Jesus and Politics
I wrote this as a Response to “Should Christians Be Political” by Daniel Van Oudenaren in Honest Austin here in Medium.
First of all, to the extent that the New testament is linked to the Old Testament, it is interesting to note that the last we hear of Cain — the one who murdered his brother Abel — after he is exiled from ‘among the godly’ is that he builds the world’s first city. That seems to suggest that civilization — living in cities; culture dominated by the culture of cities — is what you get when you have human beings separated from God. So civilization itself is separate from God’s kingdom.
How are people who seek God to live in a world dominated by cities and their culture? That, to me, is the essence of the life of Jesus. He taught all who would listen how to seek God in that social environment. Thus, his message was that God’s Kingdom is in this world but not of it, that it is possible to be in God’s Kingdom no matter one’s place in this world.
We can do that by living a life in emulation of Jesus to the greatest extent possible. That means focusing on one’s relations with other people as individuals, treating them as one should. Above all, it means doing for others, without worrying about oneself. That is where faith comes in — not that we will be provided for materially, but that God with give us what we need internally to deal with whatever material circumstances we may experience.
That is why whether or not a person really is a Christian — a follower of the way of Jesus — is revealed in how a person acts, not what a person says. It is not that the acts themselves earn us ‘points’, but that they show where our hearts truly are, what is truly in our hearts. There were people in Auschwitz, etc. who existed in God’s Kingdom even in those circumstances, doing as Jesus said we should all do. They were Christians. To utter the words, “I am a Christian” is not even the last thing being Christian is about, much less the first.
What about Jesus’s politics? Jesus had no politics. He was completely apolitical. His message is for people as individuals acting as individuals, doing nothing more political than to “render unto Cesar what is Cesar’s” — pay taxes, obey the laws (so long as they don’t require un-Christian behavior), etc. A church would be what we would call today a ‘support group’.
Nothing is more ‘of this world’ than politics. To be involved in politics is to be focused on this world, not God’s Kingdom. It is to be engaged in a power trip, not to be humbly tending to our fellow human beings on a personal level. Being Christian is purely personal, and in no way, shape, or form political.
The only transformation of society it proposes is through the transformation of individuals. In a world of people loving one another government would be superfluous. There would not even be an economy, in the sense of a matrix of exchanges; instead, there would be a matrix of people giving to others and doing for others without any reciprocation.
To be clear, I believe absolutely in the message of Jesus in the Gospels. I try to live my personal life according to it. I could never say I am ‘a Christian’, though, because I sincerely believe that my (attempted) participation in the political process is an un-Christian thing to do. I do believe I am forgiven that, but it is a departure from the approach to life prescribed by Jesus.