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. urmom

    CNN, your stories are getting more and more stupid!!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • urmom

      and regarding the comments, you cant make-up the kind of stupid you read on the comment pages of news websites.........are Americans really this stupid?!?!?

      March 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • rollo

      why? it's a commentary. i happen to agree. why would there be any argument? everyone contributing a little to insure the minumum well-being of fellow human beings. but no, not in america. there is good reason for this commentary, it opens a discussion that is so reviled by the right. a light must illuminate the ugly reality.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Bill55

      The story is not stupid at all. However, the replies (many of them) are clearly from a less than independant thinking mindset. Jesus would be proud though. I bet no one on this planet would still be talked about some 5 thousand years later. Way to go Jesus!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Jeff

    Jesus would not give the poor health care, he would show them how to apply a bandage so the poor could give themselves healthcare.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • rollo

      are you galloping on your horse to the town while writing this?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  3. Mike

    One of these days, people are going to wake up and realize that the world is indifferent and that no matter how much they want it to be otherwise, Jesus isn't here to hold our hands.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  4. Bhawk

    How much did Jesus charge to heal the sick and raise the dead–0- zero–none. The greatest power on earth didn't charge anything–must a been a commie

    March 31, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Bill55

      Currently pushing the "I really like that comment" button!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  5. Peter Grenader

    According to Michelle Bachmann, no....

    March 31, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • rollo

      i lived in france for 15 years. the question asked me many times was, how could Americans do that to Americans. it's comic that the party of god has such skewed ideas about the uninsured. antiquated, and as seen by others. immoral. but in America, apparently, jesus is immoral. so, praise jesus

      March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • sandra walton

      as a human being it angers me that obama and the rest should not force anyone to get something they can not afford .god help the way i feel as a cristian woman sorry to say get the money hungry men and women out of the white house and get all new people who give a darn how people feel, all it is that they want to take my husbands social security and this is something we depend on as i can not fiend a job and still have a daughter in school .i feel fore those who are on social security because if obama has his way it will be none the goverment does not need to turn to churches to settel this matter on helthcare

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  6. hammer

    I thought no one at cnn believed in god.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  7. juice

    There would be no health care reform, no insurnce. Jesus would've heal everyone for free.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  8. statetheobvious

    I don't recall Jesus taking money from people to force them to care for anyone else. He said that people should help each other, but never mentioned a government doing so. I love how liberals will never put their money where their mouth is...I havent seen a story about Buffet or Obama sending in extra cash to the IRS but both said they should pay more taxes.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • RD

      Conservatives would just as soon do nothing for the 50 million uninsured.
      Jesus said: "'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me"

      March 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Glenn

      Buffet said he would if other people did too. He doesn't want to be the only one. It would be as pointless as being the only guy lifting a couch while the other guy loafs off.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  9. ruggles

    You may be interested to know that just this morning Jesus told me that he prefers the barter system approach to health care. End of discussion.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  10. BillyBob

    Hence, GOPs are antichrist.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • bannister

      If you thinking socialized medicine will lead to better healthcare, you are insane.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • You painted yourself into a corner

      You elected your liberal government. Who's the anti-Christ?

      March 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • BillyBob

      We are already paying for uninsured. Make them buy it. Have you been to an y ER lately? They come for sore throat and I pay for it with my premium.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • rollo

      to bannister. your idea is dead. i ahbve lived around the world. many ask, how could americans treat their fellow americans so abhorently. we're seen, for good reason, abhorent by many around the world. everyone contributes a little to insure that everyone minimally included, so that they will live decently. your republican (memorized) talking point is immoral

      March 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bill55

      Canada has socialized medicine.............and an excellent economic picture. But that's just a coincidence, right. Before you spew the neo con talking points, it IS working well. They privatized the cleaning staff with an American firm however, and the hospitals are quite dirty these days. Type in C-dificile and you will find the story.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  11. Sowhat

    I don't believe in fairy tales but if Jesus or his father were to suddenly appear I would give them each a punch in the mouth for being so neglectful of the people on this planet. People have been dying of famine, diseases, wars,etc ... for centuries – WHERE THE HELL ARE THEY?!!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  12. A silly question

