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. Phattee

    Christians are some of the most Unchristian people I have ever met. Mormons are way more Christian than Christians.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  2. Ed

    Americans don't even know who Jesus is.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Bill

      maybe they should!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  3. KyRunner

    notice the ones who bash Christianity are the first to say.... "What would Jesus do?" He'd probably chop down the tree that didnt bear fruit!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  4. drgene

    I'm a religious scholar with a long history of study & teaching on Jesus. Jesus would say:
    1. NO to government use of force/coercion(mandate) vs free choice in All matters of one's own health care.
    2. NO to government bureaucrats definition/list of required coverages;and NO to contraceptives & abortion as "health care"
    3. NO to government Board which decides whether an individual on Medicare is worthy of a medical procedure because (s)he
    is elderly, near death, or in chronic illness/degenerative illness whose care is costly.
    4. YES to duty of own parents/family to provide health care for own children who cannot do so for themselves
    –but NO to extending this duty to parents to provide health insurance for adult children(over 18 y/o)
    5. YES to Free choice of quality health care–at reasonable price–by letting all health insurance providers be
    available(across state lines) to all purchasers.
    6. YES to government(federal/state/county) to provide special funds for health care that is catastrophic or
    chronic illnesses with prolonged degenerative prognosis–as long as this is free choice/vote by elected
    7. YES to religious individuals, or communities, to voluntarily offer financial assistance to others in need
    of health care for life-threatening or severely incapacitating illness(the exact illnesses Jesus healed)–or even
    doctors/hospitals providing for this care without charge.

    IN sum, JESUS would REJECT ALL of Obamacare!! Most other world religions–esp Hinduism,Buddhism,Taoism,Confucianism would concur with Jesus on these positions.

    Judaism might accept some measure of government coercion and control and taxation.
    Islam would view health care as a personal or parental or UMMAH(religious community)matter–not a government one.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Phattee

      I'm sure claiming to know what Jesus thinks will earn you a ticket straight to hell.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • erich2112x

      In your anti-Obama dream world, perhaps.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Steve

      A real scholar would provide quotes from the bible to back up your statements. You are obviously not one, and pretending to validate your opinion.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Randy Buist

      As a fellow pastor, your evaluation is simply bad exegesis. The biblical text never defines the second commandment as being only a personal decision of the individual or only the duty of the church. In other words, if I am an elected official on the U.S. government, I can ignore the second commandment within my decision making?

      You are incredibly wrong on this matter. By ignoring love for others while being an elected official, you effectively ignore the first commandment as well in which case your faith has no bearing on society. It's now wonder people are leaving the church if our beliefs have nothing to do with real life.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Steve

      I# 4 is hillarious....."4. YES to duty of own parents/family to provide health care for own children who cannot do so for themselves–but NO to extending this duty to parents to provide health insurance for adult children(over 18 y/o)".....
      ............Yeah, I'm sure somewhere in the bible Jesus put an 18 yr age limit on health insurance.....The average lifespan in that day was like 40 years....So I guess in todays terms an 18 year old is really like a 45 year old....So I guess Obama didn't extend it enough according to Jesus...

      March 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Lancelot

      Is that really the best you have?

      March 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Lancelot

      Sorry, that last comment that I posted was for someone else. I liked your post – very well thought out. Sorry, again.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Animenut

    Should. Always should. That and a dollar will buy a bandaid. I doubt Jesus said "should" about anything.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  6. Markus

    Jesus would probably not have a solid understanding of healthcare/Obamacare simply because no one speaks Latin anymore. Also, the futuristic world would be enough to put a shock in his system. Like a caveman seeing fire for the first time, Jesus seeing Snooki would dissuade anyone from really enjoying what the world has turned into considering she's a televised superstar.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Jeff

      Jesus never spoke Latin. He spoke Aramaic, an offshot of Hebrew.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  7. Keith

    There are those try to make themselves in Jesus's image, and there are those who try to make Jesus into their image. You can easily detect the difference by comparing the actions of Jesus to the actions of the individual.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  8. peick

