbeats who choose not to work or study or be successful.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  4. Jonathan

    normally I like CNN's articles, but this one was sloppy. One of the men interviewed, Carl Raschke, butchered Christ's answer to the Pharisees on Roman taxation. Jesus was not answering about taxation, for or against, but was simply telling the Pharisees who were trying to trap him, respect your government, but know that the government is still under God. Everything belongs to God, even when it looks like it belongs to the government. You cannot draw from this that Christ is against universal health care. A silly argument

    March 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  5. Kris

    Come on, CNN. Can we leave religion out of the news??!! Please report the news. I do NOT care what a 2,000 year old imaginary person thinks of modern things. Leave religion out of it!!

    March 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Jesus of Nazareth is not imaginary. historically, he did exist. The only debatable aspect about him was simply, is he God in human flesh? The first century historian, Josephus wrote about him and expressed "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. (64) And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross [2], those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day [3], as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day. "

      March 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • debbie

      after you die you will care because you will face an Almighty God who will throw you in hell wither you believe it or not..

      March 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  6. Zo

    Its amazing how we argue against something deemed to help our citizens, yet if a gun control bill was up for debate people would be in arms (pun intended) about their right to own guns. We would rather support relaxed laws regarding instruments of hate and murder than a law thats trying to help save lives. Only in America.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  7. GOP RIP

    Jesus: "If the sick can't get a job and contribute to this society and get health insurance from their employer, then something is wrong with them. Let 'em die!!" (That's how today's nutbag conservatives think.)

    March 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm |

    The last words of Jesus were, "Take care of my sheep." You figure it out.

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

      But he wasn't speaking to a politician. He was speaking to one of his disciples and His sheep are the believers.
      Your comment just proves people think they can take any verse out of the Bible and apply it the way it suits them best. It doesn't work that way. You can't even begin to understand Jesus unless you are born again. BTW, it was Jesus Himself who said "You must be born again."

      March 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Truthfully

      And, those were not His last words.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  9. Alvin

    Silly Topic! Jesus support FAITH. In FAITH, He would support a personal relationship with God; with prayer and supernatural healing involved.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • JC in the hot tub!

      Then cancel your health insurance. You clearly don't need it.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  10. S101

    Writing about miracle cures in the gospels was a means to attract followers. So what would Jesus do for
    health care? Offer miracle cures.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  11. Dave

    The question should not be " What would Jesus Do" The question should be " What DID Jesus do". Any knucklehead can judge the philosophy of Jesus. But he actually wrote a book that addresses these questions.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |

      Jesus never wrote any book! Get your facts straight!

      March 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  12. Jesus

    FYI: I'm not coming back (in case you haven'r figured that out already)

    March 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  13. John W

    Why are we even asking what a fictional character would support? Are we asking if Santa Clause or The Easter Bunny or Horus would support universal health care?

    They so totally would, by the way...

    March 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  14. Paul

    Tea Party "Let them all die and let God sort it out!"

    March 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  15. Dale

    What about Mohammad, what would he do? WWMD?

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

      who cares what he would say?????

      March 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  16. mike

    May God have mercy on the Supreme Court justice souls, they are going to need it for those who chose death.

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

      The Suprem Tea Party Court?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • The voice of reason

      You sir are a fool.

      Just like your fantasy loving christian "brothers" and "sisters". All issues are black and white to you, simple minded child.

      No issue in the modern world is black and white, but various shades of grey. Pure evil and pure good are imagined human concepts without examples and without proof.

      Continue repeating the same lines out of your precious book, perhaps one of them will be the password to open your pearly gates.

      The rest of us will continue to think like adults.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  17. Pop

    What is population of Fairy tale believers in USA?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Atheist minority

      You'd be surprised, I'd say from experience >50%...

      I'm over here fighting the good fight, but reason and scientific proof are overshadowed by promises of eternal sunshine and spotless minds...

      March 31, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • general

      too much of the south..coincidentally the same region which has been proven more uneducated than the rest

      March 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • John W

      It's shrinking, hopefully. Let reason reign and leave these bronze age myths to die.

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

      Atheist, stay on topic instead of using the slightest opportunity to lecture on your personal philosophy or act superior. The question is what would Jesus do. That need not have anything to whatsoever do with belief in God.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  18. M.P. G

    No, Jesus can heal himself ...

