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. RV1982

    No, he would view any trust in government to provide for our welfare as idolatry. He would rather have us give resources directly to the church and have the church be the provider for those in need. Just think if 10% of GDP was available to help the poor with health care and other social services, but administered locally to prevent waste and fraud. Current estimates are that the nation spends around 20% of GDP on health services. I would think 10% would more than cover the poor without health insurance as current total welfare expenditure for all social services except education is around 15%.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  2. Bob Emery

    Here we go again with the notion that some God, whoever he or she may be, will take care of all of our problems – all we have to do is have faith and be good Christians. Although I respect everyone's right to believe what they want, problems are not solved by waiting for the hand of God to magically wave across the face of the Earth rectifying the mess we have made. Thirty plus countries around the world have solved health care for all and they did it on their own without divine guidance just like we and they should approach all of our problems. Sitting on our butts waiting for a gift from heaven is fool hardy, to say the least. Sometimes I think America is a third-world country at best.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  3. mark

    I don't know if Jesus would support healthcare reform, but I do know he wouldn't support the I-ME-MINE GOP party.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  4. LAN SE

    CNN is making the government equal to God..........typical ignorance from CNN. In fact Jesus separated himself as far as possible from any establishment. Hint here CNN: never quote the Bible in a effort to make a secular point.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  5. Stevelb1

    Jesus would be against it and for a universal healthcare system like the rest of the world has.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  6. Glenn

    Can CNN ask a more ridiculously outlandish question???

    March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  7. Jake

    What's with this absurd nonsensical questions asked by the media every once in a while ? Would Jesus do this ? Would he do that ? Would he have purchased a Mega Million ticket ? Would he support gays ? Would he have eaten pink slime ?? Would he support raising taxes ? Would he watch Hunger Games ? Would he choose Wendy's over BK ??

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

      II love this response, though Jake's theological training is obviously limited because he forgot the all-important question of Ginger vs. Marianne.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  8. googlemaps1

    Of course Jezus wants a free market in healthcare. He told us everyone has to fend for themselves and this world is a "struggle for survival" (Matthew 5:1) He also supported the right to bear fire-arms. And he also told us to invade Iraq, those fxxc@%ing heathens.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    In the middle of the merry nature we see, how a paralyzed child is driven in a wheelchair. Somebody, who still has a heart, which is not insensible to his neighbour, he will realize in that moment that something is wrong with our world, that the world, in which such a torture and sadness is possible, cannot be the genuine creation of God. Something anti-divine must have befallen the world. The world has apostated from her genesis. Destroying powers have seized rule in this world.

    Only in a world having become godless, there is malady. Because the world suffers from God, therefore there are sick people. Solely a world, which would be secure in God, a delivered world, would be without any malady. In the Bible we encounter a strange sentence: “12 And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease [was] exceeding [great]: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” (2. Chron. 16, 12). It is about a devout man there, which the Bible else gives high praise for his zeal, regarding God’s matter. But this man, despite his devoutness, thought very modern, so that he strictly distinguished between matters of religion, in which someone calls on God, and the earthly matters, in which someone asks for help at earthly bodies. Diseases, particularly physical diseases are earthly matters with earthly causes and earthly cures. Consequently diseases are matters of physicians, but not of God. How could someone be allowed to bother God, the Lord of the world, with his small physical maladies? God has other concerns.

    That is thought pretty reasonable and maybe even religious. But it is wrong. Surely, diseases have their earthly causes and earthly cures. But with that is stated not at all everything and not the crucial thing about the essence of disease. For sure, the invalid shall call on a physician. But the most important thing is not done solely with that, and is not realized. Behind the earthly causes and cures there are supernatural causes and supernatural cures of the disease. As long as someone passes by thereon, someone lives, ignoring his disease, and doesn’t realize its essence. Its blessing or curse remain unrecognized.

