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. John

    Auto-immune disease and tsunamis are not compatible with a compassionate all knowing, all powerful being, so the question is meaningless really.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • opinion8it

      You should try to educate yourself on what belief in God and following the teachings of Jesus has to offer. Jesus offered a path that steers you away from disease and natural disasters. It is why they called the gospels "good news" and it it why Jesus is known as the Christ (savious).

      March 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  2. jordan

    If Jesus ever lived which I do not even believe he was just a man like any other man.He may have had some great peaceful ideas that nowadays one would of called being a Hippy.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  3. Bob

    This article sums up America's decline.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  4. usatruth

    Un-patriotic 0.01 billionaires hold a fishing rod.
    Jesus is a bait on the hook.
    Evangenlicals and Un-educated are fishes on the hook.
    Get the point?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  5. Alfred the Great

    The GOP = GREEDY OPPOSITION PARTY's behavior on health care is anything but Christian.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  6. palintwit

    President Santorum will see to it that we all get more of the baby jesus in our everyday lives.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  7. Writerscramp

    During the entire universal health care debate of recent years, no factor has caught my attention more than the number of so-called Christian Republicans who have opposed the idea. I think somewhere in that bible those hypocrites love so much is something about Jesus' calling for everyone to care for the sick and the needy

    March 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Mrs. Fudd

      He called the church to provide for the needy, not the government.

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

      Instead of asking "the church" to help the poor and the sick, the god should role up his sleeves and do it his/her/its-self. Give, give give – it never ends.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • opinion8it

      Mrs. Fudd – he called on everyone to help the needy - not just the "church". A "church" is just a place where believers get together. He called on everyone to believe and for everyone to care for others as they would live others to care for them.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Reason Together

      The role of the government is to ensure justice. Providing healthcare is an act of charity, the government by necessity is too far removed from the suffering person to adequately respond to needs. This is why it is a better situation for those who actually can do acts of charity to do health care ministry.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Mrs. Fudd

    Jesus never once looked to the Roman Government for anything. He told the people to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" regarding taxes. Health care is NOT the government's job or responsibility. It is the Christian church that started hospitals in order to keep the commandment to care for those in need. Having said that, I think that the health care in this country has gone haywire. The spiraling costs are mostly due to the horrific malpractice insurance fees that doctors and hospitals have to pay because of greedy people who want compensation for every little thing that goes wrong. Sometimes accidents do happen, but thanks to people like that woman who sued McDonalds for coffee that was too hot, we now have to be careful of every little thing for fear of being sued. It is greed that has lead us to this health care mess, and until people stop being so greedy, there is little we can do to make it better.

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

      Oh bull.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • opinion8it

      Jesus did not interact with the Roman government because the roman empire did not ask for Jesus' input nor did it ask for anyone's input on how the government should be run. Today, however, we live in a country where we can shape how we want our government to be. So, if jesus were alive today, he most definitely have more interaction with the spaping of government. You should keep in mind that Irael, prior to being conquered, had a government as well. Government is what you make it.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Rob

      Fudd, you are wrong on several points, and you also compared apples to oranges. But first, where is the Catholic church in making sure the poor are taking care of? Oh yeah, they are molestin boys.
      But on the costs topic, here goes. First, malpractice insurance has very little to do with health care costs (look at the Heritage Foundation study that advocated for the mandate). One major issue is negotiated fees (take a look at your EOB and see what was charged and what was paid). This causes more tests to be ordered to make up for the low amount that the doctors and hospitals receive for insured patients. Second, the administrative costs of HMOs is through the roof. Third, fraud. Fourth, uninsured using the system (mandate would cure this). If I go to the ER and have insurance it is roughly $600, but if I don't have insurance it is roughly $2,000, picked up by the government. Hospitals know this, which is why they charge it.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Actual studies by actual statisticians with access to actual facts say that the cost of malpractice insurance accounts for less than 2% of health-care costs. Compare that to the 22-31% overhead charged by insurance companies if you want to know where your money is going. (For comparison purposes, the administrative cost of Medicare is about 2.8%.)

      March 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  9. Melvin Painter

    What a pathetic story to match a pathetic liberal lying propaganda machine.

