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. tom

    Matt 25: 31-46 says it all; if you wait for charity to do it it won't get done; never has; Jesus wants it done. When we get judged, woe to him who says, "I was waiting for charity to do it." And kudos to those who do great charfitable works; wish there were more of you.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  2. The Truth

    I'd rather research what Chris Hedges supports. He's actually alive and has pertinent things to say about the current state of affairs in this county in 2012. No offense JC.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  3. The Truth

    Who gives a rip what Jesus would support? Doesn't matter.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  4. Voltaire2

    The idea that people should chip in and help others in need whether to eliminate homelessness or to help with medical expenses is a romantic notion. Glen Beck recently stated that Americans should give to their churches to help people in need, rather than having our government be involved. I think our older generation believes in this most because of their experiences with the Great Depression. They experienced families helping those in need. Even with their help, thousands died in the streets. The fact is that we have been the wealthiest nation in the world since the 1950s and have allowed poverty and a lack of health care coverage to grow at a shameful rate that is embarrassing and immoral. The distribution of wealth continues to balloon in favor of a very small percent of our population while the have nots have even less. I am a member of a Christian community that starts its committee work in August to provide food donations to 50 families in our community for the Christmas holiday. What about the rest of the community in need? What about the rest of the year? Part of our community is our government. It should be of the people, by the people and for the people. Further the first priority should be how we make sure that each member of our community is housed, feed, and cared for when ill. News flash . . . leaving the job to the church is not getting the job done. How much longer does it need to be before we demand that the job get done?

    July 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  5. hawaiirules

    I think he would have viewed the health care law and politicians more like the money changers outside the temple.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  6. Biltrix

    Jesus would SO have been a democrat. He taught us to care for the sick...not to profit off illness.
    If Obama wins in November, and Democrats count Obamascare as one of their keys to victory, then they are surely profiting off illness.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  7. Paulie

    Know who else cared what religion you are? Adolph Hitler.

    July 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  8. Jack

    Hello everyone. You are all cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    July 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  9. Paulie

    Why do you care who and what people worship? Obama goes to church so that must make him a hypocrite too as much as any republican.

    July 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  10. shep

    No, Jesus was a Republican. He would have spit on the poor and sick, and built a crystal cathedral. Then grabbed a charter to Cabo.

    July 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  11. ayala

    Jesus was a communist, so he would have supported Obamacare

    July 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  12. rosa, b'ham al

    No, Jesus was a socialist, he would want a universal single payer system.

    July 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  13. Shelby.....

    Jesus was neither republican nor democrat.....he was and is much bigger than that. Don't worry my friends he will have his way in the end no matter what any of use decide. We as human beings have to decide who he really was.....was he God or was it all make believe. My personal belief is that he was God manifested in the flesh. He came here in the flesh to live a perfect life and die for us all of us on a Cross. It was not pretty it was very ugly. Now it is up to us to except it freely and believe or not.... it is a free choice. We are so far away from the truth of the Cross that if he doesn't step in and help us our way of life as we know it is going further and further down the drain. Study the word, don't believe it because someone said it, read it for yourself. We are living in peerless times.....our way of life....our spiritual well being is under attack. We are in a war and our only hope as a people and as a nation is Jesus Christ and him crucified.......the only hope for anyone.

    July 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  14. mapete

    There would be no reason for Jesus to support anything. He's the great physician. Just think even today all we need to do is reach out with faith and touch the hem of his garment he still does what no mortal or insurance policy can do.

    July 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Chad

    People tend to forget, or not be familiar with, the political turmoil of Jesus' time, and how He dealt with that.
    If you want to know what He would do about health care reform, look to how He dealt with that.

    The answer is, He didnt deal with it, being an agent of change to make this world a better place was NOT HIS PURPOSE.

    His purpose was twofold:
    1. to convict us of our unrighteousness
    2. be the sacrificial lamb for that, to pay the price that we can not pay, to reconcile those that believe in Him, to God.

    Choose Life!!

    July 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • AaaaCccc

      Well said

      July 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • shep

      Chad, you're a Mormon, aren't you?

      July 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Chad

      @shep "Chad, you're a Mormon, aren't you?"

      =>No. not a mormon
      I'm Christian

      July 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Chad, So momons are not christian in your opinion?

      July 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  16. shep

    Jesus would be down here pointing at Mitt Romney and screaming, "This is the false prophet I warned you about." See, Mormons aren't Christians. Between planet Kolob, magical underwear, polygamy and the the con artist that started the cult, what exactly is christian about these blasphemers?

    July 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  17. SciGuy

    This is not a difficult one for anyone who knows the scriptures. God the Father and God the Son both openly condemn theft, whether it be by a man or a group of men called govt. Theft by defn is taking one mans goods to give to another. Since Obamacare explicitly does thus, it is theft writ large, and clearly condemned by Jesus.

    Charity is when an individual of his own choice gives of his goods to others. It is impossible to be charitable with other peoples goods; that is called theft, and is one of Gods Big Ten commandments.

    July 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, please. This is an nonsensical an argument as I've seen yet. You boob, we pay taxes for the good of all. We pay for roads even if we don't drive. We pay for schools even if we don't have kids. We pay for all kinds of benefits. Taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized nation. They aren't "theft".

      July 1, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Turns out Tom is the boob. Any taxes that are used for the common good, that is, providing something that all contribute to that is available for all can be classified as non-theft. Anything that clearly is taking goods from one segment to transfer to another is by defn theft.

      July 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You can blabber on all you want, bozo. You're still wrong.

      July 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Yet another ironclad argument from the Piper.

      July 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You can rail on about this being "theft", you simpleton, but it isn't any such thing under our laws. What the Ten Commandments say is irrelevant in this country. If they mattered, you could be charged with a crime for not honoring your father and your mother, doofus.

