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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. Truthfully

    Jesus believes in healthcare and so do his followers; but he doesn't condone theft which is what you have when the government takes your hard earned money to give to someone else who doesn't take care of themselves. What kind of incentive do you give someone who drinks, smokes, eats excessive fatty foods, doesn't exercise and says they can live the way they want and they want government funded (taxpayer money) to pay for their healthcare. No, I don't think so.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • John of Indiana

      That would be "Republican Jeebus", I take it?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • SDH

      "Taking money to give to others" is not theft – it is they kind of law the charitable electorate passes when those with the wealth patently REFUSE to fairly participate the well-being of society. The wealthy craft words to confuse, seduce, and prey on those with passion or needs. They fill their coffers more full every year, and spend "just enough" money to keep the rest of us evenly "divided" over imaginary issues and empirical "lies". But do we side with each other? No, we blame each other, we take sides on issues we know NOTHING about. Please. "Taking money to spend on things" is called "taxation" – and it is the duty of every successful American to contribute to this most fair and most free nation. It is the moral and legal duty of those with power to provide opportunity to those without. Gutting Universities, schools, and forcing people into bankruptcy because they get sick and someone else wants to hoarde... that is theft – theft of not only capital, but birthright.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  2. John of Indiana

    Well, this post hit WAY off the mark. The reason you find supposedly "religious" people against healthcare for everyone goes back to this country's Calvinist roots.
    People suffer misfortune, not because "Schtuff Happens", but because they have angered Gawd. They are reaping Gawd's punishment, which they richly deserve.
    To attempt to remedy their suffering would be to go against "Gawd's Will", and may unleash the sour-puss old dude's wrath upon yourself.
    So best not to do anything. Unless Gawd says it's OK.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  3. SDH

    Sometimes it boggle the mind just how much people can justify being callous and blame the powerless for their own condition. That cold heartedness leaves a desert of the soul... ripe for the picking of those with power and wealth. It would be really helpful if those who blame the poor and welfare for their condition would look at their own heritage and stop listening to things like talking points and hypocrites when it comes to making decisions about those we put in power. I choose to empower others, not appoint myself over them. I just wish other conservatives would do the same and not just give us lip-service about "job creation" and "healthcare freedom". I think healthcare for all is a great goal – we have telephones for all, roads for all, police for all... why not health care too? Those who call yourselves Christian who have wealth, well tomorrow why don't you go out there and put some money into education and empower someone, go out there and donate a few billion to schools and hospitals to lessen the burden on the powerless, go out there and hire a few MILLION PEOPLE with your TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Seriously, do you think all Conservatives are that stupid? My brothers and sisters will wake up one day and it is the hypocrites who will pay... my guess is you might as well earmark that cash sooner than later because we are going to use it to cover all this "stuff" you've stuck us with – the deficits (which started a decade ago), the financial crisis (which it seems only we have paid for), the continual strangulation of energy and health care (that we ALL need) to keep your coffers full. We just aren't all that STUPID.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  4. joe

    How about King Tut? Alexander the Great? Any other relics from the past you think we should waste time considering in regards to health care reform?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • John of Indiana

      King Tut didn't leave behind a book of dubious authorship full of ideas on how to control the population for fun and profit...

      March 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  5. teddy

    the question shouldn't be if jesus would support health insurance, but if jesus would want all to have access to medical care. By framing it as you do you interject religion into a political debate and I wonder towards what end. if anything, the inusrance industry does more to drive up costs than it does to make access to medical care affordable. Jesus threw the money lenders out of the temple.... I rather imagine he'd toss the insurers out of the hospital too.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  6. makomAni

    obama is known by christians as the anti-christ, the arabs will or do know him as the 12th iman or caliphate. His is and will destroy america if we let him. You only have to deny him to stop him. He is as Satan because he is satan in the flesh. Trust me and accept what I have just told you as a fact. Now you know what it is you are dealing with.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Eric G

      Yes, we do know what we are dealing with.
      You are a nut.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • joe

      You're an idiot.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Give it a rest, dude. We are all tired of your rants.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • DDanny1

      Tell it like it is Reverend.

      By the way, how many snakes do you think we'll need at church tonight?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • John of Indiana

      Your barely-literate screed makes a STRONG case for your position.
      The fact that you're mentally unbalanced is your position, yes?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • erithamrod

      Given that you just referenced a character from the book of Revelations, I'm going to assume, then, that you find it to be a truthful story. That being the case, you then have to acknowledge that no person has met all prophetic requirements for being the anti-christ, and therefore you are incorrect. Maybe before you take this any further you should re-read Rev. 22:8:

      For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

      I'm just sayin.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

      "Now you know what it is you are dealing with."

