March 6th, 2012
09:43 AM ET

My Take: Who would Jesus vote for?

Editor's note: Larry Alex Taunton is the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation and author of “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief.” You can follow him on Twitter @larrytaunton.

By Larry Alex Taunton, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Jesus isn’t up for re-election this year. He’s an uncontested incumbent of sorts.

But that hasn’t stopped presidential candidates from claiming his endorsement and hoping to ride his royal robe into the White House. They invoke his name to summon votes the way his Apostles once used it to make the lame walk and the blind see. They try to, anyway.

Presidential candidates strive to convince the public of their unique qualifications for the highest office in the land. They draw sharp comparisons between themselves and their rivals on issues ranging from the Middle East to health care. They do, that is, on every issue but one: the Christian faith.

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There each asserts that he, not his rivals, is the genuine article: Rick Santorum, scrambling to save his flagging campaign, is busy preaching his Christian credentials to evangelicals hoping to secure their money and their votes; Mitt Romney, less successful with that constituency, has nevertheless endeavored to convince them that Mormons are Christians, too; and Barack Obama, not to be left out, boldly stated at last month’s National Prayer Breakfast that his policies are guided by his Christian convictions and are consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

Given these claims, we might reasonably wonder whose candidacy the king of kings would endorse. Who would Jesus vote for?

That is a question Jesus’ contemporaries wanted to know, too. Not that there were any Democrats or Republicans at that time (whether that is good or a bad I leave you to decide). But there were plenty of political parties vying for power. Romans, Zealots, Sadducees, Pharisees and Scribes all wanted to know Jesus’ politics. Would he support their agendas, or was he an enemy to be destroyed? Let’s consider the evidence.

Contrary to their Hollywood image, Roman authorities are depicted throughout most of the New Testament as ambivalent to Christianity. Indeed, the first Gentile convert of the new church was a centurion (Acts 10). Shortly thereafter a Roman proconsul also embraced the faith (Acts 13:6-12). It was not until the burning of Rome in A.D. 64 that state-sponsored persecution of Christians began. Before then, Roman authorities were mainly concerned with preserving order in a religiously diverse empire. But when the crowd accused Jesus of treason against Rome - bad politics, so to speak - Pontius Pilate crucified him (John 19:4-16).

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What about the Zealots? Although Scripture says little about them, it is a safe assumption that they were also interested in Jesus’ politics. Violent and embittered by Roman tyranny, the Zealots wanted to overthrow Roman governance of Israel using any and all available means. Was Jesus the conquering Messiah they had long anticipated? When he demonstrated a capacity to woo crowds and perform miracles, some attempted to seize him and make him a king. But Jesus withdrew (John 6:15). Many scholars think that it was, in part, a disappointed Zealotry that incited members of the Jerusalem mob to call for Jesus’ death when they might have asked for his release. Who was released in his place? Pilate gave them Barabbas, a murderer and possibly a Zealot.

As for Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes, they are well-documented. Having amputated Judaism from authentic worship of God, they were quick to recognize that Jesus’ message was a threat to their monopoly on power - political as well as religious. When it became clear to them that he would not yield to their authority, they plotted to kill him (John 11:47-53).

So what may we deduce from this about Jesus’ political views? First of all, Jesus was not, as some suggest, indifferent to politics. As the great theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper once observed, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’ ”

Nevertheless, he did not endorse any political platform because he knew that politics are merely a superficial manifestation of the inner man. Hence, it was his practice to address matters of the heart - justice, mercy, love, man’s need for his atoning work - and the eternal consequences that accompany our attitudes toward each. The result was that he condemned elements of every group for their sinfulness and refusal to obey God, while affirming others for their obedience.

Secondly, we learn that Jesus was not seeking political transformation of society, but spiritual transformation. There is a difference. Many evangelicals believe that societal reform is a top-down process: Remove President Barack Obama and frustrate initiatives of the Democratic Party and you’re well on your way.

By contrast, Jesus did not consider Pilate or Tiberius the root of the problem. They were representative of a systemic cultural rot. Wicked people make wicked laws. Change the people, and you change the laws they make.

Finally, Jesus understood that while party affiliation may be an expression of one’s deeply held convictions it does nothing to put you in right standing with God. To lose sight of this, as many on the “religious right” have, is to confuse conversion to a political platform with conversion to Christianity.

To be clear, Christians should exercise their political rights. I exercise mine with relish. But we should never place our hopes in the political process. Hope is found neither in politicians nor in the laws they enact but in Jesus Christ alone.

