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. palintwit

    Would jesus live in the bible belt and be sleeping with his daughter, sister or cousin ?

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

      Well according to christian myth he is a mo'fo. 😀

      March 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Truthfully

      Of course not; why, is that what you do?

      March 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Truthfully

      When you read the comments on here and see the total disrespect for Christ that too many in this country have, it's clear why our country is in the shape it is in.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  2. Tom Hansen

    What do you think Jesus wood think of the damage done to the planet by the seemingly endless increase of the
    earths population? People like the pope think there is no upper limit to this increase. I believe we should strive
    to get back to no more than one billion people instead of the seven billion we now have,Then all problums would
    eventually lessen greatly.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Truthfully

      Well, His Father said, "be fruitful and multiply" and He is part of the trinity so He would be fine with it.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Joe Giardina

      Great idea ! You GO first ....

      March 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Anon

      No wonder children are dying by the thousands in poor African countries.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  3. Rick Harnder

    Stop repeating the falsehood that there are 50 million Americans who can't afford healthcare. Study after study has shown the actual number is around 15 miillion. These could all be served from available tax revenues without taking liberty and freedom away from the remaining 350 million citizens.

    Isn't CNN a news organization? Why doesn't CNN research this and get the real facts instead of parroting White House talking points? Do you not have any pride or self-respect at all?

    March 31, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, Rick, when we add up your numbers and discover that they indicate that there are 365,000,000 Americans, you'll have to excuse us for thinking that we're better off getting our "facts" from someplace more reliable.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  4. Robert Spitz

    When greed and money grubbing are all that drive a person, they join the GOP. It is too bad that our founding fathers saw the danger of the monied people taking control. It took a while, but here we are. This is no democracy. This nation is crumbling from the inside out. Physically, our infrastructure is crumbling, what sort of national security problem is that? Our nation is full of obese people. The problems that come with that only cost EVERYBODY more. If the court says the government can't force us to buy health insurance, then the states can't force us to buy automobile insurance either. Gee, that would be an issue.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:07 pm |


    March 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  6. Danny lee Shaw II

    So why haven't the churches and non-profits stepped up yet?!?!? If they had been helping the poor like Mr. Prichert says they should, we wouldn't need legislation. The fact is, if there were not tax breaks for charitable donations, they would be almost non-existent. . . In actuality, most of charity is financed my the governments tax code.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Truthfully

      Some people really need a helping hand and some people just don't want to get off their butts and work for themselves. Why should churches simply hand out money to those who are lazy and remove the incentive for them to work? There are those who truly have a legitimate need and many Christian churches extend charity to those people but you would not know if you are not one of the people extending your hand.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm |


    March 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  8. Sam Yaza

    and yet the #1 opponent of Obama's health care plan
    evangelicals and the banks that own them

    March 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Terri

      That's a bigoted assumption lumping two things you don't like and blaming them for everything.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  9. Scott

    The government could get discounts with private providers just like HMOs do. Sign me up! Oh yeah, they are mandating health insurance without a government option. What is this accomplishing? A handout to the HMOs?

    Let's practice the healing arts with which God has provided us and take care of eachother!

    March 31, 2012 at 4:02 pm |


    March 31, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Leo

      Matthew 24

      9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • JJK

      All Christians have the ability to 'aid' in healing as it's not a physical healing that's effected but a spiritual one. Matt 28:19,20, John 8:51

      March 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

      Are you threatening me LEO oh boy? You want me to report your whiney ass?

      March 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      My favorite Christian sect, the snake handlers. All truly sincere Christians should convert immediately or be revealed for the hypocrites they are.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:17 pm |

      Where does it say "AID"?

      Mark 16:17-18 which says, "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

      March 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • JJK

      Because Jesus told his disciple's to go forth and make disciples, instructing them to teach others what he had instructed them. But ultimately it is God that makes it grow so as Christians we only assist. Matt 24:14, 28:19,20, 1Cor 3:6-7, Romans 12:3b, 2Cor 3:5

      March 31, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  11. Lyn

    What a ridiculous question. Asking for the latest difficult question facing the American people what Jesus would have done is sidestepping the real issue, which is to deal with the situation in this world and find a solution.
    Oh, Zeus, Apollo, Athena, what should we do about "X"? Hey! I have a brilliant idea. Let's consult an oracle!
    Nothing much new under the sun, is there?

