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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. jean

    Why do some people keep saying that people should turn to churches for help in paying for healthcare? How many churches bring in enough in the collection plates each Sunday to be able to pay for that care? Most churches budgets and collection amounts are available for the members to view. Does your church have enough left over, after paying the mortgage and utility bills, to pay for some of its members surgeries or cancer treatments? I suspect that most don't. My daughter requires a drug infusion that costs $4,500 every six weeks. Can she afford that? No. Can I afford it? No. Could my church afford it? Probably not, since we also have some members battling other illnesses and cancer at the same time. Churches and charities are not a solution to what ails our healthcare system.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • What???

      Why don't we turn to Hollywood and the politicians they seem to always have money.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  2. Bryan

    Did I just get trolled by CNN?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Jeanine

      If you have to ask, then, yes, you got trolled.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  3. wow

    what a stupid question!!!!

    June 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      A lot smarter than your comment.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Tarley

      OH! SNAP. BUUUUURRRRNED!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  4. Evil Hollywood Liberal

    Jesus would DEFINITELY be down with getting a huge tax cut in the form of a reduction on capital gains. So i guess he'd be a Republican, right? Right?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • peridot2

      Doubt it.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  5. ThsIsNotReal

    Jesus didn't have to steal money from some people to buy expensive equipment to treat others. It's a totally different thing. If modern doctors were able to heal people using divine power, Obamacare would not be needed.

    If you want a Christ like figure as a politician, look at Ron Paul. As a doctor, he worked for crap wages for years at a charitable hospital and even took care of some patients' bills for them.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Ron Paul is a sensible, caring, intelligent individual. That's why he's not got any support and why nobody cares about his opinions. 😦

      June 28, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  6. Throb Hungwell

    Jesus and his dad invented diseases, and selected who would get them.

    Jesus healed a few just to show off and prove he easily could keep the entire human race perfectly healthy, but he hasn't been doing much miracling in the last couple thousand years.

    I'm not thinking Jesus even wants you to have health care. If he is going to fry most people later, why would he be nice to them now?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • What???

      What???!!!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Throb is right on the money, What?!?. I couldn't agree more.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • adrifter

      But Jesus and his dad are loving gods!!! LOL.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • What???

      Wow!!! I would like to see that proof?

      June 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Jeanine

      I'm jus laughin! Good one!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  7. spike

    Jesus would say "healthcare, schmealthcare!" and then lay hands on everybody and BAM! they'd be cured.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Hey, that's what I said, but I added in some sarcasm and mockery.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • spike

      tl;dr

      June 28, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  8. Theend

    "As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam.” So the man went and washed, and came home seeing."

    June 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  9. Ryan

    Jesus would not be a Democrat, Jesus would not be a Republican.

    Read the bible, Christ was a socialist. He advocated taking care of the poor and he said it would be more difficult for a rich man to reach heaven. He opposed those in power leveling taxes and oppressing the less fortunate. He supported societies outcasts, the lepers, the cripples, etc.

    That being said, Christ supporting this has no merit as to whether it is a good idea or not. Christ lived 2,000 years ago in the bronze age when human beings still thought the world was flat, believed in Genesis, that the Earth was the center of the universe, and that people getting sick was the will of God. We hold onto almost nothing from that era other than religion, and the mysticism of Christ, virgin birth, walking on water, healing the sick, etc – those were common claims of those supporting those who claimed to be the messiah. So lets leave WWJD out of it because the answer to modern problems isn't going to be found in an unknown opinion of someone who lived 2000 years ago.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  10. John R

    Why do people insist that it is "government run healthcare"...?? It will be the largest single boost to PRIVATE run healthcare in the history of our nation.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Theend

      A friend who works for a large healthcare network showed me an ecstatic email she received from the hospital management today at work - they were dancing in the aisles - and expecting thousands and thousands of new patients...

      June 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • What???

      Very few business are in the business of losing money and if they are spending $7,000-12,000 on health insurance per employee and they are faced with the increased cost of health insurance they will raise your out of pocket or pay the fine and dump the coverage except for only key personnel. I.e. CEOs and Corporate officers. Of course the elected officials are covered by your tax dollars. Enjoy the high prices, the wait and the lines and I hope for your sake that Jesus doesn't exist. I may be among the few here, but I believe.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  11. Formally known as The Catholic

    Jesus once said, "I've got mine Jack" to a man who didn't have any food, shelter or water. And continued with "Get a job Grouch, stop freeloading off of us hard workers"

    June 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • peridot2

      In your fevered drug dreams.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  12. grownup

    I think the odds that jesus would have an opinion about health care is about as good as a unicorn; being that they both do not exist.

