Faithful Politics

Being faithful with our politics, not political with our faith.

The Myth of a Political Messiah

One of the hallmarks of Christianity is the call to emulate its founder, Jesus.  The essence of one’s spiritual growth can be summed up by this ambition.  Unfortunately, however, many in the Christian political realm do not strive for the image of Christ as much as they try to remake Him in their own image.  By taking a few isolated passages of the Gospel Narratives, partisans and ideologues will find examples that, they believe, demonstrate that if Christ were on the earth today He would be an advocate for their organization, cause, or candidate.  But in order to create this political messiah large portions of the Gospels are completely ignored.  By emphasizing Christ’s teaching on peace they create a Jesus who’s primary mission was opposing the Iraq war.  By singling out His commands regarding morality we are suddenly presented with a culture warrior who cares only about the sexual ethos of the nation.

From both of these extremes we are presented a messiah that is largely concerned with the political happenings, not of ancient Israel, but of modern America.  This is fueled by twisting passages of the Gospels that are certainly not political, and turning them into a manifesto for a predetermined political ideology.  All the while bending over backwards to make verses have a one-to-one correspondence from Jesus’ mouth to our 21st Century voting booth.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t seek to apply Christ’s example to our modern context.  Certainly, the strength of Christianity is that it will always be relevant to whatever situation we are faced with.  But by trying to craft Jesus into a modern political figure we are missing the chief purpose of the Incarnation.  Christ did not need to take on flesh to persuade us all to be pacifists; neither did he become a man simply to show us a pure sexual ethic.  No, God became man, in the words of a Church Father, so that we may become more like God.  The divine rescue plan for all of humanity, put into motion after the fall of Adam, cannot be boiled down to a single political position.  Yet, that is what many try to do time and time again.  It is time for all followers of Christ to stand and say, “You will not reduce my Savior to a cheap political prop, you will not brazenly have the King of Kings carry the water for either side of the aisle!”

By using Jesus as an advocate for our own political persuasion we are making the same mistake that many in His own time did: trying to replace something of eternal significance with a short-term political goal.  The sinfulness of mankind and our dire need for a savior should always be more important than any election, candidate, or cause.  Mind you, elections, candidates, and causes are all important, and certainly worth engaging with passion, but passion for any of these should be fueled by a sincere love for Jesus and His Kingdom, not a misguided attempt to remake Christ into our own political messiah.

Tragically, those who are the most adept at abusing the Bible in this manner tend to have the biggest followings.  Not because they speak to what Scripture is really saying, but because they speak to what our itching ears want to hear.  Conservatives want to believe that you can find an argument for small government in the Bible, just like Liberals want to believe that Jesus would hate Bush as much as they do.  If we are going to develop a robust political theology we must not take shortcuts with the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ ministry.  Crafting an approach to politics that does justice to the message of the Scriptures is hard work, but it is an important work, and one that we dare not shirk lightly.

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1 Comment

  1. As usual, you have hit the nail squarely on the head Kolburt. Thanks for articulating it so well!

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