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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.

kateslate
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. OCCUPY WALLSTREET FOR SENATE 2016

    Simple, give universal healthcare to everyone.

    We are already suffering through bankruptcies to pay for our care. Why not just add a universal healthcare tax? Those who want to buy their own private insurance can opt out and do so, but they must show proof they bought private insurance. If they drop the private insurance, force the tax on them.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Mei

      Jesus would be for universal healthcare BUT NOT with abortion coverage or birth control device coverage, nor euthansia or sterilization. Those things which are related to controlling/manipulating life itself, would only be reserved for God. But yes, I firmly believe Jesus would support health coverage for everyone, as long as it was MORAL.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Sanbee

      I think you're correct. Jesus was certainly not a greedy man and he would have wanted to help the least of us. When it comes to healthcare, the plan should be rid of all special interests. Do we really think that Jesus would have considered profits for the medicine makers if he were in charge of healthcare? And insurance companies!! No way they would have the upper hand.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  2. Rainer Braendlein

    Health for Obama's and Merkel's human robots:

    In the middle of the merry nature we see, how a paralyzed child is driven in a wheelchair. Somebody, who still has a heart, which is not insensible to his neighbour, he will realize in that moment that something is wrong with our world, that the world, in which such a torture and sadness is possible, cannot be the genuine creation of God. Something anti-divine must have befallen the world. The world has apostated from her genesis. Destroying powers have seized rule in this world.

    Only in a world having become godless, there is malady. Because the world suffers from God, therefore there are sick people. Solely a world, which would be secure in God, a delivered world, would be without any malady. In the Bible we encounter a strange sentence: “12 And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease [was] exceeding [great]: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” (2. Chron. 16, 12). It is about a devout man there, which the Bible else gives high praise for his zeal, regarding God’s matter. But this man, despite his devoutness, thought very modern, so that he strictly distinguished between matters of religion, in which someone calls on God, and the earthly matters, in which someone asks for help at earthly bodies. Diseases, particularly physical diseases are earthly matters with earthly causes and earthly cures. Consequently diseases are matters of physicians, but not of God. How could someone be allowed to bother God, the Lord of the world, with his small physical maladies? God has other concerns.

    That is thought pretty reasonable and maybe even religious. But it is wrong. Surely, diseases have their earthly causes and earthly cures. But with that is stated not at all everything and not the crucial thing about the essence of disease. For sure, the invalid shall call on a physician. But the most important thing is not done solely with that, and is not realized. Behind the earthly causes and cures there are supernatural causes and supernatural cures of the disease. As long as someone passes by thereon, someone lives, ignoring his disease, and doesn’t realize its essence. Its blessing or curse remain unrecognized.

    The disease belongs to God in a special way. The Bible doesn’t blame a man for calling on a physician, when he is sick, but for not calling also on God. Not by chance, Christ lived noticeably close by the invalids, not by chance, blind man, paralytics, deaf-mutes, lepers, lunatics were irresistibly attracted by him and seeked his community. Why didn’t Christ send them to the physician? Surely not, in order to damage the reputation of the physicians or to present his own skills and suggestiv powers, but in order to make clear that God and malady and that Christ and invalids belong strongly together.

    Christ wants to be the real physician of the invalids. “I am the Lord, your physician!” (Exodus 15, 26). God says that, Christ says that. The Creator and Deliverer of the world wants to be the physician of the invalid. Do we want to spurn this offer, after we have accepted so many less offers with more or less success?

    One, who merely intuits the connection between God and malady, one, who takes serious the unexpected offer, can get a pointer to the sin of the human beings, to the destruction of the community of the creatures with their Creator.

    Here are the supernatural reasons and abysses of the malady. It is the sin of the world and it is my personal sin, I get reminded. My disease doesn’t have to be the consequence of or the punishment for a certain sin, which I had to accuse myself of, that may happen, but it is not necessaryly the case. Yet every disease will let me look into the depth of the sin of the world and the depth of my personal godlessness. This look drives me to God. When I looked into the abyss (of my sin), I don’t first ask for redemption of this or that malady, but I will confess my longly hidden guilt in the face of God. The physical malady wants to show me that my actual malady goes much deeper, so deep that no earthly physician can cure it, because my actual disease is my sin. Not merely my body, my nerves, my temper is sick, but my whole essence, my heart is sick, sick by disbelieve, by fear, by the godlessness of my life. And which healthy man doesn’t suffer from that furtive and at the same time eerie disease?

