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. Guy in NM

    Should we care? Even if that guy existed? What a stupid question that is!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Anon

      And the sad thing is that the religious right at congress can directly affect our health policies.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  2. Allen

    Have anyone think that some of the biggest religion we have now are also the easiest or most empowering to them self. Christians and Muslims are two of the most largest religion, but it also the easiest to get in, easiest to archive your "right" to get in to the good afterlife and have the easiest forgiven right. But religion like Buddhism are barely growing, but must spend alot time and energy to reach enlightenment. What i am asking is that do Christians and Muslims people believe in their own "teaching" or people rewrite the bible long time ago to make it easier to follow. The Bible or Koran which is pass down by thousand of years, recopy and rewritten thousand of times by human hand and do you guy still think you follow the same teaching as the original.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  3. Mercyme


    March 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  4. Jo Ann (friend of Jesus...John 15:15)

    I believe Jesus would (1) heal them himself, Matt 8:7 (2) teach us to take care of the elderly and orphans, (3) teach us to "have the faith of a mustard seed" – He CAN and DOES provide healing miracles – whether it is here on Earth – or in Heaven if we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior "I (Jesus) am the way, the truth and the life...no one comes to the Father except through Me."John 14:6 (4) Love each other as I (Jesus) have loved you,,John 11:6,and (5)" If a man will not work, he shall not eat" 2 Thess 3:10.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  5. primusteufel

    Sure he would because he was the first socialist.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  6. TewksburyBob

    50% of the people in this country pay no federal income tax. Remember the widow's mite in the parables? Everyone donated what they could to the temple. I do not remember anything about just going after the top 1%. So my answer is yes, He would approve of universal healthcare but no he would not approve of EVERYONE not paying their fair share. Fair share to me is 22.5% of everyting you buy...regardless of income. We need a consumption tax and everyone needs skin in the game. Then watch the bottom 50% scream bloody murder over government spending.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  7. ignorance!

    Thankfully, it is proof that God, the Supreme Intelligence, or, as is described in the Declaration of Independence, Nature's God, had and has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Bible! Sadly, in the case of Deanna Laney, she religiously murdered two of her children, Luke age six and Joshua age eight, and had caused severe brain damage to 14 month old Aaron. She committed these Bible inspired evil and unnatural acts by smashing her little boys' heads with heavy stones.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  8. Me

    Then you provide video. It's circular thinking. I've got many old books that can help with this discussion. And many manuscripts too. More than any other book in history.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      i am not the one making fantastical claims. There is no circular thinking because I do not need to prove anything, you do.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  9. Marcy

    "Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these you did not do for me."
    What do you think?

    March 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  10. jaitop

    Obamacare is about regulating health insurance. Like Herods regulating births. Obamacare allows the killing of the unborn. Christ was born because his parents escaped Herod's persecution. How many children will not escape Obamacare payment to destroy their lives? How many people with a chronic illness will suffer execution by the fifteen member panel in Obamacare? Jesus would have never done such killings

    March 31, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  11. dale.zalewski

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

    March 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Me

      He was a man of peace and that's it. He's dead.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Marcy

      I couldn't agree more. We have the "do as I say not as I do" version of Christianity in our country.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Anon

      At least Gandhi was a real historical person, unlike mythological Jesus.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  12. Calabarboy

    Reblogged this on THOUGHTS OF A CALABAR BOY and commented:
    We forget that God will respect the choices we make as a society.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  13. Saxxon

    Everyone here who says what Jesus would/would not want, think, or know is a complete and utter moron. Humans do not have the mental capacity to fathom these kinds of things.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      except that we made up god and rest of the christian pantheon ourselves. god made us right after we made him. so i'm pretty sure we can fathom what a fictional character from a fictional book would do. it's the same as pondering what the Great Gatsby might have thought about a political issue, generally a waste time, but amusing.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  14. ignorance!

    Like many Christians and followers of the Abrahamic "revealed" religions, Deanna Laney falsely believed God ordered Abraham to kill his only son because he, God, wanted to know if he, Abraham, had enough faith in God to do it. However, the Bible, at Genesis 22:12, claims the reason the Bible god gave this order to Abraham was to know if Abraham feared him, God, enough to do it. As any rational mere human mind knows, this type of behavior on the part of the Bible god and on the part of Abraham is insane!

    S A V E O U R C H I L D R E N!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • 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 7:41 pm |
  15. deignostotheistico

    The more essential question is: would Larry, Mo and Curly support health care reform?

    March 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  16. LOLatGod

    How can a hypothetical like this when the person never existed?

