I am proud of myself. Thus far I have managed to avoid paying attention to most everything related to the forthcoming election season. I know the Iowa Caucus was tonight. I know Romney and Santorum received the most support. I know Ron Paul fans will say there is some grand conspiracy behind his third place finish. That is all I want to know for now.
Inevitably the political machine will vacuum in all our attention. We are not there yet, so while critical thinking still suppresses our animalistic side let me ask those of us who are Christians to be very, very cautious about using Jesus to support our political causes.
Jesus was not a socialist or a free marker capitalist. Neither of those systems existed. Jesus was not big government or small government. In fact, he sought the theocracy of his Father. While I am sure Jesus supported the “least of these”, and he was on the side of life, we need be careful not to oversimplify the abortion debate into catch phrases and slander with a Jesus sticker attached. (He may not have been so keen on contraceptives either!) Jesus did honor women more than many men in his day, but I suspect he’d be puzzled by much of the rhetoric concerning a “right to choose”. Jesus said nothing on homosexual marriage, but if we are going to quote Jesus he did say a lot about divorce. (Be careful Newt Gingrich!) Jesus said nothing of boarder disputes or immigration, but he was a citizen of an oppressed people. Also, the Jews did have much in their Law about caring for the pilgrim and the alien in one’s land. Jesus did no violence and he told his disciple Peter to put down the sword, yet he failed to openly rebuke military personal he met instead serving even their needs.
What we do see is that Jesus did teach us a way of being human. He did not give us slogans. He did not give us a book of guidelines. At best, we can say the example of Jesus is principled. Jesus loved even his enemies and that is important. Jesus lived a life of self-sacrifice. Jesus put others before himself.
Now, on the other hand, let us avoid the silly slogan “Jesus for President”. Jesus is the “King of Kings”, not one of the Kings and certainly not the President of the United States. For us who confess that Jesus is reigning in the heavenly realm in the power of God the Father we should realize his current position of authority is far greater than the President’s.
Each Christian will seek to follow the Master in how they approach politics. Some of us will vote Republican, some Democrat, and some something else. Some of us will prioritize anti-war candidates, anti-abortion candidates, pro-economy candidates, and a dozen other causes because that is where our conscience and reasoning leads us. At the end of the day we are still part of the people of God, first and foremost. Our highest allegiance is “to a King and a Kingdom” as Derek Webb aptly put it. The ascension of Christ allows us to do our best on earth and then relax in the sovereignty of God made manifest through his resurrected Son. Jesus will still be on the throne when the election season ends, even if your cause or political party is not.
I think you would really like this year’s Renew Conference: http://www.renewconference.org.
This is exactly what we’ll be addressing.
This is a good post and I basically agree with it. Unlike you I follow the news pretty closely, but I mostly just find myself frustrated and confused. On some days I feel like a Republican disillusioned with the party, on other days I feel like abortion is the only thing stopping me from going Democrat (I registered independent). My pastor seldom makes political comments except to warn us to be civil when we discuss it.
Brian: Thanks for the reflection here. I think that we need to constantly explore the relationship between the Church and politics, if for no other reason than all of the current political structures in the West did not exist during Jesus’ time. I also appreciate your call to embrace one another. I remember being told by a close friend awhile ago that one could not be a Christian and vote for a Democrat. Ouch!
Anyhow, I think that Christians have many things to consider in the upcoming election: fiscal responsibility, human rights (social programs, the poor and disenfranchised, marriage rights issues, abortion, etc), foreign policy, legally enforced ethical codes, etc. The nature of democracy makes these considerations even more difficult: our political structure is built around the idea of compromise for the sake of progress (as opposed to deadlock). This can be seen as fundamentally antithetical to the nature of Christianity (I’m thinking of the title of Keith Green’s biography here…wow, Keith Green. I’m curious if anyone else knows of whom I speak).
Thanks again for the reflections. I also have a high amount of interest in Christians and politics, and wrote a post a few weeks ago using Augustine as a starting point to think through the movement of Christians at the time to get behind Newt Gingrich. I won’t post the link here (b/c that’s not the focus of my comment) but if you’re interested the post is titled: Augustine, Clinton, and Newt Gingrich Walk Into a Bar.
One last thing – did you mean to use theodicy where you did?
@Brian, your comments about how people tend to politicize Jesus are bang on.
However, there appears to be at least one thing we can say about Jesus’ politics; and you kind of hit upon it when you say “… he sought the theodicy of his Father.”.
While seeking His father’s theodicy, Jesus absolutely appears to be a monarchist; albeit one disinterested in the politics of man.
Good post, Brian!
@Will: That does look like an interesting conference.
@Joel: I appreciate the approach taken by your pastor! While I think abortion is a major issue I am skeptical that any modern politician seriously intends to bring change in that area. Like you, I am an independent.
@Brian G: I know of Keith Green! Also, thank you for catching “theodicy” where I meant “theocracy”. It is sad that some align Christianity with a particular party. This ignores that no one party is right on all the issues, many that you mentioned.
@Andrew: Indeed, Jesus’ Kingdom is not ‘from’ earth.
@Celucien: Thank you!
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