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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. Uncle Sam

    If the economy rises from the dead, do we get to worship money again?

    June 28, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Like anyone has ever stopped...ever.

      June 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  2. Gerry Evans

    Who cares what Jesus would have done. That was then and this is now. Our Nation needs to realize WE are the one's who are doing the "taking care of" now. NOT some "preacher" born a thousand or so years ago. Get real folks, just who IS going to take care of this earth and all it's inhabitants if we don't start taking care of each other. We need to stand up and be counted on who we are and what we, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, really do stand for. We can start by voting, yes, voting..

    June 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • DJ

      An awful lot of people care what Jesus thinks and so should you!

      June 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  3. NCT

    Jesus would just heal everyone and not find it necessary to pass some BS legislation. In His day there was NO insurance. you basically took care of yourself. I find it offensive for anyone here to say He would have been a democrat. He would not have chosen sides as His kingdom is NOT of this world. He created the earth for man. Before sin entered the world, there was NO sickness or disease. That is what Heaven will be like after we die. As long as you are born again. And Jesus made that possible for everyone on earth.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • what

      Since he has a kingdom not of this world then god sacrificing him on the cross wasn't much of a sacrifice I guess since he just went home after.

      June 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • NCT

      For WHAT...

      He came to die on the cross and pay the penalty for YOUR and MY sins. Had he not done that YOU and I would be DEAD in our sins and destined for HELL. He went back to Heaven so that He could send the Holy Spirit of God back to live in you and me. That gives us spiritual life that will live on when this physical body is gone. It's suprising why people don't understand this or don't want to accept it. It is a FREE gift from God.

      June 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      It's not free....I an supposed to believe in supersti.tious bs or your loving god burns me forever...pri.ck.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  4. Shropshire

    Did Jesus understand Pi?

    June 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      He'd understand a Pi e in the fac e...

      June 28, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  5. Irenaeus

    Is there such a thing as Separation of Church and State? If so, then there is no need to ponder WWJD. This article fails to mention the true reason that Jesus, the Son of God, was born unto us. He is the Messiah and Redeemer for those whom believe. He is not a "universal health care provider." He did not heal just for the sake of healing. He healed so those who were healed and those who were witnesses to the healing would come to believe in Him and in his Father. Jesus is not a "prophet concerned about social justice." Jesus is the Son of God who believes in one's faith and spirit. And Kraftchick, as one who is a religious scholar, you should not forget that the man roaming in the graveyard was not just tormented, he was tormented by demons. And on another correction towards you, Jesus did not heal socially, he healed spiritually. Had there been any social healing in his time, then there would not have been as much social derision towards Him either in His time or now.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • what

      Nope, not universal, that's right. He is only nice to you if you believe. What a guy.

      June 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  6. ME

    As an agnostic, I don't see any admonition by Jesus to help the poor and needy as being a recommendation to allow the government to define who is poor and needy and therefore deserving, and to define who has too much and therefore is obligated to give. With government in control, individuals have no control over where their forced "charity" goes and no control over the definition of who deserves it., and no control over how much they consider morally right.

    Leave religion out of this; either this is good for our long-term economic health or it is not.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  7. John Smith

    He would as a socialist democrat baby killing liberal!

    June 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • justinstl

      how do you think that dems are baby killers....abortions are up to the mothers not law makers!

      July 8, 2012 at 2:04 am |
  8. Mike hunt

    Seriously? Would Jesus support healthcare reform? If the people at CNN even bothered to read the bible before posing such a stupid question they would know Jesus didn't involve himself in politics or government. Give that to Cesar that which is cesars. Jesus was only concerned about what the individual does buy their own free will and choosing. Not what the government forces them to do.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Drew

      Maybe you should tell that to the evangelical mor0ns who always try to bring Jesus into political discourse

      June 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  9. PeterTO

    Jesus would try to heal the sick himself. But the health care lobby would pressure Congress and get him banned. He'd probably get picked up as an illegal alien in Arizona and shipped back to Israel.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • what

      haha true

      June 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    June 28, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things stated once again and again and again and over and over Ad Nauseum,
      "Prayer changes things"

      Earlier I challenged you to do something positive for humanity by praying to stop the international forced sëx trafficking of an estimatated 800,000 people.