      Ummm, you seem to be nothing less (or more) than a common troll.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  7. Ed

    ENOUGH WITH THIS GOD DAMN JESUS THIS JESUS THAT BULL CRAP. HE DOESN'T EXIST!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • rickincambridge

      He donesn't exist until you start whining on your deathbed.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

      You gonna be alright?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Lilith

      Whining on your deatbed does NOT make religion real. People on their deathbeds want their families not Jesus.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Truthfully

      You don't exist either. That's about how much sense your comment makes.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • erithamrod

      Funny that in an article about Christianity you deny the existence of Jesus and in the same sentence implore the almighty to cast him into Hell. I mean, seriously. Make up your mind.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • John of Indiana

      "He donesn't exist until you start whining on your deathbed"

      And not even then does he exist...

      March 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  8. Zach

    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, the wise false and rulers as useful"
    Thanks for the propaganda CNN

    March 31, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  9. rock woman

    Face it, folks. Not one of us knows what Jesus would do. At best, we can speculate, resting our speculations on how we interpret whichever words of scripture or other "wisdom" we choose as our "aha" words, dismissing all the rest.

    I don't know what Jesus would do, either. I don't think he'll tell me. But he might tell me this (again): Think - with heart as well as head - and then do for others what you hope they'll do for you if or when you can't do it for yourself.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  10. nolimits3333

    Republicans want everyone to have guns, and no one to have health care.

    Jesus would be a Democrat.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      No, Republicans want everyone who is white to have guns and for everyone else to know their "place".

      March 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  11. Garrrett

    He would not. He said to ask not of men but of God. He would also have criticized those rich and those not rich who spend so much time focusing on their material station in this life, on what they have or don't have, because it distracts from one's spiritual path. Whether one follows the teachings of Jesus or not, it's dishonest or delusional to think otherwise based on the Gospels.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  12. palintwit

    It has come to my attention that many colleges are now offering classes in Palin bashing. It would seem that there is a great deal of interest in exposing Sarah Palin for the doofus that she really is.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  13. Robin "the" Hood

    I know that I support taking from some & giving to others. I don't even care or check if those who I've taken from earned it while those I give to don't do anything.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  14. Rob

    The irony is killing me inside.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  15. Ben

    From the article: “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.”

    So you oppose the health care plan helping others because it's too impersonal? You're describing the role of a doctor, and doctors need to get paid like everybody else.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  16. NotAChristian

    Not with that RFID chip (mark of the beast) to buy, sell,Hold health info, gps tracking etc .

    March 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  17. Sissy

    The poor will always be with us.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • SDH

      And the rich will always be hypocrites and liars.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  18. Robert

    Hey I pay for my family's health care but I don't like it ! ! ! Family of four and we pay over $10,000.00 per year. What do we get in return? A little discount at the drug store and doctors office.

    The government should be teaching doctors for free and putting limits on what they can charge for everything. Every hospital should only be able to make a 30% profite per year.

    We should do away with income tax and just go to a flat sales tax on everything. Part of that sales tax should include medical care. This thought that it should be free if you don't have insurance has to go because the people that are paying are paying way to much.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  19. Dave T

    Can Jesus help people change and have the inspiration to remain that way? 70 percent of all illnesses are caused by life style (overweight, smoking, lack of exercise.) People, I believe, can change for the better by the number of people involved (strength in numbers). People can feed on each other for the better. This may be a way for people to quit smoking, for example. However, before people begin exercising, they should be checked by a doctor. How many of the unemployed, may be so close to a stroke and may not know it? That is all they need, is a medical emergency, on top of being unemployed! Should churches, in partnership with the county health department, offer free medical check ups? Can new health buses, be scheduled to visit various churches, on a scheduled time frame? Can a fitness organization, like the YMCA, offer memberships to people, at a deep discount? Can some church support groups, meet at conference rooms of these fitness centers? They say the best "therapy" for depression is exercise. Can after these support meetings, people could exercise to reduce these depressed feelings? Exercise also increases brain function. I believe Jesus mentioned something about being like children, you come closer to God. Children do not smoke and are full of energy. Therefore we should also exercise as much as our youngest generation – we will find total health. Thus feel we will become closer to God. For those who are born with illnesses that are not the patient's fault; we should show mercy. Can the closest indoor pool be used for exercise, for those who are disabled? Are there other ways to improve everyone's health? Yes, Jesus is the way and the life and our health care system should reflect this. In addition to adopting programs like those mentioned above.

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

      70 percent you say? Cite the source of your "facts" otherwise stfu

      March 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      He doesn't need facts. He listens to Rush and watches Glenn.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Dave T

      http://worldofdtcmarketing.com/at-least-70-percent-of-health-care-spending-is-related-to-lifestyle/cost-of-healthcare-in-the-u-s/

      March 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  20. Andrew

    New Conservatives Bible: And yea, Jesus said unto the sick and the poor, "Get off your asses and get a job, stop whining and stop freeloading."

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

      LOL

      March 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • John of Indiana

      +10

      March 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Hello

      good idea but will never happen for the freeloaders..

      March 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      They tried to get jobs, but the Vulture Capitalists closed the American Factories and sent the jobs to India, China, Pakistan and Indonesia. And at least two of those countries have significant portions of their population who would prefer the US gets wiped off the map.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:15 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.