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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. Jesus the most powerful figure known to mankind (Fact)

    John 3 vs 16-"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
    John 8 vs 47-"He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
    Matthew 22 vs 37-40-"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Very simple for true followers of Christ but complicated for those who do not belong to Him.

    July 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Jesus the most powerful figure known to mankind (Fact)

      I can find no reason to doubt a guy who lived 2000 years ago to still be the most powerful man in the world. I can find no reason to doubt a guy whos words and actions are nothing but pure love. I can find no reason to doubt a guy who has had and still has more followers than any other leader in history. I can find no reason to doubt a guy who died in the place of deserving sinners. I can find no reason to doubt Jesus the living Son of God Almighty. Romans 1:20- "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse

      July 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      I can find lots of reasons, like his teachings were mediocre for the creator of the universe.

      July 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  2. Bob

    This is a really stupid question. Jesus said to sell everything you own and give it to the poor, which, in turn, would turn you into the poor. Religion is not and should not ever be economic policy.

    July 1, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  3. Martin Walters, Seattle

    Jesus would move to Canada.

    July 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Nomad

      Actually, he lives in Switzerland. The best country in the world for living a decent life.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      He might try but his application would be denied unless he had a few million to flash around.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  4. Reality

    The Apostles' Creed 2012 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)

    So why are we so concerned about what Jesus would support ?

    July 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  5. Leftcoastrocky

    "Tom Prichard, a Lutheran and president of the Minnesota Family Council, said it’s ultimately about faith. Who do we trust – God or government?"

    I only trust insurance companies because I know that their primary concerns are the citizens, the country and especially the sick and poor. And insurance companies are what the free market gives us.

    July 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Reality

      Insurance–

      System whereby individuals and companies concerned about potential hazards pay premiums to an insurance company, which reimburses (in whole or part) them in the event of loss. The insurer profits by investing the premiums it receives.

      Some common forms of insurance cover business risks, automobiles, homes, boats, worker’s compensation, and health. Life insurance guarantees payment to the beneficiaries when the insured person dies. In a broad economic sense, insurance transfers risk from individuals to a larger group, which is better able to pay for losses.

      Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/insurance#ixzz1zOpQ7wWP"

      July 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      Exquisite scarcasm, and right on target.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • AaaaCccc

      Read about the Cigna whistleblower who gives an inside account of what insurance companies are about

      July 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  6. SciGuy

    One thing is certain, Jesus prohibits stealing explicitly. Taking money from John to provide something for James is theft, whether it is a man or a govt. thus, Jesus condemns Obamacare.

    July 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      Taxes and charity are not stealing but forcing everyone to have private insurance, that should raise a few eyebrows.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • SciGuy

      If I give of my goods to others, that is charity. If you take it from me to give to others, that is theft. And Jesus soundly condemns theft.

      July 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • rosa, b'ham al

      He also condemned being a greedy selfish bas&^%&, which is how I would classify most of the "religious" right. You people are not God yet you try to determine who is "worthy" of your taxes and who is not. If it is you or your family it is a legitimate program but if it goes to someone across the river then it is stealing, right?

      July 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  7. Pat

    Yes, I am the descendants of people who fled Europe and came here for a better life. Learning about my forebears and American history has only served to show me that we are NOT those people any more nor would they want us to be. They were admirable, and they settled the frontier.

    And then you know what they did? They started up towns because they suffered greatly from a lack of government. Their genius wasn't self-reliance, it was representative government. Would the touters of self-reliance really like to go back to the lawless West and get a tooth pulled?

    Let's get it together and start behaving like a great nation, a civilized one, not some bar-brawling frontier.

    July 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Thank you very much!

      July 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  8. Tom in San Diego

    Jesus would and probably is not happy with the ultimate regressive tax of his people to support the greed of a few...

    July 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  9. Peikovianyi

    Jesus didn't know the Western Hemisphere existed.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      Even if he was a very ordinary man, Jesus may have heard of Phoenician and Carthagenian sailors who had crossed the great western sea and returned with tales of a great land mass that was located there. Certainly, the existence of North America was accepted by some Roman philosophers. And, perhaps something can be said of the Afroid features of the Mayans.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  10. Zeus

    Jesus? Pfft...I thought of Obamacare first.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  11. R.F.I.D. chips

    I think it's sad that in all of his many speeches that Obama never mentioned that the language in Obamacare carries a provision for not only the creation of a medical database, but also for the creation of human implantable R.F.I.D. chips that will access health records, health care insurance, and personal bank accounts whereby to pay for such services. Obviously, this language can, and will, be amended in the future to include the buying and selling of all goods and services. Consequently, everyone already knows what the Book of Revelation says regarding such a mark. Therefore, in answer to your question. "No. Jesus would not support Obamacare!" Sadly, the Supreme Court ruling simply provides a legal precedent whereby to allow such future amendments to commence. Truly, the day of the Lord is ever closer at hand

    July 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Severian

      would you please provide some real evidence?

