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. Billy in Texas

    How can you read the story of Jesus and for one second think he wouldn't be in favor of universal healthcare and education. Sometimes I wonder if the anti-christ that is talked about in Revelations is the cult of greed and hate coming from so many pulpits of mega churches (greed) and backwater preacher barns (the guy in Florida that wanted to burn Qorans). I know my lord hates war, gluttony and greed, and yet I have been to churches where they openly advocate all three. It's a shame and we all know we are even more guilty, now that we know what the lord has asked of us. No one is perfect, but at least don't act like you don't know what Jesus really wants of you.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  2. Jt_flyer

    Jesus is just a name the GOP uses to try to get elected.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  3. prayn4peace

    Pretty much a no-brainer. Of course Jesus would have supported healthcare as a basic human right, also shelter, food, and water. His lesson was simple – to love one another. Money to help or money to hurt? No, he wouldn't have spent trillions on weapons to kill.....

    March 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  4. christianbrother

    so bizarre to hear christians saying CHARITY is the answer

    if charity were the answer then we could solve this problem today, right now, this second..

    it is not an answer

    it never will be the answer

    it is just an excuse so christians can avoid the unpleasant truths of new testament; things like Jesus Christ saying 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

    constantly throughout the new testament jesus christ lived amongst the poor, the sinners and the sick working miracles and teaching them. TODAY christians live in gated suburban communities as far as possible from those Christ told us to reach out to and christians do it by saying the poor deserve their misfortune and that their yearly donation is good enough. Christianity in America is a lie. It is not the Christianity of the Bible.

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

      Hi there Reverand, can you compassion $200,000.00 for my transplant operation?

      March 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  5. Carol W.

    Why do you care what Jesus would do? The USA ignores his teachings on most other things. Jesus is not allowed in most public squares, specially not at Christmas time, or mention of him at high school football games, or graduation ceremonies. It isn't even necessary to swear truthfulness on a Bible in a court of law. The premise for the article is disingenuous.

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

      The article was written to trap hypocrits.

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

      disingenuous as in pretend to have compassion on Sunday and ignore it the rest of the week?

      March 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  6. Rideitout

    In America, Jesus has left the building. Christian conservatives renounce liberals all week and then worship the ultimate liberal on Sunday. You'd leave too, if your message was trashed.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  7. Qubee

    Exactly why are they showing a picture of a white guy in a bed sheet?

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

      Jesus is a myth. They can create him any race the ywant

      March 31, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  8. johnfrichardson

    I am sure there are stupider questions one might ask, but I'm having trouble coming up with one at the moment.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  9. TomCom

    Human nature is just like the show "Survivor". The weak and lazy get voted off first. The devoted Chrisitians would never survive. Jesus would always be on the side of humanity. The majority of Christians are not like this.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  10. ignorance!

    Children will receive a scare and a bad lesson at Luke 14:26 which claims that Jesus said, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren,and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple!


    March 31, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • ignorance!

      This could only cause confusion in the minds of children (and adults) and fear that they may cause their father to lose his own life. It also sets them up to be victims of cults in addition to the cult of Christianity by belittling their gift from God of life itself; their own life! It sets up a mindset of hating your own life in order to please the religious guru. That is sick and very unnatural and ungodly.


      March 31, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  11. kc_and_fa

    It's not the health that is the issue. It's the taxes needed to support it. When the taxation system can be seen to be fair, universal health care will be less of an issue and be seen as more of a right.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  12. Big Bird

    CNN and its liberal viewers don't care what Jesus would want. This article is bs.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Jodie

      You got that right! This article is a rouse to drum up off color conversation – Jesus did not reveal in the politics of man. Shame on whoever created the article.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  13. Morningstar

    We are already paying for the medical care of the needy through our taxes. The difference is that when they don't have medical insurance they have to go to the emergency room for things that can be treated in a doctor's office. This drives the cost to the tax payer up much more than a universal health care program that would treat everyone fairly by private physicians and use the more expensive emergency rooms for emergencies as they were intended.

