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. Qubee

    My friend Jesus, a Mexican National currently living in California, would say "I don't give a flock, man!"

    March 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  2. Top_News

    How mindless to ask what Jesus would do. That's just as mindless as if you asked what Allah would do. Give it up, CNN and all other media sources. It's like you're trying to start a confrontation among religious denominations and atheists.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • notheism

      I do not agree with your proposition. Are you saying that Jesus is a god? I am not sure.. Anyway, I think the premise is that we have enough information to have a decent idea of what this "historical" figure would or would not support.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • TomCom

      Really, only that the Christian faith is what the majority of Americans say thier life is based on.
      Only that Christians dominate the voting public.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  3. James PDX

    “Here Jesus’ words come to mind about not worrying and trusting God to meet our basic needs,”

    If this fairytale were true, we wouldn't have 50 million uninsured. Next!

    March 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  4. carpe diem

    It's the wrong question placed in the wrong context. And that leads into a not sane discussion. A sane discussion would be: how do we organize the healthcare system in the USA in such a way that it reflects the decent society America proclaims to be? And then we would be fully in the Jesus zone. His life was a testemony for decency, love, compassion, justice and equal rights. It's not about quotes from the Bible. It's about the spirit of the words and the deeds and rituals Jesus performed when he became the Christ: meaning living and acting as a way shower of Gods Kingdom right here on earth.
    It's about how WE are following through on that in every matter of our lives on earth. A decent healthcare system is one of those matters. And I think it is pretty obvious that the recent health care system is a disgrace of everything America stands for.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  5. Joe Giardina

    Now I'm going back to foxnews.com for truth, justice and the American way!

    March 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Joe Giardina

      Hmmmm what to say to an impersonator? All MSM have their propaganda points. However I know that Jesus is EXTREMELY happy that mean man Keith Olbermann no longer has his mug on TV, because Jesus was ALL about love and NOT killing unborn babies or trash talk about Sarah.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  6. AmbroseV

    If Congress would revise Reagan's EMTALA healthcare directive, ED's would be less crowded with non-resident visitors. For those like me wanting affordable healthcare, require insurers to grandfather portability without regard to pre-existing condition, and only require risk pools on those who chose not to buy insurance until after the fact of illness. Finally, let Congress buy their own coverage ... why should citizens pay insurance for wealthy temps?

    March 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  7. ForGoodOfAll

    If Jesus is indeed real and is as merciful as the believers say he is, then he would certainly be in favor of health care reform, which promotes adequate health care to ALL U.S. citizens.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i wonder what Hercules would say about health care.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • justpassiton

      Yes. The whole plan is that we ought to become masters of ourselves and become servants in Love and Truth to others. The reality is that after two thousand years we still want to be masters of others, and yet we are slaves to our sins. At least we have hospitals and schools. They haven't been built because of us being so good to others but because people who have seen money in it or the people through the government copied what the people of faith did. And that is exactly what is all about. People of faith, in love for Christ, are supposed to take care of the poorest, and be the light and that salt to the nations. And some are like that. They are called saints. Those who stopped thinking about what they can get out of it and in faith gave up their lives for others (including those who do not believe in God who loves them so much.)

      March 31, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  8. oldpreach

    Obviously those who think that Jesus wouild take a positon on this subject do not know Jesus.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • religious?

      Yeah right!
      Cuz Jesus was known for not taking a stance on any issue!

      Are you fuk'n kidding me?

      March 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Bizarre


      So it's coming down to: "my Jesus is better than your Jesus", eh?

      March 31, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  9. James

    As a Christian, I'm curioius why those of you who are so profoundly anti-Christianity, atheist, non-believing are reading this belief blog in the first place. Is Christ's church in the world perfect–no! Are Christians doing all they can to help one another–no! But those of us who believe and have faith know that we are the hands and feet of Christ guiding us to go where we are needed most.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      prove christ exists at all.

      You cannot, he does not.

      We are here to save you.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Lilith

      Because we "believe" you to be wrong and we "believe" you need to keep your religions out of the government for "all" of us. If you kept your beliefs to yourselves we wouldn't care less.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Anon

      An honest study of religion always brings about atheism, due to the intrinsic dishonesty of religion.
      It's the equivalent of trying to convince us that Santa exists. We atheists won't be tricked again.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • religious?

      Hmmm James!
      people read comics, and books all the time. Most of which are fiction like your bible. Its just that intelligent people dont think if they are good or pray hard enough they'll get into the school hogwarts, or the pearly gates!
      dont tell people what they should or shouldnt read! You ask your own Santa for your own ideal gifts! The rest of us will work for what we want! Ok?

