Jesus is no respector of politics

As some of you know, I had been taking a break from politics.  I hadn’t blogged much about political issues.  In my every day life I’d avoided political discussions.  I’d been thinking about them intensely, but I’d been trying to think about them from Jesus’ perspective, not my own. 

This became necessary because I was beginning to feel like I was trying to serve two masters.  One was Jesus.  The other was politics.  I was trying to put the two on equal footings and come up with some sort of compromise between them. 

I’m a politically-minded guy.  I have been so for longer than I have been a Christian.  I felt a bit like Lot’s wife.  I couldn’t help but look at where I had been, even if it turned me into a pillar so salt.

The problem, though, is that I see much of what Jesus did as having intensely political repurcussions.  I didn’t feel like in the long run I could both follow Jesus and be apolitical.  Yet, on the other hand, both the left and the right have profoundly trivialized Him by acting as though He’s the spokesmen for their own respective political agendas.

At some point, I remembered a thing my friend Garret had said at some point.  He said, “Jesus is no respector of persons.”  Garret knows how much Jesus loves us.  He wasn’t saying that Jesus doesn’t.  He was making quite a different point.  The statement struck me as fresh and provocative and just about right.

This inspired in me a related thought.  This thought: “Jesus is no respector of politics.”

Here’s what I mean:

Part of what our world view does is slice the world up in specific ways.  For example, we see some things as political issues and other things as not political issues.   I imagine at Jesus time there was a similiar attempt to categorize some things as political and other things as not political.  At Jesus time, this would have been complicated by two facts.  The first is that the Jews probably answered this question differently than the occupying Romans.  The second is that though they would have seen things as political they would not have placed much value on the idea of regular people actually participating in the political process.

I think that Jesus simply doesn’t buy into the way that any of us carve up the world.  So much of Jesus wisdom is about discarding the old categories (externally clean vs externally dirty; Jew vs Gentile; king vs servant) and finding new categories to see the world.  (the emeging kingdom of God; the pure of heart and reborn, etc.)

I think that dividing the world into political and not-political is one of these categories Jesus would have us discard.  This does not mean that following Him won’t lead to decisions and actions on things that the world sees as political.  This does not mean that he didn’t do things with profoundly political repurcussions.

It simply means that the fact that they are political is irrelevant.

It’s a bit like this: If I was a health food guru (people who know me realize how funny that idea is.) I may not accept Jewish expectations on food.  I simply don’t buy that there is any reality reflected in the idea that some food is Kosher and other food is not.

I might be aware that I am suggesting that a certain practice violates kosher laws.  But the category just doesn’t make sense to me, so I wouldn’t particularly care.  It wouldn’t be my intent to offend those who think is a valid category.  It might simply be that since I think we’re not bound by these rules (any more) that there is something greater at stake than tradition; I’d rather people be healthy than tradition bound.

Substitute politics in the paragraph above for the word “kosher”.  As a follower of Jesus I might do, say, and believe things that the world sees as profoundly political.  But as a follower of Jesus, I think I need to reject the whole view that certain things are political and other things are not.  I ought to simply submit myself to his higher authority and do it, regardless of what the world calls it.

I will be so far from perfect in this.  And I have side stepped some tremendous issues.  How much we should force our views on others is huge.  For example, if I believed that homosexuality was wrong, should I oppose gay marriage?   Some how intwined in this is the equally huge question of how much should I get involved: should I vote?  Should I engage in polticial discourse?  Should I financially support candidates?  Should I boycott?  Should I protest?

My initial answer to all this is that Christians as a whole should be open to all these methods.  But on a personal level I know how easily some of these activities could become idols, stumbling blocks for me.  So I’m looking foreward to your comments on this issue.  😉


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

5 thoughts on “Jesus is no respector of politics”

  1. I don’t get what “idols” means to you. Idols (“Elilim” in Hebrew) simply means “statues or visual representations of God or foreign gods”) – not everything that strays out of the Christian Way is an idol.

    Perhaps you simply mean “anathema” instead of idol?


  2. It’s always good to get reminders about how we Christians (like everybody else) grab on to certain words and change their meanings.

    The issue isn’t so much with idols as idolatry. If a statue of some other God is sitting around, that’s much less of an issue than people worshipping that idol.

    Contemporary Christianity has cast a pretty wide net around the idea of idols. It’s easy and obvious to say that worshipping a statue of Thor would be idolatry. The idea, more or less, is that God ought to be at the center of the world. If we put other things at the center we are engaged in something we shouldn’t be doing.

    Though Thor-worship doesn’t happen often today, money worship does. We don’t admit to being part of the cult of money. We don’t call our shopping malls temples of the cult of money. But this doesn’t change the fact that we’ve placed the pursuit of money at the center of the world.

    Because I am passionate about issues that the world considers political, it would be really easy for me to place them at the center of the world. And no matter how important they are, they do not belong in the center of the world. In my view, God belongs there. When I place God there I will certainly have many political positions, opinions, and actions. But this is the cart, not the horse. They follow putting God in his rightful place.
    Most everybody has a few things they need to be aware of. I’ve got a few other ones. An alcholic could make an idol out of a bottle. A businessman could make an idol out of money, power, respect, nice stuff. Even acts of kindness can become an idol…


  3. You’re twisting words, Jeff. “Money worship” is not like “Thor-worship”. Not in the least. It’s as if you’re stretching the term “worship” to mean anything that’s highly valued. Money worship is about a term as meaningful as “power worship”, and I’m sorry, if that’s “worship”, then we’re all, including you and atheist me, idol-worshipers.

    I don’t think you need to overstretch the term worship to satisfy God’s will. It’s just a matter of prioritizing. You can’t possibly ignore the fact that you’re biologically programmed for greed and power lust, but you can try and make the most of it. When I say “most of it”, I mean it when I portray Christianity as an egalitarian and peace-like worldview. This is not necessarily the case for all (amongst the myriad!) versions of Christianity.


  4. I’d define worship as “treating something as the highest value.” I think it’s o.k. to value money or power or whatever. But it’s improtant that these don’t become the very center of our existence.
    Having read and thought about your points in this area, I found myself wondering if the New Testament specifically tells us to widen our view of what counts as idolatry. I don’t know. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a time or place. (Maybe “The love of money is the root of all evil” but even this is a stretch.)
    I don’t think it obliterates my point, though, if there isn’t a specific re-formulation of what counts as idolatry. I still see a great deal of common ground, between a Thor-worshipper and a money “worshipper”

    I wouldn’t deny that humanity tends toward greed and power and lust. It’s an important aspect of my beliefs. We’re fallen. But I have a more fundamental nature. Before we were fallen we were made in the image of God… I can try to overcome the worst parts of me. I believe that some day these imperfections will be gone and I will be so much better than I am. (Some day being in the next life, not in this one.)

    I had some trouble keeping up with your last three sentences, in honesty. I wonder if you’d care to expand those thoughts?


  5. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Timothy 6-10

    …it’s not the root of all evil, but of all kinds of evil.

    I agree with your concept of idolatry. Anything we put in front of God’s place in our lives. That’s the definition I’d use, and since we’re discussing this with an atheist, all things are relative anyway, right?

    Start with “what is good” or “what is truth” and then work your way towards defining idols.


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