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. divejoy

    Judaism believes that giving charity i.e. true charity is providing for the poor. THAT MEANS HEALTH CARE especially for the POOR.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Colin

      Judaism is the belief that an immortal, all-knowing super-being, powerful enough to create the entirie Universe and its billions of galaxies, has a personal interest in how much skin I have on my di.ck.

      Atheism is the belief that the above belief is ludicrous.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • just sayin

      Seems to be all of you as you are all di ck

      March 31, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  2. Jymnbeu

    No he wouldn't support health care reform. He'd heal everyone. That was his schtick, remember? It's in all the stories. Stupid waste of space on CNN.com.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  3. terry moore

    Would Jesus support Health care reform ? Why Jesus ? How about Muhammad, Buddha or the Simpsons ? They have nothing to say in this matter ? Actually, what the heck does Jesus have to do with this issue..? Religion and State are separated, unlike some strange places which we actually fear and hate ( Iran comes to mind)... I, for one, believe that this should teach us to keep religion OUT of the social debate. Let Jesus save the souls, and let the USA save the bodies.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  4. ignorance!

    Thomas Jefferson, chose to employ his God-given reason in all situations including, and especially, in matters of religion. Here is what Mr. Jefferson wrote to William Short in a letter dated October 31, 1819 from his beautiful home of Monticello in Virginia as published in Basic Writings of Thomas Jefferson,

    March 31, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  5. Proud 51

    First any christian should find this article a blafemy, God is above us all, so to bring him into the isse of healthcare by CNN is ridiculous and an insult to christians in this country. Why not being it to an earthy level where it belongs. starting with Why are some Americans so much on the anti-obama health care,l, when all it does it mlower the cost for those with insurance. The reason our health ninsurance is so high is because people with health insurance are apying for those without it. including other American citizens as well as illegal imigrants. So Obama care levels the fields for everyone. You nre ilegal and go to the emergency room, well you better have insurance to cover you mother @#%$%.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • momoya

      :::Communication failed due to inability to utilize the English language 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 Please try again:::

      March 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  6. RevMum

    "Tom Prichard, a Lutheran and president of the Minnesota Family Council, said it’s ultimately about faith. Who do we trust – God or government?"

    This man is simply wrong. I'm sure he means well, but he is wrong.

    That is not the question at all.

    Of course we trust God. And supporting policies that attend to the sick in a more compassionate and effective way with a more sensible system of affordability and access in no way suggests any lack of trust n God. These two elements can safely dwell in tandem.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  7. TomCom

    Religion is the root of all evil.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • RevMum

      No, religious fanatics determined to impose their beliefs upon others are the root of quite a bit of evil.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  8. Robinhood

    Do you all wonder how much of the money that is currently taxed and taken from you and I....what it is used for??? Want to give more money?? Give things to things that have merit...But giving blindly make you a fool...Think about what Medicare and Medicaid has done to us...People no longer want to work because they now know that they can still have someone else pick up their backs...why are there more poor people in our own country...

    March 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • RevMum

      Medicare and Medicaid have done a great deal of good.

      Medicaid and Medicare are not the source of poverty.

      I implore you to seek some more reliable source of news, onformation and analysis.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Robinhood

      So you are telling me that Medicaid and Medicare hasnt made people not wanna get out of it??? People are earnestly trying to not need the governments help??? These two organizations are examples of how are country became a nation of dependents....If i dont have money...its ok...ill use the government to provide me a check to make all my pains go away...oh and btw...i can use that to get my lottery...win it...and still i can use the government for my health care....The system is flawed...deeply broken....

      March 31, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • migeli

      Why?For one thing because we don't have single payer universal healthcare like all other civilized countries.Wake up and stop watching Fox News and listening to crooked politicians who are stoodges for the insurance companies.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  9. Christianity is full-blown AIDS of the mind

    True story!

    March 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  10. KLPS

    I wish all of us who are healthcare providers could heal with faith and touch but we can't. We have to use the best methods we have and unfortunately we can't do it all day every day without earing a living to pay the grocery bills and gas bills , etc for our families too. If all of you are willing to provide healthcare workers free gas, cars, houses, groceries clothes, etc then we would love to heal the sick for frree.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i wonder how they do it in sweden norway and finland...

      March 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Salero21

      Thank you for your Service! Extend that to all of your fellow providers in all fields.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • migeli

      Take insurance companies and their overpaid executives out of healthcare and give us the kind of healtcare the have in the other 20 or so countries that HAVE A BETTER STANDARD OF LIVING THAN US.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • migeli

      Unfortunatly healthcare providers are a bunch of crooks well-meaning as you "may "be as an employee.If you're a high paid executive the day can't come soon enough that you join the rest of the so-called "Christian"posters against Obamacare in hell.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  11. Lisa

    The one thing...the most important thing...that I think people forget is that the mandate will require EVERYONE to purchase health insurance. What that means is that the 50 million people this article states that cannot already afford to purchase heath insurance will, if the law passes, be required to purchase it or pay a penalty for not doing so. Yes, they may get a subsidy of some sort, but they will still be required to PURCHASE it – too many people that I personally have talked to seem to think that if this passes, they will get FREE healthcare or health insurance. Completely false – it will force those people to pay for something they ALREADY cannot afford now. And unfortunately I don't trust the government to run major health insurance programs of any sort...they cannot efficiently run anything they put their hands on and this has been proven repeatedly. My personal opinion, based on Jesus' own actions and words, is that he would want the church, or even for the non-believers – the communities themselves, to start charities or funds to help pay for their neighbors health care costs – I don't believe he would have advocated for the government to mandate it.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • migeli

