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. carybenn53

    The idea that charitable organizations should/could fill the gap for those without health insurance is ludicrous, at best. The idea that somehow charitable organizations should/could/would take on the responsibility for the ongoing health care costs of the millions of us who cannot afford health insurance, is completely unrealistic. So, the premise is that we should rely on charity for health care. Well, what about regular and ongoing preventive care for those with chronic conditions over which they have no control? Such as Intrinsic Hypertension? This is a condition that is part of a person's genetic make up, not something they caused by lifestyle choices. They need regular ongoing medical care and supervision, as well as medications that they will need to take on a lifelong basis. Is charity going to cover that? What about someone who is born with other genetic conditions that require regular medical supervision, and possibly more intensive medical interventions later in life. Is charity going to cover this? What about the kids we are now saving who are born extremely prematurely and will be medically fragile all their lives? Is charity going to pick up all of those costs if their parents are unable to afford the cost of health insurance, or, if the parents lose their health coverage and the new insurer denies coverage on the basis of "pre-existing"??? Oh, and what about the 1 in 88 children who have Autism? Is charity going to cover the costs of the necessary therapies as well as the numerous doctor and specialist visits and ongoing care? They will in many, many cases require lifelong social and community support as they grow up and become adults. They will need early and intensive interventions to help them achieve their maximum potential so that in adulthood they will have the best chance possible to be a functional as possible. These are but a few of the examples of people who require ongoing, lifelong medical care. We have millions of baby boomers who are reaching ages where they require alot of medical care for the problems that are simply a part of the aging process. Again, I ask, are charitable organizations going to take care of this long-term care?
    These are not medical conditions that can be "Prayed away". We need to make medical care accessible and affordable.
    The "free market" system of health care clearly does not work. It is a system of health care only for those who can afford it, and more and more Americans are falling into poverty daily. Health care in this country costs more than anywhere else on earth, yet, our quality of care and accessibility lags behind all the rest of the developed nations. Shame on us!!!! Health care is a universal right and is not/should not be debatable. A nation that does not care for it's ill and infirm and disabled is a nation that does not deserve to exist. We can and should do better as the richest nation on earth.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • SDH

      Free societies have an excellent system to compensate for a lack of charity on the part of their wealthy citizens – it is called TAXATION.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  2. kokowawa

    That picture is stupid..Jesus and his people were Middle Easterners not White!! Showing white people dress in Middle Eastern historic clothes is stupid. Enough of changing and altering the history!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Pretty much everything religion deals with is based on fiction, so this should be no surprise.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Walter

    I find most people of faith talk a great deal about helping others and do very little actual helping.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  4. Name*DJ

    Jesus always supports truth and the will of His Father. He didn't distort the truth or abolish the law.

    If the law twisted the will of God, he would not support that which is evil or deception. He left it to his Disciples to follow His truth and to commision His Church to speak the truth thru His Spirit. The church has done this for over 2,000 years. It is not perfect, but it has grown from 1, than 12, to now over 1.4 billion plus all those billons that have died since.
    Man has sometimes corrupted this, and Christ said it would be shaken, but will never be destroyed. The powers of evil will not overcome it. The church supports healing and the poor, but not killing children at any cost or preventing life for any reason. Agree or disagree that is what God willed it to be, and so it will be no matter what evil and self serving mankind will have to say about it. If you are blind to the truth you will not see the truth no matter how clear it may be stated. You can laugh, curse, insult, or make jokes, and even deny it, but God's truth and Will be done. The Catholic Church knows what the truth of this is, and is God's voice on this matter, like it or not, believe it or not, will not change the truth.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • hephastia

      Morally, I can't agree that the Catholic church, with all its hoarded wealth, its denial of women to have the right to have control over their own bodies, and its notoriety for its pederast priests and attending coverups has any moral high ground. If this really was speaking God's will, their god is unpleasant and bigoted. Jesus healed the sick and helped the disenfranchised. A real Christian, trying to follow the moral code of Jesus would support universal healthcare. Why would a true Christian let anyone suffer unnecessarily? Medical care has become so expensive and highly technical that we need a miracle to get care for everybody who needs it .

