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. Shawn Adams

    It blows my mind why CNN and siding with the Democrats and the Obama administration? News media supposed to be neutral and reports the FACTS... not to peddle your liberal crap to fool people. people are not stupid .. they are hurting by unemployment, price of gas.. TAX and more TAX from OBAMA CARE!!!

    July 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  2. jrargueta

    God is Love. Jesus came to teach us what true love is. I'm sure Jesus would not hate Blacks (including Obama), Latinos, or Muslims. Not even illegal aliens (Good Samaritan parable)!. He wouldn't get cheap but would be willing to pay taxes, more so is they would be use to help the poor. And he would tolerate the hypocrite religious establishment (Pharisees and Sadducees; read Right-wing Catholic and Evangelicals) misleading the masses and making money in the process. Today, as in Jesus's time, religious leaders are more concern with their own religion's doctrines that with loving and helping the poor.

    July 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  3. I love cults

    Isn't the real question, what would Jesus do with the *Mormons*?

    July 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  4. amarjeet

    Jesus believed in curing healing Lepers with his own treatment & medication. The tradition is being followed the world over by missionaries from Great Britain, Canada & United States of America but outside their national boundaries. Jesus believed in universal healthcare to cure & heal the sick, help disabled & support human living for elders. Same concept is professed by Hindus, Sikhs & other multiple religions in India as well across the world supported by WHO with same concept & Policy including Red Cross operations in natural calamities. Obama care is no different but only for Americas or living in USA including guests. If someone gets sick in your house as a guest, will you turn him out or handover to human vultures? It is meanest act of man/woman going against the teachings in all Holy Scriptures including Quran. Even Pakistan refused to turn over Osman Bin Laden to USA as alleged by Pakistan Leaders being Guest in Pakistan with 5 wives & direction terrorism across the world which was not a Guest characteristics or act as per normal human & moral behavior.

    July 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Shawn Adams

      You are an idiot if you believe Jesus believes in Universal Health Care...

      July 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  5. abson alcin

    get Jesus Christ out of the mess

    July 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  6. pagan1gov

    I believe he would say so you could make way for others.
    Shelfish is no place for heaven.

    July 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  7. pagan1gov

    Many died before me waiting. Why should I expect to be any different is what you should be asking GOD!

    July 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  8. pagan1gov

    God would just heal us.
    If we keep waiting we wont need it.

    July 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  9. Drin

    Well said Debbie

    July 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • zippy51

      What a silly argument...no one knows what Jesus would have thought or thinks.. It's just nonsense. I think if it was between having mandated healthcare and someone dying I think he might choose the healthcare. But who the heck knows!
      I agree with a poster below...I miss separation of church and state..this is getting ridiculous

      July 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  10. Joyce Smith

    I miss the days when religon and politics were seperate.
    I also miss the days when very few people really cared about politics.
    I miss the days when pastors DIDN'T tell you who to vote for.

    Life was better then.
    I will be happy though when all the people who are highly educated and want to tell the government what to do win office. As well as those who like to judge everyone become preachers.

    July 7, 2012 at 3:24 am |
    • paul

      You don't have a clue and never Will but God loves you !

      July 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  11. UK Dave & my scientific community

    Is America a pilgrim hotspot?
    Then America's got problems!

    July 6, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  12. shep

    Republican Jesus healed the lepers. The ones with insurance cards. The non insured he left to die. And then he took their shoes. Cuz it's all about the Benjamins.

    July 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  13. citizen4

    Jesus said, "I was hungry and YOU fed me. I was sick and YOU took care of me." He did not say, "I was sick and you took money away from someone else, wasted most of it, and paid someone else to take care of me."

    July 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Thomas Guerra

      It's a pronoun problem (with more serious underlying issues): is it's ideal, our government represents US. WE voice our judgment throught the democratic process. I think it's fair to say that most of us believe that the system built and maintained by us works, especially after we intelligently voted to install a safety net for all of US. So WE are not taking away from someone else, we are all chipping into a pool in case any of us run into problems. You see? WE take care of US! Yay!. Or, to put it another way, WE take care of OURSELVES. ... it's kind of a team thing where WE are all on the same team, "Team US". ... you probably still don't understand. It's like trying to talk to a fish sometimes... but we love you anyway.

      July 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  14. Jon

    The man called Legion wasn't mentally ill. He was possessed by demons. How can a professor of theology get this wrong?

