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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. Dr Mom

    "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.”

    If volunteerism and charity could solve the problem they would have already! The 50,0000 people in need of health coverage didn't just suddenly appear out of the blue. This is a persistent and pervasive problem. If christians could solve it through charity, then show us! Through charity at my church (I am Catholic) we help some families and some individuals. But we certainly cannot reach the many in our community who need health insurance. Where I live 40% of children do not have health insurance. About 24% of them are covered by government programs, leavinv 16% with no coverage at all.

    In Germany this year there was a $3 billion budget surplus in the government health care program. It is a national program which requires everyone participate. The cost of health care is lower in countries with national programs because they focus on wellneess and prevention. People access health care regularly instead of waiting until they are very ill, and going to an emergency department. Overall individuals pay less for this system than we pay and they have better health outcomes. Individuals can purchase insurance from any of hundreds of non-profit providers. So, there is a free market for health insurance, unlike what we face here where you have only one or two choices, if any at all.

    What would Jesus do? He would care for the sick. He would heal them. He would minister to them. And so should we!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • AGuest9

      If there was a $3 billion budget surplus in the government health care program in this country, as there is in Germany, it would disappear into pockets, quickly. That is a big part of the problem with it..

      March 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  2. paulronco

    Arguing in a vacuum over what Jesus would do in 2012 using a 2000-year-old text is an academic waste of time and an outrage to those who are actually sick and dying right now, even if it is not completely irrelevant. No doubt Jesus would recommend we do what gives the highest degree of care to the greatest number of people at the least amount of cost. To determine what that system would look like, we need only look at what the overwhelming majority of other industrialized western democracies have done in order to, according to the 2000 World Health Organization Report, make their systems far superior to our own in terms of overall quality. Stop reinventing the wheel. The answer to the question is obvious: We need a single payer system. We are continuing to have this insane debate because we continue to beat our heads against the wall hoping that some kind of magical solution that no other country in the world has ever thought of will drop down out of the sky that allows us to keep the for-profit model and still deliver care to all. It's not going to happen.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  3. The Analyst

    test

    March 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  4. JC in Western U.S.

    I think two things in scripture point to Jesus' concern with caring for the least fortunate:

    Matthew 10:29 in which Jesus says that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing it. To me, that means that God cares even for a sparrow, and that we should do likewise.

    Matthew 25:31-46 in which Jesus says that whatever we do to the least of our brethren we have done to Him.

    So, to me, Jesus would say that we as people should do whatever we need to do to care for each other, knowing that whatever we do to each other, we do to Him, and that he knows what happens to even to the least fortunate.

    There are multiple references in the Bible admonishing people to care less for money and material wealth than for each other. I certainly don't think that Jesus would say that making a profit is more important than saving a life, or that we have no responsibility for anyone but ourselves, or that we should begrudge the money spent to provide health to others.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Dr Mom

      Amen.

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

      .. and yet God/Jesus allow constant suffering and pain, even for children and infants .. very "caring" of them. Apparently it's a "do as I say not as I do" sort of mentality.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  5. Religious Sects

    "References to Jesus, of course, didn’t make into the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s hearings ... Yet there is a moral dimension to this epic legal debate:" ?? this idea that morality somehow comes from religion is absurd and dangerously misguided. At least any reference to Jesus didn't make it into the hearings .. that's a very good sign.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Marc

    Who cares what Jesus would think, honestly... Any rational person doesn't think this way, why does the media even entertain this rediculous thought process of religion?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  7. GOP RIP

    America is DOOMED thanks to its religious extremists. I'd be surprised is America even exists in it's current form in 100 years.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • chett

      You know there where probably people like you 150 years ago during Lincolns time as president saying the same thing....and they where partially right but.....it was a change for the better overall. The country wasn't perfect afterwards and still had hardships and the same can be expected for the next 100 years...stop whining and move forward.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  8. EDMAX

    I go by the old biblical phrase – "Whatsover you do for the least of by brothers you do unto me". How can a Christian sit back and let people lose Healthcare and call themselves a Christian? Yes Obamacare is not perfect but it is what is on the table. I applaud the president for Obamacare. In Acts weren't Deacons created to take care of the Hellenist women?

