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. WachetAuf

    Jesus gave us many examples of reaching out to help others with medical care. He fed the poor and cured the ill. He was a revolutionary of his times who criticized the ruling class. Jesus even suggested that it would be very difficult for a rich man to enter into heaven. While he did not say that the rich could not enter heaven, he said it for a good reason and it is a CAUTION for the greatest, most Christian and weathiest nation in the world. It suggests to me that all of us in this great nation are at great mortal risk. Maybe we should start listening to those angry voices who are trying to tell us about our sins. Maybe they have something we can learn. And, this gets us to the essence of the Jesus question now before us.

    Would Jesus now come back to tell us what to do? NO!!! He wanted us to figure it all out for ourselves. Jesus was not a "dictator". He gave us a plan for working out our issues. He asked us to turn the other cheek, not cast the first stone, to examine the plank in our own eyes before we criticize the speck in someone else's.

    If the "evangelicals" believe that our life on this earth is God's test for us, then they must stop being sheep to their present cast of puppet masters. Their puppet masters are people who have no patience for listening to other ideas. They do not even listen to themselves. They have previously suggested that insurance be mandatory. The liberals listened and compromised, finally agreeing to the Republicans' mandatory insurance idea. What happened? Because it has now been embraced by the Democrats, lead by a "Black" man, whose middle name is "Hussein", they reject it. What hypocrits. Jesus did not love hypocrits. Neither do I. Jesus will not now come back to earth to tell them that they are sinning. I have just done that for him. Jesus wants them to figure it out. He is not the dictator which the evangelicals are looking to save them or take them to heaven.

    I have great doubt that any of those "evangelicals" can, or will, hear my view. They have been brainwashed to react impusively, using their primitive brains. They call people like me "socialists", communists", and a whole host of other extremely ugly things which I heard (even in the churches) growing up in a largely biggoted and spiritually backward South. There are many exceptions. But, as the Bible suggests, few will ever recognize the real Jesus when he returns. Jesus could be among us right now but no one may recognize him. Even I may not be successful. This is a very confusing era. He may be in Muslim dress with a long beard and speak Arabic.

    Easter is next weekend. It is a good time to remember what happened. Jesus tried to get the sheep to learn a new lesson. He was not successful during his lifetime. The sheep, led by their rulers, taunted him, beat him, spit on him and murdered him. It is not very likely that the sheep and their current cast of puppet masters will handle things differently this time.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  2. CCB

    The Old and especially the new Testament have quite a few scriptures concerning the poor and how they should be treated,as well as widows and the oppressed. To be sure in this country, there are some who are poor because of wrong choices and inappropriate lifestyles. Having said this, Jesus did not then nor would He now turn His back on them. Such is the nature of repentance and forgiveness from my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We as Christians are sinners saved by grace because we have accepted Jesus as Savior AND Lord. I would never presume what politicians are Christians or not when they say they are; only Jesus knows their "true heart";however, we can criticize their actions and behavior, and to me too many of them are poor , very poor witnesses for the Lord. As Christians our actions and what comes out of our mouths must line up with The Bible, God's Word for those who believe on Him. Even the picture with this article is absolutely wrong; we are told in the Old Testment NOT to make any graven image(idolatry) of God, and yet we see it constantly. Additionally, no Christian is 100% doctrinally correct when it comes to certain highly charged issues. What ever happened to hate the sin but love the sinner. Also,when I hear of "evangelical" Christians I shudder. All Christains according to Matthew 28:19-20 should evangelize. Additionally,too manyChristians believe that we are "post-racial";that racism doesn't exist anymore. Really??? I've witnessed more racism since the election of Pres. Obama than I have for awhile. Yet I don't hear too many decrying this sin like abortion or gay rights. We as Christians must be godly representatives of Jesus, otherwise God's church will continue to lose it's spiritual power that the Lord has given us. I'm praying that we as true "born again believers" will be the kind of loving people God wants us to be and also be true to His Word, even in the midst of those things that we may disagree over.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  3. SciGuy

    Rob, and yet your other posts indicate you favor the plundering of some taxpayers to provide for others. You can't advocate it in one blurb and deny you're doing I in the next. At least not with integrity.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  4. ignorance!

    According to Professor John Crossan of Biblical Studies at DePaul University the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (274-337 CE), (a bust of Constantine is pictured below) who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, needed a single canon to be agreed upon by the Christian leaders to help him unify the remains of the Roman Empire. Until this time the various Christian leaders could not decide which books would be considered "holy" and thus "the word of God" and which ones would be excluded and not considered the word of God.


