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. kris

    If religion and charity were the answer to help the millions of those that need help, then we wouldn't be having this discussion, but since we are it's obvious they are not.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      Sadly we find far too many so called Christians worshiping Mammon.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  2. Surthurfurd

    I am wondering where all these religious people are who are determined that religious groups should be at the vanguard of helping the poor and sick when it comes to making a significant dent in the problem.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  3. ignorance!

    Not to leave little girls out, Leviticus 27:3-7 is how God lets little girls and women know they are not worth much. It reads, "And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary. And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels!


    March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  4. Abner Mallity

    He probably would, but only for those of us who live in gated communities and wear hoodies. The rest of you atr SOL.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  5. jackenstien

    Jesus told Pilate: "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

    So why would he be interested in Government Health Care?
    What a STUPID article.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  6. stupid

    Stupid article. I think I know what supreme court will say. Just before that media wants to prepare public this is very good deal.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  7. ignorance!

    The Bible god, according to 2 Kings 2:23-24, sent two bears to tear-up 42 little boys who were teasing the bald headed Hebrew "prophet" Elisha about his bald head! Will stories like this edify your children? Or will they just put fear in them?


    March 31, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • God's older brother Larry

      God had an anger problem when he was younger, but he is much better now. Really. He also wrestled some guy under a bridge and lost, but we won't talk about that. Bad temper, lousy wrestler. But that was a long time ago.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  8. Joe

    Science flew men to the moon, religion flew men into buildings.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    March 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Joe

      prayer is a waste of time.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      we went over this already, it increases the really sick's chances of dying, proven in a scientific study.

      Thanks for the reminder

      March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demons fear and ridicule the power of prayer

      March 31, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Joe

      Demons dont exist either, but ignorance does.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • CatSh

      To which god? Cause from what I've heard, they all work about the same.

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

      But on the other hand religion is not healthy for children and other living things du to how religions distort lives teachings and are the cause of most wars and deaths of millions of people, the solution is spirituality because god is concerned for all not just those who believe twords specific teachings.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  10. Zombie Jesus Has Arisen, and He Wants To Feast On Brains! Christians are therefore safe

    Thou shalt not kill . . . unles you are God! Then you get to wipe them out by the millions whenever you want!

    March 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  11. Joe

    Sure I put my trust in a corporation whose goal it is is to provide as little service as possible for as high a price as possible. Sounds like a deal.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  12. pop CHEESE

    [video src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LRowXe8XBU" width="320" height="240" id="vid-1"]

    March 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  13. ignorance!

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21 which commands, "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die

    March 31, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • ignorance!



      March 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Zombie Jesus Has Arisen, and He Wants To Feast On Brains! Christians are therefore safe

      The zombies are awake but at church right now, but if you leave your name and number, they will get back to you as soon as they can. BEEEEP!

      March 31, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      that's the text I referenced earlier! The judeo-christian god condones murder of children. In plain incontrovertible text.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  14. CatSh

    Both charities and government work the same way. They rely on those who have to hand over a portion of their wealth to those who have not. If we are a 'Christian Nation' as the Right insists, then why do they have a problem with government helping ,the poor and those without healthcare. They complain about how government spends their tax dollars, but don't look at how charities spend their donations. If they did they would realize that a lot of charities are little more than a way for some people to earn a handsome income while doing very little for anyone else. What happened to "In God We Trust"? If we elect these people to do "God's Work" why do we not trust them to do so?
    As long as we make sure every citizen pays their fair share of taxes, and we elect our government to do govern us as a "nation under God", why shouldn't we direct it to provide us all with fair and proper health care?
    If you object to paying taxes to help the poor, I suspect you also object to giving to charity for the same reasons.
    If you cut people's taxes, how many do you think will give it to charity- and how many will just buy themselves a new .flat-screen tv? That is why we have to use taxes to help the poor.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Mayflower

      Why shouldn't we let the government do it? Precisely that. The government is doing it. It removes from us all compassion and empathy and desire to give of our time and our means to those in need. Let the all-knowing and all-powerful government do it all so we can sit here and devolve from caring nation to one that expects its butt to be wiped.

      The problem with government health care as-is? It blames big pharm and insurance companies for daring to make a profit. The only difference between what we have now and Obamacare is who makes the money, and in the government, there is no market incentive to innovate or create. It is a bureaucracy that seeks to inflate itself. Obamacare does not address malpractice premiums or a litigous society that demands every medical test in the book or else the doctor will get their pants sued off. It ignores doctors who graduate hundred of thousands in debt and must charge outrageous fees. If you want to know where Obamacare will take us, look at Social Security. Look at the post office. 'Nuff said.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • CatSh

      Sorry, Mayflower, but capitalism doesn't work for health care unless you deny it to those who cannot pay. For-profit health care system that we have is an abomination in both religious and capitalistic terms.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  15. Craig

    would Jesus support anything going on today?
    More importantly, why ask such a ludicrous question that isn't even debatable.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  16. Alan Vetter

    Who else is soooooooooooooooo tired of religion?

    March 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Craig


      March 31, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Burden of proof

      I support this statement wholeheartedly

      March 31, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Zombie Jesus Has Arisen, and He Wants To Feast On Brains! Christians are therefore safe

      Me too.

      March 31, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Mayflower

      Who is tired of self-important blow-hards whining about religion?


      March 31, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  17. 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 7:49 pm |
    • Mayflower

      Pssh. What a stupid argument. That's like saying someone like Jeffrey Dahmer represents all of us.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Anon

      Nah, Christians are mostly like Suzie.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  18. BunnyBunny

    Gays are mentioned two places in the Bible. Helping the poor is mentioned 205 in the King James version. The fake "Christians" grabbed on to the gay part and won't let go.
    Mt. 19:20ff. The young man said to Him, "All these commands I have kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
    Prov. 19:17. He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.
    Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, "Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise." etc. etc. etc.

    It is a command from the Lord. You either do it, or just admit, you don't want to. But don't cal l yourself 'Christain' cause you are NOT.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • CatSh

      Haven't you heard? You don't have to help the poor or anything else that Jesus 'suggested'. All you have to do is accept Jesus as your personal savior and be 'born again' and you are guaranteed a place in heaven ! No questions asked! And if you live a life of sin and debauchery, all you have to do is confess your sin to God and all is forgiven. Your can do it as many times as you want!

      March 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  19. ignorance!

    Thankfully, it is proof that God, the Supreme Intelligence, or, as is described in the Decla*r*ation of Inde*pen*dence, Nature's God, had and has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Bible! Sadly, in the case of Deanna Laney, she religiously mur*dered 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 7:45 pm |
  20. Bootyfunk

    I'm not sure if Jesus would want universal health care or not. A Canaanite woman wants Jesus to heal her sick daughter. Jesus tells his disciples he only heals Jews. He calls the woman a dog and won’t heal her daughter until she belittles herself and agrees she's a dog.
    Mathew 15:21-28
    21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
    22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
    23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
    24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
    25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
    26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
    27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
    28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

    dunno, would jesus want everyone to be healed? or just the people who fall at their feet and worship him?

    March 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • just sayin

      All healing is of God. Did you die from your last cold or recover?

      March 31, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • God's older brother Larry

      Oh that's priceless, just sayin! People recover from the common cold is because God willed it?

      I just love it when you provide "evidence" like this! Just magnificent!

      March 31, 2012 at 8:04 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.