    There is no reason why everyone in this country should ever worry about their health. Once again is healthcare for the privledged? Wake up Christians and smell the copy. Check your prejudice at the door and embrace Christ. Stop the political party nonsense and truly ask yourself WWJD?

    It seems as though many christians are into the rich getting richer and its' just too bad for everyone else. Do some soul searching, ask yourself do you believe in social justice for all peoples (which would include Healthcare for all). You might not like what you see and what Christ whispoers in your ear. Whatever happened to loving thy neighbor as thyself.?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  9. usatruth

    Jesus would "definitely" support Health Care Reform because IT'S PROLIFE.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  10. Johnson blackman

    Why do we have Easter that is symbol of rabbit and colorful eggs? Are you sure it's not bugs bunny's birthday?

    March 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  11. NJreader

    How I wish we could have socialized medicine. In my childhood, the system was pay-for-service. By the late '60s or early '70s, it was insurance through employer. Neither system was very good, but the second was worse, and has gotten absolutely ludicrously terrible over the years. So I would like to see us try something we have not had before: socialized medicine. We may be just too ornery and disunited to give this a go, but one can hope otherwise, and I do.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  12. GOP RIP

    I'd like to see a map overlying the level of education in this country over a map of fanatical religious nutbags. It's no coincidence that the South is crawling with uneducated religious inbred paranoid fanatics who carry guns wherever they go.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  13. Salero21

    It all depends on what and who "the people:" believe He is.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  14. BGko

    stupid question, Jesus wouldn't care what governments do at all. His teachings apply to how we each deal with each other on a daily individual basis. Agree or disagree with religion's interpretations, if we followed Jesus' teachings, we wouldn't even need governments or healthcare.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • AGuest9

      "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's..."

      March 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  15. just me

    Healthcare is civilizations gift to humanity. Jesus lived in an uncivilized world and tried to teach us to become civilized human beings. All of the FIRST WORLD NATIONS EXCEPT AMERICA have become civilized. We Americans still have a THIRD WORLD mentality.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • BGko

      Riiiiight, which is why everyone from those nations keeps coming here? So they can leave the "civilized, first world" for the horrors of "third world, uncivilized" America? Someone needs a lesson in History and Economics. Universal healthcare in America is financially unsupportable and against core American principles. I would rather central government loose their bloated power of regulation and let us restore a sound currency, whereby the economy can recover to the point where we can begin to save our own money and pay for our own healthcare. They are attempting to turn us into a nation of dependents, and doing a good job of it thanks to people who hold opinions such as yours. Yes, there is a lot in the laws that need to be changed, but asking for greater government interference, (which originally caused the problems we have now), is far from the answer. LESS GOV'T, NOT MORE. Quit asking mommy and daddy for lunch money and grow up, America.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • just me

      So YES!! We must joint the rest of the First World Nations and offer HEALTHCARE. Instead, we spend our resources on guns because we're afraid of retaliation against our position on the world stage.. The Wild West is over... we need to wake up and start caring for ourselves by insuring our countrymen and countrywomen and children are healthy. Healthy citizens make a stronger work force. WAKE UP CONSERVATIVES!! You are not conservative anymore.. You are ancients!!!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • just me

      Wow.. the rest of the free world offers healthcare... do you see THEM worrying about it??? By the way.. First wold people STOPPED immigrating to America a long time ago.. We get the WORST OF THE WORST now because we have NOTHING TO OFFER the others..

      March 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  16. Minoa

    Jesus never taught that it was ethical to use the police power of government to force people to do things. In fact, force is contrary to Christian doctrine. Instead, Jesus called on ALL people, rich and poor, to give of their OWN means to help others. Forcing people to use their earnings to "do good" (by who's definition?) creates more problems than solutions: class enmity, waste, bureaucracy bloat, crushing burdens on free enterprise (which robs the entire nation of the very prosperity that enables it to help others), and, perhaps worst of all, sapping the People’s means, energy, talent, and desire to create and support innovative and efficient projects of private charity.

