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. Gerald O'Brian

    Why is it important to know whether Jesus would approve or not? This is not about religion or politics. It is about what is best for mankind in this day and age.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  2. just me

    MONEY an LIFE must never be on the table at the same time!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  3. Charles rea

    Thou shall not steal

    March 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  4. Rev. Dan Bradford

    Would Jesus support health care reform?
    I just read a long mess that I believe is the worst trash I have ever read.
    I copied and pasted this ignorant statement; I hope no one will mind,
    “The teachings of Jesus do not fit into the views of any political party."
    Jesus was a person who believed that Lucifer was the author of all sickness and pain; otherwise he could not have cast it out of so many.
    To those of us who have no religious belief, or faith in anything at all; I would like to say to them that they should refrain giving a religious opinion when it comes to the teaching of Jesus the Christ.
    I have said before that Jesus taught us and showed us all of his life on this earth how to cope with Lucifer.
    I believe that a few of us were not listening and can’t read our Bible.
    If Jesus doesn't fit into our poilitical government, we have a bad problem.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  5. just me

    Republicans only pretend to be Christians because Christians freely give up their money!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Personal Responsibility

      Did you just imply Democrats are not Christian – only Republicans?

      It has already been proven the more disposable income people have, the more generous they are. Many give anonymously – they don’t look for the press release with photos to BRAG about it as many Democrats do. And before you go there, I am a Democrat.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  6. capnmike

    "The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus physically healing the most vulnerable and despised people in his society."...and I don't recall ever reading that he charged anybody for the service, or sent them outrageous bills, or had their finances ruined and driven into bankruptcy to pay for the healing. And I bet none of those healed had any kind of health insurance with huge rip-off insurance companies who charged them ridiculous premiums and then said they wouldn't cover whatever their illness was, or had limits on what they would pay, or gave payoffs to crooked politicians to keep people from getting decent health care at reasonable prices, or forbade them from buying the medications they needed from anywhere they were available,or even had forms to fill out. Truly we have come a long way.....NOT!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Boast Busters

      spittle and dirt were real cheap in those days...

      March 31, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  7. just me

    John is right... The rest of the first world nations have the worlds best healthcare and its all free!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • RasPutin

      Well, not actually free, but the tax they pay for it is far less than half what the premiums are in the US.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  8. Richard Page Rapid City, SD

    2 things according to baby jesus' teachings......

    1 render unto caesar.

    2 you are your brother's keeper.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  9. RasPutin

    What people fail to understand is, that if you have healthcare through your job, you are being double-dipped:
    – your employer is using YOUR money to pay for your health insurance (otherwise you'd get more pay)
    – you pay for the uninsured through your taxes.
    What this really means is, if you are a family of 4 you are paying for one cheapskate who doesn't pay in.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • capnmike

      There are a lot of folks who simply can't afford health insurance...that isn't being a "cheapskate", you fool. You really think anybody who could afford it wouldn't buy it? Wake up!

      March 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • RasPutin

      to Capnmike:

      My solution is to forget Obamacare – just expand Medicare down to date-of-birth. Then let the government set the pay scale like it does in other countries with universal health care. Somehow I think you are on that wavelength....

      March 31, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Beadles

      capnmike – there are far too many people in this country who cannot afford health insurance due to low wages, pre-existing conditions etc. But there are also way to many people who "can't afford" insurance, but have a smart phone, cable with 180 channels, go out to eat 2 or 3 times a week, etc. The mindset for many is that someone else should pay (employer, government, whomever.) Until this situation is resolved (however that may be) those of us who pay for insurance will be covering those who don't. I'm sympathetic to those who truly need help – but tired of the freeloaders.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  10. .

    Jesus would never support a system where a government claims adjuster can deny your coverage with impunity.

    If my private insurance wrongly denies my claim, at least I can sue them. When the government is the insurance company, you forfeit your legal remedy of bad faith.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • RasPutin

      Right. Let's see how many of the thousands who have claims denied successfully sue their insurance company.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  11. ignorance!

    Republicans are crazy enough to know that followers of religion are crazy enough to believe what Republicans tell them simply because Republicans pretend to be Christian. All the while being more like Satanist than Christian!
    These idiot Christian with their zombie like mentality fall for the propaganda, and side with the devil himself!
    God help you Republican Satanist in Christian clothes! Sheep are just dumb enough to follow wherever you lead!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  12. just me

    they have healthcare when its too late for them.. when they are too sick to be helped.. Too ill to be productive as working citizens...

    March 31, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  13. Beadles

    The lead-in for this story asked the question "How should the nation help the estimated 50 million Americans who can't afford health insurance?" That made me ask another question – how many truly cannot afford health insurance? Yes, there are those who truly cannot afford the premiums. Those who work minimum wage jobs, have pre-existing conditions, etc. But are there not many who choose not to *sacrifice* what they *want"? If you can't afford health insurance, you can't afford 180 cable channels. If you can't afford health insurance, you better not have a fancy cell phone with internet. If you can't afford health insurance, you better not be eating out several times a week. Those are just a few of the things my husband and I forgo in order to pay our health insurance premium every month. As for those who truly cannot afford insurance, we need to work together to come up with a plan to help them. The rest of us need to pay our share.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • RasPutin

      They already have a plan to pay for them – your taxes! Everyone who gets emergency care when uninsured gets you who pay for insurance and pay taxes to pay for them!

