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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. tables are turning!

    Sorry to say REPUBLICANS!
    DEMOCRATS ARE NOW DEFENDING THEIR BELIEF IN JESUS, AND HIS GOSPEL!
    YOUR DAYS OF USING HIS NAME TO PROMOTE YOUR GREED ARE OVER!

    FOR IT IS EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO WALK THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE THAN IT IS FOR A RICH MAN TO ENTER INTO GODS KINGDOM!

    March 31, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Do you even know what the eye of the needle is .. given it's historical context?

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

      Horses
      It has several meanings, which are thinking about?.........oh, if you were a camel you would need to unload to get through the gate. Perhaps the rich man was wider than a camel...............

      March 31, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      fred
      excellent point & my point as well. Many people use this statement to claim it is impossible but few know its reality given it's historical context .. I was thinking the gate as you explained, but the question is .. what does tables are turning think it is?

      March 31, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • fred

      Horses
      Makes for a great visual; some old camel with all the toys of a rich man strapped on trying to get through the gate. Even if the rich man gets into heaven his stuff will be left behind so he might as well sell it now and give it to the poor. Seriously, you think you can use that stuff in here?

      March 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  2. John

    GOP and their supporters do not follow Jesus but their Pharaoh Russ Limbaugh...

    March 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  3. Bible just a theory

    NO, Jesus would tell you to sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. Without any money, you can't buy health insurance. Therefore the question of whether Jesus would support healthcare reform is irrelevant!

    March 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Maybe the poor would provide you with health care with all that money that'll be rolling in.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  4. RichardSRussell

    "I am a Catholic. In case of medical emergency, please call a priest."

    "I am an atheist. In case of medical emergency, please call a doctor."

    March 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • John

      I am a human being in case of a medical emergency pray the GOP is not in charge......

      March 31, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • fred

      You drank the Kool aid John
      Please change your handle to sound bite Johnney

      March 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  5. Ashrakay

    These are the kinds of stupid questions that christians thrive on. If Jesus really existed, he'd just heal everybody and we wouldn't need healthcare. If it got to be too much he could just give some of his magical healing powers to someone else to share the work of healing people.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Kind of like Santa and all his "helpers"!

      March 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • One one

      Yea, he healed the sick all the time in all those bible stories. That is, when he wasn't busy casting out demons. Why doesn't he do it now? Oh, yea, "free will".

      March 31, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • fred

      Horses
      Santa had toys for the good little boys and girls but nothing for the bad ones. Jesus came so all might live. Unlike Santa Jesus died on a cross for us while Santa went back to the north pole and had a cup of hot choclate.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • fred

      One one
      Many of the signs Jesus did while alive was to fulfil prophacy. He did not heal everyone while alive only specific healings to point towards specific teachings.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Anon

      Jesus is another myth.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      fred
      Santa is folklore based on Saint Nicholas with regional dialect pronunciations ... but both are similar in that they are religious figures turned into marketing subjects and continually changing (re-interpreting) to meet the needs of the times.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  6. loathstheright

    Of course he would. But the Conservatives worship the Dark Jesus of Greed, War, Death and Suffering, so of course the Conservative Dark Lord would say "Let em die, it's their own fault they got sick.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  7. DE

    If the anti-Christ is the opposite of Jesus, then right wing concervative christians are, collectively, the anti-Christ.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Anon

      Ironic isn't it? LOL.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  8. Chris

    Would Jesus support health care reform...lol.

    since Jesus is the One being spoken of, the answer is.... He would tell you to go Heal the Sick in His name... "These signs shall follow them that believe...In my name they will cast out devils,... they will heal the sick"

    If you read the bible (particularly the New testament portions) you will know what Jesus would expect from us christians.
    He would expect us to heal the sick and to do it In HIS name. not pumping money to no avail.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  9. palintwit

    Would jesus have indoor plumbing ?

    March 31, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  10. joel

    Who cares?

    March 31, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  11. Gertrude

    What would Jesus do??? He threw the money changers out of the temple and helped the poor. He would not be cutting taxes for the wealthy.

    I think he was a Democrat!

    March 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  12. Jesus

    yes, jesus would love it , he wont have to worry abut you

    March 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  13. GOD'S SPEAKING!

    According to the bible CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE ABLE TO LAY THEIR HANDS ON THE SICK AND HEAL THEM!
    AND SHOULD BE ABLE TO DRINK ANY POISON AND NOT DIE!
    I DARE ANYONE TO TEST THIS THEORY!

    March 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • GOD'S SPEAKING!

      Actually dont test this theory at all! As you will surely die!
      If someone is sick get them to a hospital where science backed doctors can heal them. And dont drink poison because you will die regardless of what you believe! Thats what science tells us!

      March 31, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  14. Truth Teller

    When it's convenient Jesus exists and is God incarnate. The rest of the time, he doesn't exist and it is illegal to pray to him as someone will be offended and we can't have that. Soon, very soon, sitting in the "Jesus" fence will no longer be possible.

    Decide today whom you will serve.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      I choose humans.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I am a free man. I choose not to serve anyone.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  15. palintwit

    Would jesus own 43 high power assault weapons and string barbed wire around his trailer ?

    March 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • realist

      yes.......to protect himself from liberals

      March 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • John

      GOP and their supporters need to read the Bible and quit listening to their pharaoh Russ Limbaugh....

      March 31, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  16. brianna

    Funny how Conservative Christians have no compassion at all like Christ has.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Anon

      Mythological Buddha has better morality/ethics than Mythological Jesus.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  17. Person Of Reason

    Jesus? Really? Will your next article be about what Santa Claus would support? How about the Easter Bunny?

    March 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  18. momoya

    Yes, but what would jesus do to fix the economy?.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • palintwit

      He'd vaporize China.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Economy 101

      He'd support his local/national economy by buying goods made in his own country .. the carpentry job he'd save would eventually be his.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • palintwit

      @ Economy...well said !!!

      March 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      He'd rapture the xtians. They're a drag on our economy.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  19. GOD'S SPEAKING!

    Republicans are disciples of Satan hiding behind the cloak of Christianity!

    March 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • brianna

      So true.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • realist

      its not your fault....I blame your parents.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • tables are turning!

      @realist

      YOURE ALWAYS READY TO BLAME ANYONE BUT YOUR OWN CARELESSNESS! AS USUAL!

      March 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  20. One one

    Of course he would. It would be really nice if he would pay for it also. I'm sure he has the cash.

    March 31, 2012 at 4:27 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.