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. Karon

    Insurance before it was called "Insurance" was called "Assurance". Insurance is a for profit industry paying dividends to shareholders. That's the problem in a nutshell. Insurance should be a non-profit enterprize. I think make all "insurance" must be non-profit and that is the solution to it in my opinion. Insurance should not be allowed to be a for profit company. To allow insurance companies to enter into capitolism is immoral. Sell Assurance because Insurance is immoral. Forcing someone to buy For Profit Insurance is like forcing someone to Donate to the Red Cross or is it like forcing someone to Donate to AIG. It is ridiculas either way, but what makes sense is to make Insurance what it is suppose to be ... more like the Red Cross than AIG.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  2. durps

    Oh, and religion is the number one problem in this country and the world for that matter. Then healthcare.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  3. John

    1st off some of the uninsured do not want to pay the cost and would rather have nice cars, nice clothes than spending money on health care. There are many married young people that choose NOT to have LIFE INSURANCE and they do not consider the consequences for their family should they die. The do NOT expect to die and many of the youngest amoung us do not expect nor believe they will get severely sick and would rather pay as you go. The older we get the more we realize we need BOTH Health Insurance and Life Insurance and would forego other things to have it.

    What would Jesus do, EXPECT the Christian Churches, Hospitals and Doctor's to provide their services to the poor like they have for Centuries. By the way, how can one have MEANINGFUL Health Care WITHOUT TORT reform? You cannot! The Malpractice insurance is well over six figures, who do you think winds up absorbing that cost? The INSURED!

    March 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  4. Horus

    Ahh, I mean we all remember Matthew 35:16

    "Yea and the leper did come unto Jesus. And He did say, 'Lol, preexisting condition. Should have bought insurance'"

    March 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  5. awasis

    So if providing health care to those that don't have it should be handled by religious groups, then what have they been waiting for? What is holding back you rightous religious people from providing health care to the poor?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  6. Commonsense

    The argument that we all want the same thing "healthcare for everyone" but via the free market and not govt doesn't stand. If it did there would never have been the need for a healthcare bill. So why is there a need for a govt bill. The free market failed and will continue to fail. Business responds to "the bottom line", there is no remorse, no caring, no humanity, only greed. How can any Christian believe the free market will be any different this time around.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  7. wade O'Connor

    this is why i quit CNN . What ever happened to actual news.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • awasis

      Apparently you didn't quit.

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

      Here's some hot news: Wade O'Connor returns to CNN!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  8. Steve

    CNN speaking with authority about Jesus? Are you kidding me? You dont really care what he has to say about anything else, yet you are more than glad to drag His name and the bible (which you know nothing about) into a debate about to support your position.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  9. Ridiculous

    I liked Obama's commentary how Jesus would support his higher taxes ha! I'm pretty sure Jesus would not support war, abortion, capital punishment, bride money aka foreign aid other wasteful use of tax payer dollars etc.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  10. durps

    My fiance works for a top insurance brokerage (not health) but insurance nonetheless. I can tell you this: these insurance companies are making a s***load of money and they don't mind throwing a $15,000 party here and there for their employees, or buying catered lunch, or letting their sales producers pick whatever they want for a company car. It's really disgusting. Meanwhile, I make $12/hr and can't afford health insurance because I need to pay for a place to live. Now I have a $737 ER bill that I have no clue how I'm going to pay. Point is, there are a lot people that can't afford health insurance and there is a lot of wasteful spending and massive profit margins on the corporate side. The insurance companies are the problem... and for what I had done and the 30 mins I was at the ER I for the life of me am trying to figure out how that equals $737.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  11. Joe

    We need to get rid of the insurance companies – single payer system like in Canada. That is the only way to make health care affordable.

    Regarding the comment in the article about charities and non-profits - what a joke – are we really going to make a person risk his health and that of his family on charities and non-profits – let's get rid of the charities and non-profits and let the people (through their government) run this efficiently,

    March 31, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Absolutely!! Thank you!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • CarefulThought

      I think "Joe"'s last name is Stalin.

      The more you let the government take care of, the more you rewind the cause of liberty and self-reliance to the feudal times when people relied for their very food on the Lord of the castle in their town.

      Jesus did pay tax, but when they asked him if we should, he sent them to get money out of a FISH to pay his tax and the tax of the fisherman. The tax then was One drachma (day's wage) per year, per person. Not related to your income. And everyone paid their fair share- the exact same amount. The median income right now is around 26k and working 6 days a week (as in Jesus time, 14-16 hour days, at that) the average daily income is $87.

      I would pay $87 a year in taxes all day long.

      Jesus didn't even pay it out of his own money 😉

      The bible is VERY BIG on self reliance, and only using charity for those who really need it (widows, orphans and those so maimed or handicapped that they can't work)

      "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" – 2 Thess. 3:10
      "a little sleep a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will attack you like a bandit" Prov. 24:33

      And on and on.

      The point is, how many of us know someone on welfare who can totally work. Even if it's inconvenient, difficult or even overwhelmingly exhausting, they can still work. But they don't, because they feel like "they paid into it all these years" They didn't.

