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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. Hosanna

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BZoDH2H1Ls&w=640&h=360]

    April 1, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  2. Chris

    It is time for Christians to lay hands on all the sick and empty out the hospitals of America! That is God's will, go out and do these things and greater to the glory of the King!

    April 1, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things . .

    April 1, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  4. Ed ward

    I know not this God of love and God of Peace

    April 1, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • Nii

      Not necessary for you to know Him. Loving your neighbor as yourself provides most of the emotional maturity u need. Loving Him makes your joy complete.

      April 1, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  5. maybe there's hope

    Yes it would have been so much better for all of us if we had a single payer system.
    what people dont realize is that we end up paying for those uninsured anyway.

    its a shame that we work all our lives to build the American dream. Buy a home, have a little something to leave our children. And then get sick, and lose it all because of the cost of life saving operations or medicine that we can't afford.
    I often wonder why it isn't paid for through a tax as opposed to a mandate. Anyway well just have to wait and see where the supreme court leaves us with their decision. And its scary when you think about the court majority being right winged religious conservatives.
    The light seems dim, however there is at least a light.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:06 am |
  6. AmericanRod

    Jesus would expect that caring for the sick...would be by nature. Jesus sees the greed and the lack of concern for the weak...and protects us from Goverment State/FED house of the wealthy!

    April 1, 2012 at 3:58 am |
  7. maveric43

    Jesus would ask us if the government provided an affordable safety net who shall pay for it ? Those who are paying of it will ask what is to prevent manipulation and excessive abuse and cost. Jesus would respond the good will of men and women. Those who don't subscribe to the theory of the intrinsic altruistic nature of man will respond with federal force that commands and controls all aspects of the healthcare interaction.

    There must be a better way.

    Too bad the "Public Option" was destroyed by private insurance interests and hospital systems all those who felt threatened financially.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • hyperbolehighway

      "Felt" threatened financially? You're kidding, right? A public "option" would spell the end of private health care altogether. This isn't just a threat to their (alleged) cushy fat cat corporate profits. There's a reason why government and private industry aren't really meant to compete with one another. If you want a public system, fine then go ahead and advocate for it (I'd support it). Can't believe you think it's wrong for them to defend their existence though.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  8. preacherman

    In most of the rest of the developed world, providing healthcare to it's citizens is part of what government is for. And they do it for less money than the US currently spends. Why are we so stubbornly stupid that we scream and shout and stamp our feet AGAINST our own good?

    April 1, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • Jim

      And their people travel here to get the surgeries they can't get in their own countries. They travel here to get treatments they can't get elsewhere. They travel here for the BEST treatments they can't get elsewhere.

      Without our system of innovation and exploration, the world would be far worse off with medical care.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  9. harryperez

    This could be ideal for someone who nobody wants to cover. It's an opportunity to get coverage subsidized by your fellow American. Learn more about it at "Penny Health" online

    April 1, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  10. Glenc

    If the church would step up to caring for the poor like in days of old, then maybe I buy some of this. But no, most churches, mine included, only wants to make more money and get more contributors. At least in America, it is my view, that protestant churches (of which I am a member) are more about politics and collecting money than reaching out and helping those not of the flock or of the poor. The church has capitulated it's authority in marriage and in healthcare as well.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • Paul

      You very correct Glenc. I belong to a religion that only receives voluntary donations. Every minister is unpaid and supports him/herself from their own work, like the apostle Paul did mostly, as a tent maker. Jesus work although did involve helping people he mostly was known as a teacher and a preacher of “God’s Kingdom”. He said he did not have a place to lie his head. Unlike some of the church ministers of today. Next time someone calls and talks about Gods Kingdom at your door listen to them. They are unpaid and contribute to the worldwide preaching that Jesus did.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • Nii

      Indeed Mr IGNORANCE is exhibiting rational thought stemming from emotional maturity. This quaality though rarely showed here by atheists is very beautiful. Keep it up, sir.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  11. WachetAuf

    TO: IGNORANCE

    Man, you are cool. It would take much more time than either of us have to fully understand the views of the other. However, I have a great respect for anyone who has taken the time to drill down into the layers to seek a better understanding.

