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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.

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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. patw2100

    Jesus would not support a liberal socialist program like Obamacare.

    July 15, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  2. bob

    I think CNN needs to interview those that Jesus healed or feedand ask them which heath care they'd prefered Obamas or Jesus anyone that can make the blind see and the lame walk and cure disease let alone feed 5,000 people with 5 loafs and two fish I think I'd follow Jesus

    July 15, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. Ron

    Jesus would bit#h slap Obama!!

    July 15, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  4. David Evan Karasek

    How is the need for government to be involved n heath care inspired? Or the need for the government to do something about joblessness? The answer is this: private enterprise on its own messed up. When the President's mother was fighting over denied coverage on her death bed ObamaCare was inspired. As folks line up in charity tents set up by Doctors Without Borders - right here in America, the richest country n earth - anyone with any measure of compassion is inspired. So that is how the federal government got involved. Regarding what would Jesus do: If Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple what do you think he would think of the money spent to buy our beliefs? Consider how much money has been spent to change public thinking on the health care issue alone.

    July 15, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  5. dontbow

    He already gives us healthcare reform but not obamas freeloader society helathcare plan. That is one the dumocrats and obama will have to take responibility for after it triples our debt in the coming years if not repealed.

    July 15, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  6. jack

    Over and over again Jesus is quoted in the gospels as saying that sickness and disease comes from evil spirits. So who cares what this primitive and uneducated "holy" man thought?

    July 15, 2012 at 2:04 am |
  7. karllinen

    I believe Jesus would support an overhaul of the entire world...if we're speaking of the Biblical Jesus.

    I do not believe he would support Capitalism or exploitation of the illnesses of humans for profit in the health care or insurance industries, so I suppose that would exclude the Affordable Care Act.

    Free health care, Free education, vocational training, apprenticeship or whatever it takes to give someone a career, housing without profits, transportation without profits, food without profits, no Wall Street profits, no usury of any king...this would get the support of Jesus.

    July 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Ava Herron

      Jesus healed all who came to him. and still does through his people. We only have to trust Him.
      ASk and though shall receive. Ava

      July 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • TZToronto

      "Free" is not the answer. Healthcare, even in the most socialist countries, is not free. Those who provide it are paid. The hospitals in which it is provided charge for their services. The difference is that the payments come from the government, not from the patient. Now some would say that praying for health care will result in health care, and that may be true. The problem is that the answered prayer might not appear as a bolt of lightning and a boom of thunder that says, "I am the answer to your health care prayer!". It might just appear as something like . . . Obamacare. Who's to know?

      July 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  8. Conrad

    I can only repeat what I have said before. If only people would understand and practice the Law of Reciprocity we would have a world at peace and have the resources to heal the sick and feed the hungry. Problem is most people do not understand the Law of Reciprocity and therefore don't practice it out of fear of being taken advantage of. I had an Evangelical scoffingly laugh at me when I mentioned this great commandment. He was too busy preaching his 'end-times, rapturing babble.'

    July 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  9. rwroten

    But we are the government, the people. We are also God's hands, the people. We often make bad decisions about what we eat, don't eat and also make bad decisions about healthcare, what to get or not to get. We can't always trust ourselves to making the right decisions and need advice and recommendations. This is something we need: advice even though we often reject it (e.g. smoking kills, fat foods lead to unhealthy lives, etc.). So if the government makes an effort to give us a plan to cover health for millions who don't have it, then we need to support it because we are the people who also need guidance and support and who often make wrong choices.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  10. Vidyashanti

    There are two main characters in the Bible, Jesus and the Devil.
    All gospel stories undoubtedly prove that Jesus was a socialist at heart- meaning caring for poor, disadvantaged & suffering people that is what Obamacare is all about.
    Devil is a personification of Capitalism – rich guys. Republicans are their modern day counter part. Trying to suck the poor,old, weak people to feed their rich friend.

    July 14, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  11. Amurkan

    Jesus would hate Obamacare. He would only accept Single Payer Socialized medicine. Sorry!

    July 14, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  12. dyslexic dog

    the upcoming election will prove two points.
    (a) that christians are believers according to convenience, and
    (b) that republican christians are republicans first and christians second

    Romney is a mormon which is a religion that, as well as co-optingsome parts and characters from the bible word for word, also contradicts and makes a mockery of so many key christian religious beliefs that it should be a bigger issue to christians than gay marriage and abortion. But ... the same way as christians always pick and choose which parts of the bible to loudly proclaim and which parts of the bible to pretend don't exist ... they will ignore all these issues and vote for Romney anyway.

    What do you think God/Jesus will think of you if you give your vote to a man who truly believes that he will one day be a God? Or a man who truly believes that Joseph Smith, a 19th century reknowned con-man, is an equal of Jesus?

    Go on christans, pretend you never read this post. Find some obscure bible quote that will justify you supporting a cult. What a joke!

    July 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      A very sober and responsible school of rabbis were, and perhaps still are, completely convinced that some sections of the Bible were inspired by Satan in an effort to discredit God. So, of course Christians are wise to pick and choose or they would end up worshipping Satan in God's name. The problem is, how is one to choose?

      July 13, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • crowebar11

      Jesus stated: I will ask the Father (GOD) to send the comforter to lead and guide you. The guide is your conscience.
      You either listen to your conscience or you deny it. It is nobody's fault for your decision making other than yourself.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  13. Primewonk

    If Jesus and his daddy really are omnipotent, they are responsible for illness and disease in the first place. If they had any balls, they would use their magical powers to just poof away sickness.

