Would Jesus be involved in politics? What would Jesus say about the TEA Party? That is one of the questions we have been kicking around here as we are talking about the politically incorrect Jesus. Many groups have differing views on this and of course reasoning that to them makes sense. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach non-involvement. They point out that Jesus and his immediate disciples were not involved in politics and therefore, we should not be either. Some Christians and Christian groups hold a similar view. Political office is often seen as compromising with a corrupt system and includes the sorts of compromises they don’t believe Christians can make. Some, such as Islam, are of the view that their religion should take over the government and subject citizens to Sharia Law. They would argue that Jesus would support such a thing because he was a prophet who was a Muslim. They assert that Jesus is important in their religion and even agree that he is sinless. But then they also teach that all prophets are sinless. Of course, they also teach he is not God, was not crucified and therefore not resurrected. There are some Christian groups which hold to a similar view that it is our task to create a Theocracy which subjects society to the Old Testament Laws and regulations. Some, such as Barack Obama’s home church for 20 years, hold to views rooted in Black Liberation Theology as we pointed out in Barack and the Borg. Black Liberation Theology is essentially Marxism using Christian terminology and promotes racism, all in the name of Jesus. Salvation is corporate not individual and the government is seen as the vehicle to achieve wealth redistribution. The Jesus Seminar reconstructs Jesus as having come to eliminate racism, sexism and anti-gay sentiments among other culturally radical ideas. Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Brian McLaren and others paint a picture of Jesus as working to eliminate illiteracy, poverty and sickness. The common denominator with these and many others that could be included is they start with a presupposition in search of authentication. Once Jesus or God is asserted as the basis for their views no one can really object, for to do so is seen as fighting against God and his decrees.
I would be pointing out the obvious by saying that the TEA Party is not discussed or even alluded to by Jesus. That does not mean we have no real basis to make any sort of decision on the issue of God’s people and the government. We have what Jesus taught and did in the gospels but since He is fully God and preexisted His incarnation He spoke in the Old Testament and, just as importantly, after His resurrection continued speaking to his apostles. Therefore, we are not limited to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I will avoid skipping through the Old Testament to demonstrate how much material shows us God’s view of and use of government. In some cases He used government to protect and provide for His people. Sometimes He used government to punish His people for their rebellion. His people were the government when in the land and in some cases His people were put in leadership positions of foreign governments. Joseph and Daniel come immediately to mind. Clearly they were in God’s will and He elevated them to their positions of political power. The idea that God is reiterated in Romans 13 by the Apostle Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
It is true that the direct disciples of Jesus didn’t get involved in the government or even promote involvement. Jonathan Miles touched on this a bit last week in Election Day Meditation Redux
Don and I have been thinking for a few months about how politically incorrect Jesus is. I don’t mean “politically incorrect” in the “don’t-call-them-handicapped-but-physically-challenge-instead” sense but rather how incredibly uninterested he was in establishing a political ideology and how so very much we are concerned with it. It occurs to me that essentially that’s because in a constitutional republic like ours, people and their vote can actually wield the sword of state—an option not available to 1st century Christians. Jesus doesn’t talk about why taxes are high because he and his audience had absolutely no say in what their taxes where. However, our constitution gives us the power to affect those taxes. It sets up a procedure. And that creates a kind of moral contract with America that in theory can only be overturned by 2/3 of the state legislatures. 1st century Christians had none of this and that is why I think the problem of democracy is the perennial problem for modern Christianity.
In Matthew 22:15-22 the question of paying taxes came up. Jesus’ response is instructive on a few levels. First, he said to:
Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s
Christians need to be good citizens in whatever country they find themselves living in. Paying taxes in part of that duty and Paul reiterates this in Romans 13:7. So giving leaders appropriate respect, paying taxes and doing the things that are part of being a good citizen. But, in the United States, we have an unusual situation. We live in a Constitutional Republic. What that means is, the citizens are Caesar. So the question would seem to be, what would Jesus say to His people who are rulers? The Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights are our founding documents and the rules of how to govern. I suspect Jesus would say that we should rule justly and in conformance with the founding documents. Oddly, that is the very thing the TEA Party is calling for. The Federal Government is limited in what it can do by the Constitution. The citizen Caesar’s are the ones who determine Federal spending and taxing. They do this by who they elect as their servants in Washington. The TEA Party has been reminding professional politicians that they are servants and not the masters. They have limited powers and any attempt to expand them without Constitutional amendment is not allowed.
As believers, our first commitment must be to God, serving Him and His people. Part of our service to Him and others is how we carry out our citizenship and in our case how well we rule. Will we be godly rulers if shirk our responsibility and leave it to the “professional politicians” without holding them accountable? What would Jesus say?
Don, great article. You said it well. Thanks for speaking on such an important matter.