how does Jesus relate to politics?

November 2, 2007

I just read on msnbc that Evangelicals are having problems deciding who to vote for in the next election. Several leaders met together to talk about it. (here is the article, if you are interested)

My question is this: why do I care about who James Dobson is going to vote for?

In a country whose two party system has caused severe disunity in its people (especially so in the last two elections) why do I want to vote as a block with every other white, male, conservative Christian?

The answer I often get is that what I should be looking for is a candidate who is on the right side of two issues : abortion and gay marriage. Those are the problems facing our country today, and those are the biggest issues that we face. But has our current ‘evangelical’ president done anything in his tenure to help those causes? Is there really much that any president could do to change the public opinion, to whom Congress is a slave to? I fear that Bush touted an amendment to the constitution before his last election, which stirred up controversy but solidified his standing among evangelicals, only to win the election – and we never heard of that amendment again. (I had totally forgotten about the amendment till I watched ‘So Goes the Nation,’ and interesting documentary about elections – I recommend it)

I do not deny that God is concerned about both the lives of unborn children and sexual purity, but are there not other things that God is concerned about? Sodom and Gomorrah may have been punished for Sodomy, but Israel was punished for its inability to take care of the oppressed, poor, and hungry (Isaiah 1:16-17). And should social policy and internal affairs not also determine our political positions, not just the fake litmus test of the middle east, or abortion?

Good theology would dictate that God is not only concerned with what we often delegate to the “religious” realm, but that (to use a catch phrase one of my professor’s loved) ‘everything is theological’

(no joke – a question on my midterm was “Everything is _______)

Maybe all the other problems have various and sundry hues of black and white, whereas abortion and civil unions are black and white. Maybe we are deluded into thinking that those are the tests to make sure that the candidate is “one of us,” and once we figure that out, we can be reassured that he (or she) is one of the good guys. But I do not think that those two typically evangelical issues are the only ones which win my vote. And I certainly feel like this country has more issues than just moral ones.

As a Christian, I feel like my responsibility is to make every facet of my life look more and more like Christ’s, and to change the situations that I am in to look more and more like Christ wants them. And living in Chicago I can see a broken education system, a failed attempt at public housing, environmental issues galore, and the list goes on. My brothers in Christ seemingly suggest that God does not care about the poor black boys in the Cabrini Green projects avoiding the gang scene – only that they don’t marry other boys. I can’t believe that God doesn’t care about the poor.

Maybe I will be voting for the same third party candidate that the evangelical big wigs do. but only if I feel that the candidate I vote for will take the country in the right direction. Does that include my conservative views on abortion and gay marriage? Yes. Exclusively? Not at all.

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8 Responses to “how does Jesus relate to politics?”

  1. Christian Says:

    Excellent. Very thoughtful and very well presented. Thanks.

  2. John Says:

    Andrew, my friend, let me let you in on a little secret. There are two types of people in the world: those that need politicians, and those that politicians need.

    It sucks less to be in the first category.

    The moment you start wondering “What is candidate X going to do for me?”, you’ve already lost. That is where they want you.

    And pondering who Jesus would support or what laws He would want passed is also a losing game. Politics is all about compromise, and Jesus is all about truth. Two things that should not be mixed.

    And another sucker game is the third-party deal in America. America will have viable multi-party elections when it adopts the metric system – in other words, never.

    You are never going to go to White Hen Pantry to purchase a liter of milk, and you are never going to see President So and So of the Green, Bull-Moose, Whig, Libertarian, or Communist party. The most successful third-party people in modern America have been:

    1) Jesse the Body Ventura: a one-term Governor.
    2) Ross Perot (whose presence assured Clinton’s election)
    3) Ralph Nader (whose presence assured W’s election)

    Nice line-up.

    My advice: don’t sweat the politcos. Serve your community and church and library and spouse just like you’re doing.

    Peace!

    John

  3. John Says:

    Of course, I mean it sucks more to be in the category: people who need politicians.

    If you ever get the chance to meet a politician at any level, they have an innate sense of you need them or they need you.

  4. Jon UB Says:

    Andrew,
    thanks for engaging the question.
    for the most part, as another Canadian now living in Babylon, I go the way of “John” who commented earlier on serving those around you and leaving politics.
    As someone who could be quite successful at politics if I tried, it is a tempting road. There appears to be a lot of opportunity for positive change. But there is also much temptation to compromise.

    A Mennonite scholar, John Ruth, has been proposing for the past couple of years that Mennonites (and Calvinists might want to listen too, :-)) should take a Sabbath from politics. As he looks at the issues, and the way they are dividing the church, he sees far more danger than hope. It is limiting the effectiveness of our witness, because as churches we are separating based on blue/red designations. Perhaps not publicly, but you can usually tell where a church is at by the psuedo-political messages be given from the pulpit, etc.

    True transformative change of a community happens when the spirit’s and the body’s needs are met as one. No political party in the world can achieve that. Only the Holy Spirit, working through people, usually as a corporate body, has the strength.

    I am certainly not advocating becoming the ‘quiet in the land’. Hopefully you still know enough of your Mennonite heritage to recognize that reference. I believe we need to be active, we need to speak out against injustice, we need work for change. But as soon as we start depending on politicians to do it for us, we are sunk.

    And worse, as soon as we start judging other Christians on their position on abortion or gay marriage instead of looking at ways to serve together and build up the body we are in trouble.

    Now today is election day in this country, and I know your parents, and maybe you too, get to vote for the first time as Americans. I do believe that is an important right that has been abused by many. So I will vote on my way home from work today. And I will vote for the people that I trust the most to have the best of the community at heart. I will not ask what church they attend, and I will not ask their position on gay marriage. I do want to know if they will be good stewards of the money and power given them if elected.

    And then I will go home, spend as much time as I can with my family, bring my children along to the PTO meeting while my wife studies at the seminary, and stay invested in my family, my community and relationship with God.

    Thanks for the opportunity to engage this question. Hope to see you in a couple of weeks.

  5. foolmusings Says:

    I think you guys are right. While we ought support systems that are doing right things, we should never put our hope in the systems that men set up. Church should be able to do a much better job helping people than any government program.

  6. Christian Says:

    And don’t forget – though third parties rarely win elections they often influence the outcomes. Compromise is cool – but sticking to your convictions is cooler. Take it from me, a man who has compromised often over the past 30 years of voting and has seen the two parties present very little in the way of new ideas, unless they were frightened into doing so. Often that fear comes from outside the party lines.

  7. Ryan Moran Says:

    I’m surprised by how many Christians get caught up in these two issues alone. Are they a big deal? Yes, but there are many issues that we need to take a stand on. I’ve heard it exclaimed, “How could you vote for somebody that would allow abortion?” However, if that’s the issue that swings you one way, then one should re-evaluate their politics.

  8. Deficiency Says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Deficiency.


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