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

      I read that Rupert Murdoch is in trouble again.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  10. mobetta

    and this is news???

    March 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  11. mm

    Would Jesus, who healed the sick, support health care reform? How 'bout... no, He'd heal them.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  12. Cindy

    Would Jesus support health care reform? Only if presented by the Republican party. They own Jesusl.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • jake

      How true Jesus is a Republican. Let the poor uninsured pray for healing. But don't raise my taxes to pay for it. That's the Christian way.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  13. opinion8it

    Of course Christians are divided on the subject – thus the need for Jesus to separate the sheep from the goats on judgment day. It should not be a surprise to anyone that many "Christians" are Christians by name only and havent' the slightest clue about the meaning of the gospels. So, go ahead and give your excuses and reasons as to why you think that giving comfort to those who are needy is not a good idea - I'm sure God has heard them all by now.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  14. Chicago Jimbo

    WOW! What happened to separation of church and state? How can religion even enter into the debate about government health care? Unless it's spiritual health care. And we all know spiritual health care is quite expensive. You have to pay with your soul. More people have been killed in the name of God by the Christian church than have been healed...so I don't think the Christian church is the place to go for advice on health care. Try most other civlized, 1st-world nations that take care of their people by providing health care. But this debate is clearly all about how much it'll cost...about money. If, as a country, we didn't wage holy wars like we were on a Crusade, there'd be so much money available, the health care issue wouldn't be an issue at all.

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

      Separating Church from State does not mean separating one's soul from their mind when making informed electoral decisions.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Yeah, but calculate in how many people are employed directly or indirectly by the military. Are you ready to put all of those people and fighting men and women out of work?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  15. liv

    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 |

    To be my disciple, you must HATE, your mother your father your children, your grand children, and wife!

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

      youre just trolling, go away

      March 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm |

      This is what your bible say! You're the troller FREAK!

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

      please get the help you clearly need, and do not join the rest of society until you do

      March 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  17. YBP

    The truth is that there's no first-hand historical evidence of a real-life Jesus. Paul made him up to make money. His name actually translates to Joshua, it mean's God Saves. His biography is a cut-and-paste job derived from other literature of the day. It's child's play. It's the biggest hoax in history. Unfortunately, millions have died because of it. Don't believe me? Ask your clergy.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Should not the burden of proving your statement be upon you? Your asking us to take your word for it and ask another. Please give proof.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Jesus

      Any historian respectable in his occupation would know Jesus existed, that's not even the discussion anymore your just babblin on nonsense. The question is who was Jesus? not did he exist. There's too much evidence on his existence to deny him as a real person. Your very uninformed and people like you should be booted off the web for humdrum.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      The sum total of the evidence for the existence of Jesus appears in 4 short stories written 50-130 years after he supposedly lived and died. We don't know who the authors were, but they certainly did not know Jesus personally. How much of the story did they get right? Well, ask yourself to recall, from memory (no looking stuff up), what you remember of the presidential election of 1956. Who were the candidates? What were their positions on the main issues? What were some of their famous sayings? Then ask yourself that SAME question about the election of 1880. THAT'S how reliable the gospels are.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  18. scoto

    A nation who tolerates things like "mega churches" and religious figures who continuously seem obsessed with parting people from their money and generally running scams, is harrdly qualified to answer what Jesus would do.
    Maybe we should be asking simply what a moral right thinking society should do. We really dont need to know what Jesus might have thought about this or that.

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

    And do you think he would approve of sacrificing unwanted babies, drug use, creating more poverty, lying to get elected, free contraceptives, and voting based on skin color?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Reason & Logic

      He also asked us to love our enemies which you don't seem to be doing.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  20. Soylent

    Stop putting this Belief garbage as a front page banner headline. There was no Jesus. Your answer to this question is just a way to lend false weight to the opinion you already have while trying to dress it up as irrefutable fact.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • No Credibility

      No Jesus? Why, because someone who calls himself "Soylent" says so. People like you have no credibility because all you do is say God does not exist. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to show that Jesus was an actual person. The rest is a matter of faith - believing it or not.

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

      @No Credibility - Oh really? Please cite the evidence.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:51 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.