      July 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Tom in San Diego

      Severian, the evidence is a foot deep all around you, all you have to do is open your own eyes....No one can do that for you.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Brad

      I agree!! You hit it right on the nail!!!

      July 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  12. Jesus

    I am a Liberal.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  13. Jim Ryan

    Would Jesus support Obamacare? Well, why don't you ask him. Knock and the door shall open. Ask and you shall have your answer. Let me know when you hear something.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Pat

      Yes, Jesus support Obamacare.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Robert

      The real question is; Would Obamacare support Jesus?

      Jesus NEVER advocated the forced taking of anything to give it to another, including food, shelter or health care. He demonstrated thru His life and teaching the GIVING from a willing heart to those in need. The Bible often refers to those most in need as the "fatherless, widow and stranger". Further, the taking of life thru abortion is not health care.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  14. bannister

    Isn't it ironic that the people who most emphatically insist that Jesus would support Obamacare are the people who....don't believe in Jesus?

    July 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Christo

      just as ironic that the Christian Right are mostly not in favor of socialized healthcare. shame on you Christians!

      July 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • bannister

      Christo – I am not a Christian. But I do not support socialized healthcare either.

      America has THE greatest medical system in the world, hands down, no exceptions. That's why rich people from Canada, Europe and the Middle East all come to US hospitals when they need a serious operation.

      Coverage is another matter – the problem here is that insurance companies, while excellent for traumatic events, are NOT an effective system to distribute everyday healthcare. MORE people would have access to health care if the government and the insurance companies got out of the way and allowed the free market to work. Then, you would see medical costs PLUMMET just as you see the price of HD-TVs drop in the private sector.

      Socialized medicine has REAL problems and WILL lower the standard of care here in the US. If we disagree, that's fine. But don't try to come across as some righteous moral person who somehow cares more about people than I do.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Pat

      I do believe in Jesus. I love Jesus. I belong to a church to support building up the body of Christ and its mission to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And as many have noted, how we treat the least of these–and each other–is part of that message. To claim Jesus is your Lord and then support low taxes for billionaires is to be among those "who call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say." And I believe Jesus does support Obamacare.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • sara

      As a Christian I support Obamacare. Don't lump Christians all into the same category. What is more ironic, is the conservative Christian stance on health care and poverty. They passed laws against the poor, minorities, and immigrants. The very people god asked his followers to care for and to actually provide some of their needs. they treat the poor with contempt and elitism. They are doing exactly opposite of Christ’s teachings. Jesus only condemned a particular group of people. Those that don't care for the sick, poor, and orphaned. Read Matthew 25 and see what Jesus actually said about taking care of those less unfortunate.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  15. kate

    If citizens and taxpayers of this country can't have affordable heath care, then the our members of congress should not have it either. Reminder: the taxpayers pay theirs.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Paul

      Good one Kate. My question is: What does religion have to do with Obamacare????? Jesus had healthcare, would you not agree??

      July 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Obviously our savior doesn't like what is happening. Were half way through revelations. Doh

    July 1, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  17. Realy?

    Do any of you people know the truth that it was the GOP that stuck the "everyone pays" (part of their everyone has to take responsibility mantra) part of Obamacare from the original healthcare bills that Hillary Clinton tried to get past – it was their idea. The Dems went with it. Then the GOP figured they'd use it against them. I watched a news show where one Democrat congresswoman and two Republican congressmen admitted on national tv it was a Republican idea. They didn't lie about it. People just don't' pay attention to the REAL news anymore (Foxnews is not news).

    July 1, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  18. shep

    No, Jesus would be screaming that Mitt Romney is the false prophet he was warning everybody about. What about Mormons are Christian? Planet Kolob? Magic diaper? Polygamy?

    July 1, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • MaryM

      Agreed.

      July 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  19. treblemaker

    Twenty years from now, Obamacare (as it's being derisively called today) will be as untouchable as Social Security in the minds of future generations. The wealthy in our country are morally responsible to help others less fortunate. Make their contributions to health care tax-deductable, so they don't have to hide their capital gains. The more they give back, the more deduction they can claim.

    July 1, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  20. Wraith

    Oh, the irony...
    "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..."
    But, apparently, it's okay for these people to do the same to others, eh? I don't want to live in a theocracy, much as some of these fundamentalists would like it to be.

    July 1, 2012 at 11:04 am |
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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.