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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. Common sense

    If Jesus were truly concerned, why wouldn't he just heal everyone? A very large part of most religious beliefs involves free will and people are free to work towards affording healthcare, people and people can adopt healthy lifestyles which minimize the need for healthcare and of course, people can choose to help others through donations. The government should not be involved!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  2. jlacke

    No, Jesus would not support any government forced charity (welfare programs). God commands each of us to give to charity; but he also leaves the decision of how to live our lives up to us. Each of us is free to follow his word or not. He does not command that some of us get together and take money from others by force, even if we give it to the needy. Taking property from another against his will is theft. When a group of people can get together and vote themselves a share of another's property, this is theft. And God is very clear how he feels about theft. Further, part of a charitable act is not the benefit to the recipient, but the benefit to the soul of the giver. Government mandated charity does not have this benefit to the giver.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  3. Name*DJ

    Jesus would not support anything that would lead to the distruction of life that he and his Holy Father, and Holy Spirit created, which is life.

    Jesus was and his about truth and following the will of his Father thru his Holy Church which he commishioned to make these decisions regarding faith and morals. It states in scriptures what you bind or loose on Earth is also bound and loose in Heaven. In other words He gave the Church the authority to make those decisions, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  4. John Null

    Of course He would! ref. Mathew 4:23, 24, 8:17, 9:35, 10:1, Mark 1:34, 3;15, Luke 4:40, 6:17, 7:21, 9:1, Acts 9:12

    God gets no pleasure from watching people get sick, suffer and die. ref. Ezekial 18:23, 32, 33:11, Hebrews 10:38

    " From the position of perfect dignity and as our Lord and Maker, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and
    power, because You created all things, and because of Your will they were created and exist now." Revelations 4:11

    On a lazy day, I like to place a large bowl twenty feet from my back porch, take a seat in my porch rocking chair
    and pitch a deck of playing cards one at a time to see how many will spin just right and go into the bowl.

    To keep the game going, I have to go pick them up then try again, and again and again until the game ends. Fun,
    fun, fun.

    In a similar fashion, the Maker of all that is rested on the seventh day. Then He began to manage His creation, not
    unlike a Doctor who treats His patients until the time comes for the treatment to end. ref. Luke 8:43-48, 8:49, 50

    "Daughter, your faith has *made you well; go in peace." Notice that He (Jesus) spoke directly to the (spirit) person
    of the dead childs body (her corpse), not to her parents according to their faith only. We know the parents had faith
    in Him, because they knew of His reputation and came to Him by their faith and asked Him to do what onle He could
    do, which included healing and raising the dead.

    Of course He, appearing to us as only a man, would teach that it is He who heals the sick through our faith in Him.
    Since we are human and can see only a man, not unlike other men, we must become attracted to His proposal and
    simply believe as He said. In order to become attracted to do as He says, we must become desperate.

    This is an unfortunate truth because we hate being desperate, however, it is desperation that drives us to believe in Him.
    Other wise we will continue seeing doctor after doctor to find one with the cure to save the life.

    Another unfortunate truth about us and our human nature is to resist giving our self away to trust in someone outside
    of ourself. Our ego drives us to be rude, indifferent toward Him and to do it our self.

    He, however, remains available and ready to lend us help. a perfect health care team ( us, them and HIM )

    J

    March 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  5. buzzoff

    No way does Jesus support obamacare.
    Invasion of private rights.
    You liberals are so laughable to try to use God's name as a pro pa ganda tool
    Loserssss

    March 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  6. Vivian

    Since when.

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

      Since liberals want to brainwash religious folks with pro pa ganda

      March 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  7. denroy

    Didn't he say 'Take up your bed and walk' – seems like a Ron Paul fan 🙂 Of course, this is what happens when you believe in fairly tales – you can make them mean whatever you want

    March 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  8. tfbuckfutter

    I distinctly remember the story of Jesus pointing at a leper and saying "Screw that guy, he should get a better job."

