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. mt

    If you're asking "what would Jesus do?" Try asking yourself "what if Jesus is trying to make things right through the government?" He has a tendency to use us to right the worlds wrongs. He doesn't come down personally. If he did that he'd have his hands full.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Stonedleo2002

      Repeat after me "I'm crazy".. Don't you feel better now that you said it out loud.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Anon

      LOL. 😀

      March 31, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  2. Matt

    Jesus would "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

    March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  3. nofear

    Jesus would have condemned the american system in which the parasites suck the blood out of the workers who actually produce value but can't afford anything that they produce.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • jude

      can't imagine any country without sick, elderly, retarded, disabled, mentally challenged, addictive personality types(20% of humanity), discriminated, etc etc living amongs those of us that are "fortunate" enough to be both hard working and have jobs or job opportunities (oops fewer and fewer as the "greedy" capitalist does what they have to do for an even bigger yacht) that actually pays enough for basic needs for oneself...and again "lucky" if it pays enough to support any offspring's needs as well. if only god had opted to make all humans perfect we wouldn't be having this discussion. those 7 deadly sins will be the end of us yet.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  4. pastmorm

    Why are you people still holding on for someone that supposedly died 2000 years ago? Don't you think there have been kinder and REAL people since the fable of Jesus? Gandhi, Mother Teresa, etc....even in the last 2000 years we've seen empires fall and rise and yet no news on Jesus. What kind of loving god is that? He's either totally ignoring your ***** or he just doesn't exist! Why don't you ask yourselves what you would do with a health reform? Stop looking for answers where you're only hearing silence.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  5. Stonedleo2002

    This story and all the post are pretty weird. Rather than trying to figure out if Jesus would have supported the health care law maybe people alive today should just read the law and figure out on their own if they support it. There are good parts and bad parts. Why do we have to accept all or nothing. I hope it gets overturned and then each aspect of it really gets debated and thought about and passed slowly one peice at a time, rather than a mad rush like this law was passed.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  6. TomCom

    Athiest seem to have more compassion towards others than Chrisitans.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Stonedleo2002

      No, they are just the bums that want other peoples money. They keep saying help the poor, but really they don't want to get jobs and want to live off of other peoples hard work.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • GianCarlo

      Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I totally agree.......

      March 31, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Anon

      Hmm, I'm atheist and completely despise the monetary system (Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, etc).

      March 31, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  7. Qubee

    The man on the picture is not Jesus! It's some white man in pajamas. Real Jesus is dark skinned Middle-Eastern Jewish Arab!

    March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Very true.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  8. Thinks2010

    We should move to single-payer healthcare with an opt-out option. If someone chooses to opt out, s/he would receive a tax deduction and would be not be eligible for treatment under the single-payer plan. Should s/he choose to opt back in at a future date, s/he should be required to pay 5 years worth of single-payer taxes before s/he is eligible for care. S/he could pay that as a lump sum based on her/his previous 5 income earning years or choose to pay taxes without care for the next five years. This would allow those whose religious freedom infringement fears to follow their beliefs and leave the rest of us with affordable health care.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Stonedleo2002

      Why don't you just work harder and get a job with insurance or buy your own? I don't want to have to pay for you or the other freeloaders.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Your s/he is annoying. Use she or he, we can interpolate. Slash the slash!

      March 31, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      II took time off from work to care for my elderly father the last two years of his life so I lost my employer/employee healthcare. I could not afford to purchase insurance at that time because I had a pre-existing condition (high blood pressure), but I wasn't too worried about it at the time because I had otherwise always been very healthy and had only been to a doctor 6 times in my life, 3 times for check ups and twice for an ear infection (once as an adult, once as a child). Shortly after my father died, I started to feel ill. I thought I had a bad case of the flue that I couldn't shake and was worn out by the stress of caring for my dad, settling his estate, etc. Within the month, I felt so bad I went to the emergency room after a particularly bad night. I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and was told it was a good thing I came into the emergency room because I would have been dead in a few days due to malnutrition caused by the cancer. I ended up undergoing two surgeries and 6 weeks in the hospital follwed by six months of chemo. I had to sell my home, move to a distant, nice but less expensive community to pay my $650,000.00+ medical bills. Since I don't know if I will live to retirement age and because I am still working my way back to health, I used the money I had left over to retire early and set aside some money for end of life care in case my cancer returns before 2014 when pre-existing condition coverage becomes available under Obamacare. If Obamacare is tossed out and there is not a single-payer plan in place, I will just die. If Obamacare continues with the pre-existing condition coverage, I will gladly purchase it even though it will mean a very frugal existence for me. I would be just as happy to pay higher taxes for single-payer healthcare although that would strain my budget as well. You see, I am not a lazy leech, I am a responsible, self-supporting individual who would still be working if I were recovered enough to do so. So shove your snarky, thoughtless, biased, rude and incorrect comments.

      April 1, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  9. Rhyis

    Getting tired of, "Would Jesus do..." inserts. What's the media trying to mold now?

    March 31, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • notheism

      Would Jesus not ask himself what he would do?

