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. JC in Western U.S.

    In Corinthians 6: 19-20, Paul admonishes people that their bodies are temples to God which should be cared for.
    In Jeremiah 5:27-28 Jeremiah says that people who have grown fat and sleek are wicked.
    In Proverbs 23:2, people are told to put a knife to their own throat if they are given to gluttony.

    So maybe this is a two way street. Yes, we should care for one another and make sure that the health of one is the concern of all. But, if people don't take care of themselves, evidently God doesn't take it lightly.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  2. jdog

    what a CRAZY culture yours is in the US....and you look at the middle east in utter astonishment of their faith in Islam, when you yourselves are utterly STOOOOOOPIFIED with Dog....leading us the the new crusades....steps back not forward....what a gift utterly wasted....such wasted potential

    March 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Bob

      Can I move to your country? I'm sick of the idiots here. Plus they are all just plain mean. Sick of them all, really.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  3. texasfrog

    Jesus would be crying about every Conservative who promotes greed over dignity. I am afraid you have no idea what Jesus stands for.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  4. Religious Sects

    Until we stop asking what characters from antiquated folklore would do about modern issues we'll never be able to solve them.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  5. Jennifer

    Jesus would not have been involved in politics. He would ask people to care for their fellow man, which we already do. Our taxes and health care costs already cover the uninsured. The whole idea of "cutting the cost of health care" is idiotic anyway because the cost of doing business, like all other businesses, has gone up and continues to go up...we pay for improved diagnostic tools, the doctors' fees include the cost of running his/her office, etc.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Serg44

      Your right on.....

      March 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  6. Colin

    Catholicism is the belief that an all-knowing, immortal being, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, has a personal interest in my $ex life.

    Atheism is the belief that the above belief is ludicrous.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Serg44

      Then you dont know your science......
      There is absolutely no science behind evolution.
      You cannot violate the first law of

      March 31, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Mike

      Yet you are reading the belief blog....HMmmmmmmm.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Serg44

      Im talking your language science...cant take the truth.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Serg44

      Im talking your language s c i e n c e...cant take the truth.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  7. buzzoff

    Jesus would be laughing at pelosi right now....she's out of her mind

    March 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Thomas

      Why does nobody have a problem with the car insurance mandate? I'm a good driver. Why do i HAVE to buy car insurance?

      March 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Robert S

      I don't recall Jesus laughing at anyone mockingly in any of the scriptures.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  8. RichardSRussell

    It is ridiculous that this question would even be raised.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Bob

    We really need to work on getting rid of religion. It is not needed for moral guidance or social cohesiveness. In fact, most evidence supports the thesis that religion is helping to tear apart the world. Kids need to be informed the truth about religion, i.e., that it is all a big lie. The best thing we could do is to set up web sites around the world to draw in children so that they begin to question the lies that they have been told. Doesn't matter if it in Iran or Israel or Rome – we need to get rid of all religion.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Colin

      Join American Atheists, that is exactly the kind of reform we seek.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Serg44

      Everybody needs rules and laws...
      If not we would not be any betternthan animals
      Just because you dont want to be told what to do; do not mean there us no God.
      look at historical fact about Jesus...out side of the bible.
      He is who he claimed to be; God

      March 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  10. Reality

    This is by far one of the stupidest things I've ever had the displeasure of reading.

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

    This is by far the stupidest question ever ask? What would Jesus do? I don't know lets ask him........ no answer ok now what do we do?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Precisely! In a democracy, we should be asking the PEOPLE!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • S101

      Since government supported healthcare is unpalatable, we're asking 9 well cared for people to decide (irony).

      March 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  12. Goyim662

    Healthcare more like Synagouge of Satan care

    March 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  13. ryan cook

    It's not always a matter of someone affording heath care, it's choosing your priorities correctly. When I was laid off
    in October of 2005 for nine months, I choose paying the $1,300.00 premium for myself and family. This caused us
    some hardship but it was the right thing to do. I know many many people that choose to have the brand new Escalade,
    full cable, vacations, etc instead of just paying for their own health care. They want me and the rest of the responsible
    people to pick up their tab. I hope so much that this country never passes Obamacare or any other universal health care.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • skytag

      How pathetically selfish and naive.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • SDH

      Our family is employed... one of us is self-employed in the service industry, the other is corporately employed. Today we are deciding between dental care and supplies for the business. We have already written off any chance of being able to send our child to University, something once considered an American birth right. When I see the salaries and bank accounts of corporate Americans, and the continual cutting of jobs and services on the part of the government – I am hard pressed to blame the situation on Obama. Of course it would be convenient, but it is just NOT realistic – and I will have to live with myself tomorrow.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  14. rose