    Now I know that I can be helped, if my whole essence becomes healthy, safe and new. How can that happen? The answer is very simple and yet touches the ultimate depth of our life: by true private confession and by divine forgiveness of all my sins. That may seem to be a strange turn and solution of this question for some people, but yet only for someone, who has not yet experienced the cure of the whole man by confession and forgiveness. What is confession? To open up oneself with all one’s sins, weaknesses, vices, maladies to Jesus Christ and to give him the whole heart without any reservation, according to his command. That is not easy and may seem to us harder than a dangerous surgery. Normally, the most of us will need a fraternal helper for that, who assists us at confession, may it be the pastor holding an ecclesiastical office, may it be any member of the congregation, who knows more about Christ than I. What is forgiveness? Extinction of all my whole hopeless, messy, failed past (of which maybe only I know) by God’s decree and by the present of a new and happy beginning of my life.

    Who can give me such a new beginning? Nobody else than solely the crucified and living Jesus Christ, who himself experienced the hopelessness of life on himself and overcame it in the communion of God. He is the sole physician, who knows my deepest malady, who himself has beared it. He is the saviour, who can cure heart, soul and body.

    How is forgivness of sins connected with physical cure? More than the most people intuit. Of course it is a mysterious connection. But isn’t it at least so much comprehensible, that a man, who got again a happy and released heart, will get rid of some physical complaint? The body often becomes ill, because it is not ruled, because it has become its own Lord. But now the body has get again his right Lord, who rules it. The body is no longer the Lord. It is only tool, even more than that, it has become “temple of the Holy Spirit”. There are many maladies, which are not visibly subdued and eradicated by the assurance of forgiveness. But the hidden connection of received forgiveness and physical cure can become visible in such a way that medical limits are bursted, and the physicians face a mystery. One is sure: The faith is a source for cure like the disbelief is a source for destruction and sickness of the body and the soul.

    When Christ calls himself the physician of the invalid, then the divine mercy shines upon every invalid. The sick one belongs to God. At him God wants to materialize his salvation. In the ill brother we encounter God’s mercy, who is the physician of the invalid in Jesus Christ. The sick man wants cure, but Christ gives him more: Salvation.

    Originator of the above sermon: Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (in my eyes, he is a king)

    March 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Jose S.

      Smoking Crack?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  3. googlemaps1

    Now, of course Jezus wants a free market in healthcare. He told us everyone has to fend for themselves and this world is a "struggle for survival" (Matthew 5:1) He also supported the right to bear fire-arms. And he also told us to invade Iraq, those fxxc@%ing heathens (Bush 4:1).

    March 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Total2199

      What a bunch of crap....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  4. John

    GOP.............. Jesus preached Love,compassion and mercy. He does not preach Hatred,discrimination and exclusion.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Daniel from Boston

      It is well-known by biblical scholars that Jesus charged 2 mina ($70 USD) as copay for healing, and out-of-network miracles were solely paid by the care-recipient. Naw, Jesus was about communities and caring for others. So, I doubt he'd align with Scalia's notion that God helps those who help themselves.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • DFW Athiest

      You have to go the Old Testament to get the God that said kill them all, men, women, children and cattle.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Elmo

      Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to casy peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war. For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • No Gods, No Masters

      Matthew 21:2

      "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me."

      March 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  5. steve-o

    Conservatives hate Jesus. They may want to ram him down our throats but in reality Jesus stands for everything consevatives hate. Jesus believed in turning the other cheek and he disliked wealth. Jesus had compassion and decency–conservatives are full of hate and anger.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Rick

    He absolutely would NOT want the State controlling healthcare. He would be for personal responsibility. Shame on CNN for bringing in Christian values as a way to further their agenda.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • krehator

      Darn straight. Because Jesus was all about people only caring for themselves. Giving? Turning the other cheek? Letting someone steal your only robe? No way...

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • John

      You need to read the Bible. You are not talking about the Jesus of the Bible.....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • peter

      Actually it makes perfect sense. Most republicans claim to christian values but turn out to be bigots.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  7. Yeah

    No. One of the 7 deadly sins is sloth (lazyness). Blacks are lazy as it is and Obamacare will promote this cycle.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Observer

      Jesus didn't support BIGOTRY. Try again.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • JC in the hot tub!

