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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. Dakota

    Who cares if Jesus supports health care reform...seriously we clearly need it and no religion should be brought into question when talking about legislation or reform for the U.S. We have freedom of religion and whether you believe in Jesus, Allah, aliens, or think its a complete scam all views should be left out. It should be view as whether it will be beneficial or not for the well being of the American People.

    March 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Anon

      Tell that to the religious right that highjacked the government with a christian theocratic agenda.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Dakota

      I agree with that. We shouldn't have Christmas, Easter, or any other Christian related holidays off especially as a federal holiday. Religious freedom my ass.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Anon

      Are you retarded?
      I'm talking about delaying stem cell research, spreading misinformation about contraception/abortion, denying GLBT rights and highjacking science with christian-only based creationism (not comparative religion).

      March 31, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Jack Shown

      Most Christian holidays are simply holidays surrounding astronomical events - Christmas/NewYears = Winter Solstice and Easter = Spring Equinox. Don't think so? Why is Easter always the first Sunday after the first full moon in Spring?

      March 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Anon

      ^ See, that comparative religion has it uses.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  2. Jim

    This is more about the wording in the article. It states that among those that can lose their current healthcare are the children who can stay on their parents healthcare until age 26. Are we now children until the age 26? I thought by then we are adults expected to support ourselves. I understand the economy aspect right now but I have been paying for private healthcare for over 10 years as my small company does not provide any benefits. Another step in the decline of America....we can fight wars at age 18 but not responsible enough to drink until 21 and now not responsible enough to support ourselves until after the age 26. Maybe instead of making excuses we should start to expect our "children" to act like adults a little sooner in life.

    March 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Dakota

      Our country is becoming a joke little by little. The people running our country are insane. They worry more about what the public is going to think and whether they will get reelected or not if they do or don't do something. What they need to do is have half a sack stand up and do what is best for our country rather than be worried about anything. If they have to raise taxes (which we clearly need to do with our debt spiraling out of control) they should do it and quit being afraid of not getting reelected because they supported it. Congressman have no backbone anymore.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Jack Shown

      So while a college undergrad between the ages of 18 and 22 and going to a grad school between the ages of 22 and 26, they should also work full-time in order to pay for huge medical care coverage? Apparently, you are one of the 1 percent and thus never had to worry about college tuition and room and board alone. Either that or you just didn't attend a university in the first place.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  3. The_Mick

    Note that in EVERY other advanced nation in the world, EVERY major Conservative Party and their leaders, including Margaret Thatcher, believe universal healthcare is as important to the quality of life and economy and universal education is. That America would have any doubt that Jesus would support it would amaze anyone in those other advanced nations. The ONLY reason we have doubt and "controversy" in America is the steady flow of hundreds of millions of healthcare dollars into the pockets of the John Boehners, etc. who spread the anti-health message. Even the head of our nation's #1 rated hospital, Johns Hopkins, said that little of real savings to Americans will be passed by Congress because it's owned by the health care industry. Government of, by, and for the special interests!

    March 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  4. Qubee

    Nazism, Communism and religion are very similar dogma that are based on brainwashing their subjects to turn them into robot-like zombies

    March 31, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  5. edmundburkeson

    I agree with Scott! You use Jesus when it is expedient and present him as a powered down version of who he really is. And progressives are certainly not on the level of Christ. Jesus' compassion was far different from progressive compassion. Jesus used Divine resources to act on his compassion, not government resources. Jesus knew the ten commandments better than anyone. To allow healthcare to be controlled by government would essentially put government in the place of the one, true, and living God. Have faith in God not government!! Or you will soon be a slave!! If Jesus' compassion and progressive compassion were one and the same – we should cancel Easter right now! It is meaningless! You need government because you stopped believing that God can provide for the needs of mankind. Take this opportunity to turn your thinking around!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Jack Shown

      edmundburkeson wrote: To allow healthcare to be controlled by government would essentially put government in the place of the one, true, and living God. Have faith in God not government!!

      My response: All those who died of cancer over, say, just the last century who believed that God would save them, please raise your hand.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • hannahAr

      ,,,,,,,,,,,and by giving charity through the Church, God gets all the Glory and Praise, through the working of his servants.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  6. Richard Wentz

    The ideal for our Federal Government, according to Lincoln, is "...of the people, by the people, for the people...". unfortunately, this is not now, if it ever was, true. Because if it were, Jesus would have no issues with the government providing health care, food, clothing or any other daily necessities. As it says in Matthew:

    "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

    March 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Nini

      The very core of your writing wslhit sounding reasonable in the beginning, did not work perfectly with me personally after some time. Somewhere within the paragraphs you were able to make me a believer but just for a while. I still have got a problem with your jumps in assumptions and you would do well to help fill in all those breaks. In the event that you actually can accomplish that, I could undoubtedly end up being impressed.

      June 26, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  7. mikala

    All these comments from people who profess to be Christian make me feel ill. They don't understand Christ or his teachings because they take the bible out of context focusing on bits and pieces that support their hate and prejudice.

    March 31, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  8. Qubee

    Jesus and religion is an immense insult to peoples' intelligence. We don't have to take it!

    March 31, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Loren32

      Then don't take intelligence, it's your choice...

      March 31, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Anon

      Ignorance is a virtue for the faithful.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Qubee

      Time to abolish religion = fraud.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      You misunderstand his point. He chooses intelligence because he doesn't accept unproven fairytales to lull him into ignorant bliss.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Nii

      If you atheist twits think its time to Abolish other religions n put yours in control u r delusional. Majority rules except in China.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Leo

      You and other atheists, antichrists, etc can try your best to suppress the evidence that God is real, but the truth is the evidence is clear and science continues to reveal it so that you have no excuse.

