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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. Collin

    The FSM is for it, especially for Pirates and those he has touched with his noodly appendage.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  2. JOSE0311USMC

    JESUS WOULD BE AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE ---AGAINST RICH PEOPLE BEING SO RICH---AGAINST THE GREED THAT IS GOING ON---AGAIST THE OUTSOURCING OF OUR JOBS...

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

      But how would he feel about using ALL CAPS!?!?!?!?

      June 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  3. DB

    Of course Jesus would support health care reform. He would support single payer. It's remarkable that anybody can claim otherwise with a straight face.

    We're seeing the inevitable result of the unholy alliance the GOP made with religious conservatives in the 80s. The GOP has completely abandoned its social libertarian views in order to go along with religious voters' uncompromising views on abortion rights and gay rights. And Churches that preach charity and kindness to your fellow man are forced to go along with the GOP's relentless class war on the middle class and the poor...ESPECIALLY the poor.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    June 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  5. DamianKnight

    Jesus was a person of ideals. He taught the "ideal" but understood the ideal was impossible, hence His sacrifice on the cross.

    But, to try and answer the question, understanding that Jesus went after ideals, I'd say He would support His own solution. First, read the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Under Jesus' teachings, we should all help each other to the best of our ability with everything we can. If we all did that, we'd have no need for a monetary system, let alone healthcare reform.

    I also refer to 1 John 3:17 "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?"

    Also Matthew 5:40-41: "And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. "

    June 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • One one

      If Jesus was real he Would heal everyone like he did in all those bible stories. But that doesn't happen so either he is not real or he is just indifferent.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  6. JOSE0311USMC

    JESUS WILL SUPPORT THAT EVERYONE PAY THEIR OWN WAY-GET YOUR OWN INSURANCE--STOP DEPENDING ON OTHER PEOPLE.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Space Cat #399

      QUIT SHOUTING ON THE INTERWEB!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Maurice

      Totally agree!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • stephenK

      And you base that comment on what? Certainly not the Bible. As a pastor it is clear to me that Jesus was for anything that helps the vulnerable. And against anything that caused people to be attached to wealth. so he would 'expect much" from the rich in terms of helping others, and would totally support health care reform. he would only be disappointed that the reform we have was not radical enough

      June 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Jose,

      Really? And you believe that is consistent with Matthew 25?

      37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
      38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
      39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
      40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

      Seems to me like Jesus encouraged people to take care of the sick.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  7. Space Cat #399

    All I know is that Jesus would be on AZT, because he would have massive AIDS!

    June 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  8. Meade21

    While Jesus would have been in favour of helping people, he definitely would have disagreed with the abortion support in this bill..but to be totally honest, I don't think Jesus would have cared either way...he was about the spiritual salvation of people....

    June 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  9. Brian

    Those on the left always remind us that Jesus commanded us to take care of the poor.. which is true and something that even Republicans believe in, the question isn't whether or not that I should help my fellow man, the question is whether or not it's the role of government to enforce me to do it. God gave man free will, he didn't force us to be perfect, law abiding, worshipers – he gave each of us our own individual will that we will be judged individually on. I don't think God cares what political party you vote for, it doesn't make you a better person. I believe God will judge whether or not YOU or I take care of my fellow man, not the masses. I've never understood why people assume that Jesus was a socialist for those very reasons?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Tarley

      Render unto Caesar....

      June 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Brian,

      Surely you don't have the same objections if you ti.thed to a church that ran a hospital and chose to spend that money on health care for indigent non-believers – a charitable behavior consistent with what Jesus teaches?

      We have established a secular society for our mutual benefit – health care is a part of this fabric. I have to conclude that you object to the 'collectivism' because it is secular and not run by a cleric?

      By extension, you would rather live then in theocracy?

      I'm sorry, but you don't.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  10. JJ

    Yes Jesus, Jose and all the other illegals support Obamacare, stupid question if ya ask me......

    June 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  11. keith

    Where is BILL MAHER to say how stupid this article is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  12. One one

    Who cares ? Jesus is a myth in a world of fantasy. We have to live in a world of reality.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Slip Knot

      Jesus is not a myth! He is real. I stole him from in front of my neighbor's house last christmas and he's currently in my basement next to the camping gear!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  13. Baby Crom

    Who gives a sh!t what he would have thought?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Bob

      Crom grants Conan revenge!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  14. Amr Azim

    That is the most stupid question I ever heard.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Slip Knot

      I can think of five even stupider questions right now.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  15. Maurice Stephens

    STOP, STOP, STOP! This is an asinine question. Please, move onto a realistic question. Thank you.

    You fools that ask these types of questions love to spark outrage in people. Get a life and stop trying to earn a living by ruining others.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Cristine

      I agree with you. I don't even see how this is newsworthy. Why do they have to bring religion into it?

      June 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  16. David

    I think Jesus would be about free agency. Not take.

    Satan is about forcing his will.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Bob

      I thought Santa was about toys and mistletoe and sugarplums!

      June 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  17. Maurice Stephens

    STOP, STOP, STOP! This is an asinine question. Please, move onto a realistic question. Thank you.
    You fools that ask these types of questions love to spark outrage in people. Get a life and stop trying to earn a living by ruining others.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  18. Jeanine

    Would a primitive tribal fringe cult leader even be able to wrap his brain around modern politics? I doubt it.
    And since he has been dead for almost 2000 years, I guess it really doesn't matter anyway.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  19. albert

    The answer is no. Not only to this political issue, but ALL of them, and here are a couple of reasons why.John 18:36, 1 John 5:19.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Oh please. Some other christian could provide three verses to support his "yes" vote, then you'd get four, then he'd get five, and on and on. Just like any other issue.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Tarley

      So in other words Jesus doesn't care about this word and is powerless against his father who does all sorts of things that he can't control.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Renee Marie Jones

      Albert, neither of those bible verses have anything to do with health care, nor with taking care of the poor or sick. Have you actually read them, or did some republican brocure tell you to reference them? Taking those verses and extrapolating them to the health care debate is simply absurd. You are basically pulling rancom quotes from the bible and twisting them in your mind to mean whatever you have alread decided. Please actually *read* the bible, instead of just making things up.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  20. billybob

    For real? Why bother with health care when you can simply pray to be healed?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.