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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.

kateslate
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. Joe

    Yes he would. Remember that part of the Bible when Jesus went around helping the poor and healing the sick for free? I do! Its those passages that the far-right folk seem to forget/ignore. Jesus would probably be a centre-leftie if you ask me.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • gerald

      No he wouldn't. Jesus did not partner with the government to do what he did. He trusted in his Father to provide as we should. Not the government and the second coming named Obama. When the government gets involved freedom of religion is being taken away.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • veggiedude

      "When the government gets involved freedom of religion is being taken away"

      Oh right you are. Hence the right wingers using their religion to outlaw abortion.

      July 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  2. AmericanPeasant

    Wow using Jesus for political agenda. That's just low.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • mendacitysux

      Has only been happening for 2000 years

      March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  3. Loren32

    Jesus would not care at all about healthcare insurance. He wants healthcare that is affordable not insurance that is!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • gerald

      Excellent response.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  4. Tom

    To Rev Prichard, I assume by your comments that your church and the Family Council in Minn. take care of all the uninsured people in Minn. If you don't then your not following your own beliefs, which makes for hypocrisy on your part.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  5. AnnieM

    Jesus taught peace, love and compassion for his fellowman...you all know how that worked out...

    March 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • gerald

      And you have helped it work out how?

      March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • boater

      Yeah–he trusted MAN to make it happen. Just like the GOP believes in trusting CORPORATIONS such as the insurance and healthcare industries to "do the right thing" and operate without oversight and regulation. Didn't work 2000 years ago and it isn't working today....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Elmo

      Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to casy peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war.

      For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • veggiedude

      Yes, he was a failed loser.

      July 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  6. Larry L

    Religious people don't want this question asked because they already know the answer and it scares them. If a person like Jesus actually existed that person wouldn't tolerate racism, greed or bigotry. He wouldn't join the N.R.A. and could never promote military excursions to protect oil supplies. He wouldn't drive a Hummer and he'd most certainly support protection of our environment. He would never, ever support a government that favored an economic system where only the rich were allowed the luxury of enough food to eat, a safe home to raise a family, and good healthcare. Conservatives expend a great deal of energy defending their perceived right to promote Christianity in the public arena. But, when it gets down to really thinking about "what would Jesus do" they simply block the answer from their minds.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • gerald

      Nonsense. We are not afraid of it at all. The Catholic Church has provided more free healthcare over the centuries than any other organization. The problem is that Jesus NEVER partnered with the government to provide such healthcare. Mother Theresa her convent with the clothes on her back and build schools and hospitals for millions of people in calcutta without the government help. When the government gets involved religous freedom goes out the window as we see with the current Obama mandate on contraception. Nope, no fear at all. We trust in God to provide as Mother T did. Not in the second coming named Obama.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • MN

      @Gerald- But what about the millions of people who god is NOT providing for? There are millions upon millions of believers suffering everyday, praying everyday, doing the best they possibly can everyday; and still nothing. What is your answer to that? It is easy to say "god will provide" when you already have it. Does god just like you better? That is a pretty lame god in my opinion, even if I wanted to believe, how can you be onboard with such an unjust, petty god??

      March 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Larry L

      Gerald – another thought just occurred to me as I re-read your comment. Maybe if the folks in India had practiced contraception "Mother T" would have had a lot fewer poor folks to help...

      I will also point out the insurance that gives the option to use contraceptives isn't forcing anybody to choose that option. You're simply wanting to prevent people who use the insurance from having a choice, although many employees aren't Catholic and a great many Catholics practice contraception. I guess you just know what's best for all people...

      March 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  7. CarrotCakeMan

    Remember the GOP candidate debate where the 100% GOP-only audience CHEERED some American being left to die because he couldn't afford health insurance? I'm sure that vetted GOP audience all think they are Christians, but that proved they are NOT really Christians. Can anyone show where Jesus said, "Leave him to die, he's poor!"?????