    It is not likely that the people who need your teaching the most are the people who cannot, and will not, hear you. Jesus himself addressed that very issue. Keep speaking out.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • ignorance

      Wow! Man thats really cool of you to say! I appreciate the encouragement. You continue to do the same.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  12. not an atheist

    Most Christians dont understand their own religion.
    They just blindly believe because it's what they've been taught sinse birth! And the fear thats been imparted in them has such a strong hold, their ability to think freely is greatly hindered.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • Nii

      Blind belief is not faith. Faith questions why because in the answer it is strengthened.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:25 am |
    • Nii

      Faith is the opposite of fear. Faith means to trust and obey so that u can understand. God asks u to love your neighbor as yourself since this removes the fear which causes you to maltreat him.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:31 am |
  13. Nii

    The grammatical errors these atheists are making is down to the fact that they feel so happy that they can bash religion (a topic they barely understand thinking it means Christianity). Most ONLY make christophobic noise. Perfect love casts out fear. LOVE UR NEIGHBOR AS URSELF!

    April 1, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  14. ignorance!

    its obvious that abor*t*ion for conve*n*ience sake is wrong. The key argument for prop*o*nents of this act is that a woman has a right to her own body. This is a true and correct statement. All people have a right to do to their own bodies what they will. However, the fe*t*us, or un*b*orn baby, is a distinct indi*v*idual. Even though it resides inside its mother, it is a separate ent*ity gene*t*ically. Its DNA is completely its own, and different from its mother's DNA. From the moment of conc*e*ption, it is an entirely separate gene*t*ic indi*v*idual. Therefore, the argument in favor of abor*t*ion on demand, or abor*t*ion for conve*n*ience sake, that a woman has a right to do as she wishes to her own body, is not appl*icable to the question of abor*t*ion, since the mother's body is different from that of her baby, or fetus. It does not matter what a group of men in the form of the US Sup*reme Court said about the issue in Roe v. Wade. What matters is reason, reality, and life, not opinion!

    April 1, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • Believer

      No Jesus would not support healthcare Jesus lets little children die from illness around the world so he obviously doesn't believe in healthcare or their would be no sickness.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • ignorance

      Im not a Christian. Just a reasonable thinker.
      I think it's reasonable to have some sort of universal healthcare plan.
      I dont think it's reasonable to abor*t a child because one makes a mistake of not using one of the many forms birth control available.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • maveric43

      I would not support or encourage a women to make the choice to end a pregnancy unless her own life were threatened.

      Every means available from public and private sources should be accessible to women to encourage the preservation of life. All cultural efforts should be brought forth to develop a general societal consensus encouraging the preservation of life.

      However the ultimate decision is best left to a women and her physician. The government should play no role in this.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  15. mandarax

    Remember at one of the Republican debates, when the moderator said something to the affect of "if there is an uninsured man with a life-threatening illness should we just let him die?" and many people in the crowd yelled "yeeeaaahh!!"

    I'm pretty sure none of those was Jesus. But sadly, I bet they all regard themselves as "good Christians."

    April 1, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • ignorance!

      Lol, I bet you're right!

      April 1, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Nii

      As a preacher I find this not to be really true concerning the Bible itself which when read with an atti.tude of charity helps u. Rather it is a product of pagan cultures not really dead in the minds of Christian parents which they transmit 2 their children. This includes relics, predestination,etc

      April 1, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  16. Reality

    Once again some incentives to live a healthy life style and also ways to pay for universal health care.

    1. An added two dollar health insurance tax (or higher) on a pack of cigarettes. Ditto taxes on alcoholic beverages, the higher the alcohol content, the higher the tax. Ditto for any product shown to be unhealthy (e.g. guns, high caloric/fatty foods??)