      March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  5. amazed2

    Are you speaking of the True Living Jesus or the republican concoction?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  6. bonkin

    $1.4 trillion dollars spent on Iraq and Afghanistan in 10 years, the 2012 defficit is $1.5 trillion, and we can't take care of our own people, AMERICANS? This is insane.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  7. Paul

    'If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it." – Stephen Colbert

    March 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • liv

      BUt there are poor people who are just lazy. Do you know that despite their high rate of finishing college, the Chinese Americans are one of the biggest welfare users in the country? They think its their right to take money from the government by not feeding their elderly mother who has money in a chinese bank, forcing her to take food stamps.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  8. Bob

    Saint Paul said.[sic].. if you don't work, you don't eat. Jesus said: "Render unto Caesar,etc." Most folks- there are exceptions-would rather spend their money on new cars, smart phones, computers, etc. – you name it- than spend it on medical insurance. I see no reason to use the force of the U.S. Government to forcibly take assets from some people and give them to other people.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • texasfrog

      Perhaps because that is precisely what happens every day when uninsured individuals use the healthcare system without any form of payment. Who pays? You pay – assuming of course that the real reason you care about this is not precisely because you really just want to freeload on the backs of others.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • nancy

      I agree.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Daniel

      Okay, I am with you on people who have the money but won't buy health insurance.... but how about the all the people who cant afford health insurance ?? what have you to say about them ?? This opposition to the Affordable Care Act is only constructive if there is also a dialog on a solution to our health care problem. All I see from most people who oppose "Obamcare" is obstructionism... and that is not going to solve a damn thing !!!!!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • leroy jackson

      The quote " u dont work u dont eat" was said to people who were praticing a form of christian socialism – the statement was not an endorsement of capitalism

      March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  9. ksmahoney

    I think Christians need to figure out whether government should be dictating religion or not. If we are supposed to be a "Christian nation" that tells women they can't have abortions and gay marriage is not allowed, then that nation should model itself after Christ and take care of "the least of these"

    March 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  10. leroy jackson

    The earth is the Lord's – we just get to abide here a little bit – n the U.S. government & the people should somewhat be the same, thus the government is the people helping each other and trusting our government should be the same as trusting our neighbor, but i understand the dilemma. Helping our neighbors n need shouldnt even b something that needs debating i think but how can we most effectively help. The basic question here i think is which is more important profit or people? Jesus would say people – i am 200% confident. I base my thoughts on the epistle of James. I am atheist and am puzzled at y any christian would wonder about what the right thing to do would be.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm |

    Its easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle, than it will be for a Rich man to get into heaven!

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

      wanna bet?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm |

      Romney, is that you? Lmao!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  12. Bob

    Would Jesus drink Coke or Pepsi or Fanta? Dos Equis or Guinness? Camel or Lucky Strike? Latex or sheep skin or nothing?

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

      Wine, after he made it from water of course.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • TD

      Coke, it's the real thing. Guinness, nectar of the gods. Cuban cigar, of course, to Him they aren't illegal. And natural, naturally. And he wouldn't give Obamacare the time of day, He would be to busy healing and actually doing HEALTH CARE instead of worring about payment. Greed is all about man.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  13. texasfrog

    I am amazed how people who have no idea what they are talking about simply make up cr** and say it is true. Some of these statements are as true as stories about the Easter Bunny!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  14. xaviermorrisms

    I think we should stop asking What Jesus Would Do and start asking What Would a Logical Person Do

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

      Yes, because Jesus was completely illogical...Jeesh...What kind of moron would post something so inane as this post??

      March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • RichardSRussell


      March 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  15. Reason Together

    Jesus never asked the Roman government to help him with healing services. But it is through his saying "what you did to the least of my brothers you did to me," that was the origin of Christian health care. It started because all people were considered of equal dignity because they bear the image of God. Jesus by identifying himself with certain weak condition or states, like illness, encouraged his disciples to serve him in the person of others. This gives a personal dimension to such service and not simply writing a check to disembodied person. This is why health care services run by nuns or other religiously based organization offer a more comprehensive approach to healing and restoring the sick. You are not simply a number or problem to be solved but a person to be cared for and loved is the hope and goal for a Catholic Health organization. This is why it was such an egregious mistake for the President to pick a fight with people of faith over the HHS mandate. These organization serve in way that the government simply can't and they provide million to their local communities in free health care for the poor.

