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. Mike

    Rabbi Jesus according to GOP philosophy would have been considered a liberal hippie socialist. Rabbi Jesus would have wanted single payer at the least.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  2. Jake

    Jesus would think public policy is a weak attempt to care for the poor. Public policy is basically hiring the government to do what you are unwilling to do. He would though be in favor of people sacrificing what they had and giving it directly to the poor and looking after their neighbor on a daily basis. Something I don't think many, neither republicans or democrats are really willing to do. Thy just want to look like they care

    July 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  3. Daniel

    I mean come on. Jesus is a story. But, to add insult to injury, he would not support it because Jesus was a conservative republican. He was the man who gave us the greatest story ever sold.

    July 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Mike

      He was a Rabbi and that's a fact.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  4. Mark

    I think it's sad that people still belive that Jesus existed, and that our politics are being compared using the horrible morals in the christian bible.

    July 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Jake

      Existed? There is more evidence that Jesus existed than Napolean! Nobody with a brain questions whether he existed they debate what he said and did and who he was. Geez

      July 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Jake

      Bad morals in the bible? Like, love your neighbor as yourself?

      July 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Toni

      I think it's sad that you think he DIDN'T exist. Whether you believe he is the Son of God or not, the truth is, he DID exist. He's written in history books. The Muslims and Jews called him a prophet. The Romans hated him. Son of God? Maybe... maybe not. The fact is, HE DID EXIST.

      July 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  5. TODAY


    July 11, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  6. p adelina

    how great your ignorance when Christ Jesus is Living Inside every human for the last Two Thousand Years with The Lord God Almighty In Person. If You want to use the Name Above All Names, make sure you know who you are talking about. If you don't know He is the Friend That Sticks Closer Than A Brother, The One Who Laid Down His Life For His Friends, and that He Sups and Lives for You Inside Your body, then read again, this Name You Refer To Is He Who Heals, Whose Stripes By Whom We Are Healed, He is The Great Physician and there would not even be a hospital in existence had men not chosen ignorance such as you are displaying here.

    July 11, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Mark

      first of all if jesus didn't make people sick, we wouldn't need a hospital, and I don't know about you, but my brother and friends are alot closer than an invisible being. Was a born again christian for 30 years, before finding the truth. It's not too late for you.

      July 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  7. Jm

    Yes Jesus would support Obamacare because he cares for the poor.

    July 11, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  8. Conrad Shull

    When you can rise from the dead, why do you need healthcare?

    July 11, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  9. m

    No Jesus wouldn't support it. He believed in goodness and kindness towards ALL! Not just the rich and not just the poor. He probably can't stand Obama!

    July 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Pat Federowicz

      After I read this article and some of the responses the words of Scripture that came to my mind are words attributed to Jesus in the scriptures, "WHATSOEVER YOU TO UNTO THE LEAST OF MY BRETHREN, YOU DO UNTO ME."

      July 11, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • b ibbisbo

      Jesus wasn't and is still not about hate. But he despises you who hate, Read the Bible.And what did he do for the rich man. When you read the word you will notice that he never healed a rich man, and that is because their money was their God, just as it is with today's rich, like Mitt and all his rich cronies who should be giving to the poor of this world. But remember Christ said, " it is easier for a camel to enter into an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. So if one is not going to heaven, he must be going to hell. Read Revelation and it will describe hell to you. And Christ helped and fed the poor every where he went, and taught his deciples to do the same. Yes Christ would love Obama because he is trying to do everything to help the poor. And your guy mitt wants to help the rich, and the sad thing is we know their destination in the end. Get your life together so you don't end in hell. See God is color blind, he is not allowing you into his Glory just because you are White. "The first shall be last, and last shall be first."

      July 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • mike

      The king of Jews would be insulted by the GOP, the GOP were called Romans in those days. And we know how much the Romans liked Jesus.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  10. Mary

    Jesus DID "provide universal healthcare", heal preexisting conditions, and exclude no one. If he were to come to earth today, he would disown the Catholic church and all the religious zealots who are dogmatic about their faith but have no compassion for the poor. Their mantra is "greed is good".

    July 11, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Conrad Shull

      The Catholic Church has no concern for the poor? What a fully stupid accusation. You clearly know little of the Church (or much else, I'd imagine).

      July 11, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Nancy

      You certainly don't know what you are talking about. Some of the best healthcare has been given (FREE) at Catholic hospitals to those in need.
      As for universal healthcare – this country ALREADY had healthcare in place for the needy – ever heard of MEDICAID. We are being forced to pay for a big government policy that will have little to do with healthcare – but alot to do with CONTROL.