So who would Jesus vote for? As the executive director of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, I cannot legally tell you that.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Larry Alex Taunton.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (1,019 Responses)
  1. jsteward

    what a completely nonsensical op-ed... says nothing, answers no questions... in fact an entire waste of time... skips and dances away from the most important question of all... did jesus nurture the poor, or did he comfort the rich?

    March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • ingrid

      This kind of meaningless op-eds are CNN's specialty.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  2. Mike

    I think its presumptuous to assume what Jesus would do today, but I can pretty much guess what the Republican Party would do if someone with the same message came onto the scene today. They would ridicule him for his extreme liberal views, both in economics ("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."), taxes (when watching people put money into the treasury and a poor widow drops in two small coins, he says "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.", and social policy. No doubt they would put together one massive anti-Jesus SuperPAC.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Likewise for the Democratic Party

      March 6, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • JOe

      Mike. You may be right. But then Jesus would look at the Dems and say why do you support the killing of babies and oh by the way I asked people to feed the poor and take care of the widows, not the Roman government. HIS people need to do more for the "lest of these" NOT the US Government.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  3. I used to be a christian

    Mr. Taunton, no matter how I look at this ridiculous question, (as a believer or a non-believer) I cannot help being offended by the fact that you give a short (and inaccurate) history lesson and then propose to know the mind of God!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Good point. I hope to return to your original beliefs, though, and I can tell the thread of faith is still evident

      March 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  4. MytwoCents

    Jesus wouldn't vote because God is already in the know about who will win and why. Jesus' vote might contradict that. Oh wait, he IS God... OKAY, he wouldn't vote because it's a waste of time if he's already planned the winner. [nevermind... circular]

    March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      The only ones that Jesus wants to win are you and me

      March 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  5. Jon

    I know Mohammed would probably vote for Obama. But Jesus. It kinda depends. I'd guess Romney. But since he's Jesus he already knows Obama's gonna win anyway. So what's the real point??

    March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  6. Andrew

    is it just me, or has CNN become really religious lately? I feel like there's always at least 1 religious article on the front page, which used to be rare.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Bible Clown™

      "http://religion.blogs.cnn.com" You are in the "Belief Blog." This isn't news.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Andrew

      as I mentioned, it's on the main page of the CNN website. as far as I know they only recently started putting these blogs on the front webpage.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      CNN religious? Umm, no

      March 6, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  7. sjenner

    II don't think Jesus would have much to say on whom to vote except to say beware the hypocrite. (Matthew 6:5 etc.) I take issue with one point: Taunton's broadside on all Pharisees (Sudducaic Judaism died out with Temple, on which it exclusively depended). Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity are common descendants of Pharisaic Judaism. Jesus has numerous parallels with Rabbi Hillel and to a lesser extent with Rabbi Shammai. And the question and answer format of Jesus' engagement with other rabbis and teachers is definitely Pharisaic in form and context (read the Mishnah–it's very similar in many key respects). There's a reason the Christian Old Testament and the Jewish Tanakh look so similar (although compiled separately by different groups). Christianity is part of an internal argument within Pharisaic Judaism. And although different in some of their conclusions, nonetheless share the same foundation, and to a great extent, superstructure. The fact is that with Christianity, most of the world became Jewish, with Jewish morality, and core notions of fairness, right and wrong, becoming core to our thinking. That's what makes the last 2,000 years so tragic. At least now Christianity is becoming aware of its deep, Jewish reality.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Jesus Christ stands alone and existed before the creation of the world. He is the First and the Last. Either we are with Him or against Him. There is no rationale that can explain Him with various philosophical ancestries. But we can all peacefully co-exist out of love.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • sjenner

      Voice of Truth, Jesus exists both within an historic and religious sphere. Justify it how you may wish (that other's like Hillel and Shammai were conforming to God, who is also Jesus). But certainly, Jesus' disciples and apostles were Jewish, and specifically Pharisaic. And that determined the nature and form of Christian theology and thought. Certainly, that Jesus was Jewish, raised as a Jew, and existed within a Jewish context cannot be disputed.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  8. JoeT

    Regardless of your level of belief in Jesus, it is nonetheless ironic that when given the chance to vote, the mob chose Barrabus over Jesus. Whether you embrace the New Testament or hold it a pious hoax, there's no doubting the deep and disturbing truth: given a choice between benevolent change and violence, the crowd chooses violence. Welcome to 2012.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Well said

      March 6, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  9. gordyb

    Jesus would not vote but he most certainly was a liberal.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  10. Ben

    Well, as abortion, regardless of your point of view, was not the maliable issue it is today, he would have been a one-issue voter.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  11. Bible Clown™

    He'd vote for me, of course. I believe in a Jesus who tells me what I want to hear, same as all of you guys do. My Jesus hates Republicans.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Rather, Jesus hates sinners who boast that they are better than other sinners. Remember the parable of the Sinner and the Pharisee.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  12. liz48

    Jesus said, that only those who follow His commandments are His disciples. He also said that then such a person will know the Truth and the Truth will set him free – John 8:31-32.