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

      This is so true. People are acting like the bill is going to act like a charity but right now the poor can't afford insurance at the price that its at. This way they'll be able to at least put something in. The poor often do still get care but their costs are added to paying-costumers bills. This drives up the cost of insurance and makes it harder for even more people to pay for it. Imagine if it worked that way for cars. The government forced dealerships to sell cars to people who can't make payments. So to make up for it, they charge other customers more. This makes it harder for even more people to be able to afford a car. It's a vicious cycle.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  14. George

    Jesus would have definitely supported healthcare for all.

    Jesus supported taxes – he said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" . In our case giving to Healthcare is for a greater good .. very similar to taxes. Today we have a whole lot of govt mandated expenses – taxes, 911 fee, drivers insurance, to name a few .. why not healthcare ?

    Second, healthcare as we know it today is not an option it is a right !

    Is the life of a person who can afford healthcare worth more than someone cannot afford healthcare ? Why is it that Cuba has a better healthcare system than US ? We are the richest nation in the world and we can't take care of our own people who are less fortunate. Common !

    People say Obama care is socialist ideaology. Is it really a capitalist system today ? AMA, FDA and bunch of other agencies run the healthcare industry in a tightly controlled manner. All kinds of non-free market governance involved in this industry. Is this really a true free market system ? I think not ... so why pretend it is better today. Really ... It is not !

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

      We often also use the government to do "God's work". So saying its ok to use our tax dollars to help church programs and their charities but not ok to pay for healthcare is just hypocritical.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  15. 4commonsensenow

    My feelings are Jesus was setting the example for taking care of one another(love) I think Jesus believed in a government for the people, by the people.I believe Jesus would want people to pull together for themselves and not for profits to the moneychangers.I also believe that If you have faith in Jesus..as your saviour...then you should be able to trust your heart after prayer.Jesus used as propoganda to sell a tax...highly doubtful. peace

    March 31, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  16. John

    “Here Jesus’ words come to mind about not worrying and trusting God to meet our basic needs”. Typical church BS. They always can find some verse in the Bible to support the greed of the richest amongst us while abdicating their own responsibility to be disciples of Jesus. They have only had 2000 years to help people with access to health care and haven't done squat. Each generation the Churches want more and more money and do less and less with it to help people. If the church had done Jesus' work for the past 2000 years there would be no need for government to do it. Shame on all of these conservatives preachers. Their souls are condemned and they haven't got a clue. How dare they tell people that if they only had enough faith in God they would be just fine. How many millions have died tragic early deaths over the centuries because of this narrow minded and outrageous preaching like this. Jesus didn't only help people who believed in God. This was never a condition of his love. The church does not want you to accept that though because then you won't be obliged to give them money if you should dare to think you can get to salvation without them!

    March 31, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • sarah

      ^this... especially... "They have only had 2000 years to help people with access to health care and haven't done squat."

      March 31, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  17. safan

    we are watching his inner faith now...no1 said how was ..... spiting front getting nothing t t t love does't come from magic lies infront of jesus 90m

    March 31, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  18. Robinhood

    People are looking at a quick fix solution, when this is actually much worse than that....The healthcare system is broken, and in a profession that strives to seek unblemished care, Business took over and has ruined a truly noble profession. The doctor patient relationship never involved a middle man, but the moment it did...things quickly got out of control.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  19. The Second Coming of Da Vinci

    Today's people would not have accepted Jesus as he would have been labelled socialist and weak in defense. Still it is ilegitimate question to ask if you believe in Jesus, then you should follow his teachings. We crucified Christ when he was with us and now we crucify his teachings.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  20. ignorance!

    And in Matthew 15:4-6 Jesus condemns the Jews for not following the Old Testament/Torah laws which required them to kill their children if their children cursed their parents. This paints quite a different picture of Jesus than the one used on most children's' Bibles!



    March 31, 2012 at 8:34 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.