    OK, dummies, stop putting down Jesus. Those of you doing that are uneducated - why would you slam another's religion (by slamming Jesus, you are slamming Christianity). Are you too lazy to look at the REAL problem at hand? The real problem is DEMs want to MAKE YOU buy health insurance and if you don't they will punish you by making you pay a fine (no one knows how large that is). If you are poor or if you are unemployed, how in the world do you pay for medical insurance? Someone in DEMland, please explain that one. You DEMs cannot be this stupid

    March 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Congratulations, Rose, you are at least addressing a REAL issue, not this ridiculous nonsense about what Jesus would do.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Bob

      You never did very well in math, did you? The only way for the numbers to work out is if everyone is in the pool. That is the definition of insurance. Obama did not invent the rules. These rules have been around for a long time. If the healthy choose not to buy insurance the cost goes up for everyone else to the point that no one can buy insurance – so by letting some opt out it messes up the whole system. That is a math problem. Do the math. If you are too lazy to do the math then quit complaining.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Rob

      Rose, you are pretty stupid. The poor and unemployed probably already have Medicare or Medicaid. Second, if you can't afford insurance, the government will help under this plan. Third, and this is from the Heritage Foundation, not the DEMinland, those that don't have insurance but utilize health care raise everyones' rates. That is a fact. Dislike the man, but know your facts before attacking a policy. Do you even know how to read?
      BTW – I can attack any religion I want. You know why? I'm an American. I have freedoms. And I fought in 2 wars! Keep your mythology to yourself.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  15. Manuel J.

    I find it interesting how many people, and the Liberal media, are okay with citing Jesus on this topic but deny Him when it doesn't suit their needs.

    Jesus also spoke to the words and deeds of hypocrites. AND to this day.... His words still resonate!!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • texasfrog

      Sorry, dude. Jesus would have been disgusted at an economic system rooted in nothing but greed. It seems you are the one ignoring Jesus when it is inconvenient.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Drew

      conservatives also invoke jesus very selectively, one might even say hypocritically

      March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Stephen Falk

      I can't believe you Idiots are actually bringing Jesus into this at all...
      If there truly is a God, He must be shaking his (or her, or it's) head in shame.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Interesting

      Also hypocrites who cite Jesus and then deny others through laws. Jesus was never a republican and would have lost his temper in the modern day churches with politically infused teaching.

      I like to see all the fancy dressed people at church while there are homeless shelters or poor struggling. The Bible teaches us our churches are the last place Jesus would be...he would be with the homeless and ill of our society...not at these modern so called houses of worship...hypocrites are every where!...look in the mirror my friend.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • CMDvimes

      Maybe because using the words and actions of Jesus is the only way to show the hypocritical rightwingers the error of their ways. Common sense, statistics, logic and science certainly don't work. We atheists find some of the purported sayings of Jesus useful without considering him a divine being.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Manuel J.

      It sounds to me there's a lot of anger from all of your responses.

      How many of you give money or time to charity?
      How many of you step in to protect the weak?

      I dare say most of you would not be able to answer in the affirmative...

      March 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Rob

      Manuel, please. The Right brings up Jesus all the time justify why they think one way. Thus, it is OK for the nonbelievers to use Jesus against the Right. That is called logic. Did you take that course in college? Oh, I'm sorry, didn't make it that far, did we?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Jimmy

      I take it by "many people" you are referring to "liberals." Just don't forgive to include conservatives as well, along with conservative media. Jesus is used by everybody when it meets their need or point of view. But when He doesn't, He's ignorged – liberal and conservative alike.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Manuel J.

      @ CMD... I know plenty of Liberals who display the same behavior as many right-wingers. In short, bad behavior has no political boundaries.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Manuel J.

      @ Rob. Regarding your education comment, I have a Masters in Electrical Engineering. I think I answered everyone's question regarding "others". Others means ALL hypocrites!!!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  16. buzzoff

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

    March 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Check this out if you “think” you know what is really going on in American politics:


    March 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  18. Bob

    OK, so the guy from Minnesota thinks churches should step up to pay for people's health insurance. Well, what is he waiting for? Oh, I get it. To get health care in his world you would need to join his church and help him to promote his church so he can keep preaching his sermons. And if you don't follow his rules you are just as out of luck as a lot of people are today. Bottom line is this guy is selling a bunch of garbage.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Joe Black

      I am happy to hear that there's still people who still believe in Jesus!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  19. libfreak48

    The people who screech the loudest against big government largess are also the ones on Social Security and Medicare.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • palintwit

      Yes. They are the baggers and the birthers. Lovers of nascar, the baby jesus and boinking their cousins.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Joe Black

      And how would you know this?

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

    The Anti Christ is really feeling it's angst! They've compromised their own souls by choice. Now, they cry loudly. The very god (s) of their own choosing of course, do not, nor can not, hear or deliver them. Folks, this has happened before when people turned away from GOD and started to contribute to their own demise! The Division will get louder and the gap wider. Turn. Turn fom your ways. You know what you have to do.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Help you find your meds?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:28 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.