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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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

“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. andrew.peter

    So much emphasis is and has been, historically, placed on Jesus' healing miracles, but He only did it for credibility of Himself. See Matt 9:1-7 where Jesus says: Which is easier, to say, ‘ Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he got up and went home.
    and also John 14:12: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father."
    These works is not miracles like healing, but miracles like converting souls. We are all born dead, spiritually, but God makes alive through faith in Him who came for our redemption.

    July 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  2. mac101

    Assume for a moment that there was a historical figure named jesus that morally attacked the money changers at the temple. That guy would not be in favor of our current health care reform because it still is profit-based.

    Profiting financially from people's misfortune is not in keeping with the philosophy we have been taught is associated with jesus.

    July 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  3. Bill Deacon

    Gospel Mt 9:9-13
    As Jesus passed by,
    he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
    He said to him, "Follow me."
    And he got up and followed him.
    While he was at table in his house,
    many tax collectors and sinners came
    and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
    The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
    "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
    He heard this and said,
    "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
    Go and learn the meaning of the words,
    I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
    I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."

    July 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • andrew.peter

      And the irony is that the righteous are not really righteous and the well are not really well. They are righteous only in their own perception. No room to humble themselves before God.

      July 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  4. Wrenn_NYC

    This article has no revelance, except to promote argument within its comments.

    Ask a Bronze age man from a minority opressed people, who's time period (aside from some medical miracles ascribed to him alone) and societies knowledge of medicine was a few herbal remedies and prayer( and for most illnesses the treatment was to simply wait until the person either got better or died) whether he'd want a government to be involved with nursing/helping people who were ill?

    Medical intervention barely existed. He'd have no idea.

    Our medical science, as it is, nothing like it existed 100 years ago. Let alone 2000.

    July 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  5. danabashed

    How can this squirreley network pen such bullshyttea and push it as news? This has to be the most ignoramus queston posed by this network ever to hit the airwaves!

    July 6, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  6. grllopez1

    Jesus did not heal universally, but rather healed individually as people came to Him or whom Him picked out of a crowd. And He did so to show people how their faith and belief in Him healed them. He also healed people to demonstrate His equality with God and to show His Father's mercy.

    July 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  7. A Candid Look

    Wow ... this is really stupi from a Cjristian point of view. in teh first place Christ did not nationalize that statement.... That was an individual direction... a personal instruction to Christians..., In this case the geovernment of the USA would be Ceasar.. So render unto Ceaser that which is Ceaser's and render unto God that which is God's... I have no idea how he would view Obama care... And I am not sure I care.... As a christian I contribute time, treasure and talent to the good works that are done by my parish. That includes support for the homeless in this country... We supply food, medical, a place to sleep (climate controlled)... The catch is you have to earnestly try to find work and begin the process of being self sufficient. So when someone asks me an idiotic question like this one ... I believe the answer would be

    Go forth an mnister to the masses, heal and help them....

    That means personally .... not via the almight proxy calle the Government of the United States of America...

    Ths health care law allows all of you, livberals and conservatives alike to keep your distance from those poor and unfortunate people... you can all sit around and admire yourselves for the wonderfull thing you did... But what you did was nothing..... you put your faith in money ..... not God.

    July 5, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Polergiest

      It's nice your church does charity work. But can your church effectively serve all the homeless in your entire town or county? I think it's impressive that your church can provide the homeless and poor with free healthcare too, somehow, but most can't.

      July 6, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • A Candid Look

      you are such a sad person... you read but you did not comprehend... try reading it again... see if you can understand this time... IF as some people have stated there are 2.2billion Christians in this world and each one of them followed the teachings of Christ??? Govermens would not matter... you only pick and choose what you want to comment on... you want only what you want and when you want it... you have no desire to work to achieve it or maintain it.. and all you can do is sit back and point out those that wont... and thats it they wont... Money will fix it thats the credo of the USA today....

      July 6, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • A Candid Look

      how many times, I wonder, have you worked in a place that provided shelter to the homeless? and I mean the donation of your time? how many times have you done so as a family? Has your 12 year old daughter served dinner to one of these people????? Mine have many times... given them the fell of belonging by even talking to them let alone being there to help at night if there are problems. I am a Catholic... and I am proud to be a Catholic... I live my faith and I do not buy it... No matter what you believe... you should live it and not buy it.

      July 6, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Mike

      Ellipses don't make you seem profound; they make it look like you lost your train of thought. Also, what is so candid about your opinion? It's totally predictable.
      Speaking of self-righteousness, let me remind church people that volunteering an hour or two per week does not give you the right to treat everyone else like dirt. Tip your server or stay home.

      July 6, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Mike

      WOW if I had a nickel for every period you've wasted on this thread, I could feed every child in Savannah.

      July 6, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      Sorry.

      If someone ELSE in your church family hadn't put the MONEY in the hands of the church to buy the supplies, you wouldn't have had them to give to the needy.

