What would Jesus do?

“How should the nation help the estimated 50 million Americans who can't afford health insurance? Christians are as divided about this question as others. Many cite Jesus, but come up with completely different conclusions.”
- CNN.com home page promo

The following is a thought-provoking and balanced post from CNN’s “Belief Blog.” (LINK) I have added my own comments below the article.

Would Jesus support health care reform?

By John Blake, CNN
March 31, 2012

(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 it into the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s hearings on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. (BJ Note: Not the Act itself, but one provision of the 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.

“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.

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 by 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, who is also a multicultural professor at Fordham University in New York.

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.

“Some note that charity is very good at the moment of emergency relief but it doesn’t change anything 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."


I would like to add a few thoughts.

I disagree with the last quote. I believe the political party which is most committed to the social and physical welf-being of ALL Americans is most aligned with my interpretations of Jesus’ teachings.

I do not understand the tendency of some Christians to judge harshly the poor. The subject Jesus spoke of more than any other – some 700 times in the New Testament – was “the poor.” Most notably, he said “For the poor always ye have with you." (John 12:8 KJV)

There is a lingering Calvinistic belief that if you work hard enoough, you won't be poor. My daddy stood in one spot for 28 years and made brooms for Mississippi Industries for the Blind. When he made a dozen brooms, he received a token. At the end of the day, he turned in his tokens to determine his pay. If that's not hard work, I don't know what is. I was an editor who worked deadline in a daily newspaper newsroom. If that's not hard work, I don't know what is. Oh, we were blessed, but neither my daddy nor I could  count ourselves among the wealthy.

Our government provides “safety nets” which lift our poor out of poverty and starvation, which in history have fueled bloody revolutions in countries which provided no such compassionate assistance.

In bringing up the history of persecution of Christians by “state religions,” the authority on evangelicals is making a clear case for “separation of church and state,” so why don’t evangelicals understand this principle set forth by Thomas Jefferson?

Finally, I spent five months last year in pain. Over three of those five months I had medical tests, X-rays, ultrasounds and even a nuclear scan before diagnosis and treatment restored me to my normal good health.

These tests were ordered by a primary care physician and cost around $12,000. Fortunately, I was insured. I was insured by Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D (drugs) – both voluntary insurance policies for which Americans pay a monthly premium.

I paid $700 out of pocket. The insurer – the government – paid a portion of the $12,000, but for the most part charges were voluntarily “written off” by the medical providers.

The point is: I could never have paid $12,000, so I would have just had to continue to suffer the pain.

No Christian I know would have paid the $12,000. No church I know of would have paid the $12,000. No nonprofit charity I know would have paid the $12,000. Which is why I said then and say now, “Thank God for Medicare.”

My conclusion comes in the form of a question:

Where would America be today if our government had not stepped in to lift Americans out of desperation – from FDR to Lyndon Johnson?



* S.C.O.T.U.S. - Sifting Controversial Opinions to Understand Scope of the Supreme Court of the United States’ hearings and subsequent decision on the constitutionality of the “mandate” provision of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There are quite often reasons for a Supreme Court decision which seemingly don't have anything to do with the exact complaint in the case. In the case of the "mandated coverage" provision of the health care reform law, the Court will be looking at areas such as "states' rights," legislative powers to tax and to regulate commerce, and so forth.

Above all, the Court must look at precedents – decisions handed down in previous cases. According to David Orentlicher in an analysis for CNN, “70 years of judicial precedents provide strong grounds for upholding the law.” With titles to choke a business card printer, Orentlicher is the Samuel R. Rosen professor of law and co-director of the Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Emphasis, I suppose, should be on “law and health.”

In the meantime, the media are portraying the case before the Court as an examination of the constitutionality of the entire law.

Not so.

The Court is focusing on four key issues (LINK):

• Constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require Americans to purchase health insurance while providing assistance to those who cannot afford it.
• Whether the individual mandate is a "tax," thereby limiting authority of the courts to immediately decide the mandate question.
• Whether other parts of the law can survive if the mandate is struck down.
• Federal vs. state conflict over expansion of the cooperative Medicaid program.

Although I never subscribed, I received an email from Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC), which I'm sure has gone out to many South Carolinians with email. Its title: "Obamacare: A Trail of Broken Promises." What a load of, yep, propaganda, none of it applicable to the question before the High Court. Senator Graham, I am your constituent who demands citations for the claims you make. As for your claim that “Obamacare” is wrecking our economy, you had a hand in that yourself when you rubber-stamped President Bush’s expenditures. Regarding your complaint about the cost of Medicaid, God forbid if South Carolina concerns itself with the health of its poor. I remind you, sir, that you represent them, too.  And, while you claim “Obamacare” – a derisive term – has left “a trail of broken promises,” you fail to mention that many of its provisions don’t go into effect until 2014.

