Jesus: Political, but not Partisan
It bothers me when people tell me that pastors need to “stay out of politics”, especially when that voice comes consistently from people of one political party, and that party has a reputation for being “in bed” with evangelicals. “Non-political?” Ha! I’m not annoyed because of the double standard of it. Though they can, as Christ-followers post all kinds of political stuff on their own pages without a thought that they are being political, I understand that they think my position as a pastor makes me a special case, that I ought to be speaking a-politically so as to reach everyone and offend no one. There’s a problem though: Jesus‘ teachings are political, though his positions aren’t partisan, in that they couldn’t be confined to a single party, not then; not now. He is, however, loudly declaring values, and it's values, not prefab ’voter guides’ or declarations about which party is God’s party, that inform our politics and our vote, or at least should:
SO WHAT ARE THE VALUES OF JESUS?
Jesus values the poor and the generosity of the rich - He told his followers that the poor among them were blessed, told the rich to weep and wail because their wealth IS their reward, told those with means to throw parties and invite those without means, told the rich young ruler who’d done everything according the book, to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, and told several parables about the dangers of wealth, including one about a guy whose healthy 401-k led to the loss of his soul.
Jesus values restorative justice - On his opening day, Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll and declared that he’d come to bring freedom to the captive and deliverance to the oppressed. While, yes, such freedom and deliverance includes internal spiritual matters, don’t strip his words of power, please. Jesus cares about unjust incarceration and the nonsense of people working three jobs to afford child care or health care. Oppression and unjust captivity aren‘t just spiritual, they’re big deals in this flesh and blood world.
Jesus values love above social prominence and religious protocol - There was that time when a woman, whose sins were well known among the religious elite, crashed a dinner party with Jesus and the religious educators. She wept at his feet, kissing his feet and drying her tears with her hair and pouring expensive perfume on his feet. Before the night was over, Jesus made it clear that this, not theological discussions, or outward purity, or hopping in bed with the Roman power structures, was what it was all about. Love God, which by the way, means loving Jesus - lavishly, without apology and without holding back.
Jesus values non-violence and peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers” he said, along with, “when someone hits you on the left cheek, turn and let him hit you on the right as well.” Let's not forget Jesus' pre-emptive prayers asking that God forgive the ones torturing and tormenting him after nailing him to a cross, following trumped up charges and false witnesses in a sham trial in the middle of the night. This so called "trial" was nothing more than a deal cut between the religious establishment and Rome, both of whom viewed Jesus as a threat for different reasons, and yet Jesus didn't take up arms. Through it all, he healed, forgave, loved, and spoke truth.
Jesus values humility and condemns proud, institutional religion - He calls Herod a fox, and is scathing in his rebuke of the religious leaders of his day, declaring that their example and teaching is creating people fit for hell rather than heaven. They use ‘god words.' They have big Bibles they’ve memorized. They’re wealthy, have social prominence, and the Herodians among them have great standing with the Empire. But Jesus’ words directed to them are clear: soberingly clear - they’re ’blind guides,’ more concerned about power, wealth, and reputation than the values of Messiah and his kingdom. His word of hope breaks through, though, when he tells us that in the end it won’t be the arrogant, the power-hungry, or the slippery politicians who will inherit the earth, which tells me that Jesus values humility.
And most important of all:
Jesus values inclusivity - The Samaritan women is the kind of woman condemned by today’s evangelicals. A woman, thus not worthy of a theological discussion. A Samaritan, therefore not worthy of even contact by a ’righteous‘ person, and on her fifth marriage, while living with a man outside of marriage, when Jesus encounters her. And yet... she’s the first evangelist, the first one to declare Jesus as Messiah, with the result that many “Samaritans” (read: Liberals, Gays, BLM members, or whatever group you’d like to insert) believed in Messiah because of her testimony. Then there’s the Roman Soldier, who demonstrates more faith, according to Jesus, ”than anyone in Israel.” (”But wait. Doesn’t Jesus condemn violence?“ Yes. See how inclusive he is!). Then there are the untouchable lepers, and the woman caught in adultery, who is a stone’s throw away from death at the hands of the religiously enlightened, whose misreading of the text justified hate. Jesus saves her too, and the children, and every person cut off from community, and light, and hope and life. Though Jesus never speaks of abortion directly, we’d infer that Jesus cares about the unborn because they’re voiceless too.
Less than a generation after his days on earth, his main spokesman offered the revolutionary message that walls had been destroyed by Jesus; dividing walls. One wouldn’t think that slavery, or redlining, or treaty violations, or land theft, or colonialism, could have come from cultures who claimed this “inclusive, wall busting” Jesus as their master, but it did. The values of Jesus, somehow, took a back seat to other things for many centuries as power, conquest, enslavement, environmental degradation, and endless wars happened in Jesus' name. We’re now in a place where the name of Jesus is associated with sexism, the Klan, cries of “blood and soil”, hypocrisy, neglect of the poor, and lust for political power, to name but a few shortcomings that have the rest of the world disgusted by our so called “Christian Witness”.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (and I mean that literally), we’d better wrap our minds around what Jesus cares about, and let his values inform our political responsibilities, including our voting choices. You don’t vote for the mythical “Christian Party,” especially since the Bible is both socialist and capitalist, for life in the womb and for justice once you’re born. Vote, prayerfully, for the values of Jesus, and then get on with letting blessings pour through you into our world, no matter who wins, as they inevitably will if your values are aligned with his.