Thursday, May 28, 2009

Would Jesus Join a Political Party?

This question is from Wifey:

If Jesus were alive today, would he be a Democrat, Republican, or something else all together, based upon what we know of his character and life lived? Do you think if he were on earth now, could he have his ministry separate from politics?

This is my third day in a row writing about political topics. If anyone out there is getting tired of it, be patient. This is the last day for a while. I get really nervous when I talk about politics. It’s not that I’m not into politics. It’s because I’m way into politics.

It’s the one area where I consistently get emotional about my opinions. I wish I didn’t. I almost always look back on it later with regret. So I want to try to be as non-partisan as possible, and I’ll probably do a poor job of that. I don’t have a problem with people being outspoken concerning politics. We desperately need citizens that are willing to stand up and voice their opinions. I’m just going through a stage where I don’t feel like I’m as articulate as I’d like to be on politics, despite the fact (and partially because of the fact) that I spend in excess of five hours most days hearing and reading about politics.

Enough of my soft underbelly. Let’s get to the question.

I think if Jesus were alive today, a lot of Christians would expect him to be a Republican. There’s the abortion thing, the gay marriage thing, he’d get to go to political rallies with guys like James Dobson and Rick Warren. Ah! And let me give you Isaiah 62:2-3.

“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like
him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.”

See? He likes red.

I’m sure a lot of people would expect him to be a Democrat too. He prioritized the poor, established a universal health care program by giving his disciples authority over disease, and gave out free food to large groups of people with no expectations.

Don’t most people sort of think he’d be whatever they happen to be? I don’t.

Seriously, I really don’t.

Like I said, I’m way into politics. And while Jesus couldn’t help but be involved, he tried to avoid unnecessary conflict whenever he could. The best example of this is a story that can be found in Luke 20:19-26 (and also in Matthew or Mark).

The Pharisees were sitting around one day trying to figure out how to really nail Jesus, and somebody came up with a really great idea. They masqueraded as Greeks and tried to trick Jesus into saying something that would get him in trouble with the Roman government.

“Hey Jesus!” (I’m paraphrasing.) “You are SO smart. Not even like normal smart, but like REEEALLY smart. So riddle me this. Do I seriously have to pay taxes to Caesar, since you’ve got that ‘kingdom not of this world’ thing going on? Whaddaya think?”

Oh, but Jesus was REEEEEEEALLY smart. He knew what was going on. He asked them to take out a coin.

“See that picture on the coin there, guys?” Jesus asked.


“And who’s it a picture of?”

“Caesar,” they answered.

“Good,” Jesus said. “That’s probably why his name is under the picture, huh?”

They nodded.

Then Jesus smiled out of the corner of his mouth, winked, and said “How about this? You give Caesar what’s his. And give God what’s God’s.”

Let’s dissect that a little bit. Jesus was the Messiah. He was supposed to set up his own government and save the Jewish people from their oppressors. They wanted the Messiah to kick some Roman butt and fly the Jewish flag right where they stood.

Governments get taxes, right? So if Jesus was this revolutionary Messiah figure that was supposed to set up his own kingdom right in the midst of Roman oppression (Incidentally, this is exactly what he did), people on his side ought to help his government by paying their taxes to him, right?

On top of that, everyone was expected to confess Caesar as lord. That’s what the whole thing in Romans 10:9 is about when it say if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you’ll be saved. When the Romans entered a new area, the inhabitants had to confess “Caesar is lord” before they could inherit the Pax Romana. If anyone refused to do that, they were executed.

So this was a HOT political topic. And Jesus chose not to get involved. He threw the question back on them instead. Why? Because the issue wasn’t on his agenda.

When I was growing up, my mom used to say, “Save your guns for the big battles.” I try to do that, but I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve wasted my share of ammunition along the way. I remember somebody in college once saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” (A couple of you probably remember that one.)

I think it would be unfair to say Jesus never had to deal with a two party political system. In Jesus’ time, Jerusalem faced something similar with Greeks and Jews. And as much as people expected Jesus to join the “Israel party,” he never really did.

