Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat? (or a Tea Partier, or a Libertarian, etc.)
No. (Thanks for reading ;) )
Of course, the title of this post is a silly, non-Biblical question. Nothing like our political parties existed at the time of Jesus, nor did anything like our political system. Someone might suggest "How would Jesus vote?" as a better question, but that one would have to be immediately followed by "Would Jesus vote at all?" I suppose the real question is more along the line of "How would Jesus have us use our vote?", or better yet, "What does political engagement look like for those who follow Jesus?"
Any good discussion of Christianity an politics has to at least briefly look at the effect that a Roman Emperor named Constantine had on Christianity. In the 4th century AD, Constantine had a dream or a vision in which he reportedly saw the symbol of the cross with the message: "Under this sign, you shall conquer". He had a cross constructed like the one he saw in his vision and had it carried at the front of his army like a standard. The battle was won, and Constantine claimed to become a Christian. He subsequently legalized Christianity, and by the end of the century it was the official religion of the Roman Empire. In his book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church, Greg Boyd sums it up well:
“For the first time, the church was given the power of the sword. Rather that viewing this new sword-power as Jesus did--as a temptation of the devil that needed to be resisted--influential Church leaders like Eusibius and Augustine saw it as a blessing from God…Once the church acquired power over others, everything changed…The faith that previously motivated people to trust in the power of the Cross now inspired them to trust in the power of the sword. Those who had previously understood that their job was to serve the world, now aspired to rule it. The community that once pointed to their love for enemies and refusal to engage in violence as proof of Christ’s Lordship, now pointed to their ability to violently defeat enemies as proof of Christ’s Lordship.”I honestly have a growing concern that the political involvement and party devotion of many Christians is more than flirting with idolatry. Idolatry is essentially giving devotion, allegiance, etc. that are due only to God to something man-made. I would extend this to what Peter Rollins calls "ideolatry", where we begin to worship our own concepts and ideologies as if they were God. Forgive the string of quotes, but I think they explore this point well:
“There is no better way for a political party to establish the legitimacy of its political point of view that to declare that Jesus is one of its members. The remaking of Jesus is not just some kind of harmless campaign technique. It is not merely something sophisticated sociological observers can pass off with a wry smile and a wave of the hand. It is not just bad religion that needs correcting. The Bible calls it idolatry!”
"Now, as kingdom people we are called to live in love, which means we are called and empowered to live free of fear. Because our source of worth, significance and security is found exclusively in God's love and God's reign, not our own immediate well-being and because we believe in the resurrection, we are empowered to love even those who threaten our well-being--for this does not threaten our essential worth, significance, and security. We are therefore, not to fear them (1 Pet. 3:14-18). If we do fear them, it is only because some element of our essential worth, significance and security is rooted in what they threaten. In other words, fear is an indication that we are living in idolatry, not love.
In truth, there are multiple Christian perspectives possible for sincere people of faith. There are intelligent people of faith on both the Left and the Right, who can make Biblical cases for the stances that they take. There are also Anabaptists and those who take a similar position of non-participation in the electoral process (as voters or candidates), who also have profoundly Biblical reasons for their own political positions. There are those who see party affiliation as the best way for them to affect positive, "Kingdom of God" changes in the world (Where Justice and Righteousness flow like a mighty river. Where the poor, oppressed and downtrodden are lifted up. See the prophets for further descriptions), and there are also those of us with convictions against political party affiliation because we feel they demand an allegiance that we are not willing or at liberty to give. There is no political party that can truly claim to be "Christian" or "God-ordained". To buy any propaganda that says otherwise is to reduce Jesus to a rubber stamp, and Christianity to a convenient voting block. To allow groups with political agendas to manipulate us based on fear is to say that we have placed our faith in something other than God. To allow political ideology to cause me to see another human being as an enemy or as less human or valuable than people like myself, is to sell out the way of Jesus for the sake of power. Chuck Colson puts it like this:"To confess that I play Tetris religiously isn't to say anything pro or con about religion. But to do it more than once a day, visit the Drudge Report every hour, check my cell phone every three minutes, and listen to Rush Limbaugh more often than I listen to any other human voice and then to claim that these things have absolutely nothing to do with my religion is to be, to some degree, delusional. My religion is my practice. It's what I do."
"Every human being is made in God’s image. This is the foundation of human value and is shared by all people, making all equal before God. We frequently appeal to the image of God to make a case for protecting the unborn, but we must recognize that Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh are all also made in the image of God. Simply put, Christians cannot demonize our opponents, because to do so is to insult the God in whose image we are made.”The demonizing of those whom we disagree with politically, whether they are other voters, entire political parties, or famous politicians is not Christian...ever. To do so is to betray the Way of Jesus and to indicate where our strongest allegiance lies. Regardless of any label it applies to itself, unthinking partisan political engagement is not Christian...ever. To engage in such a way is to indicate where we have truly placed our faith. I'm not saying that the Bible prohibits Christians from affiliating with political parties. However, I am saying that when they do so, they are to be prophetic voices who offer relevant critique rather than compliant sheep who accept whatever talking points they are fed. Scripture tells us to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you." Political voices from all sides tell us that if we will only seek first these things, then they will give us the kingdom we want. As followers of Jesus, may we have the courage of our convictions as well as a Christ-like humility that allows us to listen and learn from those unlike ourselves. May our devotion to the Way of Jesus lead us to engage in a higher level of discourse, and may we resist the temptation to merely baptize partisan mudslinging as if it were somehow holy.
“Instead of participating in this kind of polarizing politics, I think Christians should embrace the politics of Jesus, which is a ministry of reconciliation…It’s not so much that Christians of various stripes on the political spectrum ought to be looking for common ground as that they ought to be looking for higher ground.