      The SCOTUS decides on law, not God.

      July 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • rosa, b'ham al

      You have obviously not read the New Testament. Jesus would throw you out of the temple like he did the pharases.

      July 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Tom, read the article, or, at least the ti.tle of the article. Jesus, being a strong advocate of God's law, makes the Ten Comms quite pertinent to the discussion. Perhaps you stumbled into the wrong blog?

      July 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @SciGuy, Jesus famously said, to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's in regard to paying taxes. Matthew 22:21

      Then you must agree that tax exempt churches and religious organizations are stealing from the govt. There are hundreds of billions of dollars there that would effectively eliminate the healthcare issue in this country and provide coverage for all.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Les Too

      SciGuy: You are absolutely wrong about this (and other observations). His rant against money changers was based on the fact that they were charging a fee to convert normal currency into temple currency.and vice versa. Having a legitimate claim to the throne of David put Jesus in the middle of that era's politics whether he wanted to be there or not. He preached "unconditional" love and charity that was not dependent on belief or disbelief, worthiness or not. Finally, if you really believe what you say then any one asking for healing from Christ should be healed instantly. And should stop any heavenly object from blasting the earth apart like any god who loves his people. He doesn't so that is why this program is so very important for the rational crowd posting here.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • AaaaCccc

      Supreme court says its a tax. Jesus paid his taxes

      July 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Les, I want to reply to you, but your post is incomprehensible. This is not a compliment.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • SciGuy

      GFNow, Jesus did say to render unto Caesar that which is Caesars, but he didn't address what is rightfully Caesars, so it doesn't help us here.

      It is not true that tax exemption is stealing from the govt. technically you can't steal from govt because they produce no income that is theirs. On the other hand, I personally am opposed to exemptions for churches, but that is irrelevant to this discussion.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  18. gary

    Jesus = dead. God=pretend. Help / healthcare for others sounds right to me.

    July 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Gary = living only at God's behest.

      Gary = appointed to die and then face God's judgement.

      Jesus = Gary's only hope for passing that judgement.

      July 1, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  19. Kendall Ann Koffman

    This is sickening. I'm 13 years old and even i can see that. First of all, may I state that much of you theology is incorrect. But I'm not going to go into that since it would probably take a small essay to do so. Second Jesus Christ did want us to take care of the least of us, and did so himself. But not once, NOT ONCE did it say ANYWHERE in the Bible that we are to use the government to do it. He actually said it was not the governments job, but the peoples' as individuals. Jesus Christ said that is our job to take care of those less fortunate, and that we should do it as an act of service, and out of the love that Christ gives us for others. And not just by handing them a check to help them out, but reaching out to them personally to help them financially, and spiritually.
    but something you must think about before trying to figure out Christ's opinion, what is your opinion of Christ? Is He just a good teacher like Gandhi? Because if he is then what he says are just suggestions to follow. But if He is God(the one and only), divine in every way, holy, then these are COMMANDS, to be followed with out question for the good of all. So who is Jesus Christ to you? Figure this out, then we can talk politics.

    July 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • greg

      From a 13 yr old comes one of the best posts on this thread.

      July 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • rosa, b'ham al

      That will never happen without government help. Just look at the behavior of the so celled Christians in the this country, Me Me me. They would watch their neighbors drown without lifting a finger if it meant they might break a nail. I understand you are only 13 so you have probably not experienced human nature other then your parents.

      July 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • pmclean1319

      This is insane! Does no one understand what the healthcare reform is?! It's not socialized healthcare, it's not a check from the government, it's not "wealth redistribution!!" It's enforcing that everyone have medical insurance from PRIVATE companies so that taxpayer money doesn't have to pay for uninsured emergency room visits and that since everyone will pay for insurance collective cost will go down! How is that the government paying for healthcare?! If this was a republican plan, the right would have no problem with it!!

      July 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • AaaaCccc

      You give us hope for a future. Great post

      July 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Les Too

      Interesting that a 13 yr. old possesses literary skills. Actually it's unbelievable.....If you really are 13, I would suggest that you hold off on the Jesus trip until you acquaint yourself with all the death, hate, murder, destruction and greed historical Xtianity is so noted for and make a more informed decision about which spiritual path, if any, you should walk.

      Of all the possible paths to follow the Judeo-Xtian-Islamic paths are the most hateful and destructive ones this planet has ever seen. The mean spiritedness of those posting on this list clearly shows that this is true. Good luck.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • AaaaCccc

      As one in healthcare for a long time and has seen the changes. The few sentences are the key in this post. If you do not know your priority, the rest will fail. What are the priorities of the insurance companies, drug companies, politicians?
      I keep saying, if you put a bunch of nurses and social workers who have been in the field together and empower them to solve this health care crisis, they will solve it with fairness and compassion because they know their priority.
      People who claim Christianity are unfortunately very me oriented and will not allow the group sacrifice it takes to care for everyone.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  20. elijahi34

    He was healthcare because He healed the sick,raised the dead,cleansed those that had leprosy and drove out demons. He defeated whoever and whatever to now be sitting at the right side of the Father. Regardless what people say about the bible, it is still here doing what God said it would do. Moses began writing the Word over three thousand years ago. Guess what is still saving lives thousands of years later? The bible. Jesus said heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word will not pass away. The Word of God was here before you were born, and it will be here after you are dead and gone. The Beatles thought and said they were bigger than God. John Lennon spoke very critical about the Word. The Beatles are no more but a very distant memory. The Word of God stands strong continuing to save the souls of those that believe in Jesus Christ as Lord. Where will you spend eternity?

    July 1, 2012 at 3:50 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.