      July 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • WASP

      @nancy: i do apologize, but read up on the problems with medicaid/medicare. the reulations just covering acceptance into those programs are out dated from 1996. i'm certain few people make that little anymore. i'm the head of household of a family of four, i work a decent job that provides basic needs with few luxuries. i bring home $2000 a month living in NYC, that is far from well off here, and i still got denied saying i "earned too much" ROFLMFAO. the system is broken and needs to be fixed and atleast obama had the guts to try, where others either ignored us working-poor or failed to do anything.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  11. Seb

    This may be the stupidest question and artile I have read in a very long time. Jesus would not take any political position. That is a man thing!!! Jesus was about his Father's work... Sharing and teaching True unconditional Love and Saving the lost souls that are down and beaten. To try to bring Jesus into a political conversation about healthcare is ridiculous. Jesus would just heal every body and feed every body and tell the politicians to stop thinking in terms of money and gain and start thinking in terms of Forgiveness & Love. This is really simple and not as complicated as humans, men/women make it.

    July 11, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  12. hardtocare

    This article is making the assumption that all Americans that vote are christian. On top of that lets talk about separation of what church and state. If you are a christian and you like obamacare, great! If you are a christian and you don't like obamacare, great! That is the beauty of this world you can disagree. I do how ever think it is interesting that people are stating their opinions and using Jesus' words to back them up just like an good zealot does if I say "Jesus told" everything is ok.

    July 11, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  13. mslisac363

    Oh my goodness, I know CNN has gone crazy. I'm not going to even read this one or look to see what idiot wrote it. Really.

    July 11, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  14. Lazlo

    Call me wrong but.....I truly feel that Jesus doesn't give a dam about "OBAMACARE". He has more pressing issues on his plate at the moment....

    July 11, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • mike

      The King of Jews would have imbraced anything that saves lives.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  15. thisbakkenlife

    Yes, Jesus DID "provide universal healthcare", heal preexisting conditions, and exclude no one. But here's the thing: He just did it. he never spent his time running for office, or appealing to the government to take more and better care of the sick and needy. He led by the example of DOING. If we all took a hard look and donated whatever time or money we could (not just what we want to, or what's easy, but really doing all we could), obamacare would have been laughed off the House floor before it even came up for a vote because it would not be necessary.
    Frankly, it's a sad statement about the individual (and yes, i'm looking in a mirror as i say this) that this whole discussion is even happening. Wake up, folks!

    July 11, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  16. popseal

    I never buy into politicians who sell their product when they use Jesus as their front man. They're like those 'Christian ' soap salemen (Amway) that join a church to gain access to the membership roll.

    July 11, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  17. itisreplican.net

    I found your blog site on google and verify a couple of of your early posts. Continue to maintain up the very good operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Searching for ahead to reading extra from you afterward!? itisreplican.net

    July 11, 2012 at 5:24 am |
  18. Jesusisalive

    Jesus would never allow people to promote a law that kills human beings, i.e. abortion, contraception. Period. Liberals and democrats and obama, do not try to fool people and force your "health" plan. We, the real Christians will never give up to fight against your evil intentions. This battle has not ended yet, you will see it in November!!!!

    July 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Susan

      You are sadly mistaken.

      July 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      The conventional wisdom is that Jesus was single and free of the urges of the flesh; yet, the NT suggests that he was married and father of children. (For example, Jesus was called, "Rabbi;" to be a rabbi in Jesus' day you needed (1) a trade or profession and (2) a wife. Furthermore, a precise marital regimen was prescribed for rabbis. (of course, if the wife of a rabbi died, a reasonable period of mourning was in order.) Thus, Jesus may have been more practical than many Christians suppose, at least before his preaching days.

      July 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • popseal

      AMEN......but don't expect 'Bam to leave office peacefully. Dictators never do!

      July 11, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • midwstrngrl

      that killing includes war too. Jesus taught the laying down of weapons and that his followers were not to swear allegiance to the kingdoms of the world that were passing away, but to Gods Kingdom. God instructed his followers at that time to NOT kill. Not even in war because Gods kingdom was now part of the heavens and this was Gods fight not mens. He would bring the change not his followers. and if you actually read the bible you see that debts were absolved every seven years, rich land owners were to leave crops around the edges of their fields for the poor to glean, poor people coming to the temple were allowed to give a lest costly sacrifice at the alter...I could go on and on about very "liberal" type viewpoints that are also in the bible.

      July 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  19. geane

    Miracles of the government is getting away so much money on war.E say that there is to give assistance to health.

    No Brasil health is free of charge at treatment of high complexity.

    July 10, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  20. malabata tanger

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    July 10, 2012 at 3:30 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.