    "Who do we trust – God or government?" Whom do we trust? Government is really a choice? You must be joking.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • rollo

      what, were still cowboys in the wild west. a modern country is responsible to it's people, to promote the common welfare... although, that will never be the case in this antiquated, backward minded, largely uneducated, disinterested and ready to criticize everything based cherished ignorance country, there will never be any progress. apparently american jesus loves narrow mindedness. i renounce this country

      March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • olorinstaff

      you do understand that 'We the people' are the government, right

      March 31, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  13. Thom

    Of course jesus told people to not pray on the street corners but to go in their closet and pray – christians don't follow that one. Jesus loved everyone and preached compassion, but the christians preach hatred and their way or the highway. Jesus said, do not harm little children, but the christians go around molesting and abusing and beating little kids. Jesus got mad at the money changers in the temple and yet every church out there tries to make money off their church – whether it is through garage sales, selling things, or getting donations for all kinds of trinkets they sell in their churches.

    So I guess, if you're a religious christian person, you just pick and choose which teachings of Jesus you will follow and discard the rest. After all, do as I say, not as I do – that's the motto of the religious people.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  14. Michael Rief

    Don't be a FOOL!! Jesus said render unto Ceasar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  15. Kevin

    Jesus would tell us to pay the doctors fairly and share our wealth to treat even the least among us.

    Christians don't seem to understand that Jesus was a socialist lefty. He wanted everybody to love one another and share what we have. Of course, that didn't make him a god. The god idea happened later when some opportunists saw a chance to seize power and make an industry out of duping the weak-minded.

    Time to stop believing in fairy tales.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  16. Charles

    So should Caesar care for the people, or should the moneychangers?

    March 31, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  17. adam

    This is like asking if a mystical unicorn would support health care reform

    March 31, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • You just did yourself in

      So you'd trust government? How naive art thou?

      March 31, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • adam

      (as in unicorns aren't real)

      March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • olorinstaff

      You do understand We the People are the government. Right?

      March 31, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  18. John

    Jesus would definitely support Health reform for everyone. The GOP and their supporters talk about Christianity but do not practice what they preach. Jesus was clearly on the side of the poor,meek and the forgotten.The GOP only cares about the 1%.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  19. POD

    Jesus is God......we wouldn't need health insurance or doctors or hospitals or Big Pharma. When he comes again he will cure all of the sick in the world and eliminate all the causes for disease on the planet. And then all of us will live happily ever after in a perfect world.......forever......TADA!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • John

      Until he comes back we need something.....

      March 31, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • BillyBob

      You just described my BCBS coverage.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Obedience and money now, magical reward later. And we have some nice snake oil to sell you too!

      God and Jesus were ALWAYS capable of having people live without diseases and birth defects and physical limitation. I wonder why he didn't do it? Why wait until later?

      God was ALWAYS capable of keeping people from hurting each other and suffering and starving and miserable. I wonder why he didn't do it? Why wait until later.

      It's almost like he isn't there.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • b

      Jesus is not god nor is he god's son. he is a prophet of god. he was able to perform miracles through the will of god. so basically he was asking god do heal the blind people for him. he did that to gain believers. and he did not teach that he was god or god's son. He is coming before judgement day and he coming to break the cross and kill the pig because he did not die on the cross. also he will defeat the Antichrist.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Bill55

      Jesus has been living here since 1874 (or 1914). Still waiting for the armageddon. "sigh".

      March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  20. allenwoll

    Health Care REFORM - FUNCTIONAL REFORM - is NOT the issue being discussed here : Absolutely N-O-T ! ! !

    The issue being discussed (the WRONG one) is how to PAY for Health Care.

    The CORRECT issue is HOW to CUT the cost of Health Care so that most people CAN pay for it just like any of the OTHER ordinary expenses of living - Food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc.

    Discuss THAT instead of the current RED-HERRING & HOT-AIR issue ! ! ! : DO something potentially effective and useful ! ! !

    March 31, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • John

      How about getting rid of Bush Tax cuts as a start. That money can be put into Health care. How about a single payer system like most countries in the Western world have. The U.S. spends more on Health care and gets less care than any other western country. The private sector is doing a terrible job and only cares about making as much money as it can. It cherry picks its customers and the rest do not matter.....

      March 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
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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.