Does Jesus Have Anything to Do With Our Politics?

Well the political world is in a frenzy these days, everyone’s making speculations, mud is being thrown in every direction and some of us are picking sides (The first and last link are somewhat unrelated to the larger topic, I just posted them for fun). And I keep wondering if Jesus has anything to do with this? I mean, as Christians we have particular values we think are super important right? But when it comes down to it, it seems like we often vote more on our ideologies than on virtues and practices we find in the life of Jesus. I think this is the point “Marvin Bloom” may be trying to make (see first link above). And in a way it’s hard to keep playing the game of pretending we’ve got it all figured out (a point I take away from the last link above).

I ran across this quote the other day and it got me thinking about all this:

For Christians, a great tension therefore exists in our day between the gospel and ideology, betewen following Jesus and serving idols. The countrast is razor-sharp. There was only one way that Christ could conquer the powers of this world and make ‘a public spectale of them:’ he did not seek his own well-being, he distanced hiself form every pursuit of power, and he prefered to obey God’s commands rather than to look after his own idenity as the Song of God (phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:15).

Many of use as Christians have systematically suppressed this knowledge of the Savior. We have selected our own goals, delivered ourselves over to various ideologies, and thus have unwittingly worshipped demonic powers. We have built our own empire rather than serving God’s kingdom. Following that course has been the deepest cause of our political fragmentation. It has been the ruin of the Christian church (Goudzwaard et al, Hope In Troubled Times, 128).

If we ran down our particular voting blocks could we make clear connections to how we vote and the life of Jesus. Or have we built our own empires of ideology when it comes to these issues? Short of asking you “How you think Jesus would vote?” Do you think he has anything to do with it at all? Are the issues so unrelated that his life is somewhat irrelevant? Or do you see it as having some effect but not across the board? I personally wonder about it, not just for my own consistency but also for the church? Does Jesus have anything to do with our politics? Or is that the wrong question to be asking?

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

10 thoughts on “Does Jesus Have Anything to Do With Our Politics?”

  1. This is truly the question, and something I wrestle with during each election. In 2004, the vitriole of the presidential election was unbearable. Rather than place a sign in my yard endorsing a candidate, I placed a sign over my front door that read “Vote With Love in your Heart.” In the artificial environment that comprises the tactics of presidential elections, it’s hard to parse what is consistent with biblical teachings. The best I can do is research, then pray, pray, and pray. And then when I get into the voting booth, pray again for the Holy Spirit’s guidance that my intentions are true.

  2. Jesus has nothing to do with politics in the same way that he has nothing to do with religion. He was a religious man and political activist but rejected the dogmatic ideaology that divides society in favour of a simple message of love.

  3. @Jarrod – I think that’s a great question, well put. And thanks for the link to the great article.

    @Cathy – “The best I can do is research, then pray, pray, and pray. And then when I get into the voting booth, pray again for the Holy Spirit’s guidance that my intentions are true.”

    I couldn’t agree more. There are no easy answers, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be researching and praying.

    @Bob – I don’t think Jesus or the Gospel accounts make such a division between religion and politics. Jesus’ was certainly religious in the sense that he was a faithful Jew and brought up within a faith (yet he wasn’t religious in the way the Pharisees and Sadducees were), and his message was political in the sense that he continued to “campaign” for the Kingdom of God, a kingdom, with a King, counter-posed to Caesar. You can have only one master…

    I do agree that he rejected the “dogmatic ideologies of his day” and that his life was a witness to the love of God Yet, on the other hand, I am not sure how simple it is to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and care for those, like the Samaritan woman and the prostitute, who were people it was acceptable to hate and humiliate (see this post for more on that). Or maybe it’s simple, yet something we have such a hard to figuring out.

    Thanks for the comments.

  4. What does “politics” mean anyway? One of the official definitions is: “the science or business of, or ideas about, government.” I think Jesus presents us a model of “politics,” as Jared writes above.

    I think it’s wrong for Christians to abandon politics all together. Imagine a nation where all our major policies where decided without the voice of people of faith.

    Frankly, it’s so difficult to know what Jesus would do, or how Jesus would vote in our contemporary society. I think it’s wise to pray over the decisions we face as a country and consider the ethics of our policies. I was outraged today by our government’s response to the lagging economy. Speaker Pelosi caved to republican leadership by wanting to limit food stamps and unemployment benefits in order to stimulate the economy. I don’t know about you, but I have a huge problem with stimulating the economy on the backs of poor people. Food stamps actually GO INTO the economy. They are a safety net to prevent food insecurity. Cutting these benefits is counterintuitive. I think it is our duty to speak out about this type of unjust politicking. A good example of that happened earlier this year around the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was vetoed twice by our born-again president. Christian leaders throughout our nation spoke out about the health care needs of the most vulnerable among us. If this isn’t part of our calling as Christians, I don’t know what is.

  5. Great stuff Wess. Love the quotes and the queries. Ron Sider gave a talk on virtually the same concept just a few days ago (his new book out is on similar issues). His suggestions were helpful… instead of framing your vote around an ideology, party or candidate, Christ-followers should construct a personal political framework with biblical themes in mind and then approach the current issues and politics and see what fits.

    Also, I wanted to clarify Holly’s comment. While I definitely agree that Congress caved to the Republican agenda, it should be noted that the economic stimulus package proposed does not remove money for current food stamps and unemployment benefits. The Democrats wanted extra money to go to those programs as a stimulus, but instead the compromise is that the stimulus money will go directly to individuals in the form of cash (which will stimulate the economy). The good thing is, which I find very important, is that Pelosi made it a point to include those individuals who do not pay taxes or make very low incomes as people who will receive cash back (whereas under Bush’s original plan those in the non-tax-paying category did not get any money). Just a nit-picky clarification, but I thought it should be made.

  6. @Holly – I agree politics is no easy work to define. Yoder’s got a great chapter on this in his book “For the Nations” that I can’t recommend enough. I am a bit loose with my usage above, I was mainly just trying to remain at the popular level as the “politics” by which we’re all being inundated as of late, and you’re right, who and what we’re going to vote about.

    And I am right there with you on the issue of poverty and Insurance, but you know that. While I do think it’s difficult to know what Jesus would vote for, I think it’s our role (and this is of course part of your actual real-life job) to get Christians thinking about these important questions. And that we do have a calling as Christians to care for these issues.

    @Michael – Thanks for the tip on Sider, I didn’t realize he was coming out with a new book. I’ve really appreciated his work previously, so I look forward to seeing what he does in this new book. Your teaser makes it sound great.

    And thanks for the point of clarification.

  7. Reading through the comments, and reflecting on my own beliefs in this area, it seems that our politics may be more important between elections than upon them. The disapproval rating of the man this country (questionably) elected vs. how much push-back he’s gotten on his policies speaks volumes about American’s apathy. I wonder if who is in charge matters less than whether we take it upon ourselves to agitate for justice, whatever the social cost.

  8. “I wonder if who is in charge matters less than whether we take it upon ourselves to agitate for justice, whatever the social cost.”

    Great thought Cathy, I think this is the assumption the church should always start from.

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