      The government doesn't run anything right? That's funny I have always received my social security checks,my medicare,my mail,my tax return check and my unemployment benefits if I lost my job.May I ask what country you live in?Go ahead and trust Repub politicians the churches and your insurance company and see how kind and understanding and efficient they will be.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  12. Say

    Wow. The USA is so far behind the rest of the world. Universal health care. Enough said.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • angel611

      @ Say:
      WRONG! The US has the same healthcare as the only other country with no free healthcare, Sudan.
      We should be proud! We are the greatest country on the planet, as good as Sudan.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • angel611

      Russell Hammond, Hollywood
      "Actually, slavery was not condemned in the bible. "Abusing" slaves was condemned but not the practice of slavery. In fact, it was even championed."

      Uh Moses, The Jewish slaves, the Egyptians, the plagues on Egypt, the death of the Pahroah's army in the Red Sea.
      "God commanded Moses to go to Egypt and deliver his fellow Hebrews from bondage".
      "When the Egyptian army attempted to follow, God permitted the waters to return upon them and drown them."
      Like you said. Yep. God has no problem with slavery.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Russell Hammond, Hollywood

      angel – God did not have a problem with slavery. Do the homework. Slavery was even promoted by Jesus and God.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  13. ignorance!

    Because most of the rank and file in the religious right consider themselves patriotic Americans, and falsely believe such Americans as Thomas Jefferson were Christians as defined by today's standards, it is important to the continuation of free thinking that those misled rank and file members be enlightened regarding this subject. It will then be impossible for Pat and other charlatans to continue abusing them for his own selfish gains. Once they lose their rank and file members the environment will breath more easily, workers will stop their assent into the bowels of crass materialistic capitalism and its degradation, the arts will once again enjoy their rightful place in society, and most importantly, religious fanaticism will not be pushing the world towards an irreversible nuclear holocaust based on the insane ideas found in Revelation.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • RevMum

      "thinking that those misled rank and file members be enlightened regarding this subject"

      That's not going to happen, sadly. Fox, hate radio and the 3.2 million dollars the Koch brothers spent just yesterday on media buys will see to that.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  14. Tard stomper

    No, real Christians are not divided on health care reform. Real Christians know that it is needed. It is only fascist retardican minion evangelical idiot voters that are not for health care reform. And most of them receive the majority of welfare and or Medicare i.e. Alabama Mississippi Ohio, South Carolina, Florida. All red states. Just like Exxon and the major American oil companies receive welfare from tax payers. The retardican voter is a clueless idiot.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • RevMum

      I wish you would not have called people names in this post, I would love to salute it as pretty much right on target.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.,

    March 31, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • ignorance!

      Prayer changes nothing!

      USE IT!

      March 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • just sayin

      Ignorance is a person who would deny children Truth, love and abundant life.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Religious indoctrination of children from birth is child abuse.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  16. Descarado

    Obamacare is a Frankenstein zombie of mismatched body parts that will never be able to walk and talk at the same time.

    If a thousand wild pigs burst out of Obama's boiling guts and jump over the nearest cliff, why would Jesus come to the aid of the Spawn of Satan?

    March 31, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • momoya

      You must be a christian to imagine such visions.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Tard stomper

      Are you praying to your god while you think up your crap?

      March 31, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Tard stomper

      Descardo you are an aa hole. Funny how that rhymes. Like it is a natural fit.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • RevMum

      What a wicked thuing to say.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  17. dontbow

    oh great another brilliant question by stupid cnn writers. go figure.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  18. angel611

    I can answer the question.
    There are two men called Jesus, one is the Christ, one is the anti-Christ.
    Those that ignore the teachings of the true Jesus, worship the anti-Christ.
    Jesus said many times to love our neighbors, treat everyone as we would ike to be treated, to help the poor, to help people who ask for help, and to forgive those who owe debts. This includes helping those who are sick.
    The anti-Christ twists the words of Jesus and makes excuses to disobey the Words of Jesus.
    An example – owners of slaves who claimed to be Christian and attended church with their fellow slave owners, and pretended to worship the real Jesus. Slavey was CONDEMNED by Jesus and the Old Testament so the slave owners in fact were worshiping the creation of man, the anti-Christ.
    Most so called churches and politicians worship the anti-Christ and the twisted Word, not the real Jesus and his Word.
    Anyone who has read the Word of Jesus knows what Jesus would say about helping those in need.
    There will be no lame excuses when we die and go to judgement.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Russell Hammond, Hollywood

      Actually, slavery was not condemned in the bible. "Abusing" slaves was condemned but not the practice of slavery. In fact, it was even championed.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • ? ? ? ? ?

      Jesus AntiChrist? Jesus has an evil twin brother with the same name?

      March 31, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  19. mark

    Christians divided, no way. They support the evil Republicans. They support the destruction of the people and nation. They profess Religion, but.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • RevMum

      No, we most assuredly DO NOT.

      We're just not the ones with the megaphones.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  20. Arch

    Jesus would support nationalized healthcare. People (especially Christians) forget that Christ preached poverty and that all early Christian communities were communist. Too bad most people just read what they want in the bible instead of what it actually says.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Robinhood

      Go read the parable of Talents....thanks...next?

      March 31, 2012 at 9:15 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.