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. JC in the hot tub!

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    March 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Kill de wabbit, kill de wabbit . . . .

      I always wonder why Christians think that a couple of lines of scripture are going to convince anyone of anything? Most of us atheist antiChrists have read the incredible bore-fest called the Bible from cover to cover (statistically, we know it better than you!), and it did nothing but convince us that the Christian version of God is just totally impossible. You think hearing a few irrelevant lines again are going to be a revelation?

      March 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  2. Again

    When we allow governemt to make us do anything without a fight we are messing up. Remeber the patriot act, car insurance, seat belt laws etc etc etc. This is not a religous issue. Health care should be free. We could pay for it if we didnt pay every country for influence with them.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  3. JESUS

    How do any of you know what I want? Have you spoken to me? Everything in your so-called Bible was written by people who lived after me and never met me. It is all made up out of whole cloth. I am unknowable. Do not use me as an excuse for not using your government to help those less fortunate than you.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Listening to Jesus!

      You talk to me all the time. And I have killed all those skittle-toting hoodie-weearing black kids, just like you told me.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      FINALLY!!! ... a Jesus I can believe in!

      June 28, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  4. JC in the hot tub!

    "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Jesus

    March 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  5. ignorance!

    If Abraham was alive today and told anyone that God told him to kill his son in a sacr*ifice to God, he would be put in a mental insti*t*ution and his son would be taken into protective custody. Unfortunately many followers of the Abrahamic "revealed" religions today take this horrid ungodly Bible story as fact and truth. One tragically sad case involves a Christian woman, Deanna Laney, who had three beautiful little boys who she believed, based on the Bible story of Abraham, God wanted her to kill her own children to show God she "had complete and uncond*i*tional faith in Him

    March 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Again

      Surely you dont lump everyone together the way you do christians. All whites are racist, not true, all blacks are criminals, not true, etc etc.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      Again - but you have to question any Christians intelligence if they can believe in such a pie in the sky storybook as the bible and think it's the truth. You may as well believe in the Harry Potter books.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  6. jude

    Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.

    Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.

    Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

    Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.

    Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.

    Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.

    Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • rdeleys

      I'm only guilty of lust and gluttony. Not bad!

      March 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  7. BunnyBunny

    Duh!, Of course Jesus would want everyone to have healthcare. That was pretty much his whole reason for being on earth. Love God. Love one another. Share what you have, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the afflicted.

    But you have to believe what's IN the Bible.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Kill de wabbit, kill de wabbit . . . .

      Be mad at fig trees. Kill them for not bearing fruit when you want fruit. That's in the Bible.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  8. JC in the hot tub!

    The single greatest achievement of the "conservative" movement in this country has been to convince millions of week minded individuals that selfishness, greed, and hate for those who are less fortunate, are good Christian values.

    If Jesus ever did come back, these people would crucify him all over again.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • BunnyBunny

      They will have to answer to God.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Christo

      so true

      March 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      god is fiction. Here in lies the most unjust part of all. They get away with it while others suffer in the only life you have to live, as there is no proof of god or an afterlife.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  9. Geoffrey

    "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." That's anti-government? Funny, I took that to mean that we should accept that governments create things acknowledge government's authority over those things, like taxes, mandates, and programs.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • BunnyBunny

      You are right. People need to read their Bibles, instead of having some wealthy preacher tell them what to believe.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Anon

      “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
      ― Isaac Asimov

      March 31, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  10. Greg

    Now all of a sudden CNN catches religion.............in hopes this time religion backs their bias'. Nice try CNN.

    Christ believes in agency. Our government does not. That's the underlying principle!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  11. JC in the hot tub!

    The right wingers keep saying that Obama is a brown skinned liberal who gives away free health care.

    Nope, that's Jesus.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  12. Greg

    God would not support unrighteous acts such as bribing Senators to vote for this bill!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      but he would support stoning unruly children, and all who work on the sabbath, and the wholesale murder of first born children.