      Leftist governemnts promote welfare so that they have bought off enough votes to keep them in power, but it stunts the growth of the country until it collapses. America rose to greatness because of hard work and self-reliance. Now 50% of the country takes some kind of help from the government, whether it's fuel oil assistance, food stamps, or some subsidy.

      Stop it. If you want something, get a job, save your money, don't smoke, drink or play the lottery. Save your money and buy it. don't expect O-BAM-A to keep slipping you cash. He took that money from people who ARE willing to work and you should be ashamed of yourself.

      As for healthcare- the answer is equally simple. stop giving people insurance through employment. Let them buy their own insurance. They'll fight for better deals, and question $20 aspirin tablets if they have to pay it themselves. I have my own insurance. It's $98 a month. It doesn't cover every trip to the doctor, and I don't want it to. I don't want to spend $500 a month for health insurance just so that every last thing is covered. I just want something in place incase something horrible happens. Healthcare isn't a daily part of our lives.

      And if we're so worried about our health, stop doing all the things that cause bad health like smoking and eating so much red meat. Get out and get some exercise and you won't' need to SEE a doctor most likely. I'm 42 and I've been to the doctor like 3 times in 20 years. If I get cancer, I'm covered. If I have a bad car accident I'm covered. I don't need the government buying by birth control.

      If we're so worried about the poor, why are we fighting for the government to give them free healthcare, don't' they need other things more urgently like food and shelter? Why aren't we trying to set up free housing for them? Oh, yeah, that's right- we tried that, and they graffittied them to death and made the property value of everyone around there plummet. People don't appreciate things that are just given to them.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  12. doug estes

    The catholic church in one word. Archaic

    March 31, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  13. horace

    If you are wary of the government, you should support the individual mandate because it lets you chose which commercial health insurance to chose from. In other words, Obamacare leaves it to private industry to deliver healthcare and set prices - with some regulation thrown in to protect the consumer. The other way to solve the problem would be for a federal health insurance, which most people don't want. Of course, the third "solution" is to do nothing.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  14. palintwit

    Would jesus have teabags dangling from his earlobes ?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  15. Livelystone

    Jesus healed the sick who came to Him.

    For those who do not choose to come to Him to be healed, do need health insurance............. to say the least!

    March 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  16. JonWNC

    Healthcare should not, and ultimate CANNOT, be a 'business.' It must evolve into a nonprofit service. Remove the profit motive, and the system gets a lot simpler to fix. In otherwords, socialize it, and be done with it. I want doctors that want to heal, not doctors that studied medicine for a fat paycheck.

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

      Exactly!! Thank you!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Joe

      Well said.

      It is like music – if a musician is just in it for the money, I don't really want to listen.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      99% of doctors aren't in medicine for profit and fleecing the public. If you come to a doctor with a problem,the doctor tries to fix it. It's amazing how people have no gripes about paying $1000 to have their car fixed, take a $2000 vacation, buy a $1200 flat screen but complain about paying for their insurance or a doctors visit. In that case, let's socialize everything. Everyone needs transportation so make cars and gas free. Everybody eats so food should be free. Everybody needs a house, all homes should be free too.

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

      Most doctors aren't in it for the money. But the insurance companies are.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  17. mikeanderson401

    how about trust your own common sense rather than rely on the government or "god".

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

      Most people don't have reliable common sense. For instance, most 22 year olds probably won't spend disposable income on health insurance. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans do not invest in preventative healthcare even when the facts and figures are obvious to them.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  18. BoldGeorge

    Here we go again with the Jesus questions. If people are so interested in knowing what Jesus would support or not, maybe we ought to read the bible a little more (well, a lot more) to know the how, what and why on Jesus' teaching, beliefs and results. To start, Jesus supported anything that promoted His Father and His coming Kingdom, something the world has NO interest in knowing.

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

    "He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government." LOL.... really? you want to put your faith in the market and people?? Has this guy just landed on this planet? People do not give a cr*p about each other, it's all about "I've got mine, and who cares about you?" BTW.... who do you think makes up the government? People!

    March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  20. Jcard14

    50 million people can't "afford" insurance...that is BS. Studies show that the majority of the uninsured can "afford" it but they just don't value it...therefore, they do not purchase it...this isn't a haves vs. have-nots issue....

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

      All the more reason to make them buy it.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Joe

      Whether or not they can afford it completely misses the point. Let's just get it paid for in our taxes (we pay so much anyway, we might as well get something of value) then we don't have to worry about haves and have nots. We will save a bundle if we get rid of the health insurance companies.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Jcard14

      Make them buy it sounds great in practice...but reality would show that most would still not by it. They would just pay the penalty (if they didn't lie about coverage on their taxes) because it is still much cheaper than purchasing coverage. Last I checked, purchasing car insurance is mandatory, yet 20 percent of the driving population doesn't buy it, why would a mandate on purchasing health insurance be any different?

      March 31, 2012 at 3:24 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.