      March 31, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Gregory

      How long do you honestly believe that you and your husband will be able to "pay your share"? Healthcare is rising so fast that it will one day outpace your income. Or are you suggesting that only the wealthy should be privileged enough to have healthcare? Surly you can understand how ignorant and elitist you sound?

      March 31, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Beadles

      Wow, Gregory, I didn't realize I sounded ugly and elitist when I advocated insuring coverage for those who truly need it (i.e, those with low wages, pre-existing medical conditions, etc.) What I am questioning is whether or not there are many who CHOSE to not find a way to fit an insurance premium into their budget yet manage to pay for other items that I consider discretionary expenditures. I believe that is a valid question for discussion – not for a personal attack.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  14. John

    Imma put it into words, to all you dumb americans who don't get what your own debate is all about....

    On one side you have health care..... which is about not letting people die..... and has nothing to do with money (since most developped countries have understoog this concept and deliver FREE healthcare)

    On the other side there is the american green, american system of capitalising everything........ And this system, the people behind the money of heath care, are manipulating the people into thinking its an issue about governement run healthcare.....

    If you ask Obama, he probably doesn't care where the coverage comes from, as long as everyone can get basic free heathcare..... However he has had to make it a governement bought insurance, because is had given free health care, all your dow jones health care industry would have collapsed....

    So to make it really simple..... you americans, are on one hand condemmed to always having uncovered people since your health care system is an "industry"..... on the other hand, we the world thank you for that, because your system drives the innovation in health care like no other (of course, on the back of 50 million underpriviledge humans, that you treat like disposable animals)

    Have a nice day 🙂

    March 31, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  15. Sharon

    We pay taxes to have these people tended to in the emergency rooms and in the charity hospitals. They have health care, they just don't have insurance.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • firszt

      Ever go to a county hospital? Wait 8-10 hours for a five minute visit where they ignore your symptoms and rush you out like cattle and then send you a bill and then sell that bill to debt collectors. I don't think very much of anyone's tax dollars are going to healing the sick.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  16. First Christians

    The first Christians, those closest in time to Jesus and the Apostles, invented the world's first hospitals and free health care.

    The answer is obvious.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • isolate

      Not quite. The Greeks had their Asclepieia (temples of healing) nearly 400 years earlier. The Asclepieion of Epidaurus (c. 350 BCE) still lists the names, conditions, treatments and outcomes of patients who sought help there.

      Fa Xian, a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled throughout India c. 400 CE, recorded in his diary that the heads of merchant castes established houses for dispensing charity and medicine. "The poor, orphans, widows/widowers, maimed people, cripples, and all who are diseased, go to those houses, and are provided with every kind of help, and doctors examine their diseases. They get the food and medicines which their cases require, and are made to feel at ease; and when they are better, they go away of themselves."

      The benevolent Emperor Ashoka of India founded at least eighteen hospitals c. 230 BCE, with physicians and nursing staff, the expense being borne by the royal treasury.

      The Academy of Gundishapur in the Persian Empire was a teaching hospital. One medical historian has said that argued that, "to a very large extent, the credit for the whole hospital system must be given to Persia."

      As with so many other advances in science and medicine, the inventions happened in the East and moved very slowly to the West. It wasn't until the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE that the Christian church developed an official policy of establishing hospitals in cathedral cities.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  17. Bill

    As I understand the conservative position, health care is not a God given right and the true sin is those without, or unable to afford, health insurance depending on emergency care services to provide health care to themselves and their children adding to the insurance and health costs of those that can afford it. Health care should be for those that can afford it. For the rest of you, thats your problem.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Connie

      🙂 Bill!

      March 31, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  18. Mbane

    He would support free healthcare. Need proof? He never charged anyone anything. He told people to leave all their belongings behind and help others.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • John Steriff

      I doubt that letting someone else pay to help people so you don't have to bother (most people don't pay taxes) would have made him happy.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • olorinstaff

      Everyone pays taxes. Either through payroll taxes, state taxes or sales tax. when you buy a gallon of gas you pay taxes. Only the rich pay a far lower percent then the rest of us.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  19. just me

    Did you know in Germany they CURED a man with AIDS because they were able to test over 100 people to find the perfect blood match with someone who also had HIV resistance for a bone marrow transplant? American insurance companies only allow testing up to 3 individuals because money AND life are both on the table!!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • pop CHEESE

      Did you know AIDS attracts to Asteroid doomsday impact? Government refuse to talk about it. They fear it's too religion.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  20. firszt

    It's not theft, it's everyone throwing in so we can all afford healthcare. All of you will be sick one day and have to experience the current healthcare system stealing all of your money. Paying higher taxes for healthcare is a lot better than going bankrupt when you need it.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Bob


      March 31, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • John Steriff

      If we though for more than two milliseconds that most of the health care money wouldn't be squandered, then I'd be all for it. Unfortunately,...

      March 31, 2012 at 7:13 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.