    March 31, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  12. Gonzalo

    How about other fictional characters that people made up over the years, what would Mickey Mouse do? or what Optimums Prime do? ... well that's easy to answer, they would do whatever the people that imagined them would want them to do.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Jason Glugla

      It must give you great comfort to ridicule the beliefs of others. To those Christians who say to leave it to the free market. Did Jesus not ask, when I was sick who of you came to nurse me? when I was hungry, who of you came to feed me? Jesus did not ask if the free market and money changers had been left to take care. This is the government of by and for the people, you are the government. Take some responsibility.

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

      All hail Amateratsu!

      March 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Speaking only for myself, it doesn't give me great comfort to ridicule the beliefs of others, but it DOES give me a great sense of glee. Frankly, if you don't want people to ridicule your beliefs, you shouldn't believe such ridiculous things.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Anon

      Or at least don't mix religion with government.
      If Christians were like cultural Shintoists then we atheists wouldn't be complaining.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  13. DAP

    Would Jesus be a doctor, a lawyer, a politician, a reporter or a preacher .... that is the question

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

    Would jesus be sitting on a stump drinking 'Everclear' ?

    March 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm |


    March 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Leo

      And is Barrack Hussein Obama your savior??

      March 31, 2012 at 4:02 pm |

      No Leo he is not!
      and neither are you!

      March 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

      I'm beginning to suspect you're right.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • palintwit

      @Leo...FYI. Hussein is as common a name in other parts of the world as Smith or Johnson is here.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      Question witch "Satan" are we talking about here
      Me, Mastema, Nergal, Samial

      I need to know

      well it cant be me,... because I only have intelligent progressive working for me

      now Metatron go get lit bi.tch

      because I can smell your illiteracy from here I’ll just go a head and tell you Matatron is the voice of your tyrant god who had his flesh let on fire for drinking and doing something stupid

      March 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Voltaire2

      The example of Jesus was healing the sick, feeding the poor, and rebuking the rich. How can anyone say that Republicans are really Satan is disguise. Just because evidence says so! But then, does that mean that I have to accept Global Warming and the Earth being flat?

      March 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  16. amarjeet

    Jesus will not only pass healthcare reforms for American people only, Jesus will extend this to entire world of human beings foes & friends unlike republican & tea party who say something else & practice something else. Healthy environments free of diseased are only healthy which these historical parties of republican & tea party are opposing with their own un-American concept of capitalism. Modern capitalism is very human which gave rise to Human Resources Departments as humans only are biggest assets & products of human labor ever multiplying universally. Any one failing to use human assets better will be destined to failure & collapse. Jesus went out of the living world to heal & cure lepers with his own hands & created confidence among masses that leprosy is not infectious & contagious with motivation to embarrass sick & needy. Jesus healed the sufferers while Republican & Tea Party want everyone, young or old, men or women, girls or boys, old & retiring, working & disabled to suffer.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • john

      well done...thank you for articulating that which must be said... the truth....peace.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Anon

      Jesus is myth.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  17. Scott

    Reasonable preventative and commonly practiced restorative care and related expenses should be a public service. It may not be something that should be regulated from the Federal level, but some funding to help local programs would be most appreciated. I encourage the formation of a community of communities providing healthcare for their citizens and potentially sharing ideas through a Federal forum from which they recieve some, but not all, of their funding. The publicly funded care would be restricted to certain types of medical emergencies and preventative care. For instance, you are unable to afford your next meal much less your child's next broken arm. Then he falls out of the tree in the yard and brakes his arm. Now you have to take him to the emergency room or at least a medical professional to have it cleaned up and a cast or sling put on it. The kid shouldn't have to walk around with a broken arm! I'll pay for his arm. But, I'm not going to pay for his braces.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:58 pm |

    There is no such thing as a non profit church!

    March 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  19. mambert

    Ther are not to much different between a NAZI and a opponent of universal healthcare

    March 31, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  20. Kraig

    This is the most horrendous piece of reporting I have EVER read! Talk about a waste of my time! Who cares?!? That is like asking, "Would Atticus Finch support health care reform?".

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

      Jesus would support universal healthcare, most Tea Party supporters believe in Jesus, but they don't support universal healthcare.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:00 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.