    The boss of the Minnesota "Family" Council "trusts" the insurance company executives? These executives themselves are taking 40% of all the money we as a nation spend for health care for their quarter of a billion dollar annual salaries. We all know those who claim Jesus wants Americans who can't afford skyrocketing health insurance premiums are really just GOP apologists.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  8. John

    How about getting rid of Bush Tax cuts as a start. That money can be put into Health care. How about a single payer system like most countries in the Western world have. The U.S. spends more on Health care and gets less care than any other western country. The private sector is doing a terrible job and only cares about making as much money as it can. It cherry picks its customers and the rest do not matter...

    March 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Mark

      not you bob, sorry lol

      March 31, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Bob

      Awesome! Anxiously awaiting the slightest shred of evidence!

      March 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Mark

      i think the millions of dead from WW2 would agree with you......get a life loser

      March 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  10. BostonDan

    Where does this 50 million number come from??? The original number bandied about by supporters of this law was shown to be wildly inaccurate, and overstated the uninsured by at least 70%. Now, it's "50 million". Or not.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Harold Trainer, USAF RET

      The FY 2013 budget proposes significantly incrasing health care fees for military retirees, tripling pharmacy co-payments, reducing force levels, reforming retirement and capping future military pay raises.

      The White House released details of its personnel and health care budget proposals Feb 13 and they intend to shift nearly $35 billion in health care costs from the Pentagon to military retirees over the next 10 years.

      The changes would phase in significant fee hikes for nearly every segment of the military population, including retirees of all ages.

      TRICARE Prime annual enrollment fees, currently at $520 would rise as high as $820 starting Oct 1 and then to as much as $2,048 within five years, with fees based on mi9litary retired-pay amount.

      Retired TRICARE Standard beneficiaries would start paying a $140 annual family enrollment fee and a slightly increased deductible, $320 starting Oct 1, with the enrollment fee and deductible rising to $250 and $580, respectively, within five years.

      Retirees and family members 65 and older would start paying an annual TRICARE For Life (TFL) enrollment fee of up to $135 a person starting Oct 1, over and above their Medicare Part B premiums. This fee also would be graduated based on retired pay amount and would rise to as much as $475 a year, 950 per couple within five years.

      There is also an administration proposed special commission which would recommend retirement changes for future entrants.

      Finally, Obama proposes changing the military pay raise system starting in FY 2015 limiting military raises to .5 percent for FY 2015 and for future years.

      The president and department of defense needs to take responsibility for efficient management of military health care.

      All of this to help pay for the huge budget deficit caused by huge tax cuts, special interest spending, government financial management failures and the wars that were fought by the military now facing huge cuts without the benefit of any kind of war tax.

      Harold Trainer, USAF RET
      Prospect, KY
      Viet Nam Vet

      March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • heron

      cheesus doesn't exist....so it doesn't matter what he would think about healthcare!!!

      It's like asking what would Superman think about missle defense?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • olorinstaff

      No real opinion, but Harold thank you for your service!

      March 31, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  11. boater

    It's called hypocracy.... These "evangelicals" who BELIEVE they are religious are supporters of the GOP–the very type of people that Jesus was trying to save the world from. Just another example of how people try to interpret religion for their own self-centered purposes–just like the Taliban.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • rooster crows

      Right on.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • tdiamond

      Actually the Baptists and Catholics have their own hospitals. They were the first to put them in cities when the benevolent government was not willing to do so. These groups also founded a majority of the orphanages, treatment centers, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc...

      March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • 1ofTheFallen

      WRONG -This is what is wrong with this country making foolish statements like this. You can go to any emergency room and get treatment if you do not have the money. Does the Taliban let you do that? The Taliban would have you murdered if you say the wrong thing. Does the governent sanction that in America?

      I think Jesus would want people to pay more but he would also be againist the kind of gridlock, wasteful spending and hatred we see in Washington.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • boater

      1ofthefallen, there's where YOU are wrong. If the GOP had it's way, if you could not afford healthcare, they'd just let you die in the street. The Taliban may speed the process up a bit, but it's the same mentality. The GOP's view of things is that the haves get whatever they want and the have-nots are just a burden on the haves that must be eliminated.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  12. JPJ3016

    Wouldn't Jesus just heal everyone and eliminate the need once and for all?