      Take a great look at the mapping the most complex object in the known universe and then come back and tell me this happens by random chance!!

      http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/07/computing-power-untangles-the.html

      You are smart enough to see a BMW drive by and say great engineering, yet you see the complexity of life and say dumb luck.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Jack Shown

      You're trying to tell us that the complexity of the brain proves God's existence? Everything we have ever witnessed in history (including religion and science) has proceeded from the simple to the complex. But you start off with something complex ( a god ) and claim that that complex being created something as complex as DNA in every known animal and plant. But none of them get everlasting life. Just you and your co-believers. By the way, all things proceeding from the simple to the complex is 9th grade science: the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  9. palintwit

    Would jesus host SNL when Tina Fey is doing one of her hilarious Sarah Palin impressions ?

    March 31, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  10. Qubee

    Even more important, what would the Flying Spaghetti Monster think?

    March 31, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • whodathunk

      Meatballs for everyone!

      March 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  11. Mark9988

    Seems the only qualification to become a religious studies professor is to be ignorant of spiritual things and have a lot of time on your hands.

    March 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  12. Mark9988

    I think an equally valid question is: "Would Jesus reduce the excise tax on sugar beet and metal-tipped shoe lace imports from the eastern Caucuses region as a means to expand trade opportunities for moderate income European farmers and small-to-mid-size shoe lace facatories ?" That's about as relevant as this ridiculous article.

    March 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  13. palintwit

    Would jesus appear on the Leno or Letterman Show ?

    March 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  14. You really believe Jesus healed people???

    REALLY??? People believe this horsesh!t? STILL????

    March 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Qubee

      Jesus and religion is an immense insult to peoples' intelligence.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • David

      Why don't you believe
      it?

      March 31, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 31, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Qubee

      Abuse has been reported!

      March 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things .

      March 31, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things .

      March 31, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Sabina

      No it does not. Nor can it be proven to.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • just sayin

      You are here. Statement proven !

      March 31, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Jack Shown

      We all know that prayer prevented 50 million tragic deaths in World War II alone. Prayer also worked miracles in preventing 75 million deaths during the Black Plague.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  16. Qubee

    Who cares what some mythological figure from 2000 years ago, a complete creation (no historical evidence at all) would think? Might as well ask what would Hitler or Stalin think (Nazism, Communism and religion are very similar dogma that are based on brainwashing their subjects to turn them into robot-like zombies).

    March 31, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Mark9988

      Mythological? Even atheists and agnostics believe he existed. Get an education

      March 31, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Anon

      INB4 the usual apologist nonsense that Stalin/Mao/Pol-pot = ALL Atheists on this planet card, LOL 😀

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

      Where is the historical, third party evidence? Non-existent!

      March 31, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Anon

      Nope, many atheists and agnostics are waking up to realize that Jesus is myth. Only the politically cowards remain.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Qubee

      Anon, I'm talking about dogma, not atheists. Are you dumb and can't read?

      March 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      Where are his bones?

      Do not reference the shroud of Turin as it was carbon dated to another time.

      It may be widely accepted that he existed, but it is anything but proven.

      Please meet the burden of proof before calling another uneducated, because without proof you appear as the very insult you convey.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Mark9988

      Well, if you ignore contemporaneous Jewish and Roman records, written by authorities with no interest in supporting his existence and every reason not to acknowledge it, I guess you're right. But then if you selectively ignore evidence that doesn't support your position, there's no point in discussing it. I think they call that close-minded....

      March 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Anon

      Qubee, Apologists always defend dogma once you mention Stalin or Hilter,
      Yes, I know how to read and just mocking the apologists that spread that retarded Stalin = All Atheists card.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Richard Wentz

      Jesus was a peasant preacher, one of hundreds of his day, living in the land of a conquered people. Of course there's no written history of him (outside of the gospels which are written and which are histories. Often more accurate than Flavius Josephus). Don't forget, history is written by the winners.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  17. palintwit

    Would jesus tie his hair in a pony tail and sing "Take This Job and Shove It" ?

    March 31, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  18. Robin

    More importantly, WHO CARES? The fact that we continue to frame questions such as these simply contributes to the mass delusion currently being perpetrated in the United States that religion (of any stripe) has ANY relevance for public policy or law.

    March 31, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Qubee

      Couldn't agree more.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • colleen

      For by His stripes you were healed. For He died for you Robin because you are more special to Him then you could ever imagine.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Jack Shown

      Exactly! Great point, Robin!

      March 31, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  19. GOD'S SPEAKING!

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

    March 31, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      ... and your point is??

      March 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • lol

      It's also easier for a camel to walk thru the eye of a needle than it is for a rational mind to believe in Jesus.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • colleen

      For God so Loved the world.........All he wants is a relationship that's all He ever wanted. This article is nonsense.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Nii

      The fallacy that an emotionally immature mind can be rational is generally very pervasive among atheists. Delusion and christophobia don't seem to factor in their calculations. Rational? I'm sorry!

      March 31, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  20. Scott

    CNN doesn't believe in Jesus or any religion. Stop wasting your time thinking up endless ways to promote Obamacare and insulting our intelligence.

    March 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Mark

      I couldn't agree more, Scott – CNN is desperate beyond measure to come up with this angle to persuade people of faith.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:22 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.