    The disease belongs to God in a special way. The Bible doesn’t blame a man for calling on a physician, when he is sick, but for not calling also on God. Not by chance, Christ lived noticeably close by the invalids, not by chance, blind man, paralytics, deaf-mutes, lepers, lunatics were irresistibly attracted by him and seeked his community. Why didn’t Christ send them to the physician? Surely not, in order to damage the reputation of the physicians or to present his own skills and suggestiv powers, but in order to make clear that God and malady and that Christ and invalids belong strongly together.

    Christ wants to be the real physician of the invalids. “I am the Lord, your physician!” (Exodus 15, 26). God says that, Christ says that. The Creator and Deliverer of the world wants to be the physician of the invalid. Do we want to spurn this offer, after we have accepted so many less offers with more or less success?

    One, who merely intuits the connection between God and malady, one, who takes serious the unexpected offer, can get a pointer to the sin of the human beings, to the destruction of the community of the creatures with their Creator.

    Here are the supernatural reasons and abysses of the malady. It is the sin of the world and it is my personal sin, I get reminded. My disease doesn’t have to be the consequence of or the punishment for a certain sin, which I had to accuse myself of, that may happen, but it is not necessaryly the case. Yet every disease will let me look into the depth of the sin of the world and the depth of my personal godlessness. This look drives me to God. When I looked into the abyss (of my sin), I don’t first ask for redemption of this or that malady, but I will confess my longly hidden guilt in the face of God. The physical malady wants to show me that my actual malady goes much deeper, so deep that no earthly physician can cure it, because my actual disease is my sin. Not merely my body, my nerves, my temper is sick, but my whole essence, my heart is sick, sick by disbelieve, by fear, by the godlessness of my life. And which healthy man doesn’t suffer from that furtive and at the same time eerie disease?

    Now I know that I can be helped, if my whole essence becomes healthy, safe and new. How can that happen? The answer is very simple and yet touches the ultimate depth of our life: by true private confession and by divine forgiveness of all my sins. That may seem to be a strange turn and solution of this question for some people, but yet only for someone, who has not yet experienced the cure of the whole man by confession and forgiveness. What is confession? To open up oneself with all one’s sins, weaknesses, vices, maladies to Jesus Christ and to give him the whole heart without any reservation, according to his command. That is not easy and may seem to us harder than a dangerous surgery. Normally, the most of us will need a fraternal helper for that, who assists us at confession, may it be the pastor holding an ecclesiastical office, may it be any member of the congregation, who knows more about Christ than I. What is forgiveness? Extinction of all my whole hopeless, messy, failed past (of which maybe only I know) by God’s decree and by the present of a new and happy beginning of my life.

    Who can give me such a new beginning? Nobody else than solely the crucified and living Jesus Christ, who himself experienced the hopelessness of life on himself and overcame it in the communion of God. He is the sole physician, who knows my deepest malady, who himself has beared it. He is the saviour, who can cure heart, soul and body.

    How is forgivness of sins connected with physical cure? More than the most people intuit. Of course it is a mysterious connection. But isn’t it at least so much comprehensible, that a man, who got again a happy and released heart, will get rid of some physical complaint? The body often becomes ill, because it is not ruled, because it has become its own Lord. But now the body has get again his right Lord, who rules it. The body is no longer the Lord. It is only tool, even more than that, it has become “temple of the Holy Spirit”. There are many maladies, which are not visibly subdued and eradicated by the assurance of forgiveness. But the hidden connection of received forgiveness and physical cure can become visible in such a way that medical limits are bursted, and the physicians face a mystery. One is sure: The faith is a source for cure like the disbelief is a source for destruction and sickness of the body and the soul.

    When Christ calls himself the physician of the invalid, then the divine mercy shines upon every invalid. The sick one belongs to God. At him God wants to materialize his salvation. In the ill brother we encounter God’s mercy, who is the physician of the invalid in Jesus Christ. The sick man wants cure, but Christ gives him more: Salvation.

    Originator of the above sermon: Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (in my eyes, he is a king)

    March 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Larry L

      You've all developed an extensive dialogue with your mythical being. To an observer his influence on humanity is an illusion and his mercy is a figment of your imagination. You gain strength from your own creation of his interaction with your life. I suppose comfort from an illusion is still comfort – but it's also delusional. It wouldn't cause any harm if religion wasn't so harmful to society.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  10. reader 2010

    Illegals ,addicts,lazy people are part of the problem.

