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~ Political Christianity? ~

To me, "Christian politics" carries the same meaning as "Non-violent terrorists." No meaning, but contradiction. The once popular slogan, "What would Jesus do?" is also meaningless to us humans. Would Jesus be a Republican, Democrat or Independent? Would Jesus enlist in any nation's military to "serve His country"? Would Jesus fight to bring back public prayer in our public schools? Would Jesus pray for His favorite baseball team to win the World Series?

What did Jesus do? The unpredictable. He produced enough wine from water to keep a week long wedding celebration of hundreds of guests going. He fed not 5000 people, but 5000 men (heads of households, plus their wives and children, perhaps 20,000 people or more, twice), with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. He angrily overturned the tables of merchants in the outer court of the temple and chased them out into the street. He addressed His chief apostle, Peter, as Satan, then gave him the mandate to "feed My sheep." He didn't protest the temple tax, but paid it with a coin taken from the mouth of a fish, explaining that what is Caesar's is his and what is God's is His. Jesus always separated the church from the state.

Jesus would not accept the urging to leave His listeners to meet with His mother and brothers wanting to talk with Him, saying, "Who are my brothers and mother? Those who do the will of My Father." As a twelve year old child, Jesus knowingly left His parents behind on a caravan from Jerusalem to Nazareth. When Mary and Joseph returned to look for Him in extreme anxiety for three days, they found Him discussing deep spiritual knowledge with the Hebrew scholars. In response to His parents' grief, He said, "Don't you know that I must be attending to my Father's business?" Precocious child, no? Jesus meant no disrespect, but made it clear what He discerned He was about.

Then, in His extreme physical and spiritual agony while dying on the cross, He took care of His filial obligation by turning over the care of His mother to His apostle John. He insulted the religious leaders of His time with colorful and descriptive adjectives like "vipers" and "white washed sepulchers" marking rotting flesh hidden from view. Then He told a guilty man hanging on a cross next to Him, "Today, you will be with me in paradise" upon hearing only the man's simple request, "Remember me in your kingdom."

Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My disciples would have fought to keep Me free." One did fight upon Jesus' arrest, cutting off the ear of a Roman soldier. Jesus told Peter to put away the sword and He supernaturally grafted back the soldier's ear. Prior to this, John the prophet and baptizer grew confused while contemplating "What would Jesus do" in a dungeon waiting for his head to be chopped off. John, like many Jewish zealots, expected the Messiah to carry on the traditions of war and conquest recorded in the Old Testament. He might have thought, "Did I baptize the right man? He doesn't appear willing or preparing to serve His nation by freeing us from the Roman occupation."

Distraught, he sent a messenger to Jesus with a basic question, "Are you the One, or shall we wait for another?" Characteristically, Jesus didn't reply directly. He sent this message back: "Report to John what you hear and see; The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me" (Matthew 11:4-6). Jesus often spoke in double and triple layers of meaning. Physical sight and hearing and health were only shadows of what was happening in the spirit of humanity, and what would continue to happen when His martyrs (literally meaning "witnesses") would be infused with His Spirit and become His voice, hands, and feet. Jesus' message to John was to transcend nationalism and politics.

Remember those world maps hanging on the walls of our classrooms when we were kids? North and South America were always in the middle. The rest of the world was cut in half, Europe, the Middle East and Africa on the right side and Asia on the left. When being taught world history, my little kid mind would look quizzically at those maps, trying to visualize the divided continents merged. No nation is the center of the world. Will Christ ask US citizens, "Did you serve your nation well?" I, for one, can say I did. But Christ is not an American. If He asks that of us, we are certain He will ask Chinese, Russian, Indian, Peruvian, African and even North Korean citizens the same thing. What would Jesus do? I am certain He will not ask those questions. My certainty does not come from my philosophical musings, but what Christ Himself said He would ask the people of all nations: "Did you care for the poor? The homeless? The prisoners? How did you treat the least of My brothers and sisters? The most scorned and despised by the people of the world? Whatever you did for them, you did for Me. Whatever you did not do for them, you despised Me and My words and My people."

Jesus certainly transcended politics. What would Jesus do? Our governments and secular institutions cannot do what Jesus would do. What Jesus would do requires self-sacrifice and self-denial. What government or institution can practice self-sacrifice and self-denial? Not even a theocracy can do that without opening itself to destruction. No government will subscribe to a policy of self-destruction to achieve the good, quite the opposite. Self preservation and self-promotion and expansion of power and influential control is the priority of any government. And so it must be. But that is why Jesus disclaimed allegiance to any government or institution of this world, since His way requires the destruction of ego, personal ambition and self-promotion in deference to union with Him.

The Roman Empire and the Jewish leaders just could not believe Jesus had no political allegiances or ambitions. So His torturers mocked Him as a dethroned king. "King of the Jews? Ha! Where are your subjects? A king without a kingdom? Over your head on the cross will be a posting that says, 'The king of the Jews'. That will bring many laughs to my executioners!" (And they did laugh at Him from His scourging to His death.) There are some (perhaps many) Christians who also do not believe Jesus has no political or national allegiances today.

Those of us who espouse "Christian politics" are stepping into the tracks of those Roman executioners. No politician will tell the people who commit sin with their eyes to pluck them out in favor of the soul's health. No politician will refuse to defend him or herself against the accusations brought against Jesus, that He was a devil's agent, tainted with dirt, a drunk, a glutton, an iconoclast of Jewish tradition and law, a threat to the occupying Roman Empire. Jesus was decidedly antithetical to politics. His kingdom was not of this world or any nation in it. What would Jesus do? I cannot say, for I am not divine.

But I know what He did do. And with His divine strength and wisdom, gifts to me, I will continue to learn what He did do and strive to do likewise. That is also the path no politician would take, for it is one of suffering, self-denial, and allegiance to the kingdom of God above all. We are consoled, however, by the Christ's words, "Seek first the kingdom, then all else will be added unto you." Let us seek first this kingdom, then wait to see what the "all else" is. But let us not seek the kingdom so that we will gain the "all else." That just brings us back into the political world of self-promotion, something to avoid, just as Jesus did.

The Gospel's translated meaning is, "Good News." However, this Good News is tinged with what we perceive as demanding. What indeed is more demanding than the sacrificing of our egos and self-promotion? In that sense, the Gospel is scary and challenging. "The road is narrow, and few find it." Why? Perhaps because we are not ready for such a journey and would rather take, as Jesus described, "The broad way." That way is more in line with our desire for self-promotion. So people want to tame and dilute the Gospel, forcing it into a welcomed paradigm of prosperity, love, peace for all. We like nice things that are easy on us, do we not? A Gospel of prosperity on earth, blessings from God on the nations that claim to be Christian, the alignment of God on the side of the political right and His despising of the political left, ah! don't we revel in His favor and blessings? Only to those ignorant of the Gospel and arrogant in perceiving their "personal" relationship with Jesus.

Jesus never sought that which all politicians do, the goal of being respected and esteemed. His was on a different mission. Every institutional authority in Jesus' time on this earth condemned Him. Though it may seem to be a strange assertion, that is actually "Good News." If we understand in what way it is, then we can find solace in our understanding of the Gospel. Then instead of placing our feet into the footprints of the Roman executioners, we place our feet into the bloody tracks of the Christ. Which is more difficult? Which requires self-sacrifice? Which is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Sometime during our lives on this earth, we must decide. "Then all else will be added unto you." Or, it won't.


John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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