    June 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • What???

      What proof do you have that he didn't?

      June 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Tarley

      Religious guy asking for proof. ITS LIKE RAAAAAIEEEEEAAAAAIN....

      June 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  13. Solomon Davis

    Since he's just a fairy tale – probably not.

    June 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • What???

      My dad had a saying. Opinions are like B utts everybody has one! Another saying he had was this is America and everybody has a right to an opinion.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  14. george

    Just read the words of Jesus from a New Testament where his words are in red letters and you'll see that Jesus by today's standards was an ultra-Liberal who would not be allowed on the floor of the Republican Convention, or allowed to be a member of most Conservative Christian churches. Most so-called Christians on the Right, especially the rich, conveniently ignore his words because they are in many cases completely opposite of what they believe and what they practice. The 'Christian-Right' has hijacked the name 'Christian,' preach to the rest of us as if we are heathen, and act as if they somehow own both God and Jesus. As Jesus said, hypocrites will get "their reward."

    June 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • andrew

      You're absolutely right, George! I've been trying to say the same thing you did, but you found the right words and the best way to say it. The Sermon on the Mount – in Matthew Chapter 5 – is ALL we need to read! Nothing is capable of trumping those words! It can't be done! In that sermon, Jesus laid it ALL out – HE was TOUGH on everybody. What gets my goat is when people 'pick and choose' from the Bible to fit their own opinions. All we need to do is re-read the Sermon on the Mount and try our very best to live up to it. I'll not vote for a man who goes against it; I will not do that! I'd need to turn atheist to pull that voting booth handle in favor of a politician who goes against what Jesus Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, Jesus loathed politicians more than the Atheist

      June 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • peridot2

      Jesus was the first women's liberationist. He raised the value of women to equal men in Hebrew society for the first time. Until that point, women were only worth the number of sons they could birth.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  15. Christ

    Why would I care if a fabrication of your imagination would support anything??

    June 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  16. Moby Schtick

    Wouldn't Jesus just heal everyone? In fact, why don't his followers do that? Didn't he say that "these signs shall follow them that believe" and discuss healing and the casting out of demons (lol!) and that sort of thing?!? C'mon, christians go heal people. Clear out them hospitals!! Do your job! Oh, you can't? Oh, gee, well, it seems you've got a problem, doesn't it?

    June 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Ha! Nailed him good!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  17. Spizz

    I'm gonna go with...irrelevant on this one. Did I miss something or is Jesus the one making all the decisions around here?

    June 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  18. closedmind

    It would be nice if the Christian charities would provide for the needy but we have 50,000,000 people without insurance and children dying for lack of care so it is not happening. Put up or shut up. when you care for the least of us then the problem will be solved until then don't suffer the little children as the Man said.

    June 28, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  19. andrew

    I'll leave the 'preaching' to the self-proclaimed know-it-all people – they're a penny a million, and a collective hundred-million of them have never even read the Sermon on the Mount. if they WERE TO go back and read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, they'd be so shocked they'd STOP reading it! Jesus Christ was a pacifist and a working class (poor man's) hero. He loathed men who refused to help the poor people. He chewed out the lazy people for pretending to be poor when they should be out working. But the ones HE detested most of all were the politicians and money lovers who seeked to gain power over the masses to enrich themselves while stepping over dead bodies and claiming the dead poor had just encountered a streak of 'bad luck'. What a dishonest farce that crap is – he NEVER SAID ANY SUCH THING! Before YOU go dragging Jesus into this mess you have to RE-READ the Sermon on the Mount, If you don't do that, then stop dragging him into this! If you READ it, you'll stop sluffing PEOPLE'S lives off to 'bad luck'. Jesus NEVER said that in any way, shape, or form; POLITICIANS said that un-holy crap, not Jesus Christ!

    June 28, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  20. Tom Pernis

    Let's ask Jesus,

    CNN reporter.
    Excuse me Jesus. What do you think of the high cost of health care in a corrupt state as the USA?

    Jesus,
    Esaste olli megali malakes stin Ameriki!

    CNN Reporter.
    Thank you Jesus for clarifying it for us.

    Back to the studio!

    June 28, 2012 at 5:52 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.