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

    According to Romans chapter 13: God created government. But his reason for doing so is to prove this very point, "MAN CAN NOT GOVERN THEMSELVES. Our ability to twist scripture to our way of thinking only enhances this. Render to Caesar what is Caesar's...Christ is just showing that man can't trap him with words. He does'nt answer the question, he knows that ALL things belong to GOD. He is just playin' their game back at them. They answer this question by Crucifying him..."We will not have this man to rule over us!" To this very day we choose man's way of governing instead of God's/Christ. But that's God's whole point ! Keep up the good work people.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      It is up to those who believe in god to prove his existence. You cannot, and therefore he does not.

      Unicorns are also against man governing man, they believe that the supreme horned one should rule over man with his pearly spike. I read it in a book, so you should believe it too!!

      Why not? Oh right, that pesky burden of proof... Shucks...

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

      @ Burden Of Proof. Yes, some people say they are Christians only because of what they read, or to fit in with friends. But genuine Christians are not practicing believers because they "read it in a book." They are faithful because of spiritual experiences, the things they have felt and experienced. The “Book” only gives you guidance, tells you what you can do to get your own answers about religion, but you still have to do your own work. In the New Testament, James wrote “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering....” In other words, if you want to know about religion, study it and pray, ask God with genuine intent. And listen with your heart and mind. Look, I am a natural skeptic. I have a earned a masters degree, studied engineering then economics. I’ve been a college instructor. I’m now pursuing a PhD. I love experimental science. Science, technology, freely-elected representative government, and free enterprise are essential for progress. But, in addition, the ethical & spiritual development of each individual is essential for the happiness of that individual. I am skeptical about most of the bureaucratic trappings of organized religion, and I constantly pull and push to improve the church I attend. But I have put what James said to the test. With thorough study, pondering, and quiet prayer have come many wonderful spiritual experiences I cannot explain: ideas, answers, comfort, direction, the still small voice of the spirit of God. Again and again, I have been deeply moved, to change, to improve, to get my lazy behind up and do specific things to help individuals and my community. Collaborating with folks with similar experiences is invigorating. For example, I’ve joined several faith-based initiatives to assist the local victims of abuse and traveled with others to assist victims of natural disasters. It is amazing how efficient and productive faith-based projects can be, when participants are giving of their time, talents, and means of their OWN free will. Check it out for yourself. Give James a try.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  18. Rideitout

    Those who show no mercy desrve none.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Look in the mirror

      Such as all christians during the crusade.

      /win

      March 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Minoa

      I agree that the Crusades gave religion a black eye, but that was the error of politically driven men. The crusades had nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus. The crusades were politically-motivated government actions...driven by the agendas of kings and their privileged knights. Doing what they did in the name of religion was an atrocity. The crusades show the folly of “divine” rights of kings. Freedom of ALL religions solves those problems.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  19. Bill55

    Jesus believed in social democracy. In other words, he was a socialist. Which makes the T party an oxymoron. Or just plain morons.

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

      Jesus calls people to help others in their own way and with their OWN means...that is highly efficient, and builds relationships. Jesus did NOT tell people to use government to force other people to yield their money to inflexible government programs...that approach is inefficient and creates discord & waste.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  20. Andrea M

    Trust in god? Riiight, I'd be better off trusting a tree or a lego brick, things that we know actually exist. Sorry, but trusting something as vital as ones health to nothing more than fate is bollocks.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Eric G

      chuckle.....
      "Bollocks"
      chuckle...

      March 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Minoa

      You don’t want to support a faith-based charity? For example, want to encourage people to get abortions, pay their costs to do so, and encourage them to be atheists? Fine. Support a private charity that does that. But respect the freedom of those of us that want to help people in different ways.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:19 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.