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. mike in ohio

    Jesus would probably be opposed to any "for profit" health care system. Just as he probably would not care for capitalism. He would consider capitalism as a greed driven system. Jesus also would see similarities between the Rome of his time and our own government. I think that Jesus would see the current "evangelicals" and "conservatives" who claim some sort of "christian right" as being misguided.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  2. opinion8it

    Jesus always sided with big corporations; banks and rich people. He would never side with people too poor to pay for healthcare - everybody knows that.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • RevMum

      Ah! A Bible scholar heard from! 🙂

      March 31, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  3. Robinhood

    Jesus wasn't an advocate of the Robinhood principle. Didn't say steal from one group to pay for another. He said its human's moral obligation to help those in need. Obama is confusing Christ's message with the story of Robinhood.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • opinion8it

      If you followed the healthcare debate, then you'd know about the mandate that makes everyone pay for their healthcare - so where do you get that "money from one group to another" theory? Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with robin hood as well.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • RevMum

      Taxes to pay for things that make a nation great or worthy or moral is not stealing.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • RevMum

      Opinionbit, the answer to your question is: They get it from Fox and hate-radio. These sources trump the Bible in some circles.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Robinhood

      well actually I did follow the debate. Im not even sure if you understood the line of questions that the justices asked the government....listen to the transcripts and audio recordings. What the justices asked was fair. There is a 2500 page bill for national healthcare that is filled with compromises and things for both parties. But when the heart of the act was tested(financing)...the government drew up a blank... No way Obama calls it a tax before an election year...but its quite evident that it is...Secondly, you think that adding another tax on people that cant even afford to pay it will help??? Where is the money coming from??? Yea I thought so...

      March 31, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • opinion8it

      rev – nice to see someone who understands the true meaning of christianity. I find that many christians have fallen asleep and allowed their lamps to run out of oil - this really concerns me.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Robinhood

      And its funny how dems call out to God when they dont get their way...And when there are other things in the world that Christians truly oppose, they look to evolution to point the way...nice try...try again

      March 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • FreedmLvDad

      RevMum and RobinHood, we're over one trillion dollars in debt – a year. These policies have added nearly 40% to the deficit in three years. The money for a moral budget doesn't exist. But nowhere in the Bible does it say to start spending money you don't have to serve others. It actually says quite the opposite. The real question is: how do we as a society start serving each other's needs rather than expect the Government to do it for us?

      March 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • opinion8it

      Robinhood - perhaps you have a point that not all of the money will be paid by the poor, but my point is "so be it". I think that helping others is not a weakness but a strength. This country was built on christian principles; it is what made this country strong and reversing the process will make this country fall appart.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Robinhood

      Um Im actually agreeing with your comment..please read...The government is supposed to assist...not sustain our every need...

      March 31, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Robinhood

      This government Was founded on Christian principles...but people have moved it by the wayside...There are other solutions to this problem...not just adding another tax on the people...I dont even consider my self republican or a democrat...but a concerned citizen that is seeing our country being trashed by idiots in the white house..on both sides...

      March 31, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • opinion8it

      FreedmLvDad - Healthcare reform did not raise our deficit by 40%, especially since healthcare reform has not been implemented yet. Anyway, sticking to the point of the article, the answer is "yes", Jesus would be for anything that aided your fellow man. I find it difficult to convince you that caring for others has its own benefits and rewards and unless you understand the gospels; the message of God and the teachings of Christ, I believe it is impossble for me to make a case.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  4. Rhonda

    Jesus healed the sick all around Him, even those who merely touched the hem of His garment.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  5. Jo Ann (friend of Jesus...John 15:15)

    And BTW Bootyfunk . . . the slavery that Jesus endorsed was if a person owed another person money and couldn't pay he would serve as a slave. . . and another form was when a man (Jacob) willingly served another for a perod of time (in this case 7 years) (Gen 29:18)

    March 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  6. ignorance!

    In Matthew we see that the Bible says that Jesus said he is not only not against the unreasonable and cruel laws of the Old Testament, but that he came to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17 states that Jesus stated, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill!


    March 31, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • FreedmLvDad

      Why, so you can indroctrinate them in your public school?

      March 31, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  7. Jeff

    This is a really stupid article. I am sure the Easter Bunny and Santa would agree

    March 31, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  8. nobama

    The REAL question is would Jesus believe in EXTORTION?
    Making free citizens buy something they do not want.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Earl

      You have an alternative?

      March 31, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • jim

      Give me a break. That is what taxes are all about, paying for things you don't want but somebody else does.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • RevMum

      That is ridiculous, my friend.

      A true Christian would not hesitate to help others, nor resent a government that did so.

      A true American woud know that they are paying – at top-dollar emergency room rates for bottom-dollar results – for people anyway, and want it to make better sense and get better results.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • opinion8it

      Which citizens do not want healthcare? I'm assuming that the only citizens who do not want healthcare are the ones who are healthy or don't have the money to pay for it. The reform plan addresses that concern and gives assistance to those who truly cannot afford it.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  9. Acts2:38

    Support Jesus and you don't need health care reform.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • RevMum

      Support Jesus and reform the healthcare system. It's broken.
      The two are not mutually exclusive – as a matter of fact, the opposite is the case.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  10. Skyler

    I don't believe in the existence of a god, but, from what I've heard and read, I think this person, Jesus, had his heart in the right place. I'm inclined to think this nice human – who was renowned for his high levels of compassion – would have agreed to help those who cannot afford proper health care by backing the legislation now being considered by the Supreme Court justices. Additionally, I would think that, 2000 years after his death, he would expect a country that claims to have been founded on the basis of many of this man's life principles, would not hesitate to embrace such legislation. Maybe it's just me.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • RevMum

      Nope, it's not just you. There are those of us who are devoted Christians (you seldom see us on TV asking people to send us money to be "prayer partners") who are quite convinced that Christ would have us stand "with the least of our brethern".