I have a few friends that work in politics. And like I said, I’m very interested in it myself. Jesus couldn’t help but get a little involved too, but he chose to make other things more important than taking political control of the country.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in politics. I very much believe we should. But it’s not supposed to be the “main thing.” To live is Christ. That’s what Paul said. And my nation is very important to me. But my kingdom—my home—is also not of this world.

I have to work to remember that sometimes.



  1. That's good champ! I, too, have to "try" to remember that. I can get so worked up when I see crazy stuff going on around me (like this: ). I know it is very important for us to be in the know with what's going on around us socially & politically, but it is more important for me to set my eyes & heart on Jesus. Legislation will never change a human heart. Only a touch from His hand can do that. Enough changed hearts & politics becomes a much easier subject...


  2. Jesus was a socialist. period.

  3. The smurfs were communists. Think about it. The government controlled the entire economy and handed out supplies from a central repository.

  4. Great post! I am not very articulate about this (whereas you are whether you admit it or not!). I guess what really gets me is the base assumption among most American Christians (that I encounter anyway)that if you really love Jesus there's no way you could be a Democrat. I just don't think it's that simple. And I agree--Jesus could've made some political waves but chose to focus on the human heart instead.

    Our challenge today is to work out how to love Jesus and love people in a meaningful way. And that does impact our political and policy decisions. And not just the "hot button" issues, but other things too. Seems to me Jesus spoke up a lot for those who couldn't speak for themselves: the poor, children, and the disenfranchised.

    I'll stop now! :) Thanks, man! Thought-provoking stuff.

  5. Socialism is liberal. More people (preferably everyone) have some say in how the economy works. Democracy is liberal. More people (preferably everyone) have some say in how the government works. "Democracy," said Marx, "is the road to socialism." He was wrong about how economics and politics interact, but he did see their similar underpinnings.

    Communism is conservative. Fewer and fewer people (preferably just the Party Secretary) have any say in how the economy works. Republicans are conservative. Fewer and fewer people (preferably just people controlling the Party figurehead) have any say in how the government works. The conservatives in the US are in the same position as the communists in the 30s, and for the same reason: Their revolutions failed spectacularly but they refuse to admit what went wrong.

    A common mistake is to confuse Socialism, the economic system, with Communism, the political system. Communists are "socialist" in the same way that Republicans are "compassionate conservatives". That is, they give lip service to ideals they have no intention of practicing.

  6. Hey! My dad read your blog and sent me this to post on his behalf. (He's only online right now via his Iphone and it won't let him post comments.) So this is from him, "Camp Papa":

    "This is a great post! I agree that the incarnate Jesus wouldn't be a member of either major party, for the reasons you cite, but also because he's not an American citizen. Heck, he probably couldn't get a visa to even enter the country and he might be on a Homeland Security watch list because he would still hangout with some suspicious people. Old habits are hard to break.

    If he made it onto CNN or Fox to be interviewed about politics, I'd expect to hear a Good Samaritan type parable where the Samaritan's role was played by a member of the party that I don't favor. Then I'd probably change the channel to find somebody saying what my itching ears want to hear".

  7. !!!!

    Comment of the month! I'm dying! Tell him thanks for me.

  8. Great post. I kept waiting to read the line where I'd have to yell at the screen, but it never came. Just very, well, solid.

    I think Solid_ID is onto something with those comments. Reminds me when in the run-up to the 2004 election, I wore a homemade t-shirt around town that said, "Jesus was a socialist pacifist." The statement may not be exactly correct, but it was meant to spur debate. And, oh my, it did!

  9. Well, I disagree with his comments about conservatives, but as for the socialism, I agree that you could draw socialist ideals from his teaching. You could make distinction between private charity and public welfare, but it's not necessary to do so, especially if you want "Godly government."

    Really, Jesus is a theocrat. At least that's a conclusion that can be drawn from I-II Samuel and Revelation, assuming trinitarian theology.

    Thanks for what you said. It means a lot to me. I read your own blog regularly, and while I don't agree with everything you say, I really appreciate your perspective and your sincerity. I hope you didn't find my response to that other post of yours disrespectful.