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. phalconmarvelknights

    You have a very big problem with your short term memory America. You believe that Obama got you into this present financial mess, when it was George Bush Jr. and his puppetmaster Cheney, who brought you into a fake war and got you trillions of dollars into debt. When Obama actually wants to HELP the people of America, the conservatives/GOP C-Block him at every turn and spin the news as though he's evil and this current situation is all of his doing. What is wrong with you? The fact that so-called Christians think that Jesus would oppose health care, which is essentially people who have, caring for those who have not, is completely and utterly moronic. Stop bringing Jesus in on political issues. He's not relevant. You just simply must do right by each other. Treat each other as human beings. You don't need a god to teach you that! I have no God, but I do right by my fellow man because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO. Lose the ego, lose the selfishness and help each other. That's all. Help those who cannot help themselves. America is on its way to another civil war. Your politics are dirty, filthy and disgusting. You are an embarrassment. A shell of your former selves. If you can't stop this infighting and moronic behavior you'll be completely blindsided when China walks through your front door and takes over your house.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • vlaw

      Well said,!Very well said! Its refreshing to know some REAL THINKERS still exist.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You write as if you are from outside America looking in. FWIW, I'm inside America and agree with 90% of what you wrote.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  2. Jim McDonald

    Would Jesus support abortion on demand? Would Jesus support death panels? Would Jesus support the government passing laws against his Church?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • palintwit

      Would jesus support Sarah Palin starting the rumors about death panels ?

      March 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • BABOOOOM!!!

      Well Jim!
      He had no problem killing the first born of every Egyptian family. So I wouldn't say he was entirely against abortion!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Would Jesus support all these people purporting to speak for him?

      March 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Jim McDonald

      You mean that obamacare will provide unlimited care? No? then there are 'death panals.' You could learn something from Palin – if you were not so corrupt.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jim McDonald

      The question was would Jesus support abortion. Try not to confuse the statement.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • flinkin

      Sarah Palin:

      March 31, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  3. dudley0415

    In every communication there is a message, no matter how well it is camouflaged.

    What is the message in this article, "If you don't support Obama Care you aren't a Christian"?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • SDH

      Well, if by "communication" you mean expository journalism, and by "message" you mean the TRUTH that one my infer from the expositions therein, then on that point I'd have to agree. The TRUTH is that if you OPPOSE "Obamacare", in the way so many GOP and Tea Party supporters proclaim, then chances are that you aren't very Christian.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • dudley0415

      Interesting that you link the legislation of a single nation with a universal faith in an eternal god.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  4. laughorcry

    Jesus rejects no one because of a pre-existing condition.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • dudley0415

      Another nicely said sound bite that sounds profound at first, but upon further inspection says nothing.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  5. TIm Rigney

    "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." . . .

    March 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  6. palintwit

    Would jesus watch DWTS ?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  7. Dave T

    I believe Jesus said, be like children and you will be closer to God. As the website above quotes, 70 percent of all illnesses are caused by lifestyle (overweight, smoking, lack of exercise). Children do not smoke and they are full of energy. As it pertains to the 30 percent of illnesses that are not the fault of people, we should show mercy. As it pertains to the other 70 percent, we should help people over come their addictions. How can Jesus help people over come and change? You be the judge.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  8. dudley0415

    The same people continue to ask the same question with the same motives.

    "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are Gods."

    March 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  9. mambert

    Denied health care for all it is as strongly support slavery in 21 century.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |

    LUKE 14:26
    If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  11. nancy

    The world is overpopulated and the problem of healthcare will never be solved. The government should not have the right to tax someone if they choose not to have health insurance. This should be a choice. The government is suppose to be of the people, for the people, and by the people. We don't need more big government telling us what to do. We can think for ourselves. If insurance companies could sell in any state the rates would be more affordable. Yes, there are those who seriously need help, and medicaid should be there to help out. But, this should not be abused, as we see it is abused every day. Abortion should not be a choice for birth control. It is in many cases. Wrong!! So what would Jesus do? He would ask people to pray for their country and for each other and turn their hearts to him. He alone is the great physician and the healer of all.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • SDH

      So wouldn't health care "of the people, by the people, for the people" be considered within Government's domain?

