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. Wayne

    Marcia Pally is such a hypocrite. Her quote is below. She talks about religious persecution by state churches yet like so many evangelicals she really means that the evangelicals should be the state church in America. Why do you the evangelicals have gone gaga over Santorum? They want everyone to be under laws they want.

    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 by 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.”

    March 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  2. Chazzmatazz

    Good grief. Biblical interpretations aside, universal healthcare is a proven success, at least compared to our bloated, wasteful system. That's why every other wealthy, industrialized nation provides it. Don't let corporate-controlled politicians scare you into thinking otherwise. The populations of those other countries enjoy longer lifespans and lower costs...period. How can anyone think that is a bad thing?

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

      Thank you.

      450,000 Americans have died in the US because tney didn't have health insurance since 9/11. Who cares?

      Doesn't sound like our system is working for everybody, just the wealthy. Our system is twice as expensive as any othe country in the world. No wonder so many can't afford it.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  3. SDH

    The one point I completely agree with in this article the last two paragraphs, especially the last sentence!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  4. Gerald

    Anybody that believes and preaches that God will provide for your basic needs and has health insurance coverage is a total hypocrite. 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 to that talent and charged huge amounts of dollars for the everyday individual to afford. Then isn't 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 2:54 pm |
    • Nodack


      March 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  5. Patrick from Minnesota

    Considering Jesus effectively advocated for socialism, I think it's safe to assume he'd also advocate for healthcare reform.

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

      I agree, if you are a TRUE CHRISTIAN you will support the Health Care bill. The problem though with a lot of so called Christians is that they pick and choose what they want to believe, especially when it comes to helping ALL of Humanity because it includes other social economic groups or other races. The "Christians" today especially in the U.S. are mostly hypocrites! They really need to THINK FOR THEMSELVES and THNK FROM THE HEART, like Jesus did, it would be a better world.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • George

      I agree with u !!!! For a country still uses one nation under God better really take a hard look at one self.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm |

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

    March 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  7. KidsOnRace

    You can justify just about anything with a Holy Book. As long as the meme is popular enough, and requires people to face hardship to destroy it, even when our species would clearly be better off without it in the future, the masses will follow. And most people to do not possess the brain power to finish a book. Our genes our working against us.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  8. KidsOnRace

    Forget about Jesus. Embrace reason.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • SDH

      It is not all that difficult to embrace both... you just have to stop judging and love your neighbor first.

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

      Unfortunatly, the party of ME (republicans) have a lot of people brainwashed to think of no one but themselves and even in that case they have the people voting against their best interests and their own families best interests, it is too bad we have such selfish people in the U.S.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  9. zip

    Thank you Fox Fake News for turning America into a sewer pit. Pastors that turn their back on the sick and dying. Educated conservatives that don't believe in science. Churches that preach that loving money is a good thing. When and if God does come back, the people that call themselves believers will be the first ones thrown into the fiery pit.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Leslie

      You are soooo right!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm |


    March 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  11. palintwit

    Would jesus watch nascar ?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  12. Nathan

    WHO CARES! Why are we asking this!? It doesn't matter. How about we educate people on the benefits of healthcare and continue to show what every other country does that....now don't fall over.....WORKS!!!! This country is so maddening with the ridiculous rhetoric. We shouldn't be debating our well being. It should just be! CNN and all other news outlets need to stop contributing to the dumbing of America. This question does just that!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Howard

      Thank you nathan. The quicker we start thinking for ourselves instead of wondering what someone whose been dead for more than 2,000 years would have done, the better.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  13. George

    So sad for a government to use words like in God we trust and one nation under God and not wanting to care of it's people. We do not see anything from insurance companies looking out for our people they will cut u off if u get over the limit they will not take care of the prexisting if it was for government run Medicare how many would today be able to get insurance and at what cost? What are these people going to do, die because no one cares.
    One nation under God , in God we trust, or is it my money first. Are we lying to ourshelf in who we really are?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  14. Elizabeth

    Jesus would advicate for universal health care.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  15. dondijon

    This is directed at all the anti-christian posters, The topic at question is not open for debate of if there is a God, or if Jesus existed, He undoubtedly did and DOES. You comments are unwelcome here and You arogance is obvious. May God Bless You with the Blssing He deem's You Deserve.... Just remember, a Blessing is not always a good thin, remember JOB was also Blessed!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • SDH

      And wishing ill on others is not a very loving thing to do. How do you measure that action against God's law?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • rdeleys

      That is your opinion, as opposed to fact. How arrogant! What makes your opinion more worthy of being heard than anyone else's?

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

      MAybe he did. But he does not now. Any claim by you or anyone else is just childish.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You say "undoubtedly", which means it's not POSSIBLE to doubt. So how do you explain the existence of all the people who not only doubt but outright state the opposite? Clearly you are not in tune with reality, probably because you have no respect for the idea of reasoning based on evidence.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  16. Ben

    Yes, he would. There isn't room for argument on this one. People like to pick and choose half-quotes from the Bible in order to to fit their political agenda. The idea that Jesus would deny healthcare to anyone for any reason is contrary to all we have been taught that he stood for.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Leslie

      You GO, Ben!!!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Oh, Ben. EVERYBODY picks and chooses quotes to support what they already believe. The Bible is the world's biggest Rorschach test. You can look at it and see anything you want to.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  17. Oscar Benner

    Ugh, no wonder the rest of the world laughs at America with all these right-wing-religious-wing-nuts running around. In Europe, everyone has health care; the busboy, the waitress, the bus driver, the janitor. Europeans not only have higher standards of living, but also score higher on personal happiness surveys. They are also more and more atheistic. Too bad up tight bible thumpers have to make our country so miserable to live in.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Aren't they rioting in Spain this week. Grecce a few weeks ago. France ...hey even the UK rioted a year ago.

      What was the USA's last major riot. Maybe Katrina but unless I am wrong, Rodney King. How long ago was that?

      March 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • From Spain

      Mark, Spain at the moment is striking BECAUSE the right wing is trying to take away and/or limits those benefits, exactly the opposite of what you are trying to imply, educate yourself.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

    The right wing hides their greed behind a wall of artificial Christianity!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  19. David

    If he healed the sick for free, why would you need health care. Wait in line for him, get a blessing for free and off you go cured. Now if you had to pay, its Obama care not Jesus care.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  20. Way Out There

    After reading this article, how can anyone deny there is a war against religion right now?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • SDH

      I can!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • rdeleys

      I can too!

      March 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • I

      This article is criticizing religion, this article is using religion to criticize those who claim to be religious and don't act accordingly (those who believe in Jesus but don't agree to make healthcare available to those who need it and can't afford it).

      March 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • I

      I meant to say: this article is not criticizing religion.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Howard

      As opposed to the war by Religious people against women and gay people.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Easy! Give me a link to the body count.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:22 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.