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How would Jesus vote?

As Washington gathers at ballot drop boxes, one pastor answers the question all of his congregants want to know.
Jesus cleansing the temple: out, you dastardly government bureaucrats!

Jesus cleansing the temple: out, you dastardly government bureaucrats!

As a pastor and chaplain, I am often asked about Jesus’ view on politics. What would Jesus think about this? How would Jesus vote on this? Would Jesus vote at all? Everyone, it seems, is curious about Jesus' voting habits.

Both sides of the aisle claim Jesus as their own. Portland's liberal band Rockers Everclear has a song called “Jesus was a Democrat.” “I think Jesus would have been a card carrying liberal, if he was a young man born in the USA," they croon. "He would not be fiscally conservative, and he wouldn't vote for John McCain.” Meanwhile, the Tea Party has also staked claim to Jesus and one former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate went so far as to claim that, “the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God.”

There is a historical precedent for Jesus' involvement in controversial political issues. In Matthew 22, the Pharisees (a Jewish social and political group) tried to trap Jesus by asking for his stance on the controversial Roman poll tax in the presence of a very pro-Roman political party, the Herodians.

Regarded as oppressive, the poll tax forced everyone, rich or poor, to pay the same amount. And there were theological implications: The Jews anticipated the coming of their true king and the Kingdom of God. By paying the Roman tax, they felt they were acknowledging that everything, both life and breath, belonged to Caesar’s kingdom. That discord led to revolt. In 6 A.D. patriots and insurgents began to refuse paying the poll tax.

Enter Jesus. At the time he was confronted by the Pharisees, he had just arrived on the scene preaching about the Kingdom of God — a place he described as without illness, poverty, injustice or oppression. What they were really asking him wasn't so much about taxes as his political stance: Are you a revolutionary? Where do you stand? Is your allegiance with the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of Caesar?

So he found himself faced with a tough choice: If Jesus sided with Caesar’s oppressive tax, he would negate all he had taught about the Kingdom of God, giving his critics a great excuse to dismiss and hate him. On the other hand, going against Caesar meant signing his own death certificate.

And so he did something both surprising and nuanced. He asked the Pharisees whose image and inscription was on the coin used to pay the tax. It is Caesar's, they responded. He created it and it bears his image and likeness.

“Therefore," Jesus responded, "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” (Matthew 22:21).

The coin may have been made in the image of Caesar, Jesus was saying, but the people are made in the image of God. Though they should honor civil government and give their share in taxes, their allegiance should be to Him. In a narrow sense, his words say, “I’m not political”, but in a broad sense, they say, “I’m very political.”

This is a revolutionary response, but Jesus isn’t looking for money, power or recognition. His moment of political victory is his execution, not his election.

The reality is that Jesus is far too compassionate, forgiving and liberal for anyone on the right, and far too confrontational and conservative for anyone on the left. Which leaves the rest of us with one important lesson: When we stop trying to put Jesus in a neat box, we are free to engage politically on either side of the aisle.

Tim Gaydos is a pastor, speaker, chaplain and urban missionary to the city of Seattle. Tim currently serves with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission as a special projects liaison and as Chaplain with the Seattle Sounders FC. He also serves on the board of the Belltown Business Association, REST (Real Escape from Sex Trade) and Center for Global Urban Leadership. Tim has a heart to bring the whole gospel of Jesus to the whole city of Seattle. He is active in the city of Seattle working with the Mayor and City Council on special projects for the betterment of Seattle. Previously, he has planted thriving churches in downtown Seattle and Rainier Valley.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Nov 5, 4:32 p.m. Inappropriate

I like your conclusion about not putting Jesus in a box. None of us should be, and for either side to claim God or Jesus for themselves is obnoxious.

However, there are plenty of confrontational folks on the left, and plenty of compassionate and forgiving folks on the right. We shouldn't put them into boxes, either.

Posted Tue, Nov 5, 4:33 p.m. Inappropriate

Maybe. At least to me it's hard to argue that Jesus would want to slash programs like food stamps and increase military spending or block meaningful immigration reform or make it harder for certain people to vote or make guns more widely available -- all planks of the Republican party.

Jesus may or may not have been apolitical, but he certainly wasn't amoral. And he would want morality consistently to be part of our public and private decision making. Since the first step of morality is "love your neighbor" the Ayn Randian "each person for him/herself" theories of modern Republicanism would be anathema. Compassion would be the rule, and it's hard to imagine that Jesus wouldn't support whichever candidate most faithful honors that principle.

Posted Wed, Nov 6, 9:26 a.m. Inappropriate

Good points, and perhaps I shouldn't be commenting at all, since I am not a Christian. But we should remember that "right," "conservative," "amoral," and "Republican" are not synonymous, just as "left," "liberal," "compassionate," and "Democrat" aren't. And based on what I have read about Jesus, rather than supporting the Democrat over the Republican, he might rather have overhauled the entire system. Everyone in power would need to watch out.

Posted Wed, Nov 6, 6:56 a.m. Inappropriate

There are a lot of people who call themselves Christian who simply are not. It's not a matter of failing to live up to an ideal. They don't understand the ideal in the first place, and if they did, they'd find another religion to join. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Marilyn Robinson in a recent interview in The American Conservative Magazine makes the point eloquently:

"Then what does he [Jesus] deserve from us? He said we are to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek. Granted, these are difficult teachings. But does our most gracious Lord deserve to have his name associated with concealed weapons and stand-your-ground laws, things that fly in the face of his teaching and example? Does he say anywhere that we exist primarily to drive an economy and flourish in it? He says precisely the opposite. Surely we all know this. I suspect that the association of Christianity with positions that would not survive a glance at the Gospels or the Epistles is opportunistic, and that if the actual Christians raised these questions those whose real commitments are to money and hostility and potential violence would drop the pretense and walk away."

Source: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/marilynne-robinson-on-faith-and-conservatism/

Posted Wed, Nov 6, 8:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Any idea how Jesus would bet the fifth at Santa Anita this Saturday?

BlueLight

Posted Wed, Nov 6, 9:26 a.m. Inappropriate

Hmm. Shouldn't the caption on that beautiful piece of art be "Out, you greedy, sacrilegious bankers?" Seems to me that was the main thrust of Jesus' ire in that incident.

I'm in agreement with Rev. Brown and jackwhelan -- at this juncture in history, one party does seem to be adhering to the principles Jesus said were foremost, while the other seems to be advocating their opposite. There may be plenty of conservative Republicans who are personally compassionate and peaceful, but the fact remains that, collectively, they have labeled the "least among us" as moochers, takers, and greedy slugs who deserve nothing from us but a kick in the pants, and are pursuing policy agendas that support this approach. They have also decided that the Founders meant for us all to be armed to the teeth at all times, and their policy version of turning the other cheek is proactive gunfire.

Rev. Gaydos may have meant to model this piece on Jesus' "render unto Caesar", and I respect the attempt -- though I must admit, I never saw that teaching as the slippery piece of political finesse that Gaydos does. To me, though, Gaydos' piece reads more like Peter, denying Christ. I am a long-time progressive, partly because those are the policies that seem to adhere most closely to Jesus' teachings. I can't understand any honest theological analysis that gives no weight to those teachings in weighing which path would be most acceptable to the Teacher.

westomoon

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 4:12 a.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for sharing this article it is very informative about the Jesus. it is very compulsory to read the Bible for the information about our religion and much more for our life and for others life making better. God bless you.

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