    I would say that unless people on here actually care about what Jesus said and did, you shouldn't trouble the rest of us with your opinions of the same. It's like Monday morning quarterbacking when you haven't even watched the game.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  9. John

    GOP even hate Jesus today because he is on the side of the poor,meek and downtrodden.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  10. mike from iowa

    The problem is that health care costs are artifically high The only negative about Obamacare is that it didn't do anything to control the costs. - Costs go down for optional services such as Lazik or Cosmetic Surgery, but they remain unjustifiably high for non-optional procedures. Providers of equipment, facilities and insurance are price-gouging. It is like charging $50 per gallon for drinking water after a natural disaster – it should be just as illegal.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  11. CommonSense

    What would a fictional character in a nonsense story do? Hmmm...oh....let's see.... Nothing?? Yeah that's it. The fictional character would do nothing because fictional are FICTIONAL.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  12. Concerned jc follower

    Christians dont say much about health care is b/c if your soul and spirit are not right w god, then it doesnt matter what the status of your physical health is. Its not about this world but rather the life in heaven w god.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • JC in the hot tub!

      Have you actually read the words of Christ?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  13. Mikithinks

    One of the points in the sermon on the mount was to care for the sick. Jesus also said that it is easier for for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the gates of heaven. Charity has not worked. The cute little kids will be ok, but the repulsive will not be. Governmental care works in other countries, with those who are rich getting even more if they can pay. The government should begin with free education of doctors and nurses. Enlist top professors and give them pay that they can't resist, and set up world startling medical schools. The time table on this would be ablut 15 years for the first graduates, but would be a real game changer in supply and demand. We have very smart students who should have a medical education, but just can't get it. We have returning medica who could be trained further. This would cost billions, but would provide something more productive than a bigger insurance complex The current system is a downward slope. Maybe the money from the wars?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • peggy


      I read your post ten times. I am amazed that you wrote exactly what has been going through my mind for months, even down to your choice of words and particularly your strategies and details for attracting new doctors – truly amazing! May all good things come to you , your friends and your family.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  14. Rainer Braendlein

    You want to have got a healthy body? First get a healthy soul!

    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 12:11 pm |
  15. Katherine Schaefer

    So many people don't understand the realities of this issue:
    1. Some people don't have insurance because insurance companies refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions. These conditions don't have to be major issues before insurance companies will decline to cover them. This has nothing to do with "personal responsibility".
    2. We know from previous experience that churches and other charitable organizations don't have enough money to pay for health care for people who don't have insurance. Health care can often cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if people have serious illnesses.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • peggy


      March 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  16. JC in the hot tub!

    If Christians were anything like Christ, everyone would be Christian. But Christians are nothing like Christ, so most people aren't Christians.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      L I K E

      March 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  17. Buzz

    If Tom Prichard has so much faith, why doesn't he give up his own insurance and persuade his provider to use the coverage for someome less fortunate than he?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • JC in the hot tub!

      Why don't you get a clue? Then you might have something to contribute.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  18. RowJimmy

    Gotta love it when atheistic main street media outlets like CNN try to play the Jesus card

    March 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      Being agnostic is not atheism. Not believing in the church is also not atheism. Christians are no different than their muslim brothers, all of them want to cause armageddon so they can be with god.

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

    Why wouldnt the Jesus just heal his believers? Oh thats rights the boogy man of sin makes us all die painful agonizing deaths so we can go to Disney in the sky after months, or years of suffering. Universal healthcare is the cure for the sake of humanity, and not some super being who is to lazy to help a brother out.

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

      And someday you might even read the Bible.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  20. Nancy

    Before government got involved, it was Christians who took care of people. Who do you think opened all the hospitals?? How many cities sitll have a St. Joseph's Hospital, etc. Short memory.

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

      The largest share of hospitals are indeed religiously oriented. Not all of them are Christian, but a hefty portion are. But nearly all religiously founded and operated hospitals accept government funds, which makes the situation more complicated.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Maurice

      Do you realize even though they are christian hospital, they a business for profit. Just like all other hospitals.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:30 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.