Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Politics of Jesus

There are plenty of t-shirts, buttons, and bumper-stickers which claim to know the politics of Jesus. Over the last few decades, the Republican Party has had Jesus pretty much to themselves, as Democrats ran from religion like the plague. But things are changing. Recent books from Jim Wallis, former President Jimmy Carter, and other left of center Christians are urging the left to get with Jesus in order to get in touch with its constituency. But is Jesus a liberal or a conservative? Is it even appropriate to ask?

Take this sign above. I like the fact that it says Jesus is a liberal and not was a liberal - that's an interesting theological statement. But the tiny print says "BeatBush." Does Jesus want Bush impeached? Romans 13 and the doctrine of God's sovereignty would seem to indicate that it was God's will that George Bush be elected president. For a liberal, this is a sign of God's displeasure, but for a conservative it is a sign of God's blessing.

From a biblical perspective, Jesus was definitely a liberal. He believed in life after death, the resurrection, a spiritual understanding of the Sabbath, and other "radical" ideas one can read in the Sermon on the Mount. He cared for the poor, ate and spoke with untouchables, and infuriated the religious leaders with his condemnations of their privileged positions and perks. But then he would say, "Render unto Caesar...." He disappointed the masses by not calling for a political revolution to oust the Romans. He seems even conservative when it comes to the social order. There is no talk of equal rights, the evils of slavery, the position of women in society. Jesus regularly uses the word porneia to describe sinful sexual relations. This is a very conservative word which refers to all sexual relations outside of the marriage of a man and a woman.

From a modern perspective, Jesus doesn't seem to perfectly fit into the either of the two major party platforms. So I would say that the above sign is deceptive and wrong. I would also say that the Republican Party is not a church, and that it exercises selective deafness toward many of Jesus' social and spiritual teachings. Perhaps all of this explains why I have such a difficult time voting. Neither party, to me, seems to reflect the values I have imbibed from the New Testament. Politicians use Jesus to sell themselves and their positions, but this is always a dangerous tactic. For we are warned from very ancient times, not to take the name of the Lord in vain.


Blogger Peter said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Jesus is -- dare I say it? Beyond liberal and conservative. Much as we hate to hear it, there is good work and sin in all political parties, and Jesus is not about setting up a political kingdom as the first century, or we, commonly, think of it. Jesus is the Holy God. He is concerned with His Glory. And in His Mercy, He has chosen to redeem a people for Himself and to His Glory. That, therefore, is what we are to be about -- be about doing those things that hallow God's Name and bring about the Kingdom -- not politics, but the recognition and submission to the Holy Sovereign Goverance of God.

2:05 PM  
Blogger PaulQBall said...

I attended a Christian college graduation where President Bush was invited to speak. While it is exciting to hear, in person, any president speak, there were many that though it was an abomination to Christianity. There where others that got the idea. There were a number of stickers on robes and mortar boards expounding “God is not a Republican or Democrat.” While it was not my graduation I did not get the opportunity to get a sticker but I like the idea.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Miss Eagle said...

We should remember that we are advised to be doers of the word and not hearers only and that not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

There are all kinds of religious-political categories, Scott. Very few of them would reject Jesus' teaching on caring for the poor. The question is always WHO should do this, and HOW?

Check out Marvin Olasky's book, The Tragedy of American Compassion.

I'm pretty sure Jesus would not approve of aid for the poor coming in the form of checks every month from a government that sneaks the money out of every worker's paycheck every week. Not what he had in mind with the left hand not knowing what the right is doing...

With tongue firmly in cheek, Jesus is a Republican.

To say it better, Christian Republicans understand Jesus better: the poor are not to be used as an issue/tool by politicians to get or keep power; they are to be faced and helped on the more local level, with private generosity and charity instead of government.

This does not mean I don't care for the poor. We agree on the end game, but disagree on how to get there. I realize there are many secular Republicans who are greedy and exploit our capitalism, but please don't assume Christian Republicans buy into this and also don't care for the poor, just because they don't agree with how to do so. They see another way.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

You challenged me to think! Thanks

9:27 PM  

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