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. Harold

    Jesus said "render unto Caesar"and also "obey those in authority". He most certainly would want everyone to help one another and by whatever ethical means available.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  2. dave hippo

    Well, he rolled away the stone after crucifixion so I'd say he had some pretty good coverage.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  3. JohnRJohnson

    My wild guess is that the majority of genuine Christians support virtually all of the elements of the Affordable Care Act. The only provision many of them hate is the one that political ideologues have told them to hate: the mandate. Of course, it doesn't matter to them that the mandate is essential for ANY health reform that we undertake. If everybody doesn't participate, somebody is going to be getting free health care which will be paid for with higher premiums paid by people who do have insurance. I think that even Jesus would understand the practicalities and not get bogged down in an ideological debate about the federal government vs state's rights. If the mandate were left to the states, can anybody here imagine Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Virginia requiring a mandate?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  4. Anon


    March 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Sue

      Go Sam! You tell 'em.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Observer

      Actually, this was Sam Harris bailing out of a debate with William Lane Craig. The full debate is on YouTube. Fallacy Spotter might have called Sam out on an appeal to the people fallacy for this digression.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Anon

      Oh the same WLC that defended Yahweh endorsed child slavery or murder with the stupid idea that it's just sending them early to heaven.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Observer

      Indeed, Richard Dawkins usually wails something of the sort and runs the other way.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Anon

      There's no point in giving the apologist clown WLC an audience.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  5. Leo

    Matthew 11

    25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

    28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

    March 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  6. ficheye

    If this is going to be a christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we are
    going to have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got
    to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy
    without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it" – Steven Colbert

    March 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm |


    March 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  8. Matt

    What would Carl Sagan do? (WWCSD)

    March 31, 2012 at 3:50 pm |


    March 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • That's right

      That's true, because unlike heaven, the eye of the needle actually exists.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  10. nc1965

    Well. You Tea Party folks are having a hard time finding a Republican candidate.

    But what if Jesus was a candidate? Would he be your nominee?

    Let’s investigate this possibility.

    Jesus healed the sick – h e l l no! This is free healthcare. This also means healthcare for everyone. Sounds too much like Obamacare.

    Jesus fed the poor – h e l l no! This is welfare.

    Jesus turned water in to wine – Well that’s OK! No labor cost, no overhead. Great for business.

    Jesus banished the merchants away from the temple – h e l l no! He’s against capitalism and free enterprise.

    Jesus was a Hebrew, dark skinned with hair like wool (as described in the bible). What!!! He’s not a longed haired blued eyed hippie like painted by Micheal Angelo? Are you kidding me!!!

    Lastly. It’s likely that Jesus would not believe in the death penalty.

    1 out of 6. Well, Jesus is out.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • brandon

      I tell this to my ultra conservative friends all the time, and they change the subject..lol

      March 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      This is great! I have copied it and passed it along to bunches of my friends.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  11. Sowhat

    religion = a lot of hokum and bunkum perpetuated by a bunch of fraud artists and believed by a bunch of weak-minded fools.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Anon

      ^ And sadly propagated like a mind virus through mass childhood indoctrination.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

    Jesus said....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 3:47 pm |
    • Anon

      And sadly propagated like a mind virus through mass childhood indoctrination.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  13. palintwit

    Would jesus spend his weekends hanging around the gun & knife dept. at Walmart ?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  14. sarada

    Why only Jesus?. Why don't you ask whether Mohammad likes it or not?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  15. Horus

    "dolla dolla bill yo"

    – Jesus "Pimpin' ain't easy" Christ

    March 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  16. WWJD?

    If Jesus were to return, he would either take one look at what total idiots his followers are and instantly convert to Pastafarianism, or he open a chain of Mega Churches, rake in massive cash, and be pulled from his crashed Lamborghini with sawed-off shotgun and a key of blow.

    Hasn't anyone noticed the extreme similarity between Jesus, Jim Jones, Joseph Smith, and David Koresh? It's the same shtick again and again. Jesus just did a lousy job cashing in on it before he got busted.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • longtooth

      Jones, Smith and Koresh? I'm not religious, and don't believe Jesus was the literal son of God, but he was a great man. If people listened to him, instead of laughing at him and hanging him on a cross, this sad world would be a much better place.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  17. Saint_John

    Perhaps if jesus actually had existed, which most probably he did not.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • longtooth

      Jesus is generally accepted as an historical figure. The fairy tales about raising the dead, healing the blind, and rising bodily into the heavens are for the faithful, but he was real.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Anon

      There's zero archeological evidence and other non-apologist religious scholars are finally admitting it.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  18. Wil

    Jesus would not approve the health reform. If you wanted health reform from Jesus, do things HIS way. Turn from sin and follow HIM. Then HE would heal you and the insurance would not be needed.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Science PROVES the Existence of God!

      I scientifically tested whether prayer and faith healing works. First I prayed for healing. Then I looked at my dog and said "Heal!" and IT WORKED!

      Prayer works. Proven.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Alex

      Unbelivable... that you guys discuss if poor people should have access to health care in this century! Even more appaling that you mix up Jesus in all this ... what do americans eat???

      March 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Anon

      The water has zombie Jeebus juice.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  19. Chris

    An ancient Aramaic-speaking Palestinian Jew (yet to be executed by Roman Republicans) wouldn't have a clue what all of this is about.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Joe Giardina

      Jesus said regarding children, "“And everyone who commits an offense against one of these little ones who believe in me, it were profitable for him that a donkey's millstone would be hung around his neck and he be sunk in the depths of the sea.”

      An administration with a slavish devotion to the brutal killing of unborn children through abortion would face even GREATER consequences !!!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Alex

      Hey Joe Sardina...sorry I mean Giardina... what about all governmets in the business of killing kids, women and supporting dictatorships??? Remember Reagan??? Does Bush ring a bell?

      March 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  20. Seth

    government shouldn't get involved because non-profits and churches will take up the slack? Then why the heck are there any people without healthcare? why are corporations people but government not people. isn't the government made up of people. won't the people getting healthcare will be people.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • joe

      yea, clearly corporations care about the good of the people, not about profit.... compared to the government, which is selected by the people for the people.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:54 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.