    March 31, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  5. Daniel

    This is one of the dumbest articles ever to appear on this "Religion" blog, and that's saying something. Jesus was about saving souls. He didn't heal people for the sake of making them healthy. Unreal.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  6. ignorance!

    The Bible was not handed to mankind by God, nor was it dictated to human stenographers by God. It has nothing to do with God. In actuality, the Bible was VOTED to be the word of God by a group of men during the 4th century

    March 31, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  7. Dusty K

    >>>We don’t know what Jesus thought about the individual mandate or buying broccoli. <<<<

    This whole 'buying broccoli argument is one of the worst the Right Wing has ever come up with. This is such an insulting analogy that a Progressive should slap their counterpart across the face. Seriously. And the question of What would Jesus do?Another inane question by CNN, well what do you think? Jesus would be hip to watch people drop dead and having insurance companies and "good Christians" pointing and laughing? Is that what you really think?

    I think you all need to go back to high school and learn the basics of analytical thinking and move on to college level courses, then try some real journalism classes.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  8. localdelii

    The man was not called Legion, but the demon within him identified itself as such, spirit being unquantifiable—with the exception I can count the number of demons in the above article who expound on healthcare with water downed versions of the Gospels and attempts to pigeonhole Jesus. The Good Samaritan paid an innkeeper two denarii to keep the wounded man and told him whatever else he had to spend for his care that he'd reimburse him—he threw some money at the problem. Mark 5:26 tells the story of a woman who had a bloody flux and was healed when she touched the hem of Jesus' garment. The woman had the problem for 12 years, had spent all her money on doctors, but grew worse, not better. How many of us, with access to healthcare, are inundated with pills and procedures and still we are not healed? The big pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and the AMA are against healthcare reform and offer placebos for the problem by hiring lobbyists and spreading disinformation. They would rather see millions of Americans sick or die, rather than relinquish their power and wealth.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  9. RichardSRussell

    If Jesus wanted us all to have health care, couldn't he just wave his hand and make us all healthy to begin with?
    But he hasn't, has he? Hasn't, isn't, and never will. That's because he doesn't exist. We're gonna have to solve this one on our own.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • just sayin

      Knowledge is imparted to mankind by God as requested by men in prayer. Knowledge is to be greatly increased in the last days. Medicine and science will continue to expand as God gives knowledge to mankind. The last enemy to be defeated is death. The only blockage to the imparting of greater discoveries is unbelief.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  10. worldisamess

    I Jesus would be for healthcare reform, if it is truly going to help those in need. He would be against how we go about it. I can't see him being for the political nonsense and the influence that the big insurance companies have had on the process. i don't think he would be against it just because it was Obama's idea or a Democrats and not a republicans, like so many are.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  11. Salero21

    The Government; this and any Government, of any Nation, at any time, have or a least ought/should have at least IMVHO, a Vested Interest on the well being and health of ALL the citizens and for all the right reasons.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  12. majicmahon

    Who the Christ knows and who cares. Jesus...get real. I'd rather ask if Ghandi would've.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  13. joe

    The few health care parts of the bill were pretty good and we will still act on the health care part. It is the other major parts that had nothing to do with health care that Jesus would say NO too. I see many here did not even begin to see the civil liberties stripped from everyone in the bill, not just Christians. Amen it didn't pass. Now let's work on health care. The Democratic Party has been ambushed by The Socialistic Progressives. Looks like the Dems are taking their party back. You go Dems.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • migeli

      What civil liberties are going to be stripped? Did they strip the civil liberties of all of us who get a social security check.Thsnk"God"they forced me to pay into it.Medicare? What are you talking about.You're watching too much Fox News. Wake up!

      March 31, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things !

    March 31, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • joe


      March 31, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Templeton Foundation Prayer Study

      In the two groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred
      in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those
      who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% confidence interval 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in
      59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52%
      (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% confidence
      interval 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.

      Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from
      CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of

      March 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Oh, boy, it's NOT just cut and paste. This time you swapped out the period for an exclamation point. Could it possibly be because CNN.com refuses to post the exact same thing more than once, and this is the extent of your extremely limited grammatical skills?

      Same challenge as always, doofus: Name one!