      Thanks for noticing something really important about Jesus – something a lot of professing Christians overlook altogether.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • FreedmLvDad

      You bring up some great points Skyler and in some respects I agree with you. This guy Jesus, though, believed that following the rule of law wasn't enough (re: the Jewish leadership at the time) and instead what mattered was your heart: what you think, what you do, and what you choose with your life. To serve one another, to love one another. It gets really easy to forget all that when you write a check (or have it deducted) from each paycheck. As a result I believe that it's your job, my job, everyone's job to help our neighbor and help the widow and the orphan. It doesn't take a government to do that. And I would submit that as of late government gets in the way of what Jesus asks us to do. Ask Catholic Charities in MA for their adoption services (the government made them stop), or what the new contraceptive mandate will do to Catholic and other faith-based hospitals. Let me serve my neighbor. And get the government out of it.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • opinion8it

      FreedmLvDad - jesus did not get involved with government in his day because the government consisted of a Roman empire who did no solicit ideas on how to shape or run a government from its population. But there was a time when Israel was not a conquered state and God did involve himself into government affairs by way of his prophets and kings.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • FreedmLvDad

      opinion8it: I feel it's a little bigger than that: God (and Jesus by default) is directing everything – every sparrow, every person, every event, every Goverment. If Romans were in charge it's because God let them be in charge. Same for us in 2008 – and our choice in 2012.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  11. Lara

    Jesus would not promote the government taking care of your fellow man- he would promote YOU taking care of your fellow man, including the shirt off your back if need be. Now, are there any doctors in the house willing to work for dinner? Didn't think so- don't bring Jesus into this CNN- this world is far to prioritized to even be CLOSE to what Jesus intended us to be to our fellow man.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • RevMum

      Then we should make a start. Like, with health care. Like, with a moral budget.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • The Witness Elijah

      damn skippy!

      March 31, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • RevMum

      Oh, and, yes he would. Along with US taking care, personally. It's not an either/or choice.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  12. Realist

    Obama is not God.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Of course not

      Clapton is God. Everyone knows that.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • RevMum

      Congratulations on that awesome grasp of the obvious!

      March 31, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 31, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Earl

      I'll pray that somebody will give people insulin.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  14. Leo

    2 Timothy 3

    “Difficult Times Will Come”
    1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  15. cgs

    Jesus preached charity. Charity is giving from ones heart. It is not the government forcefully taking ones goods and giving them to another.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Rafa

      The math doesn't work if you are only to rely onthe goodwill of people, otherwise, why isn't it working now? The government NEEDS to step in. It has worked everywhere else.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • RevMum

      Charity and a sensible policy of attending to this country's health care system are not mutually exclusive. They can exist well together, and should.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • FreedmLvDad

      Yes Rafa, it has worked in many other Western countries: it has separated the people from their God by allowing their hearts to wander elsewhere. Or haven't you heard how the Christian and/or Catholic church is doing in Europe?

      March 31, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  16. Casey

    Medical care and health insurance costs are out of hand. Until we address the costs associated with medical care we will continue to have this crisis. Requiring all Americans to have insurance will not contribute to the solution; however, it will provide insurance providers and big medical companies larger profits. It might help to evaluate why, despite our obvious prosperity, we have such a large population unable to pay for health insurance or basic medical care. The middle class and even those in the slightly higher brackets are often struggling with health care costs. Wide sweeping mandates will not help no matter how they look on paper.

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

      The real root of the problem is that Americans don't take care of their health; ie preventive medicine. Also, lawsuits are way out of hand, so that increases the cost for doctors who have to pay very high premiums in order to be able to operate.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • FreedmLvDad

      I completely agree with the need to reign in lawsuits and tort reform Rafa – so why doesn't ObamaCare address it?

      March 31, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  17. Kathy

    First I would challenge Pritchard with the obvious question, does everyone in his congregation have health care? Does his church pay for all uncovered benefits and needs? I doubt it. Second, the work of the church is healing and teaching ministry to advocate the gospel of the kingdom.
    The problem is that health insurance is in the business of profit, not health. Churches are in the business of conversion, blessings yes, but the primary mission is teaching the gospel of the kingdom. I like Obama care, it leaves health care in the private sector with less restrictions and provides for more coverage. The penalty is a small price to pay compared to losing your life savings – which I have – for what insurance will not cover. Kg (Bob, chill. John Blake's quotes on the Bible and theology were all from other people, stop judging!)

    March 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  18. Sara

    No, He would not support it, but He would tell us to watch our government

    March 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  19. ignorance!

    Have I not produced enough facts from these evil books to change your mind's?
    Zombeism is very difficult to overcome but if you so desire to seek truth, you can walk away with a clear mind. Knowing you've protected your children, and future generations com enslavement backed by the words of these "so called" "word of god" fairytales!

    March 31, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Acts2:38

      How would you know the difference between truth and lie or good and evil if not for God?

      March 31, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • ignorance!

      Because god gave me the ability to reason!
      I use my god given gift of reason!
      You use the word of man, from a book of man that you call the bible!

      Reason will always win!
      reasoning us your gift that god has bestowed onto you!
      Please use it! And wake yourself from your ZOMBIE LIKE STATE!

      March 31, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  20. reasonnrhetoric

    Remember last month when Obama said Jesus would support his tax the rich policy? Not exactly the same topic (welfare instead of health care), but the same principle applies.


    March 31, 2012 at 8:19 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.