    2. Physicals akin to those required for life insurance- the overly obese will pay signficantly more Medicare and universal health insurance (unless the obesity is caused by a medical condition).

    3. No universal health care coverage for drivers driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or using cell phones while driving.

    4. No universal health coverage for drug addicts or for those having self-inflicted STDs (e.g. not using a condom).

    5. No universal health coverage for abortions unless the life of the mother is at significant risk and judged to be so by at least two doctors. .

    6. No foreign aid given to countries who abort females simply because they are female.

    April 1, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Nii

      Atheists can be just as wicked as Christians. Look at REALITY'S blogposts which are full of lies, half-truths, wickedness and worldly wisdom. It doesn't take much to be emotionally mature (spiritually enlightened).

      April 1, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • Nii

      Christians who pick and choose which teaching of God to obey are not wise. Neither are anyone who do. Why? ITS VERY SIMPLE! All u have to do is to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. Be careful however this is different from love your neighbor. It is a very specific amount of love to give. Comprendez ?

      April 1, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Reality

      ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

      A prayer for Nii et al:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      (references used are available upon request)

      April 1, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  17. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by many contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    April 1, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • WachetAuf

      Reality:

      I am sympathetic to your views. Even if you do not "believe" as many do, it is possible to take a lot from the teachings. The Bible has two objectives, as I see it One is the mystical which requires men to establish a relationship with a God which seems to transform himself every thousand years or so to conform to the "understanding" of the people who connect with him. It does involve magical thinking. You, and many, would rightly object. The other is a practical conversation about how men might establish and manage relationships among themselves, relationships between "neighbors" and even "enemies". There is no real magic and there is real wisdom in the latter. I, too, question and doubt the mystical elements. I cannot fully reject what I cannot see but I also cannot accept what others simply ask me to accept on faith. So I pick and choose what makes sense to me, as does everyone. I do, I must tell you, believe that I own my own mind unlike the many sheep who do not own theirs. Jesus himself seemed to invite us to engage in a reasoned and objective conversation about matters of concern to us all. His teachings, therefore, look like a good guide for the resolution of conflicts among men.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Reality

      ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      (references used are available upon request)

      April 1, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  18. migeli

    Well isn't that nice?You know the more I hear about this bible makes me wonder about the people who read it.In fact I have been betrayed by more than 90 percent of bible readers I've met.No wonder it's the bible thumpers who seem to begrudge healthcare for those who cant afford it.

    April 1, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • ignorance!

      Although I believe Jesus existed, and think most of what he taught was decent, I am not a Christian, and dont believe in any man made bible.
      however I find it odd that with what Jesus taught, how Christians would not support a universal health care system.
      I can't make since of it either.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Ed ward

      Sin on saturday repent on sunday

      April 1, 2012 at 4:23 am |
  19. sam

    America's health care need support that means either by changing it's major ridiculous obligations or developing new democratic health care which will look after it's citizen. Talking about Jesus is not relevant in this situation. People knows that our health care system is rattan; even so, some people don't want it to be changed.

    April 1, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  20. migeli

    The bible appears to me to be the kind of book my kids should't read.It recommends killing animals for no reason at all,theft of property,and slaughtering other people.How very nice.These are tht words of God?I highly doubt it,and if they are I want no part of this guy.

    March 31, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • ignorance!

      One Bible teaching that is not good for children, especially sons, nor for their parents, is found at Deuteronomy 21:18-21 which commands, "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die

      April 1, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • b4bigbang

      I used to think the same way until i discovered that:
      1) The animals killed in sacrifice were eaten by the priests.
      2) Everything belongs to God; he has the right to place his property under the stewardship of whomever he sees fit, and if they abuse their stewardship, he has the right to take it from them and give it to someone else.
      3) If the evil stewards won't give up God's property without a fight, then God is ready, willing and able to fight them to the death.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • ignorance!

      @b4bigband
      it amazes me that you believe god, who created you, is so ready to destroy his own creation.

      I dont think god wants any part of killing or destroying what he created.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:27 am |
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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.