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. Rainer Braendlein

    The health of the body and the health of the soul are connected

    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 12:09 pm |
  2. Butter

    If Jesus would have been born in America, he would have been an illegal immigrant.

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

    I wonder if a lot of these people who "can't afford" health care, somehow manage to afford iPhones, big screen tvs, nice cars and restaurants several times a week.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • John

      Ask the Wall Street boys who destroyed the economy with the help of the GOP. They took the American Tax payers money after the meltdown....Remember the bailout....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • krehator

      Really you met EVERYONE who could not afford healthcare?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  4. John

    Now the GOP and their supporters want to interpret and change the Bible to suite their own words since it does not fit into their doctrine. How Shameful......

    March 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  5. Harry Baxter

    With all due respect, this is one stupid question. It will elicit all knds of inane announcements from both Liberals and Conservatives, despite the fact that NO ONE KNOWS!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • jenarts1

      Ahmen to that. No pun intended. This is a stupid question and the type of question I see most frequently on CNN.
      "What would Jesus do if......"

      March 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Butter

      I think its an excellent question! because a majority who are against the healthcare reform believe in Jesus, and they are saying that they don't want to pay for other people's healthcare, but Jesus did the opposite, he went and cured the sick, whether they were rich or poor. Also, a majority of voters are guided by religion to choose their candidate, therefore _there is a significance in mixing the healthcare debate and Jesus!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  6. krehator

    Next CNN Question:

    If you were a hotdog, would you eat yourself?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  7. JC in the hot tub!

    If Jesus ever does come back, so called "Christians" will crucify him all over again because he would rail against they're selfishness, greed, and hate.

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

      The Christians I know are the most giving, loving people on earth, and yes so are a lot of non Christians. We love people and sincerely desire to help them.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  8. 1ofTheFallen

    You can go to any emergency room and get treatment if you do not have the money. I still think Jesus would want people to pay more and consume less to help others but he would also be againist the kind of gridlock, uncontrolled wasteful spending and hatred we see in Washington.

    A country is like a marriage. It takes compromise to get along and make it work sucessfully. This means give and take on both sides. In order to survive we have to increase taxes and make serious cuts in our social programs, and wasteful spending.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Harry Baxter

      Yes, you can go to the ER. And if you didn't have health insurance, the staff will often discover that you had a treatable illness that is now fatal, because you didn't get treatment five years before. Alan Grayson was right when he said that the GOP's healthcare plan was "Die Quickly"!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  9. Glenn

    Come to think of it, I don't know what's worse.............CNN actually asking a question like that or the idiots who are actually debating it.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

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

      So does drunk driving.

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

      So do hungry lions.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  11. krehator

    The problem with many Christians is they are not like Christ.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  12. Sheepleherder

    Whether you like it or not, you're paying for other people's "health insurance" right now. The law everywhere, as far as I know, is a hospital can't turn away emergency patients. The money for their care comes out of our taxes. The cost to take care of most of these people, could have been reduced if they had preventive health care in the first place.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  13. Jesus would have supported...

    The public option system more than the individual mandate, but any system that helps the needy which is not exploitative of the needy would definitely be supported by Jesus. I hate these extremist republicans, the tea party, who think Jesus is behind them when they clearly have strayed from his teachings. Turn the other check, treat your enemy as if he were your friend, and many other things that Jesus preached are completely ignored by them and are replaced by a selfish ideology of conservatives first liberals second. I have many friends who are republicans and this radical takeover has definitely damaged the image of their party. It's quite sickening actually to see that these idiots think that collapsing every safety net instead of shrinking our enormous army and raising more revenue off those who have benefited the most say they are following Jesus' teachings.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  14. Bill

    I think the question is not if one wants to, but if they are able to. Giving everyone the same access to health care has an enormous cost, and with the debt at current levels, where to people think that money is going to come from. Technology is ever increasing in medicine, and therefore its cost will continue to rise. Combine that with people living longer and longer, and you have a fiscal disaster. In the end, people will have to learn how to ration health care. For instance, if you have a disease, a good treatment may be available to you, just not the latest or most expensive. Only the wealthy will be able to afford that, and people just need to accept it. Sometimes the newest, most expensive treatment is not the best anyway. People think that when it comes to their health, there is no limit to money that should be spent on keeping them alive. The question is this: where does that money come from?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  15. Jonathan Michael Brouillette

    And he said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the stagnant waters of the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing." – The Prophet Ezekiel.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Sing It, Chilluns

      You will eat, bye and bye
      In that glorious land above the sky
      Work and pray, live on hay
      You'll get pie in the sky when you die. –Joe Hill

      March 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Sing It, Chilluns

      In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
      There's a land that's fair and bright
      Where the handouts grow on bushes
      And you sleep out ev'ry night
      Where the boxcars are all empty
      And the sun shines ev'ry day
      Oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
      Where the rain don't fall and the wind don't blow
      In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

      Oh, the buzzin' of the bees in the peppermint trees
      'Round the soda water fountains
      Where the lemonade springs and the bluebird sings
      In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

      In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
      You never change your socks
      And little streams of lemonade
      Come a-tricklin' down the rocks
      The hobos there are friendly
      And their fires all burn bright
      There's a lake of stew and soda, too
      You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe
      In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

      Oh, the buzzin' of the bees in the peppermint trees
      'Round the soda water fountains
      Where the lemonade springs and the bluebird sings
      In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

      March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  16. dina

    What does it matter anyway?.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  17. Observer

    Jesus also stated that no one should get divorced and remarried unless their spouse was already guilty of adultery.

    How many Christian hypocrites follow that?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  18. Chris

    "How should the nation help its least of these"

    There are still Christians that exist that help the needy. But, there's this new breed of self centered middle class Christians who like to say f*** (because they're not perfect, just forgiven), and throw around tired slogans like "wake up America" and "Health Care is a right not a privilege". The "least of these" has been replaced with "the too lazy to find a job". I'm beginning to realize why the Romans fed them to the lions.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  19. Sam

    I imagine that Christians will pick theological arguments that conform to their pre-existing secular political loyalties. Conservative Christians will tell you Jesus would be against universal healthcare, and liberal Christians will say the opposite.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  20. cathy jones

    Health, education, and welfare, are the role of the people within freely formed associations; that is, what we distinguish as "the Church" as opposed to "the State". It is when the State usurps the rights of the Church that a nation falls into tyranny. If Obamacare is upheld by the Court, it is the death of the grand experiment called America.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
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About this blog

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.