    The Bible also tells us that those who follow human wisdom to the exclusion of being led by God; even if they claim it is godly and reasonable, will be cursed. In my understanding none of the candidates including the sitting president will be a favorite of the Lord.

    However we see the Lord blessing people through ungodly leaders, when people honored Him. Psalm 91 says that thousands can fall defeated beside you, but you will be left standing and will prevail if you dwell under the shadow of the Almighty – and that dwelling is for those with a clean heart and clean hands (Psalm 24).

    Therefore each individual can prosper and succeed if they individually seek to honor God. They will have control over the works of satan and he will not prevail even if he is embodied in the leadership. See John 16:33.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Amen. Excellent post

      March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  13. Lisa

    Thank you. Well said. I have been saying this for years. So tired of people putting faith in a political party system and not Jesus Christ.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,because they lost their heart,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they lost the light from GOD and got lost in darkness of this world,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  14. ObamaJoe

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,God put white house in Obama's hand,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    ,,,,,,,,,,,Obama is the one who was raised up by GOD,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    March 6, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • liz48

      Yes, it is God's Kingdom principles to have man decide his destiny. Psalm 82, for example, refers to the sins of men disturbing the earth, and many times in the Bible God gave the people ungodly leaders because of the sin of the people. It was not His perfect plan for them, and He would tell them so. When they repented and got right with God He gave them leaders who were sometimes not worshipers of Him, but still were a blessing to the people.

      It is true that God sets up leadership in every nation – Daniel 4:17 (The Bible); but it does not mean those leaders always represented God's Blessing. One very positive aspect of Obama's agenda was his less harsh treatment of the illegal immigrants- that is what I believe, gave him a shot at the WH. God is very strong about how the stranger in the land is treated. All human beings are made in the image of God.

      Even if it looks unpopular, the person who protects justice for human beings and favors Israel, will take the WH. Rick Perry was in that place, even if his debate performance was not stellar, until he flip flopped on the immigration issue.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  15. The Don

    To begin with, he would not vote, but GOD will be the supreme judge

    March 6, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  16. DumbFounded

    Who would Mahatma Gandhi vote for?

    March 6, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  17. ObamaJoe

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,God put white house in Obama's hand,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    ,,,,,,,,,,,Obama is the one who was raised up by the GOD,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    March 6, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Bible Clown™

      "Obama is the one who was raised up by GOD" Sorry, we raised him up by voting for him, not praying. God might have raised him up to be a good man, but the rest was a political process in which we traded a useless bush for an honest Senator.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  18. Nathan Prophet

    Well, obviously you are a Christian zealot; a fundamentalist evangelical who takes the Bible to be God's absolute Word and who takes Jesus to be God (part of the Trinity). You have much of your early Judeo-Christian history wrong. Please consult Bart Ehrman, James Tabor, John Dominnic Crossan, Karen Armstrong, and many others. Your premises are invalid, so how can any conclusion be valid?

    March 6, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • J.W

      Which part did you think was wrong.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Bible Clown™

      "Well, obviously you are a Christian zealot; a fundamentalist evangelical who takes the Bible to be God's absolute Word and who takes Jesus to be God (part of the Trinity)" Oh goody, a heretic who doesn't believe Jesus is in the Trinity. This ought to keep them busy for a while.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Need Jesus? You ask people to consult all these people, but they need to consult Jesus, just like you

      March 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  19. Joe

    Zombies cant vote, right?

    March 6, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  20. WWRRD

    Jesus was non political. He cared nothing for human politics and treachery. "Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's, and give to G od what is God's. This pretty much sums up how Jesus felt about government and politics. It is a worldly construct that he wanted nothing to do with. He cared deeply though for all of God's people, and wanted them cared for physically and spiritually. He knew human politics could never accomplish that task.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • JM

      True. He was above politics.

      He was about the truth, the actual truth, not what we imagine or perceive in our finite minds.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Correct. People also forget Daniel 2, a prophecy which sums up how Jesus feels about the governments of man. He will smash them all for He is the Great Stone that smashes the statue of world governments.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
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