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. MJM

    You would have the same people who have run medicare, social security, and the govt. budget, run a universal health care program? I am not against universal health care. Just having government run it. Take a look at the track record. Take a look at the Post Office. They are losing Billions each year for many years now. The real question is why we are still spending that kind of money where 99% of what you get in the mail is garbage. It is a great example of how not run something.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • SDH

      The alternative is having the same people who have oppressed the masses for many centuries run a corrupt private system. Sounds like a lose, lose. At least with a single payer system we would ALL face the SAME challenges (well 97% of us anyhow) and we could adjust the system as needed. It has worked for highways, and until the wealthy stopped paying their fair share of taxes, it also worked for education.

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

      The Post Office is losing money because Republicans made them fund retirement out 75 years in the future!

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

      right on the mark. Everyone should visit usdeptclock.org to see how our federal government runs a business...be sure to have some tissue handy as the incompetency of it all is truly astounding. Pay particular attention to the UNFUNDED LIABLITIES at the bottom of the page.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Let's compare apples and apples, shall we? Administrative cost of Medicare: 2.8%. Administrative cost of private health insurance: 22-31%, depending on the company. Face reality, my friend. You are not paying for health care, you are paying for paper shuffling, lawyers, lobbyists, an army of claims specialists with a financial incentive to deny you coverage, corporate profits and dividends, gargantuan (8-9 figure) CEO salaries, bonuses, and golden parachutes for the most badly mismanaged.
      There's a REASON why Canadians, Brits, Scandinavians, the French and Swiss, etc. wouldn't trade their health-care systems for ours on a dare. They get BETTER service for LESS money, because they aren't frittering it all away on this mythical nirvana of health care you've been deluded into believing you're benefitting from in America.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  2. Marly

    What a stupid question and article. First, how often do we hear to keep religion and government separate? How often is religion castagated for havong faith in something higher and better than man? Tell me, how many organizations feed, cloth and seek to heal others as the Catholic church. What would our healtyh care system look like if the Catholic church shuts its hospital doors and others? Why would anyone wish to "act like Jesus" since he is just a 'fable' to many? I suppose since Jesus would seek reform to care for the sick and poor than anyone who would today would simply be a stupid person who believes in fairsy tales and belongs to a cult. The best advice, and lucky for everyone here who dislikes religion, is to 'turn the other cheek' because the cost to the average american if the cheek and money was not simply turned would be very painful indeed. And for those who think I am being defensive...that would be your ignorance speaking and my knowledge of the truth.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "What would our health care system look like if the Catholic church shuts its hospital doors and others?"
      Oh, you innocent dupe. You apparently really believe that the Catholic Church runs colleges and hospitals out of sheer Christian charity. What would happen if they closed their doors? THEY'D LOSE MONEY!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

    Greed is hidden in the right wings claim to be Christian!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • CR

      true indeed
      and greed and hunger for power is hidden in the left's concern for the poor

      both are identical really.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  4. James

    I don't think Jesus would support this administration...And since you want to know about Jesus...The Bible says if you don't work you don't eat...So I'm SICK of working my butt off and seeing all these people sit around cooking out and not working and wearing real nice clothes, nothing but the best...That is nuts...Nancy Pelosi get out on the streets go from neighborhood to neighborhood...Try Memphis, or New Orleans...You don't have a clue of what goes on...Your Blind...

    March 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  5. texasfrog

    Dear Common Sense, there was no "church" when Jesus lived. He was a Jew who practiced in the temple. Christianity was a creation after his death.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  6. treblemaker

    Health care starts with the mind and heart of every individual. Are you doing your stay to keep as healthy as your body allows? If you don't exercise, do you at least try to eat moderately? A simple walk works wonders. Do you see the glass half full instead of half empty? Your perspective on your own life is critical. I can go on and on. Jesus came to change the minds and hearts of all people. He healed the sick, lame, and tormented to prove His point. A life truly redeemed is the healthiest life of all, no matter what age you are. One more thing–God helps those who not only help others, but take care of themselves. He gives us the breath of life, and we are responsible for taking care of the body that houses the spirit that He gave us. Government can only do so much to look after its citizens if the citizens won't look after themselves. Our Savior was the champion of compassion toward the less fortunate, and THAT is what's missing in the debate here.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  7. rdeleys

    And Jesus spake unto them saying, "I am the profit, the capital gains, and the tax deduction. No man cometh into wealth but by me."

    March 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  8. Nina

    I can't believe this is actually an issue and something that CNN has as their 'front page news'. How many other religions are there in the US? Not everyone is a Christian and not every Christian believes it is a religious issue. There are more important issues going on throughout the country and the world that CNN can be spending its time on. Remember guys, you're not Fox, you're CNN.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  9. Redford

    He'd say exactly what he did say: "Physician, heal thyself."

    March 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • SDH

      Actually Jesus quoted this proverb as something he suspected that others would use against him... Not as something one should either believe nor use themselves.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Redford

      SDH. Indeed. And pointing out that those who profess to heal others are unable to heal themselves. So, where does healing come from?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  10. Colin

    Can you believe that, in the 21st Century, we are still wondering about the thoughts of some dead (quite possibly) schitzophrenic Jew from 2,000 years ago. We are a pathetic, unquestioning species when it comes to being told what we want to hear.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  11. texasfrog

    For evangelicals who are wary of government, I suppose you do not turn to the police when you are under threat; you do not drive on public roads; you do not participate in any regulated activities such as banking or stock trading. Correct? If not, tone down the obvious hypocracy.

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

    Who do I trust more, God or government? I'm reminded of a song that was popular with some servicemen in WWII: Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. If God protected us in battle we wouldn't need ammunition. Only fools continue to believe God holds the answers to problems like this when there is no evidence he's ever solved any other problem.