      I read it, in a book. Your righteous book at that.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Salty Bob

      Are you kidding every bible cept 1 demands you support the new health care law. Unless you are a devil worship then its ok dont support it. I as an Athiest fully support the new health care law and President Obama. Here the call to arms for all non belivers to support President Obamas next term.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • seidan1

      I think you mean AGAINST this bill. Health Insurance companies, like most Big Business tend to fund Republicans, not Democrats.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  13. a thought

    The WWJD is simplier than many of you are making it. First, Christ would never FORCE another human to give up anything, including their hard earned money, to give it to someone else. Christ lays down what is good, and one of those things is charity. However, charity is something GIVEN to another person out of the goodness in your heart, not something TAKEN from you by a power, like the government, and distributed out as they see fit. Charity can NOT be forced. Secondly, I have a question for you: For those of you saying that we should have government run healthcare because you believe that is WJWW, are you advocating for a Christian Theocracy?

    March 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  14. fschronicler

    Interesting articule and discussion.

    However, one error in the article. Jesus didn't heal a man named "Legion". He cast a demon(s) out of the man who called themself(ves) "Legion". Afterwards "Legion" entered pigs on the hillside which threw themselves off a cliff.

    Also, might I suggest interviewing one of the esteemed professors at Denver Seminary? I don't know anyone at the University of Denver personally, but I do know some professors at Denver Seminary–Many of which have taken part in different modern English translations of the Bible and have literally written the textbooks on Biblical interpretation and social justice.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  15. ignorance!

    Just because we were brought up to believe the Bible, Torah or Koran is "the word of God" does not mean any of these books actually really are "the word of God." When we objectively examine these purported "holy books", applying our God-given reason to them, we see they all fall far short of any type of true meaningful morality. Slavery is one glaring example of a lack of morals in all three of these man-made books which are falsely alleged to be of divine origins. Do we want our children to believe that slavery is acceptable? If we don't, we need to teach them that these three books are nothing but ancient super*st*itions written long ago by men who still ignorantly believed the Earth is flat.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Again

      I imagine you can believe and teach your children the way you want.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • ignorance!

      Im not surprised you are blinded by ignorance forced upon you as a child!
      its not your fault, but get some help to end this craziness. There is a better path, to follow other than fairytales and make believe!

      March 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  16. paula

    "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness";those are our rights as defined in our Declaration of Independence. You can attain none of these rights without health. Health is our country is a basic right that allows us to achieve our rights that our founding fathers defined for us.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  17. The Non-Theist POV

    Really... "WWJD" articles from a national news organization like CNN?! Even Christians should be smart enough to know when they are being pandered to for ad dollars.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  18. just me

    Europe has that figured out nicely... I had to go to England to get my back fixed... I was left to rot here in America... and I was born in California!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • just me

      thank god my mum had dual citizenship!!

      March 31, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  19. Craig

    Okay, great idea. Keep the government out, and allow the churches and charities to pick up the slack. Sounds great. NOW...let's talk reality. The FACT is that the charities are overwhelmed by the need, and the churches, specifically the Catholic Church says "we won't help do certain things in our hospitals...because you're wrong."

    So, while people are dying needlessly, or ending up hopelessly in debt, the "church" people continue to say "That's what Jesus would have wanted." Nope! that's pure BS! It's time to go read the book and acknowledge the truth. That isn't what Jesus said or wanted, and your theory is no more representative of the Facts than your belief in an imaginary friend!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  20. Karloff

    Why would Jesus have to support health care reform? He could just heal everybody. God can do ANYTHING, right?

    March 31, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Wrong. God is omnipotent. But there are many things he cannot do. He cannot commit any sin, fir instance.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • rdeleys

      @SciGuy - Then god is not omnipotent.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Rdeleys, yes he is omnipotent, all-powerful. That does not mean that he can do anything,

      March 31, 2012 at 8:01 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.