    March 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • buzzoff

      Why the heck would Jesus want adults to be covered under their parents insurance till they are 26.
      Jesus hates the nanny state

      March 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  9. Richard Aberdeen

    According to the New Testament, Jesus healed everyone of every disease they had. Until the Christians can do that, then they either ought to support universal health care or stop pretending they follow Jesus, to say the least. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Jesus wants any man, woman or child to "fend for themselves" when it comes to health care or, to anything else, as the extremely anti-capitalistic New Testament very clearly teaches we should share all wealth in common and distribute to each according to need. CHRISTIANS WHO PROMOTE OTHERWISE ARE OBVIOUS LIARS.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  10. Joe

    We already have governmnt run heatlh insurance...its called medicare and it works ok for your mom.
    I am tired of going to the ER and waiting 4 hours behind the uninsured going to the ER for free care when they only have a runny nose or sprained ankle.
    Hospitals are gong broke treating the uninsured for free......the state forces you to get auro insurance....the bank forces you to get home insurance....what is the difference if you are required to have health insurance?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  11. Craig

    Why are fictional characters involved in policymaking?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • AGuest9

      They are easier to blame when said policy fails.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  12. Rob

    What the hell kind of "report" is this? What's wrong with you, CNN?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  13. Believer

    would jesus support all doctors give up their paychecks and go out into the street and set up tents and give free health care to anyone who needs it and do this nonstop for the rest of your life? yeah, jesus would support that.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  14. Ron

    my fellow Americans are getting stupder every year...

    March 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  15. Steve

    Jesus would do it through taxation.

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

    BGko-
    I hope you're not planning on collecting Social Security are you? You wouldn't want to eat you're own words and feel dependent when you can't work anymore!!! LOL

    March 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  17. Y'all disgusting

    Well, sh!t, if we're speculating why not ask what the tooth fairy would say about health care reform?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      She's only concerned with dental reform, for obvious reasons.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  18. Robin C

    Ok, I refuse to even read this article because it is the most ridiculous question I have ever heard. Who cares what Jesus would think? In those times you just died and weren't a burden on society or your family. Get real, this is not a religion issue, it is a tax payer, government issue. Stop putting church and state together. They are to be separate ALWAYS...

    March 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Except in the Middle East.

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

    jesus and all major religions would support health care reform.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  20. cnnstooge

    People who believe in Jesus would also believe in Healthcare Reform. Both, of course, are myths. Real health care reform would be for the millions of 'on the dolers' to shut up and take an active part in their own health....a good start....eliminate diabetes, cancer, lung and other diseases for a good part. That would take so much pressure off the abused and overused and largely misused healthcare system that things would start to loosen up. Next, if you say you are an insurer then NOTHING is off your insurables list and premiums should be allowed to reflect that within reason. Another thing, NO CEO IS WORTH THE MONEYS THEY STEAL FROM THEIR CRIMINAL CORPORATIONS. Premiums directly reflect the crooks at the top and their lackeys down the ladder's criminal salaries and bonus's and other fringe benefits they take ....it is a criminal offense in my book. The Congress is part and parcel of every one of these acts as they do nothing up there except pull each other's port every day and ours eventually...is that what pork-barrel legislating means. Bottom line is for all you fantasizers out there, if you think there is a Jesus or that you'll get an even shake from this government or its's court or judicial systems yuou ARE sick and deserving of mental treatment. As you can elect a butthead....you can also recall that butthole if he/she/it doesn't do the job. Sit on yer buttholes and complain and you get as far as you got so far....forever. Lesson done. Gotta go finish watching the news and all the chicks on it, male and female and hithertoo unclassified lifefroms that have all kinds of rights and privileges being stepped on. Have a nice day....keep complaining and asking....it will get you exactly where you are
    now...nowhere. Please excuse me while I take my thorazine...helps me make sense of the 'privileged classes'.....phew.....

    March 31, 2012 at 2:12 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.