      March 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Qubee

      The reason? It's entertainment. It's like going to the circus.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • GAW

      "hands and feet of Christ guiding us to go where we are needed most?" Where most Christians in America are being guided to stay as comfortable as possible in their suburbs. A few go the distance but most don't.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  10. Joe Giardina

    I am sure Jesus is VERY happy Keith Olbermann is gone from the airways. Glory be !!!

    March 31, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  11. Top_News

    Jesus would never mandate anything to people. Jesus would never support abortions be paid by the masses.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • religious?

      he didnt mind killing the first born of every Egyptian family. Talk about mass abortions!

      March 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      Your own scripture kinda got you there "top news". Your jesus and god are supposedly one and the same. Therefore something god did prior to jesus being on earth is wholly condoned by jesus because he is god.


      March 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • amplifo

      Our nation does not pay for abortions with taxpayer dollars. You have been misinformed by propaganda if you believe that.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      Ipso facto jesus is the king of abortion

      March 31, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  12. Thinks2010

    They say God works in mysterious ways. Who's to say single-payer healthcare isn't one of those mysterious ways. Perhaps he inspired someone to think of it.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:25 pm |

    But while we’re here we need to be understanding, patient, caring, trusting, and loving of one another, otherwise we may share the same fat of so many other species. Try to understand that people have different interest than you do. Different desires, hungers and thirsts. Embrace them, it what makes us uniquely different from one another. God has made us this way. To try and conform everyone to the same things is just not possible, its not in our genetic make up. We’re all different. Our top priority should be to love and protect one another from the elements we must avoid. Its not ok to hurt people. Its not okay to compromise the ground, the water, or the air, especially for something as simple as profit. Believe me its not worth it. Protect what we have and each other from violence, and destruction. And lets live together in peace!

    March 31, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 31, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Not a believer

      Yea, your IQ level changes

      March 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  15. Joe citizen abroad

    Well, I know what He wouldn't do. He wouldn't force a 10-inch ultrasound wand inside a woman and then make her look at the display. He wouldn't say, "Too bad your co-worker has to have expensive cancer treatment. We know he and you all have been paying our insurance company a lot of money for years, but either he gets booted from your company's health coverage, or all of your premiums go up." He wouldn't lobby legislators or bribe them with campaign funding to get them to oppose a plan designed to increase access to aid and comfort for millions. He wouldn't lie, cheat, and steal. He wouldn't launch a huge misinformation campaign, winding people up with fear that their rights are being eroded. He wouldn't say, "We can't do this, because it violates the ideology of a free-market economy." He had a way of cutting through the crap and getting to the core of the matter very quickly. So I have a feeling that He'd simply ask you to do the right thing for others...as you would have them do the right thing for you.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  16. Truthfully

    Correction: say what you will.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  17. Not required


    March 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • teleprompter

      No ...but Satan would

      March 31, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  18. Tim

    James 1:27 look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Sure, to use a the theological argument for health care, supports the moral majority claim of moral law. Health reform & no equal marriage and abortions, or vice versa. Keep constant. The religious conservatives ought to support the law and liberals ought to oppose it, but the reverse is true. Of course, I'm a libertarian thus I demand constancy from idealogies

    March 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      Unquestioning belief in ancient texts also makes you a robot, who does exactly what his religious "leaders" programmed him to do.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  19. notheism

    Interesting: Who do we trust – God or government?
    He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government.
    WHERE is faith in god in that assertion? Is got market and people but not government? Is government not people?

    March 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Satan

      The irony is they depend on the Gov't to uphold the tax exemption these Charlatan "Christians" so desperately need.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Anon

      Satan is a myth.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      this is a good time to add that all the tax free super churches have leaders who live in mansions and drive luxury cars. This is extremely inline with jesus' teachings. These are also the trappings of successful businessmen.

      I even saw one super church in Texas with an over 2000 gallon reef aquarium on tanked. Wow that must have easily cost over 20k, yet I'm sure starving children somewhere went hungry that night. Very "christian"

      March 31, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  20. dmadam

    If jesus were alive today he would be written off as a cultist. He was gay anyway with a compliment of twelve and the repubs don't want to accept that.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Truthfully

      He was not gay but say what you. I can tell you one thing for sure – you will be held accountable.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Hmmmmmmmmm

      What makes you sure? How do you know that YOU wn't be held accountable to Allah for failing to believe? The only evidence you can supply is an old book supposedly inspired by God, and they have one of those too.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      Yes and you can both:

      1) prove he wasn't gay
      2) prove that a factual god exists and has both time and interest to pass judgment on BILLIONS of inferior humans.

      Of course you cannot prove either. You are blind to truth and attempting to blind others. Truly un-christian behavior

      March 31, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Anon

      There is evidence that Christianity has roots as a g@y cult but don't talk my word for it.
      Just do research. I'm not h0mophobic and approve GLBT right, but it's ironic that Christianity could have started as a g@y cult and now it's extremely h0mophobic.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:49 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.