      Can't do it, can you? You never even try, because you know it can't be done.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • just sayin

      Detailed Proof was posted for you when requested. Nothing is copy paste it is all original. check back a page or two it is there. God bless.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  15. BH in MA

    This is a completely pointless discussion. Jesus supposedly healed people instantaneously by magic – it didn't take him significant time, effort, space or money to provide his version of healthcare. We don't live in that world. Nobody does. Besides, we already know the answer. Pick any person, religious or not, and you can be about 99% certain that person's opinion of how Jesus would feel about the healthcare debate matches their own.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  16. Doc

    Who freakin' cares what Jesus would support? People are gonna get sick. When they get sick, they need medical treatment. That treatment costs money. More money than almost anybody has on hand. If they don't get treatment, they will suffer or die. So, people need medical coverage and the "free market" "employer based" system is not a viable model for covering a population as large as that of the US. Something needs to change, and change now. There is no place for Jesus in this issue. He is not an American citizen and he doesn't need insurance.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Doc, the free market has not been tried...state capitalism is not working. More fed govt involvement is the decidedly WRONG answer. I agree that the employer-based approach is bad.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • opinion8it

      You may not think Jesus is pertinent anymore, but that's okay - you seem to have his passion.... which is all that counts.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • twhiting9276

      yes, healthcare costs money, and SHOULD cost money.
      HOWEVER, when it comes to healthcare, the 'professionals' gouge an individual, making insurance necessary.. They run a profiteering industry, not a for profit industry. In most cases, this is fine, however when lives are on the line, it is NOT fine.

      There's nothing wrong with a 'for profit' industry (making profit). There IS, however something VERY wrong with an industry that charges 10-20x the actual cost of most products and services when those products and services are NECESSITIES.

      Unlike most, I don't refer to casual things as necessities. If you can't LIVE without it, it is a necessity. Anything else is a 'want'.. The medical profession has turned into profiteering off of necessities, and THAT is the problem. It's not that insurance isn't affordable, it's that insurance is even NECESSARY to cover these insanely high priced services.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • opinion8it

      twhiting9276 - outstanding comment!

      March 31, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  17. SciGuy

    Rob, haha, that's a good one. I must have missed that meeting where I "agreed on" my tax bracket! Regardless of your nonsense thought regarding the "common pool" my wages come immediately from my employer who values my skills. And they are MY wages, not yours, not the homeless family's, not the lifelong smoker now suffering from lung cancer, not the single mother of five who is struggling to make ends meet.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  18. b_briane

    To even ask the question: " Would Jesus approve of healthcare reform?" shows how little we know of the Lord. If we claim to be christian and yet dislike the idea of our tax dollars helping those who cannot help themselves, then we are far from God's truths.
    What would Jesus say to a government mandate that says all americans must have coverage? "Render unto Caesar the things that be of Caesar, and render to God the things that be of God". – Jesus of Nazareth 33 A.D.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  19. Don Quixote

    Jesus was apolitical and wouldn't care how we took care of our sick and poor as long as we did it. If we use democracy to give the government the power to do it, why not? If we did it through charity, that would be fine but I think we all know that human nature is such that charity would never be enough. What Jesus would NOT like is that we have so many millions dying due to lack of proper insurance and health care. That would most definitely not be cool with Jesus!

    March 31, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • opinion8it

      Thank you!

      March 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  20. Robinhood

    My last point and Im out...
    Throughout our great nations history....we always found a way to fight through national issues and come up with solutions...Giving the problems we have now to people in the 50's and 60's...and they may actually come up with a solution...if you earnestly care about making a change....start at the lowest levels of government...go do something...find out costs....expenses...how to get more health care to people....do things like that...quit waiting on the government to provide all the answers... its not the way this country was founded...and not the way we get through problems...If you or ur family doesnt have insurance....get a job that can provide you that...instead of hoping the government will do so...If you or ur family lacks access to education...move to an area that excels at it...education is invaluable...Do something about your problem....and quit waiting for the next big lotto...

    March 31, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • migeli

      Your wealthy friends with their tax cuts shipped all the jobs ti China leaving us with no jobs and no healthcare.No-ones looking for a handout except your rich greedy friends in innsurance, oil,and pharmaceutical companies and let us not forget Wall Street and the banks.Do I have to repeat this to you deceitful defenders of the rich.Not everyone is looking for a handout.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      You're not a Robinhood, you're an ostrich! LOL!

      March 31, 2012 at 10:33 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.