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

      The President picked no fights here. Those were carefully crafted talking points, which were designed to divide the electorate. Pretty sure on this one.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm |

    It is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle, than it is to get a rich man into heaven!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  17. Patriarchae

    Jesus wouldn't have an opinion of health care reform because the people of his time would not be able to comprehend modern politics and healthcare in the first place! Anybody trying to connect the words of Jesus with modern healthcare reform is a fool, nothing more. And anybody who relies on the words of a man who died 1,000 years ago and a bronze-age book of fairy tales filled with more scientific and historical inaccuracies than you can shake a stick at to back up their positions, should not be commenting on this issue.

    Healthcare reform is a serious issue that requires logic and intelligence to discuss. Now both sides can use logic and intelligence to argue their positions, but bringing religion (in particular Jesus and the Bible) into it is downright stupid. Amen.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Reason Together

      If it was not for the followers of Jesus, who tried to live his teaching, we would be living in a society were terms like equal dignity would have no meaning. IT was the Christians who fought for and promoted the idea that all people deserved to be treated when regardless of social class. Jesus was not a social, but did desired his disciples to love others and serve them as if it were Jesus himself.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  18. liv

    Jesus lived in an era where there are no welfare queens.

    Universal Healthcare is good in paper, but in reality, we are already taking care of the lazy, the poor, the elderly. Then you have the illegal immigrants who keep using our taxpayer money for their anchor babies.

    Think about this, in paper, everyone who has a car should have to pay car insurance. Does it really happen? NOPE!! My car insurance includes fees for driving around illegals. They dont pay, I do.

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

      liv – then it is clear you are FOR Universal Healthcare, because this is precisely the point. If everyone does not hold some form of insurance, then who pays their bills? You do – in the form of inflated premiums. Why have insurance premiums risen dramtically for more than a decade? Think about it – that is if you ever actually think.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • JC in Western U.S.

      You know, it's funny – but when I look at pictures of the Earth from space, I don't see any lines between nations. Evidently, you do. And you see lines between yourself and the poor. And you see lines between yourself and the elderly. You see so many lines between you and others that I have to wonder if you are in a little box all alone, inside lines that you have drawn to separate yourself from the rest of humanity.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • SDH

      Right! But notice the cost of paying for those illegals is much smaller because WE ALL PARTICIPATE. Imagine if only the accident prone paid for car insurance and only if they could afford it?!?! Anyone of us could go bankrupt in a heartbeat.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • TD

      If you don't want to pay for car insurance, don't own a car. Problem solved. What is the solution if I can't afford health insurance? Die? Good answer to the 50 million of us out there.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • TD

      And by the way, Universal Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act are two totally different issues. The ACA does not give a 'universal care' option. The ACA is not about healthcare, it is about money. That's it. A socialist type program can work and does work in other countries, just not here because the insurance companies won't allow it and if you attach the word 'socialist' to anything in America you are deemed un-American.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Gerald

    If we should believe that the lord will provide what we need, then lets abolish all health care and leave it in his hands. Eliminate all hospitals, doctors, and medicine. The lord gave us the talents to progress in medicine to help people in need. It is man that took that talent and charged huge amounts of dollars for the everyday individual to afford. Then isn't it man's, not God's, responiblilty to fix that said problem. Health care insurance is man made it doesn't come from the heavens. If we pick and choose what God helps us with get rid of your car and see if God picks you up and gives you a ride to the store.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  20. Joe

    What would Santa do? What would the easter bunny do? The great pumpkin? It's such a pathetic question.

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

      No, not really. There almost certainly was a historical Jesus. Non-Jewish, Roman sources mention him and his execution. That Jesus probably had little to do with the "Jesus" most US "Christians" claim to worship, however.

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

      Aviate, if you look closely at a those "non-Jewish, Roman" sources, you'll see that they're exactly as credible as YOU are, namely "It is said by some that there was a person named Jesus and he did thus and so." None of them are eyewitness accounts of ANYTHING, and the earliest of them dates to a century after Jesus supposedly lived.
      Also, the Great Census of Caesar Augustus? Nobody else noticed it.
      The zombie jamboree in Jerusalem when Jesus was being crucified? Nobody else noticed it.
      The brilliant star in the east? Nobody else noticed it.
      Myths and legends, my friend, myths and legends, the solace of a conquered, oppressed people.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
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About this blog

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.