      March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  10. Bigshott

    Jesus would probably allow for stoning of the current president and congress.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • RasPutin

      Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Stonedleo2002

      I'd pay to see that on pay-per-view

      March 31, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • pastmorm

      hey bigshott....and you are the exact reason non-Christians DO NOT like christians. You're the perfect example of your religion: hatred, bigotry and stupidity.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  11. Jason

    I'm entertained by people guessing what Jesus would and wouldn't do in regards to gov't policy. Did Jesus heal and help people. Sure he did, but he did it on an individual basis. You didn't find him trying to pass legislation. He worked on hearts. He stayed out of politics because he had something more important to do: change the world. That would not be done through revolutionizing gov't. I would only come through revolutionizing people. A thought: the uprising and spread of Christianity happened in a very pagan society that was focused on war and violence. By the time Christianity was officially accepted, it had already spread to the masses. THus, the answer to the question of what Jesus would do with gov't? He wouldn't have time to be proposing legislation about healthcare. He would be too busy loving, serving, and changing people's lives.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Gord

      "Did Jesus heal and help people. Sure he did..."

      Proof, please.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • sheepgoat

      A clever excuse – only if it didn't ignore Jesus's own words and warning. He commanded us to Love One Another. In Luke 10 He gave the example of the Good Samaritan and how he tended to the medical needs of a stranger – and told He us to go and do likewise. Read it.

      While your at it read in Matthew 25, where Jesus warns all will pitched in to eternal punishment who do not tend to needs of His brothers and sisters – and He includes healthcare. Do you doubt that countless of our Christian brothers & sisters are among the 50 million uninsured Americans who suffer without? Sure – there are charities and other options – but the ox is in the ditch for these people. Other options do not free us from our obligations to support this option as well. We fancy ourselves to be a Christian Nation – yet those boasting loudest do not want to take even this basic Christian step together as a nation.

      If your plan for when you stand before the Father is to argue that you didn't think He expected us to tend the sick together as government of the people – that your vote was against it even though you knew brothers & sisters would suffer for it ... well, good luck with that one.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  12. Qubee

    Ask, but you shall not receive Obamacare!

    March 31, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  13. bobcat2u

    This has got to be the most asssinine question you have asked on this site. What the hell does Jesus have to do with healthcare ? That is the biggest problem with religion today. They are all trying to be involved with politics. Does the saying "seperation of church and state" ring a bell. If religion is so hellbent on getting into politics, then let them pay taxes like the rest of us.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  14. Mary

    @ 1812Overture,
    True. I believe that the second commandment God gave was to "love your neighbor as yourself" paraphrased
    So yes you are correct.
    Gee! alotta responses here.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Burden of proof


      The sun is the light of the world. It is proven scientific fact. Jesus is not on fire in the center of the sun, scientific scans would have shown it and we atheists would be silenced, as the burden of proof would be met.

      Quoting hastily scribbled notes from an ancient mountainside further damages your credibility I'm afraid.

      In addition,

      March 31, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  15. Bigshott

    Talked with Jesus this morning and he said to help the sick and aged, but let the lazy asses get their own healthcare.
    I guess that solves that.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  16. James PDX

    “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.”

    What kind of idiocy is this? You're saying that money won't help people who can't afford healthcare? No worries, as soon as I can make manna from Heaven and heal people with magic, I'll take care of this. Until then, next!

    March 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  17. Chuck

    Why would Jesus have anything to do with our current corupt goverment
    and would definately be against Abortion, so that is already answered

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

      Yer gramner is definately forked up. Hard to cojitate on yer strumplings.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Steve

      Jed, just play some banjo music, eat some grits, and it will all make sense.

      Chuck was just trying to say how much he likes pulled pork and corn with his Bud.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  18. Anon

    Jesus/Yahweh reminds me of Saint Eva/Deathevn from that old SNES game Breath of Fire II.

    "I will go through the opened gates and I will bless the world with desperation.
    Everything living will look up to me and feel happiness as they accept death"
    ~Saint Eva/Deathevn~

    March 31, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Stonedleo2002

      You totally could have said that was in the bible and I would have believed you.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Anon

      The similarities to the christian religion are very eerie.
      Heck, there's a global Saint Eva based religion in the Breath of Fire II mythos/universe.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  19. Ashrakay

    I have an idea: Why don't we just reinstate taxes for religious insti.tutions and have that money pay for healthcare? I would love to watch these people either have the courage of their convictions and support it, or show what I suspect is their true colors of hypocrisy and reject it.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  20. 1812Overture

    Jesus is the light of the world, and yes, I believe he would be for us taking care of one another, because it is the humane thing to do.

    March 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • notheism

      @1812Overture, thank you for providing a straight answer.

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

      More like destroy the Earth if you actually tried studying comparative religion.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      the light of the world is an enormous ball of fusing hydrogen atoms. The sun is the factual light of the world.

      Your claim does not meet the burden of proof, mine does.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Anon

      And the Sun will eventually destroy the Earth in about 4-5 billion more years when it goes through it's red giant phase.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:53 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.