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

      Amen,a big part of it.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Reggie from LA

      They are all, nevertheless, PEOPLE. Jesus didn't discriminate, but of course he is/was better than us. You Christians with your nice suits on Sunday morning, especially the ones with robes on, get this. You are not of God if you teach your foolish flock who to love and who to scorn. IT IS NOT YOUR JOB. Many of you take on God's role while you point fingers and pick and choose who deserve "Christian's" favor.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  11. Glenn

    Free market health care means only the wealthy get good health care. With the wealth gap continuing to grow, I believe that means that fewer and fewer will be able to afford good health care. It has to be a function of government unless we reverse the wealth gap trend of the last 50 years.

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

      Disagree. Think about anything that has been driven by the free market system...automobiles, electronics (TVs, Computers), Stocks, etc. All those things are affordable, for practically everyone. Now think about anything that has been government run or heavily controlled by the government...education, healthcare, energy production, etc. These things are all a mess...and expensive. People run things more effectively and efficiently than the government.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  12. na

    Jesus said "physicians heal thyself" enough said.

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

      IF Jesus was even real, when he walked the earth medicine was no more advanced than witchcraft, so it seems absurd to quote him in regards to the modern development that is true, reliable healthcare.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  13. Dan

    Reasoning of the people who oppose health care reform has nothing to do with Jesus' teachings whatsoever. Jesus wouldn't let the least of these suffer because they can't afford health insurance. Jesus would go out there and do whatever that help them, of course it would include paying higher tax if that what he had to do. Of course he wouldn't want anything to do with politics, but he would do everything to help a poor sick man.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  14. Descarado

    For those of us who consider universal health care to be the cornerstone of a modern society, Obamacare is a Frankenstein zombie of mismatched body parts that will never be able to walk and talk at the same time.

    Sorry CNN, nice try, but Jesus would not support this bonehead of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid

    March 31, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  15. Against Religion

    Are you F'n kidding me, why are you wasting all this good web space on stupid articles like this. Get REAL! this is 2012 so people wake the F up. Jesus will not heal you, Jesus does not provide for you and take care of you. It's time to grow up and take responsibility for you own life period and not rely on myths that can not be proven. Look into the history of RELIGION and you will see that Millions of people have been slaughtered all in the name of their GOD by men who use RELIGION to justify their horrific acts against the human race. I do not and can not support this type of organization who believes that there way of life is better then someone else. RELIGION is the true form of ignorance that has been formed for the masses who can not think on there own behalf.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Juan derful


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

      I'm sure you must have a wonderulf life sir.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  16. apostate

    Jesus would heal you for free with his laser eyes.

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

    Ok,this is enough,I'm not clicking on CNN anymore.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  18. damnyankee

    Sort of a stupid article, isn't it? Christ said, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" which means if you owe taxes, pay your taxes. If you owe for something, you pay for it. That was His message.

    I suppose grocery stores should give away free food and the Water Department should give away free water because we all need food and water to survive. See how ridiculous this article is?

    March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  19. Jason

    Jesus wouldn't charge people, he would do it himself because he loves us. The government isn't guided by Christian principals anymore.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  20. Peter T

    Don't trust government...but DO trust for-profit insurers who have shown how morally bankrupt they are by refusing treatments or doing everything they can to deny patients care because of pre-existing conditions? Come on.

    If you can't afford health care, turn to churches or non-profits? But DON'T turn to the biggest non-profit service provider of them all: government?

    Many countries have government run health care systems. Costs are lower. Doctors and patients actually get MORE choice. If you have the money you can still buy private insurance for better coverage if you really want it. In the meantime, tens of thousands of Americans DIE annually because of the lack of available and affordable health care. You may not like the idea of government paying for it, but somehow I doubt Jesus would have a problem with it if it saved so many from needless suffering.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
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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.