      So your point kinda fails.

      July 6, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  8. justsayin'

    short answer: no

    July 5, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Jim

      Not a believer. However, what did 'jesus' allegedly say? Render unto Ceaser? That it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? That believers should give away their goods and follow him? That care for the poor and less fortunate was core to his beliefs? That the lesser among us would inherit heaven? Yeah, real GOP values there. Jesus was a non-white socialist. There ya go. Not blond, blue-eyed, not a republican. In fact, it talks about him kissing other men. How does that sit with the gay bashers?

      July 6, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  9. Phil V.

    Being that I'm more agnostic than catholic, and feel that Jesus is more mythology than reality, I'd put aside the "magic Jesus" and deal more with Jesus the Man. Aside from all the "son of God" stuff (which wasn't even agreed-upon until Constantine forced a unified church power), Jesus was a political activist, first and foremost. He abhorred the idea of church and business mixing together, and fought for the care and dignity of all people, no matter their background or social affiliation. If you think that Jesus' message was to "leave it up to God," then you are a convenient Christian. The message of Jesus was that it is through our works, deeds, and most importantly our Intent, that we bring forth victory of positive energy over negative energy. That means, plain and simple, that you take care of each other based on your ability to do so. Some will do so with skills and effort – some with funding. No one who claims to have a relationship with Jesus would think otherwise – however if you put the Bible in front of the Teacher in your priority list, you just might – because you have been sadly misled.

    July 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Actually, a lot of the things Jesus is attributed as saying is some of the worst advice.

      July 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Phil V.

      @HawaiiGuest, yes – I totally agree; and thank you for saying that they were words "attributed" to Jesus, because all we have is second, third, or fourth-hand claims about what he said. I think it's reasonable to think Jesus existed, but beyond that, the only thing worth paying attention to is what the sum of his intentions were, which were basically a) don't be cruel to others just because they're different, b) help someone if you can, and c) participate in a way that makes the world better for more people than just you and yours. Obamacare is certainly no divine act (laughing), but in this day and age, some structure around ensuring good care is a compassionate and needed thing.

      July 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Phil

      The sum of his intention could be up for debate. He takes a lot more time talking about obedience to god and how he's the one way to heaven, and all kinds of other screwy things, and very little time comparitively talking about helping humanity.

      July 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • AH

      According to the gospels, Jesus was at one point deliberately set up by the Pharisees in a political "no-win" situation. While teaching before a large group of Jewish listeners, they asked Jesus to answer whether it was right for Jews to pay Roman taxes. If Jesus answered that it was not proper to pay taxes, then the Pharisees would report him to the Roman authorities and Rome would deal with him as one instigating rebellion against Rome. If Jesus answered that Jews should pay taxes, the Jews listening to him would see him as a Roman collaborator. We all know how Jesus answered. He took a Roman coin and asked them to tell him whose picture and inscription was engraved on the coin. When they answered that it was Caesar's he told them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

      July 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Phil V.

      Ah, words, words. Remember, Jesus was Jewish – he had his own faith tradition and again – away from any Messianic conversation, words attributed to him make it clear that he didn't plan on changing anything that came prior to him, which again is why I see him as a political activist – I don't subscribe to the notion that barbarism and contradictions of older texts were at the direction of a supreme being. Get away from all that though, and you've got a guy who railed against social injustice and mistreatment of the "have-nots," as we would say. There are better and clearer examples of this kind of thinking in more modern times, but none have the same power of imagery (fictional or otherwise). I think it does more honor to Jesus to recognize him as a man who died for powerful reasons than it does to pretend that he's a superhero. You don't have to go any further than Paul to see that the church's teachings (and power, and wealth) are far removed from his.

      July 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @AH

      Irrelevant babbling gets you absolutely nowhere.

      July 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      @Ah – Pearls before swine my friend.

      July 6, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  10. shep

    Republican Jesus was going to heal the leper, but when he couldn't produce an insurance card, Jesus let him die. Then he took his shoes.

    July 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  11. Alexander II

    You people still believe in Jesus...? them you should be reading "comic books"

    July 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  12. Linda

    I didn't read the article because the question is such a stupid one.

    July 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  13. Andrew.peter

    Regarding the "to the least of these" quote, it is taken out of context.
    This verse is from a passage describing the judgement day (Matt 25:31-46). Please read it in it's entirety, and hopefully you'll realize the real meaning.
    Jesus will separate the saved from the condemned. To the saved he will say, basically, thanks for giving me food, etc. And they will reply, when did we give you food? And Jesus replies (Matt 25:40) ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
    The only brothers of Jesus are those who are saved. He is not saying the least of all people. Sounds so uncompassionate, but it's the cold hard truth. The important thing is not giving to the poor unbeliever, it's doing this to show the Gospel and save souls.

    July 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • shep

      God bless the trailer park intellectual. They know not what they do.