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

    what would the Bunny do?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • rodbinnc

      Your powers of "stupid" cannot affect me as I am immune to it.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  14. jdog

    what would Dog do?

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

    Jesus would have free food and healthcare for all. He would not buy into the "capitalist mentality" of endless profits on human suffering.
    However, if Jesus, who would be a liberal, would want an affordable single payer system so that everyone could get medical services when they need it.
    BTW...Jesus was against usury fees (interest on loans) and thus he would find Blankfein and is robber baron friends to be evil. Bankers would be the "money changers' that Jesus tossed out of the temple.

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

      You don't have the faintest idea what Jesus would want. All you have is your OWN beliefs, which you hope Jesus would agree with. I'm not criticizing those beliefs, BTW, merely pointing out that people who hold the diametrically opposite beliefs ALSO think Jesus agrees with THEM. Looks to me like we should just utterly disregard what Jesus supposedly believes, since nobody can agree on what it is, and he's shown a remarkable reluctance to show up in person and clarify the matter.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Bizarre


      Yes, now it's coming down to, "my Jesus is better than your Jesus"!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  16. Mohammad A Dar

    No one by the name of Jesus ever existed, it is hinduism fabrication of hindu's, pagans, by corruption of the Hebrew name of son of blessed Mary, Easu, anointed, from Hebrew word Anyat, a blessing from higher authority. Letter J is aded to make him a Jew, but he was a Hebrew, letter A is deleted to conform to hindu, pagan trinity and letter S is added for respect. having no meanings at all. Way of hindu's, deniers of truth in their hinduism, paganism

    A man depicted as Jesus never existed in hiostry but hinduism, innovation of Egyption hindu's pagans by stealing knowledge from Hebrew's to promote hindu pagan Mithra ism, savior ism, based on hindu pagan Pharoahnic hinduism, racism with

    hindu pagan sign of hinduism racism, cross and swastika.Question by writer has no bases to ask for opinion, because a hindu pagan man god named as Jesus never existed.

    Word hindu is based on Latin, (truth) language word hindered, negative, Hun, for great, as in white huns of central Asia, Han, to be in greatness, as in Han, dynasty of china and hin, to be negative to both of them, hindu, a noun in negativity and hinduism, way of negativty. Source of hinduism, disunity among humanity a cause of mayhem, Karma whole humanity is suffering for hinduism, denial of truth of hindu's, deniers of truth absolute in life and hinduism, fabrication of pot head, boy loving hindu sanatan's, criminal goons pretending to be god's in hinduism, defiance of truth absolute to make humanity their gentiles, slaves in Magi ism, trickery in line with hindu, criminal Pharaoh's hinduism, racism and their hindu criminal boy abusing, a holy tradition of hindu criminal tradition as hindu sanatans, filthy goons as man god's of humanity in Pharoahnic hinduism, racism.

    Word Jew is hinduism fabrication of Pharoahnic hindu's, based on Hebrew word Yahood, self centered, secular, hindu, denier of truth, a pig, self centered in defiance of truth absolute in Pharoahnis hinduism, racism, and source of hindu filthy hinduism racism and hindu filthy Judaism, self center ism. Cause of hinduism, disunity among humanity. such as in word Ro Ben hood,l

    Ro means enshrined in or established , Ben, blessing as in Arabic or Hebrew language, hood, habitat, universe according to hindu absurd hinduism absurdity, universe to be creator of human as her gentiles, slaves and human Kings and priest to be their hindu filthy man god's to rule over them.

    hindu Jew's, self centered, secular are not what they claim to be, "ISRAELITE" but hindu pagan of Egypt and Persia, pretending to be Israelite to hind, fool humanity, as has been the case of generations to rob and steal from humanity.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • rodbinnc

      Very interesting post. I will look into this further. Also the name "Israel" is said to have it's origins when the Hebrews were slaves for Ejypt. The Name Israel comes from the following--IS =Isis RA=Ra EL= another Egyption god.

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

      "No one by the name of Jesus ever existed..." Actually, I personally know TWO people by the name of Jesus.
      You probably meant that the person presented as the savior of mankind in the New Testament never existed, and there's some reason to think that may be true, but I sure wouldn't try to make that case in a court of law using the farrago of alternative myths and legends you've dumped on us here.
      And needless to say, your concluding racist remarks pretty much make any thinking person want to discount anything else you have to say.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  17. Aviate

    WWJLD? – Who would Jesus Let Die?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  18. Common sense

    ' “A move toward universal health care would be fitting with the prophetic traditions,” Kraftchick said. ' So, Jesus would seek to empower governments instead of empowering his church to look after the needs of the ailing. Interesting concept. Jesus must have been a liberal, then?

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

      Jesus WAS a liberal – read the Gospels.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  19. farmdevil

    "Yet Marcia Pally, an authority on evangelicals, said many evangelicals are wary of government doing the healing. Their reasons go back centuries."

    Not true. Regardless of what Jesus would say (clearly there are valid interpretations on either side), the only reason for the current debate is that big corporate money has told people that "Obamacare" is bad. We can start having a conversation about what is moral (or what Jesus would do, if that's your thing) only after people stop being so simple to be manipulated by whoever puts money into media.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  20. texasfrog

    This is not about government versus market, it is about the community versus oneself. If you are self-absorbed, your position is set. You need not rationalize, but admit it is what it is.

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

      That would be an excellent position from which to start changing things...

      March 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • farmdevil

      Interestingly I would have much more respect for people if they'd admit that. I personally do like to be a bit more community centered, but I have no proof that my way is right. So if people want to worry about themselves and not others then I can't fault them for that nearly as much as I can for all of this nonsense trying to rationalize things.

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

      also I quoted you on FB 🙂

      March 31, 2012 at 2:43 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.