What would Jesus think? Checking back with the New Testament to see what his political beliefs might be today
Even if one is remotely knowledgeable about politics, it’s easy to see that the Right distinguishes itself in part by paying extra verbal homage to the word of Jesus Christ. In fact, this was officially established in the 1980’s when, under the Reagan Administration, the Republican Party openly re-identified itself as the “Christian Party.” (Fun fact.)
Anyways, ever since then, Jesus’s name has been continuously invoked in the realm of political discourse, but often to troubling effect.
This recognition got me wondering, given the source material we have available as to His actual Word, what would Jesus Christ’s position actually be on some of our key social issues, today? If Jesus could speak for Himself, what would He say? Who would He vote for when it comes to…
1.) Giving to the poor, and sharing wealth?
Jesus inarguably preached consistently about giving to the poor and sharing wealth.
To put the politics of this issue into a clear and accurate perspective, the above chart illustrates the findings of a 2013 study from the Pew Research Center, in which, almost 25% of citizens in the United States–the country with the highest GDP per capita of any on the chart–reported they could not afford food in the past year.
So what–specifically–did Jesus say about giving to the poor and sharing wealth? Well, Jesus expects that “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” But it goes much further than that.
In Matthew 19:21, a young man approaches Jesus and tells him that he abides by all ten commandments and continues to ask Jesus “What lack I yet?” and Christ responds, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” Jesus reiterates this point in Mark 10:21-22 when a humble man approaches Jesus and asks Him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” The man then goes on to explain that he knows of the commandments: “Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother,” and says he has obeyed these rules since he was a child. To this, Jesus responds just as he did to the young man in Matthew 19:21: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; then come, follow me.”
In this passage, as well as the other, Jesus continues to deliver this well-known quote: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
It seems safe to conclude, then, that giving to the poor and sharing wealth, especially by the wealthy, were and still would be critically important ideals to win the favor of Mr. Jesus Christ.
Honestly, I could go on and on with examples to illustrate this point, but there’s more to discover here still. So, if the previous examples haven’t been entirely convincing, check out the bottom of this post for more from the New Testament.
2.) Judging/Discriminating against the homosexual community?
Hmm….Jesus never actually mentions–or even refers–to homosexuality anywhere in the New Testament. However, he does warn us against passing judgment: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Now, this article is focused on the specific words of Jesus Christ, but I think it is important to acknowledge that Christians also abide by the Old Testament, as well, which, in all fairness, does mention homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.”
This got me thinking… What else did Jesus hold to be an abomination?
In this clip from acclaimed TV drama “The West Wing“, Martin Sheen’s character, President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, illuminates the hypocrisy of fervently upholding the belief that homosexuality is an abomination, while failing to denounce all of the other “abominable behaviors” outlined in the Old Testament–many of which would be extremely morally questionable for us to reprimand today, to say the least.
Please watch. It’s a crucial part of the text.
3.) Affordable healthcare for all?
“Healing the sick” was among Christ’s top priorities and is discussed more than 12 times in the New Testament. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus orders his 12 Apostles to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Aha, freely give…
It appears as though Jesus’ views on healthcare would be in full support of it becoming something that is given freely to all. But, uh-oh, that would be Universal Health Care… Affordable Health Care, even! EGAD!
You mean to say, Jesus Christ wouldn’t have been a fan of a capitalist, free-market-run healthcare system if it inevitably resulted in a lack of healthcare for the poor and the sick?
Yes, that is what I mean. However, sadly, I think this is a realization that the afore mentioned “Christian Party” would not be too keen to endorse. For political purposes, that is.
The point I’m trying to make here is this: We’ve suffered for too long from an affliction of confusion about the words and predilections of Jesus Christ. It’s become so damaging to our democracy that “Christian” ideals are invoked in the name of politics that our actual policies–and our ability to talk meaningfully and reasonably about these policies–have truly suffered, and so have we as a result.
We’re all familiar with the common trope of modern politics, where closed-minded right-wingers proclaim devotion to the Bible in their public attempts to rally opposition to a social welfare policy. Illegal “aliens”? Make them go. Government handouts? Food for the lazy. But corporate tax cuts? That’s the Christian ethic at work.
Meanwhile, there are all these “bleeding heart liberals” who get mocked in the media for speaking about compassion and empathy–often by the same people who take pride in being followers of Jesus Christ, a religious and historical figure who is most often portrayed, literally, holding his bleeding heart. How does that add up?
If there is one thing that Jesus stood for, it was for having empathy for your neighbor. Always, always, always, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Yet, unfortunately, it seems we, as a People, have lost a lot of our compassion for one another and our differing points of view.
Perhaps, at this time of year more than ever, it’s important we remember the Christian fundamentals of brotherhood, togetherness, and shared destiny, and forget about using the Bible as weaponry with which to vehemently deny the righteousness of our different political views. What would Jesus do in this situation? First, I believe, he would try to proceed with kindness.
Finally, here are the extended examples to illustrate point #1–as promised up above:
Here, it is very clear that Jesus believes taking care of one another takes precedence over Earthly possessions. In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus comments on a poor widow who contributed a pennies-worth into the treasury, after “many rich people put in large sums” saying, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Another lesson of sharing wealth can be found in Luke 12:16-21 where Jesus tells a parable about a rich man whose land has begun to produce abundantly. In fact, the man’s land had become so productive that he was running out of space to store his crops. So, the rich man decided to tear down his barns and build larger ones to store his goods. He tells himself that he has enough goods built up to last him for many years, and that, therefore, he should “eat, drink, and be merry.” But God says to him: “‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves [who] are not rich toward God.”
Essentially, the forefront of Jesus’s teachings was that we should always have empathy and compassion for our fellow man. Christ’s second commandment, the first one being to love God, was to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” This statement can be found numerous times in the New Testament [i.e.: Mathew 19:19, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:31, James 2:8, Mathew 22:39, Galatians 5:14, and Romans 13:9]. Let us not forget that, too, in Proverbs 31:8-9 it states, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” In fact, charity is often regarded in the Bible as the “greatest” duty to abide “above all things“, such as when Peter says in Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” or when Paul says in Corinthians 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”