      July 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.'

      Matthew 25:41-45

      Jesus is talking about everyone, Andrew.peter, you are a pharasee.

      July 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • andrew.peter

      @JustaNormalPerson
      I'm not sure what translation you're quoting from, but the phrase "among you" does NOT appear in any orthodox Christian translations (NASB, KJV, NIV, NLT, etc... out of 20 different translations). I even Googled that portion of your translation and could not find a translation that uses this. It is always translated either, "the least of these", referring to the previous noun (My brothers), or "the least of My brothers and sisters".
      The Greek phrase used in this verse is: elachistos (adj – least or smallest) toutōn (pronoun – of these). I don't see any other words indicated to shift the pronoun from the brothers to "everyone" (including unbelievers) as your translation claims.

      July 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • andrew.peter

      @JustaNormalPerson
      And I don't appreciate you calling me a pharisee (spelled correctly). That's not very gentle or compassionate of you. (Notice how I have spoken to you in a polite tone).

      July 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  14. Andrew.peter

    Read John 12:3- Doesn't Judas sound just like a democrat?! But read Jesus' reply at the very end. It doesn't sound to "compassionate".

    3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, *said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 7 Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

    July 5, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • shep

      I would love to be in the room when Mitt Romney tries to explain Joseph Smith to Jesus. And polygamy. And magic diapers. And planet Kolob. And posthumous baptisms.

      July 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Since god supposedly sent jesus to die, then Judas was doing god's work. Isn't god's plan always perfect? Therefore, Judas was acting in accordance with god's perfect plan. Christians and god alike should rejoice to have such a brave man represent them in this unsavory task. However, a democrat would have done it in exchange for food for people or healthcare for all. It takes what passes as a conservative today to betray someone for money.

      July 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Good to see you God free. How's the prayer life coming along?

      July 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • andrew.peter

      @GodFreeNow
      You're right that God ordained Judas to betray Him, and we do rejoice in this because without such an act we would have no forgiveness for our sins. Read Jesus and Peter's conversation when Jesus foretold to them He would be killed (matt16:22-23):
      22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
      And Jesus' words to His betrayer before He would be betrayed: (matt 26:24)
      For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
      God is Sovereign and Mighty, and therefore Satan has only the power allowed to him by the Lord God Almighty. No one can thwart the Lord's plans and He causes all things to work according to those plans from beginning to end. Though evil persists in this world, it is corrupt and indwelt with sin. The Lord God is at work in this world to bring glory to Himself out of it. We will never understand the details of His extensive plan, because He has not revealed it to His creation. We are the clay, and He is the potter, and is always Good!

      July 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  15. anon

    Jesus would have told people to help the poor, the fatherless and the widow. He would NOT have advocated the government get involved in forcing people to do these things. Jesus promoted invididuals showing charity from their OWN purses and of their own free will.

    July 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Andrew.peter

      Exactly!

      July 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Jesus did not put boundries on help. That is your selfishness speaking.

      July 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      So, are you going to list all of the things you do for charity? and how you personally talk to other individuals about their charity work?

      This is an excuse, pure and simple. People should do it, not Governments. Governments are MADE UP of people. They aren't separate. We have and set up governments to protect society. Promote society. Healthcare does both.

      July 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  16. Jeffrey Gilchrist

    Are you serious? Why bring Jesus into this argument?!? This is a foolish political decision made by Obama. I can safely say that Jesus never engaged in foolish solutions. And, frankly, you people at CNN are the first ones to denounce religion in politics, so what is your game here? Hypocrites!

    July 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  17. jgnewman

    How about some real honest forthright journalism. Jesus comparisons to Obamacare is just wrong. There is so much more to Jesus Christ, far more by far than Obama.

    July 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • brejusjo

      I feel the article is speaking more about mainstream, "traditional" Christian values in relation to the overall intent of the new health care reform. It doesn't once compare Obama to Jesus in any way.

      July 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  18. danny

    Dosen't look like he would have a choice now does it!

    July 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  19. Ran Hertee

    I believe a better question would be,
    Would Santa Clause support a global carbon tax?
    or even better
    Would Eric Cartman support (insert your problem here)
    This reporter got published and paid????

    July 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  20. PandoraDoggl

    You don't get to have it both ways. Either it's OK to use religious teachings to justify secular law, or it isn't. Either there's separation of church and state, or there isn't. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter what Jesus would have supported when it comes to the government, because the First Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing a religion and interfering with its free exercise. Liberals love talking about the wall of separation between church and state when their policy preferences conflict with Biblical teaching, but then when it comes to stuff like this, they think it suddenly becomes OK to pretend Jesus is on their side. The fact is, YOU are responsible for caring for the sick, the injured, the dying, the homeless, the orphaned, and the widowed, not some nebulous WE.

    July 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      The world has changed a lot in 2000 years. Maybe you should join us.

      July 5, 2012 at 7:48 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.