    July 13, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      That is an infantile suggestion and shows a limited understanding of the theological process of redemption. Read C.S. Lewis "The Problem of Pain" and try again.

      July 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      @Bill Deacon, that is not an infantile suggestion at all.

      If Jesus and his daddy really are omnipotent, they are responsible for illness and disease in the first place. If they really do love us, why wouldn't they use their magical powers to just take away sickness?

      don't quote me any scripture, answer the question!

      July 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      A perfect god created everything and everything this perfect god created was good.

      So that means the following created by this perfect god are good,

      1) The Devil, a perfect god created everything and everything this perfect god create is good
      2) Malaria,
      3) Dengue
      4) Polio
      5) Small Pox
      6) eColi
      7) Flesh eating bacteria

      An imperfect Genome that Gives rise to,
      1) Down Syndeome
      2) Cystic Fibrosis
      3) Neurofibromatosis
      4) Hemophilia
      5) Tay-Sacs Disease
      6) Sickle Cell Disease

      This is the short list of these good things created by an all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, all-caring god

      Since god is all-caring and all-powerful god could just poof these away. Ooooops, i forgot these things are good.

      July 14, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • crowebar11

      To Bill Deacon: your beliefs on redemption, deviant demographics, and economic concerns..........in other words, your
      worries about life............Jesus answered you directly: do birds worry about where their next meal will come from?
      You are working the WORDS, just like everybody else. All answers lay within. Look there. Be still.

      July 14, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  14. TomPaine

    The Republicans have hijacked Christians primarily using the issues of abortion and gay rights. If Christians would widen their field of vision and look at who is interested in actually helping the less fortunate (you know, like Jesus preached), they might realize there other people to listen to.

    July 13, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      If the right has highjacked Christianity the left certainly left the opportunity to them by embracing not only culturally deviant demographics but economically leftist ideologies as well. You can't expect conservative people to embrace flamboyancy and fiscal irresponsibility combined with attacks on religion.

      July 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • TomPaine

      @Bill Deacon – Both parties have a nutjob fringe, but maybe we should ignore the fringe and focus on the mainstream. I contend the Democrat philosophy conforms much more closely to what Jesus would have us do than does the Republican philosophy. As to whether or not following Jesus's ideas will cost more money–probably, but does that make it wrong?

      July 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Agreed both sides do have their "nut jobs", however it doesn't take much observation to realize that both sides are not equal in this respect. Far from it.

      The right is far more prolific and vitriolic in putting forth nonsense, Ad Hominem attracts, name calling, innuendo, etc. All you have to do is listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, FOX NEWS in general, et al.

      Using the argument that since both sides have "nut jobs" to imply that both sides are equal is fallacious logic.

      July 14, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • TomPaine

      @ElmerGantry – I wasn't implying equality; in fact, just the opposite. I agree the right-wing nutjobs are more vitriolic than the left-wing nutjobs (which is ironic, since most will claim to strongly believe in a religion that stresses loving your neighbor), but my point was that we should ignore the nutjobs of both parties and evaluate which party's mainstream ideas conform most closely to Jesus's message. I think it's pretty clear Democrats win that contest.

      July 14, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  15. mickey1313

    jesus would probibly suport public option, single payer system before obamacare, but would take it over the curent pay as you go system.

    July 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  16. Elliot

    Luke 14:12-14 He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

    Matthew 25:41-45 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.'

    July 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • crowebar11

      Elliot: within these scriptures are the Father's concern for his creation. He equiped the comforter to "speak to us" so the confusion would disapate. Be still and you will know.

      July 14, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • crowebar11

      To add: "the knowing" is for you and you alone. It is not for you to "give it" to someone else. Nor for them to "give it to you"
      They are as equiped as you to "get it". It is internal. Be still

      July 14, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  17. whatever

    What would Mickey Mouse do?

    July 12, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  18. Jon Boston

    Jesus would do whatever your interpretation of the bible says he would do. So many different churches so many different beliefs. It is convoluted. Ultimately Republicans talk about God, Jesus, caring for others, sharing with each other. But as soon as they walk outside of that church, its every man woman and child for themselves. It is ridiculous.

    July 12, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  19. statistician

    Thanks very much Tom Prichard for a great write. You quote Luteran Prichar as dsaying that the free market can do a better job than Obamacare. Well it has had over a century time to do it. And millions of Americans are without it. So pastor Prichard should take sociology and science courses before mixing the Bible with politics. Besides, with all those widely differeing opinions of what Jesus would do, it's CRAZY! I guess that the Bible is several paradigm shifts away from us today and so very ambiguous for our times. As conditions change, recommendations change.. What Jesus said then cannot be transfered to us with any certainty – – especially with pasters that make claims about freemarket doing a better job, when history show that it has failed miserably in comparison to European versions of Öbama care".

    July 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  20. Gecul

    Who gives a rats ass about the opinion of jesus? What kind of monster is it that has the ability to heal the sick, but, doesn't do it?

    July 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      an imaginary monster

      July 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • crowebar11

      Gecut, you are looking at this senario through a telescope; you are removed from the greater picture, zeroed in on one spot, not able to encompass all of GOD's design and where it is headed. I suggest you re-evaluate your concept of EVOLUTION
      and what it takes to evolve.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • David

      The US healthcare system is that monster

      July 15, 2012 at 10:41 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.