      Take a good look folks, this is what Rush Limbough and Faux News do to the brain.

      Sad............

      March 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  8. sam

    Who gives a rat's @s$ what jesus would have supported. Wake up, people, he isn't coming back. HE'S DEAD!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  9. Scott Robison

    I remember 2 instances. One is when a crowd of people listened to Jesus for several days and Jesus felt compassion and fed them. thus the feeding for the 5000 people. Jesus then moved on and a group still followed him: not for the message. They came because they got free bread and wanted more free bread. Jesus said no and sent them home. I don't claim to know the mind of Christ, but it seems to me He helps those who help themselves. There are definitely some people who need it, but if we as Americans were to cut some of the luxury, we could afford what we need.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  10. janetlaw

    Aaaaand.....they're off! Let the crazy posts begin...

    March 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  11. Asturiano

    HE would make health care free for all humans regardless of means or affliction.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  12. krehator

    What a stoopid effin question!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  13. Jonathan Michael Brouillette

    Romans 2:5-11 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • sam

      You're a certifiable loon!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  14. Mitch

    Who cares? Jesus lived 2000 years ago and despite his godly knowledge did nothing to make the world a better place beyond going to the cross- this point is only important based on faith. Evoking his name is a tactic to swell the emotions of believers, but it has no relevance in this discussion. What matters is what is best for America in the long run. I'm not sure which side has it right, but I know that employing the name of god to sway opinion is a cheap ploy. Give me figures, long-term projections, and historically similar mandates to impress me. Also let only the experts way in- these would not be politicians or the supreme court justices who are represent the ideology of the president who handed them the gavel.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  15. Mark McDonough

    The most important lesson I learned from my father was: "The ends do not justify the means." Politicians and religious leader are always trying to get us to accept their "means" because the "ends" seem so worthy and worthwhile. They use the same logic as Hitler who wanted to perfect the human race by eliminating the disabled and mentally challenged. Sounds like a wonderful idea until you examine the means to achieve that goal.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  16. Benyamin

    If Jesus were alive today he would probably be in guantanamo.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • sam

      And would belong there!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  17. JC in the hot tub!

    The single greatest achievement of the modern conservative movement has been to convince millions of week minded individuals that selfishness, greed, and hate are good, Christian virtues.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • gordyb

      You made a very profound statement, I totally concur

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • sam

      They may not be good or be virtues, but they are definitely christian!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • tracieandcaitlin

      I could not agree more. This is one reason I decided organized religion is not for me.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  18. Luke Keith

    That's an incredibly silly question, the life of Christ was anything but politically engaged.

    The problem with health care reform as defined by this administration is that they believe the problem in care for the patient lies with the inability to purchase insurance when in-fact it could not be further from the truth. The first problem is clear, we cannot afford it. The second problem is simple, it doesn't actually help. Let me explain...

    In order to care for a patient, a doctor already has to climb through so much red tape. In order to prescribe the best medication, there is a lot of red tape, ESPECIALLY when dealing with insurance companies. Obamacare slaps a whole new mess of red tape onto everything that happens in a doctors office, this will greatly reduce the ability of doctors to effectively serve their patients. It's only a matter of time, but there will be many doctors who reject that type of insurance because of the associated difficulties and added expenses to their practice. Which in-turn will cause the government to create new regulation to force the doctors into participation.

    Let's also not forget about all the corporations who will cancel existing health insurance policies forcing their employees to purchase insurance on their own. Do you honestly believe these people will get a better deal on their own than they did with their employers? They will be forced into cheaper plans that do not provide the coverage they need.

    The list goes on and on and on. Needless to say, Obamacare is not the solution the American people need. We absolutely need health care reform, but forcing a $17 trillion dollar debt upon the American people to support a policy that will weaken health care. The new regulations will hurt senior citizens the most, they will lose coverage, or not be able to afford it.

    There is a better way1

    March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  19. Loren32

    Taking care of those that can't take care of themselves is not giving them "insurance" they can afford!!!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  20. CarrotCakeMan

    Readers, please Google "Minnesota Family Council," and click on the "Good As You" to see what the Minnesota Family Council really is–an anti-gay group. NO WONDER their boss thinks Americans who can't afford health insurance should just be left to die.

    Shame, CNN, for even quoting them!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Loren32

      YAAAWWWWNNNNN...

      March 31, 2012 at 12:01 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.