      To wit,

      I see your prayers to stop the estimated 800,000 people who are forced into sëx traficking across international borders have not worked.
      Wait since prayer changes things that means you have not been praying to stop this scourge on humanity.

      Why won't you pray to stop this repulsive human abuse?

      Matthew 21:21:
      I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
      _______________________________________________________________________
      [A true believer can ask a mountain to throw itself into the sea, and it will be done. LOL!]
      _______________________________________________________________________

      Mark 9:23
      All things are possible to him who believes.

      Luke 1:37:
      For with God nothing will be impossible.

      John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

      John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

      John 14:14 If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.

      Nothing could be simpler or clearer than Jesus' promises about prayer in the Bible.

      So there you have it, straight from Jesus in the New Testament in clear, simple, and unequivocal terms.

      You are a sincere believer are you not?

      Time to put up or shut up.

      June 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Scoto

      nonsense. Prayer changes nothing. Proven in several scientific studies.You know "science" that stuff?

      June 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  11. Mass Debater

    The real question to ask is "How long would it take the Republican religious right to denounce Christ as an imposter and likely have him assasinated if he showed up today healing the sick and feeding the poor?" There's no money in cures and they would not take kindly to that kind of charity...

    June 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  12. Voice of Reason

    If there is a god why do we need health care?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  13. Shropshire

    Jesus killed my friend the other day. His dad must have been bored and needed a friend.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  14. gort01

    duh!!!! if jesus was here we wouldnt need health care.......aka laying on of hands to heall.....just saying...dont believe it...but for all you super christians...

    June 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • IO

      i thot laying of hands was socialist medicine (aka its for every one)

      good observation

      June 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  15. LookAndSEE

    To One one:
    There is No WHERE said in the Bible the God plans on burning those who CHOOSE to remain as part of the world forever!
    As far as healing: If we will continue in poor living habits, God will not heal. Choose the best food.
    Don't eat un-clean animals(pork, shell fish)!
    Drink lots of water!

    June 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • LMC

      Those are good thoughts and will help people stay healthy to some degree, but living a healthy life doesn't protect one from everything and that is when we need good health care available to everyone. If you have ever seen people lined up with horrible health problems waiting for free health care, you would think we lived in a third world country. In fact, we are fast becoming a country with a sharp divide between the have and have nots. People shouldn't lose their home because they couldn't afford the cost of fighting cancer or other health problems!

      June 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  16. Shropshire

    If Jesus were president, who would be vice-president? JESUS/BIEBER 2014! Would congress filibuster?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • sam

      I'd filibuster myself off the nearest cliff.

      June 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  17. WD

    Governments are the reason why Jesus was crucified, so I don't think he'd be a big fan of legislation.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Steve

      Amen.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • shwmin

      Actually religion was the reason he was crucified.....

      June 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Steve

      Well. If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty of it, John 3:16 is why.

      "No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."

      John 10:18

      June 28, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • justinstl

      He was not crucified over religion. he was crucified for being a protestor and a person who taught others to rebel against business and bankers.....he never once claimed to be the literal son of god he simply called god the father his father your father my fathe...the father of all!

      July 8, 2012 at 2:10 am |
  18. Cheese is the answer

    Come on people

    June 28, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  19. Sam Yaza

    He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government.

    Christians need suffering with out it there is no converts so the try and stop anything that makes this world a better place after all Jesus wont come back if the world is paradise

    its job security

    June 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      you know what f4ck this I'm going to end this once and for all i the great rebel ye who brought war to the throne of God support free universal health care

      June 28, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Jim George

      I don't think he had faith in the market. In the market he overturned the tables. People have been cheated in the market as long as long as there has been markets. Obama is not turning over to government either healthcare or medical insurance – just trying to establish more justice there.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  20. Brampt

    For everyone to see, the so called "Christians" have so much faith in Jesus, that they don't even believe that Jesus will make changes himself, after all he thought us to pray for his kingdom to come. What a lack of faith these people have, even though they always, Jesus here, Jesus there...!

    June 28, 2012 at 6:53 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.