    March 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  19. Shane

    I sometimes get a bit confused about assuming that "churches and non-profits will step in". Isn't that as about as simplistic as assuming that "government should step in and take care of our needs"? Seems to me that if we elected real statesmen and not just politicians, we could get to work and make our government truly represent the people and solve some actual problems instead of creating them. But you can't just throw it all out and assume that the non-profits will pick up the slack. Common sense would suggest it's going to take a multi-lateral approach to get our health care system up to speed and universal for all our people.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  20. marva

    crazy, you are exactly right ... "Obamacare" is NOT government-run health care. It is merely a means of access to health care INSURANCE for those less fortunate and/or less healthy. Medicare works ... ask the tens of thousands of seniors now participating in the program. Tricare (active/retired military) works ... ask the tens of thousands of our service members participating in the program. Either program has its problems and, sadly, either program falls victim to fraud. But, overall, both programs work. PRIVATE healthcare insurance, however, does not always work ... insurers contract with health care providers and DICTATE to insureds the providers they will utilize – insurers MUST select from a "network". If the insurer and/or provider later terminates the mutual contract, insureds MUST select another provider from a "network". Not necessarily in the best interests of the insureds who have chronic health issues. And, need we discuss how the insurers dictate whether or not we actually NEED the treatment recommended by our physician? "Obamacare" merely creates a federally-run exchange from which everyone can SELECT the coverage which best suits their needs and their budgets – IF those potential insureds need financial assistance, subsidies will be available. Personally, I would prefer that EVERYONE pay SOMETHING towards their health care rather than expect Medicaid (U.S. taxpayers) to pay ALL of their health care costs. Our seniors must pay premiums, co-pays and deductibles and CURRENT working American must pay Medicare premiums for a program from which they reap NO benefits. As for the argument that we should look to our churches ... the BILLIONS spent by organized religion to build exorbitant places of worship (Jesus preached in open fields and I'm confident that God hears MY prayers in the privacy of my home) and the building of health clinics in third world countries would help a lot – but they are not inclined to help those in need HERE! I'd be in favor of government-run health clinics for those in need requiring ALL physicians receiving their medical degrees via taxpayer-funded student loans serve 1-2 years in a local clinic providing health exams, vaccinations, pap smears, prenatal care, etc. ... allowing credits for their service towards paying back their student loans. Upon completion of their "community service" they could go on to private practice.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • jerry9997

      No Obamacare is a socialist medical care system that steals from the peopel with insurance to pay for those without. Adding 50 million new people onto a free system obviously costs money and the only way to get the money is by increasing taxes. Obamacare adds enormous numbers of new people onto Medicaid, another welfare program. Obama has already doubled the nubmer of people on food stamps by increasing the salaries earned so he can get the manimum number of lazy deadbeats on government welfare programs.
      Obamacare is just another. It would add a 1% tax to all home sales, 5% additional taxes to high wage earners (as part of his endless class warfare program), and more taxes.
      I already have paid the maximum dollars into Social Security and Medicare for more than 40 years, and now still pay into both, in addition pay an extra Medicare premium in addition to the normal premium.
      If I saved the Social Security Payroll Tax each year and gave myself a 5% interest rate, after 43 years I would be getting 100K+ in annual interest instead of 25K I now receive. So again, the government continues to steal 75% of my contributions to pay the lazy people that have not contributed. All socialism, and Obamacare is the worst and if not repealed will bankrupt the US.
      Peopel constantly talk about free medical care in Europen countries, but one out of four people in Europe are not on welfare or some assistance program like in the US. The US, starting with Lyndon Johnson and continuing, has turned into a complete welfare state and has no future.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Ron

      You go, Marva! And don't forget that the VA medical care system also works. If you don't believe it, try to abolish it (and see what opposition arises)! Not to say there isn't room for improvement, but we can also say that about just everything there is out there. The VA is a system of pure socialized medicine where the government owns the hospitals, and employs all of the doctors, nurses, techs, and administrative staff. They run it all. And like medicare, it would be just about impossible to do away with it. So who says that any healthcare system with government control or influence is necessarily bad and therefore politically unacceptable? We're required to purchase insurance for other things. You can't drive a car without insurance because the cost of treating accident injuries and damage would be too big of a burden on the public. So we're required to purchase insurance to keep the public from having to pick up the tab for our highway misfortunes. Its the same logic behind the mandate to have everyone pay something for their healthcare insurance coverage. Its just to keep the public from having to absorb the costs for those without insurance or those who want to drive their cars or go through life in general without any provision to pay for the healthcare resources they my require at any time. Jesus' lesson was to take care of the sick and the poor, and whatsoever you did for them, you did also unto to Jesus. All need basic necessities including healthcare, and the rest of us should be willing to help when some cannot obtain those necessities. Its a humanitarian perspective, that is fundamental to some faiths, including Christianity. No one should mock Christianity for advocating that we "love our neighbor as ourselves." No one should ridicule Christianity for suggesting that we reach out to those that need it and offer help. If we as individuals cannot provide the help that's needed, then there is nothing inherently wrong with pooling our resources and collectively reaching out through our government to provide assistance. Government isn't always the culprit. Fuel prices are skyrocketing because or Wall Street futures speculators. Big insurance and banks triggered the current financial crisis requiring bailouts. The private sector has caused as much or more damage to our fiscal well being than has our government. But its so easy to blame government. They're not completely innocent, but hey folks! Let's quit trying to put all of the blame on our public servants.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:17 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.