    July 6, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • ealgeone

      did you check out where he teaches....emory. a very liberal theological seminary.

      July 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Chase

      FYI : If you lived 2,000+ years ago anyone with a mental illness would be considered possessed by demons!! Since we now live in the 21st century (advent of technology) it's considered a mental illness!!! Heck if you lived 50 years ago you would have been seen as being possessed!

      And yes I am a Catholic who studied theology !!!!!

      July 7, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Jon

      Maybe it's not that they called mental illnesses demons 2000 years ago, but that we call demons mental illnesses today.

      July 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • jwt

      Demons – there are no demons phycically in the mind, but there can be mental illness physcally in the mind.

      July 7, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • JoeNavy

      Just like fairies there are no such things as demons...so why even bring this up Jon?

      July 7, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Jon

      I bring it up because the story was mentioned by a professor at a school of theology, who would claim to be a Christian and believe the Bible, and yet he blatantly rejects the rest of that passage where a herd of swine suddenly stampedes off a cliff after Jesus casts the demons into them. If he believes the Bible, how can he call that a mental illness? Furthermore, if we reject the literal existence of Satan and demons, how can we affirm the literal existence of God or angels?

      July 8, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  15. andrew

    If you claim to be a Christian, you support this new Health Care Act. If you find the act angers you, then you are only pretending to be Christian. This act is about saving poor people's lives by providing them access to health care. Christians celebrate the act and scold those who want to repeal it. Those swearing to repeal the act are more concerned with other things and NOT saving lives. Christians are all about helping the poor. If you can't bring yourself to do that, then you are not a Christian.

    July 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      What if it doesn't save anybody's life that would not already have been saved?

      July 6, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • ealgeone

      sorry andrew....no way. obamacare supports the murder of the unborn child and ultimately will support euthanasia. no way in the world Christ would ever, ever support those options.

      July 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @Bill Deacon

      What if? And what if all those dying people have a much more pleasant ending and death than otherwise.
      Really, I fail to see your point.

      July 7, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  16. Peggy Munro


    July 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  17. FajitaBob

    If Raschke doesn't know whether Jesus would be against abortion, he has no business professing ANYTHING.

    July 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  18. FajitaBob

    Of course Jesus would not condone STEALING from those who earned it. The end does not justify the means. He would, however, expect all of us to care for others as our means allow. that is what the collection plate is for at church, where over 97 percent of that donated goes directly to help those in need. At my church, we also go to neighbors homes to offer help, and work at the local foodshelf, etc. Not that I personally am doing all I can (nobody does ALL they can), but the people I see at church work very hard to help others. I am proud of them, and I believe THAT is what Jesus would support.

    July 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Chase

      Jesus was put to death because if you read the (Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) bible Jesus was a healer/rabbi who went against the establishment/church and was a champion for those during his time that didn't (poor, sick & not accepted in society) have a voice.

      July 7, 2012 at 5:57 am |

    Jesus would not support Obama Care. He is our healer, through his stripes we are healed. So (NO) The LORD would not support no Obummer Care. JESUS IS OUR HEALER AND COMFORTER.

    July 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  20. debbie

    When Jesus was here on earth he took no part of worldly affairs and that included taking sides in political issues. Sure he fed the poor at times and healed people and raised a few from the dead, but that was not his mission. He always said he was here to do his Father's will. To spread the good news about his Father's Kingdom which is a real kingdom. Jesus was trying to get people to understand that this real kingdom or governement was going to be here on earth one day and when that happened there would be no more pain, suffering, wars or diseases and death would be the last enemy of man that would be eradicated for good. When even asked should we pay taxes, Jesus asked for a coin and taking the coin he asked people around him, "who's face do you see here?" and the people said Ceasar's. So Jesus said "give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's and God's things to God" So yes we as Christian;s pay the tax because that shows we live by the principles of the Law of Moses' which was of course given to him by Jehovah God. But we were to give to Ceasar what he asked. As long as Ceasar or the courts, or laws don't ask us to do something that is contrary to God's laws and will, we can do them. But no Jesus would not have gotten involved with politics or taken anyone's side if he was here now. He didin't go it then and no reason to believe he would do it again now. He will come soon enough and rid this world of all evil and those that put themselves against God and then only the righteous will live and live in true peace and security on a paradise earth. The way it was meant to be from the beginning.

    July 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • JoeNavy

      Jesus died LOL!!!

      July 7, 2012 at 11:47 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.