    March 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • veggiedude

      But doctors and big pharma would be out of a job.

      July 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  13. gerald

    Ya Jesus was in favor of taking care of the poor. But the fac t is he did not partner with the government to do it and then later find them imposing things that were against his beliefs, morality, ethics, etc. So NO JESUS WOULD NOT BE IN FAVOR OF OBAMA CARE. End of story.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • qwedie

      I don't think he was a member of the GOP.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • gerald

      NOthing in my post said he was and I'm not either.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • olorinstaff

      Nothing like comparing the Roman government to current US government. Then again Render onto Ceasar what is Ceasars(taxes).

      March 31, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  14. MalcolmXcrement

    I find it offensive to see how an overtly atheist organization like CNN, who consistently berates all things Christian, has the unmitigated gall to cite Jesus in a thinly veiled attempt to enforce its liberal agenda.
    In a word, shove it, you hypocritical creeps!!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • boater

      Um, excuse me, but Jesus, by definition, was a LIBERAL. You, by definition, are a hypocrite.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • FSM

      Dumbest post of the day.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • MalcolmXcrement

      Excuse me boater, but Jesus was against slavery. He certainly would have been against segregation, which were both Democratic causes. Don't smear the good name of Christ to fit your backward views. Or are you going to try to convince us that Jesus would have served in an abortion mill?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • boater

      Um, excuse me.... When were liberals ever FOR slavery? Why is it that people like you like to label ANYTHING you are against as being "liberal." You have absolutely no idea what a liberal really is!!!!!!!!!! To explain it to your small evangelical mind: a liberal is for everyone helping everyone else and not judging people by how much money they have or what family they were born into–everyone is EQUAL (meaning no slavery, too)–just like Jesus.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  15. Bobby Ray

    Jesus: "What so ever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me."
    GOP & Antonin Scalia: "Why should we pay for your healthcare?"

    Why does the so-called "party of God" want to deny healthcare to Jesus?

    March 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • qwedie

      Amen.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • FSM

      RAmen.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • boater

      Because they are actually the "party of a false God." Satan takes many forms....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • MalcolmXcrement

      Jesus was a render unto Caesar kinda guy. He'd get a job. He'd work for a living. He wouldn't advise folks to sponge off his fellow man...p

      March 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • boater

      And, he told you this, right?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  16. JC in the hot tub!

    No, Obama isn't the brown skinned liberal giving away free health care.

    That was Jesus.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • boater

      EXACTLY!

      March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  17. Scott Petersen

    The appropriate question is: what is Jesus asking you to do now?

    March 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  18. Loren32

    Jesus would berate the country for the cost of healthcare itself. He'd want nothing to do with "healthcare insurance"!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • gerald

      Yep.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • John

      You need to read the bible. You are not talking about the Jesus in the Bible....

      March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Loren32

      John I have read the entire Bible multiple times. Maybe you need to read it.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • gerald

      John, Jesus did not provide health insurance. He provided health care. Jesus did not partner with the government to do what he did. He partnered with his Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit. Mother Thersa used his way and she did not need the government to provide free health and millions of poor in Calcutta. She started over 500 hospitals and schools without the government. THe Government wants control when they start putting their money in and thus religious freedom goes out the door.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • gerald

      Obama is not the second coming. The government is not our God. Neither democrat or republican for that matter.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • boater

      Loren, you are interpreting the Bible to your own advantage–no different than the Taliban do with the Koran. You need to re-read the part about following a false God....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  19. John

    Jesus would support Tort Reform and a "Loser Pays" system like in the UK. Malpractice insurance is too expensive for doctors because of frivolous law suits. We also should make fat people and smokers pay more for their health care.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • JC in the hot tub!