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

      If you really believe in jesus performance before poor people from the start point of your heart; you, without any reasonable doubt;will see the end point

      March 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Prayer is the biggest waste of time ever invented.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  12. bluemax77

    This network and it’s BS questions..!!

    March 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  13. Helena Troy

    Re: "He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government."

    Huh? The government IS "We, the people"-if he doesn't like our country, and our government, maybe he should leave!

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

      The government is not the people anymore, they are out for themselves and their agenda. God gave us minds to think and make our own decisions about our own lives. People are making the government their God, they're looking to the government to solve their issues not praying and asking for guidance from God.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • cougarblu

      Yes. He blithely ignores that the governments of the time were not democratic. Your government was formed on the principles that government should do what its people dictate....but then evangelists aren't known to be entirely truthful.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  14. rdeleys

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

    March 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  15. palintwit

    Would jesus live in a trailer park full of teabaggers ?

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

      Hell no! He'd live in Beverly Hills.

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

      Nazareth was worse.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  16. martog

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

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

      11. You think that 10 lengthy paragraphs of self-referential diatribe will convince those who operate on faith of anything at all.

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

      Your post is way too long. Nobody's going to read it. I know I won't.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • BABOOOOM!!!

      I read it! I think it's great!

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

      @palintwit sadly that's what most Christians say about the bible. It's like a user agreement, skip to the end and click "agree".

      March 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • gastrafitis

      Actually to deny dualism would be to deny god and science itself. Dualism is the one concept that ' religion and spirituality' and 'science' share that nothing else does.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Get Real


      Yes, your post is great in content... but it could use some better spacing 'n such so as not to make our eyes bleed.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • TIm Rigney

      No, what I fear is spending time in my life writing 44-line manifestos directed at people who will never read them and wouldn't be persuaded by them if they did – on a Saturday, no less. 😉

      March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • rcflyer8410

      Excellent post. The problem is that the post and information are logical and make sense – whereas religion is beyond logic or common sense. You can't argue logic with insanity. I keep hearing how our nation was founded based on Christianity – yet they fail to listen to some of the most famous quotes by our founders, such as Thomas Jefferson and even Ben Franklin (one of my favorites...lighthouses are more useful than churches).

      March 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Thoughtful

      Thank you. The educated who care to learn and consider WILL bother to read. The foolish and easily led will blindly whomever shouts the loudest,

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

      What really makes me wonder about the negative comments are those that 'ASSUME' I type this over and over. Have you ever heard of 'cut and paste'? Oh, I forgot,,,,,you didn't read about that either! Sorry, I posted something that might actually make you think for yourself had you bothered to read it. No wonder religion won't go away. Too many lemmings on this planet.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I remember deploring what MTV did to people's attention spans, and that was a couple of decades before Twitter. I sometimes despair that the only way to get things done in our democracy any more is thru bumper stickers, lapel pins, and sound bites.
      Thank you for assuming that at least SOME people on this board are capable of paying attention for more than 10 seconds.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  17. palintwit

    Would jesus buy Bristol Palin's book even though it stinks and no one else is buying it ?

    March 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm |

    Matthew 19:24
    Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

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

      Read the whole chapter, you're taking a verse and you need to consider the context

      March 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • BABOOOOM!!!

      I have read it liv!
      its very easy to understand! Have you read it? There is no other context that makes it any less true! I request if you think so then point it out!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  19. Jim P>

    "Jesus" had magic powers and could heal people just by letting them touch the hem of his robe. In fact, he didn't even have to know until it happened as it went off without his control. He could heal everyone in the world instantly if he so chose. He does not so choose so it is obvious that illness and disease are part of his "godly" plan.

    Beyond that, he very specifically told his followers not to take any thought for tomorrow or to worry about planning for things. So health insurance is an insult to faith and no Christian should have it or even worry about it.

    You trust your god or you do not. If you believe, you do not need a doctor.

    The rest of us will have an easier time getting an apppointment that way which is a nice side benefit.

    March 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  20. dc


    March 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • dudley0415

      Such an emotional reply. Those without understanding cannot understand.

      Understanding is a matter of the heart.

      Out of the content of his heart he speaks.

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

      I'm sorry u feel that way, I pray you come to know the truth:)

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

      Leslie, your prayer has been answered. He ALREADY knows the truth.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:37 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.