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. Don

    I have to laugh when a minister tells us Jesus would not want the government to provide healthcare because He would want us to trust in God to provide. It reminds me of the joke about the man in a flood sitting on the roof of his house. A rowboat comes by and offers to rescue him. "No thanks", he says, "God will provide." The water rises. Then a helicopter comes by and lowers a rope to him. "No thanks", he says, "God will provide." The water rises and he slips into the water. He can't swim and as he flails about he cries out to God, "Why have You forsaken me?" God's voice booms out to him from above, "I sent you a rowboat and then a helicopter. Now you're on your own !" We are God's instruments on earth and the government is an instrument of the people. Why not use government to provide healthcare to people? We use government for national defense why not personal sickness defense? The private sector – churches, charities, hospitals, insurance companies, have failed up until now to provide for the needs of so many, why should we believe in them to do what they ought to now?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • gerald

      Mother Theresa did not need the government to provide 500 hospitals and schools for the poor. Mary Joe Copeland in Minneapolis takes no government money to provide for the poor. Jesus NEVER partnered with government to care for the poor. THe government gets involved, they start making demands that are against the morals of religion.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  2. AtheistDude

    Yes jesus would care about the poor and about his fellow man, unlike these right wing republicans who have forgotten what the Jesus' teachings were all about! If people like Santorum real Christians as they falsely claim to be, they would support Universal Health Care for all. Bunch of pathetic hypocrites!!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  3. ChrkeePrde


    March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  4. gerald

    Jesus did not and would not partner with the government. The government imposes it's amorality on organizations that it gives money too. Mother Theresa did not need the government to provide 500 schools and hospitals for the poor in Calcuta. Obama is not the second coming of Jesus.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  5. Uncle Rico

    Once again, CNN attempts to confuse religion with politics in order to advance their leftist agenda.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • .

      That's why their ratings suck.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  6. TownC

    Anyone who attempts to answer this question and publicly says so on dangerous ground.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  7. kimwal

    The poor will always be with us. Provide for them. It's the irresponsible scammers that the nanny state includes. No way!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  8. krehator

    If your religion always seems to fit your views, you probably made it up.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  9. Bob

    For those against "Socialism" you better be against Social Security also.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  10. Prince of Peace

    Why are so called Christians so committed to the ultra-conservative anti-poor atheistic teachings of Ayn Rand / Tea Party? Isn't compassion and community pretty much the point of Christ's teachings?

    March 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Bob

      You are right.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • gerald

      WE don't require a government to show compassion. Mother Theresa started 500 schools and hospitals without the governments help. Praise God! I am not at all against caring for the poor. I am against making the government God.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      It would depend on your view of the Tea Party also your opinion on the African American and other types of basically middle class and poor community churches. Even the Catholic churches and Evangelicals do much to help the poor in the community.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • .

      Compassion yes. Liberal idiocy, no. All it creates is misery and malaise. And if you don't believe that, look at this country's inner cities that are run by liberal idiocracies.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Elmo

      Jesus said, There was a rich person who had a great deal of money. He said, "I shall invest my money so that I may sow, reap, plant, and fill my storehouses with produce, that I may lack nothing." These were the things he was thinking in his heart, but that very night he died. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!

      March 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  11. Paul

    It's not about Christianity, that'sjust a front to cover the greed and perpetual animosity of those that have against those that don't.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  12. steven

    "more faith in the market and people" You have to be kidding. Capitalism. It is all about money, cash .... loot. People with money and making lots of money want more money. Faith is the wrong place for help. You may find a few wonderful people but there are millions that need help and the few are being smothered by the waves of need.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  13. John

    GOP and their supporters need to read the Bible and quit listening to their Pharaoh Russ Limbaugh..............

    March 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  14. cuk

    would diogenes support health care reform? is to me a more interesting, although equally irrelevant question. neither individual, real or imagined, is qualified to address the modern problem of inequality in access to healthcare in the complex age we live in.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  15. esoteric1

    Na jesus wouldn't support it...I mean that would mean people would have to say, give up a Saturday night of drinkin with their buddies and go buy a $ 700 insurance policy when they a re 25, working and healthy..no way

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

      No. You are talking about the Wall Street boys who destroyed America. Remember the meltdown and Bailout....

      March 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      John, greed is something that varies depending on who you speak too. If you are a middle class member of society and you are walking behind a wall street banker. Both you and her step over the same homeless guy laying on the street, to the homeless guy ... yall both are the same.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  16. Beadles

    The lead-in for this story asked the question "How should the nation help the estimated 50 million Americans who can't afford health insurance?" That made me ask another question – how many many cannot afford health insurance? Yes, there are those who truly cannot afford the premiums. Those who work minimum wage jobs, have pre-existing conditions, etc. But are there not many who choose not to *sacrifice* what they *want"? If you can't afford health insurance, you can't afford 180 cable channels. If you can't afford health insurance, you better not have a fancy cell phone with internet. If you can't afford health insurance, you better not be eating out several times a week. Those are just a few of the things my husband and I forgo in order to pay our health insurance premium every month. As for those who truly cannot afford insurance, we need to work together to come up with a plan to help them.

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

      oops "how many truly cannot afford"...

      March 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • esoteric1

      WELL SAID!!!!! Or you can't afford the new superbike payment, and besides when you hit a tree at 2 am, drunk, your health care will be free anyway....it'll be on the insured's dime...no problem

      March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  17. .

    Jesus would NOT support throwing people into a healthcare system where a government claims adjuster can deny coverage with impunity.

    The legal remedy of bad faith is forfeited when the government is your insurance company.

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

      Is this "government claims adjuster" related to the "insurance company claims adjuster" who just denied my husband's claim?

      March 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • .

      The difference is you have legal recourse against your insurance company. Get a lawyer and sue the heck out of them.

      When the government denies your claim, they have immunity. And if you don't believe that, try suing Medicare or Medicaid for denying coverage.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  18. krehator

    There is just as much evidence we were dropped here by aliens, as there is supporting Genesis.

    Both are just as crazy too.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • esoteric1

      thats not the point..the question is that would .jesus' life , philosophy, even as a "story" support this.

      March 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  19. Elmo

    Jesus Said: When you go into any region and walk about in the countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them. After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it's what comes out of your mouth that will defile you."

    The Gospel of Thomas

    March 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  20. Bob

    I wonder if Jesus would support universal health care or universal warfare?
    Seems like the US supports universal warfare more than healthcare. For anyone who has
    read the words of Jesus the answer is obvious.

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

      Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to casy peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war. For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone.

      The Gospel of Thomas

      March 31, 2012 at 12:18 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.