Some light is being shed on this issue. Kudos to CNN.com for taking an objective approach in its reporting, for pointing out the entire law is not under SCOTUS scrutiny and for featuring on its home page stories highlighting ways the health care law actually helps Americans. Here's a typical promo:

"Violet McManus, 3, suffers from seizures that stop her breathing. Until the health care reform law, lifetime caps threatened to eliminate her insurance. Now the Supreme Court is hearing a case that could throw out the law."

It is important, at this point, to explain why the “mandate” is necessary:

In order to force insurance companies to eliminate their “pre-existing conditions” restrictions, they will be required to charge the same fees for everyone ONLY if the public is REQUIRED to purchase insurance. As Orentlicher explains:

“Otherwise, many people would wait until they suffer an illness or injury to buy their policy. In other words, the individual mandate is simply designed to prevent freeloading that would cause the pre-existing conditions provision to fail, and the Constitution gives Congress the power to make sure its laws can be implemented effectively.”

Finally, Republican thinking seems to be, in my opinion, a dichotomy of delusion. "Obamacare" is a name-calling device of propaganda, which interpreted means "if you don't like Obama, you won't like this law." You can bet the right-wing are the first to complain about “freeloaders” not paying their medical bills causing expenses ultimately to be passed on to policyholders through higher premiums. This is exactly what the “mandate” is designed to prevent. But, instead of looking at this law objectively, they’d rather frame it in terms of a wrecked economy and so-called “death panels.” I dare say few have actually studied the law.

Before you go, stop for a minute and learn the makeup of the Supreme Court:

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito comprise the Court’s conservative wing. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor are considered its liberal wing. Elena Kagan is new enough to the Court that her leanings are not statistically known – she had to recuse herself from a large numbers of cases due to her former role as solicitor general – but she is expected to join the liberal wing. Anthony Kennedy, while conservative, is seen as the swing vote on the Court, often voting with the liberal wing. (Clarence Thomas votes the way Antonin Scalia votes – 92 percent of the time according to SCOTUSblog.com!)

With President Obama’s re-election possibly hanging in the balance, will the Supreme Court postpone its ruling until after the November election? If a ruling comes down in June, I cannot wait to read the opinions of the Court and of the individual justices to determine if they are based on “the merits of the case” or if this will be a repeat of what happened on December 12, 2000.dex.html?hpt=hp_t2


Breaking down the real 'bullshit'

• Rick Santorum makes a statement in Wisconsin.
• A New York Times reporter asks him a question about the statement.
• Santorum tells the reporter, “I didn’t say that,” and claims the reporter is distorting his words.
• Santorum tells the Times reporter, “Quit distorting my words. It’s bullshit.”
• Santorum then claims the reporter “attacked” him.
• The thing is, and it’s on the record, Santorum did say it.
• He then becomes the hero of the gullible and uninformed by telling Fox News viewers: “If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican the way I look at it."
• Santorum then throws up a fund-raising plea on his Web site asking supporters to contribute $30, which he says is the price of a subscription to The New York Times.

CNN's Political Ticker, March 27, 2012:

(CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Monday defended his profane comment directed at a New York Times reporter and used the interaction in a fundraising pitch.

"If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican's (sic) the way I look at it," Santorum said on Fox News. "It was just one of these harassing moments, and after having answered the question a few times, sort of comes back with the same old fashion, the same old spin."

"I just said 'Okay, I've had enough of this you-know-what,'" he added.

Team Santorum invoked the back-and-forth in a fundraising email to supporters, asking them to contribute $30, what they said is the price of a subscription to the Times.

"I criticized Romney and Obama for their outrageous healthcare legislation. Predictably, I was aggressively attacked by a New York Times reporter all too ready to defend the two of them, and all too ready to distort my words," Santorum wrote in the email. "Let me assure you, I didn't back down, and I didn't let him bully me."

Santorum accused the Times' Jeff Zeleny of distorting his words following a question from the reporter Sunday night.

Zeleny asked Santorum if he thinks Mitt Romney is the "worst Republican in the country to run against Obama," something he said while campaigning in Wisconsin.

In response, Santorum said "I didn't say that. You guys are distorting what I'm saying … Quit distorting my words. It's bulls***."

But shortly before the questioning, at a campaign stop in Racine, Wisconsin, Santorum said, "Why would we put someone up who is uniquely - pick any other Republican in the country. He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama. Why would Wisconsin want to vote for someone like that?"

The former Pennsylvania senator has made criticism of the national health care law and its similarities to the plan passed while Romney served as governor of Massachusetts a centerpiece of his campaign.

His latest "worst Republican" charge came after he was criticized last week for suggesting there are so few differences between Romney and Obama that "we may as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk," with the Republican frontrunner.

In his defense, Santorum said he would never vote for the president, but that "Romneycare" makes his rival uniquely unqualified to run against Obama in the general election.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report.


Welcome to Jonathan Swift’s “Confederacy of Dunces,” Saint Santorum.