      Tort reform would only reduce health care costs by 2% at best.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • mark

      Tort reform victimizes the victims again. Could you imagine losing a leg and getting a measly 250k for pain and suffering? You've got a lifetime without that leg...how long will that money last? It's a joke. It's a big windfall for docs and insurance companies but hasn't slowed the rate of healthcare in states that have it.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Sheepleherder

      That's 2% better than what's going on now.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Bobby Ray

      Tort Reform is just another way of saying "Let's not hold corporations accountable". Lawsuits and malpractice insurance come to less than 1% of the money spent on healthcare. The USA spends 17% of the GDP on healthcare. That is 5% more than the next most expensive country, while we rate around 30th in the world in longevity as well as infant mortality. Costs must come down. Insurance companies take out over 30% of the healthcare dollar, and heal no one. The free-market does not keep costs down because people can't shop for healthcare, their employer does.

      The solution is simple: A single payer system based on medicare. The insurance companies go out of business, and costs are controlled. It works in Great Britain and Canada. The horror stories you hear about either of these health care systems are being spread by the same insurance companies that will be unneeded in a single payer system.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • veggiedude

      Vegans should get a 75% rate cut on their health insurance.

      July 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  20. Rainer Braendlein

    In the name of the God of Israel

    Before Jesus Christ started to preach in Israel, John the Baptist had yet preached there.

    What did John the Baptist preach?

    In a way he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    We make a mistake, when we assume that he merely preached repentance. No, he preached both, repentance and the coming "Anointed One", who was Jesus from Nazareth, the Word and eternal Son of God, who had incarnated.

    John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord: He told the people the Old Testament law (for example the ten commandments) and the people should realize that they had broken the law an were sinful. However, he didn't tell them that they should keep the law by their natural power, but he told them that they would need a deliverer or redeemer, who would come and dwell in them (the Holy Spirit), in oder to be their spiritual power, which would help them to overcome sin and live a life of Christian love.

    In a word: By means of the law John the Baptist made the Jews realizing their deep sinfulness and at the same time he told them, that their was the Anointed One, Jesus Christ, who could give them the Holy Spirit, so that they might become able to live a life, which is not in conflict with the law, but fullfills it automatically. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Nobody can keep the law by natural power, but the blessed man, who is born from above and has got the Spirit, fulfills it by love.

    After a while Jesus Christ replaced John the Baptist as divine preacher of Israel. There was no more need that Jesus spoke a lot about the law, because John had already done that. Now, as the people felt their sinfulness and a high need for forgiveness and deliverance, Jesus Christ gave it to them.

    John the Baptist could only preach of THE LIFE and THE LIGHT and THE WORD.

    Jesus was the THE LIFE, THE LIGHT and the WORD. He said to the people: "YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN, MOVE ON AND DON'T SIN ANY LONGER!" or he said "COME ON, AND FOLLOW ME!"

    These words of Christ were supernatural and powerful and much more than the word of an ordinary human being. Christ was man and God at the same time and this God-man spoke these words. Thus, people really received forgiveness of their sins and deliverance.

    What the visible Jesus did, happens today by the sacramental baptism (also infant baptism). The sacramental baptism is insti-tuted by Christ himself and has the same power as if the visible Christ would speak a divine word of health to somebody.

    Ecclesiastical history proves that at baptism people often became healthy and were cured from physical diseases. The health of the Lord is holistic, indeed. The Lord cures the soul and the body.

    Everybody, who feels his sinfulness, shall ask a faithful Church for sacramental baptism or if he has yet received infant baptism, he just shall remember that by faith. The Lord will forgive, deliver and cure. Don't get baptized again, if you have yet received infant baptism. Infant baptism is valid!!! Just remember and receive the Spirit.

    Gospel of Jesus Christ, Amen!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • John

      Jesus would embrace Health care for everyone. He does not believe in exclusion like the GOP and their supporters do.
      He said the rich have as much chance as getting into heaven as a camel does going through the eye of a needle.....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:01 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.