    March 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  17. wrm

    Who cares what Jesus would've wanted? Ridiculous question. But, since we're here, maybe he would ask "Are you willing to sacrifice your principles to get something in the short term?"

    (speaking of the mandate)

    March 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  18. Me

    He even raised the dead who were dead fore more than one day. He even was raised too.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      heresay. Please provide proof. You cannot, he did not. Please step outside your fantasy world.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Anon

      Apparently mythological Jesus completely forgot to resurrect starving children that are suffering agonizing deaths by the thousands all around the world.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  19. Bootyfunk

    republicans are usually christian. the christian front man is jesus. i personally don't think jesus ever existed, no good evidence. there is still a question of his character. he supported slavery, arguably the most heinous evils ever to be inflicted on another human being. but christains are fairly ignorant about what the book they say they live their life by actually says. still, christains believe/claim jesus is a being of ultimate compassion and love. well let's say he is this perfect being of love and compassion, for sake of argument. it's a pretty hard argument to say he wouldn't support universal health care. 50% of those without health care are children. read that again: CHILDREN. it is not a child's fault if his parent(s) are unable/unwilling to provide health care. yet republicans/christians make excuse after excuse for not supporting universal health care. you can't have it both ways. are you really going to argue that jesus wouldn't want health care for everyone? really? then stop claiming he is a being of love and compassion because anyone with half a heart would say health care is a human right, and only someone without a heart would tell a child "no money, no medicine."

    the churches were curiously quiet on the whole issue of universal health care when the debate first started. and they stayed quiet. it's obvious why. they are looking for a way not to support it, even though they know it's the right thing to do. it's the compassion way, supposedly what their messiah teaches. so what do you do when someone brings up something you don't want to support even though your messiah tells you to? just look down in shame and avoid making eye contact, twiddle your thumbs and hope people stop talking about it. but when they keep talking about it, then you are forced to justify your position. so you look through the playbook and pick out little passages out of context that sorta-kina-not-really justifies what you thought. you ignore the parts of the book that tell of jesus roaming around healing people for FREE or where he talks of helping the poor and detesting the rich. because those parts would go against not supporting a universal health care system. they would go against your greedy nature where you can't stand the idea of giving up one of your hard earned pennies to help someone who isn't already friend or family.

    and this journalist is another christian apologist. most of the article is a "why, if you really think about it and read between the lines, jesus probably might not really support universal health care probably" excuse for being a christian and not supporting health care for the poor. this hack looks at one side of the issue only. what a joke. he writes one sentence about why jesus would support universal health care and then the rest of the article goes on to show how there's just no way he would support it. he even quotes some looney tunes religious leader saying universal health care could herald the end of days. lol.

    i have an idea CNN, get a real journalist to do a fair story. this is all ridiculous since there is no such thing as god.

    christian, do yourself a favor and leave the cult. become a free thinker. check out Humanism if you want a much better set of ethics to live a good life by.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Me

      You sir stink

      March 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the usual ad hominem attack. pick out something that i wrote that isn't true instead.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      "me" chooses the route of the traditional "christian". If you cannot provide proof of your point, then insulting someone who can is the next best thing...

      You sir are pathetic

      March 31, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Me

      I was not willing to read the tripe.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • James

      Just curious...why is a non-believer reading and posting on a belief blog? And the issue is faith. If you don't have it, well, there isn't anything anyone can say or do to help you with your unbelief.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Anon

      Because the religious right are threatening basic health policies if they get their way.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Jo Ann (friend of Jesus...John 15:15)

      I understand how you feel if Jesus really existed . . . I felt the same way. But like it or not, all you have to do to know that He existed is look at the date. It is March 31, 2012 AD AD is short for Anno Domini, Latin for "year of our Lord", and BC is "Before Christ"

      March 31, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • snow26

      You are wrong about him supporting slavery. He was likely too poor to even think about slavery. He only instructed those in slavery to do their masters bidding so that it would be well with them.

      As far as evidence goes, he was written about in multiple biblical sources, which obviously you won't take into account because you believe the bible to be fantasy, but when you think about how all biblical books were written at different times, in different places, by different people, you can at least say there is a decent chance he lived.

      Many critics and historians alike are quite certain he existed - He was even mentioned in the annals of Tacitus'writings. If you don't know who Tacitus is, he is a relied upon historian from around the time immediately after Jesus was crucified.

      Know your history before you criticize.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Anon

      A catholic monk came up with the concept of BC/DC hundreds of years later after the alleged life of Jesus.
      That's just an example on how religion assimilated with secular society nothing more.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Anon


      March 31, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  20. Me

    He healed a lot of people.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      heresay. Please provide proof, video of the unedited kind is preferable.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:37 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.