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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. Jeff

    What is the point of this article... Everyone knows jesus was a socialist... Giving excess food to the hungry... not selling it, turning water into wine... again not selling it. Helping the sick and the poor, certainly not a republican.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • fred

      Republicans actually beleive that when you give people free food you put them into slavery. This is what democrats do. You are a slave to sound bites and have bought the liberal lie. In case you have not noticed 47 million people after 4 years of Obama receive food stamps.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Do you even know what Socialism is and who founded it? You might as well say Jesus was a Satanist, if your logic is to be followed. Democracy, Marxism, Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and everything in between is completely hateful towards the Lord and are of the doctrine of demons that the Bible warns about.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  2. Listening is better than Talking

    Jesus would not vote for anyone... why would he have to? Who's he gonna follow? lol He's Jesus.. I'm not Christian but I believe in Jesus as a leader and I think he'd be the one everyone else followed...

    March 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • TING

      We're talking about the real historical Jesus not the "I can do magic" Jesus.

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

      There is NO historical evidence that Jesus actually existed.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Observer

      jimtanker, the historians' historian.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Well said, especially given that you're a non-believer. You're not that far from the Lord, and whenever you're ready, He is there to embrace you.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • jimtanker

      F your evil, schizophrenic, psychopathic god. It doesn’t exist.

      You have no evidence for it's existence. You are living in a world of delusion.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  3. Ant C

    Jesus was a socialist. You really cannot say otherwise. He didn't believe in materialism and being rich, he believed in helping all of the poor and was a caring individual.

    I laugh whenever I hear neo-conservatives say they are Christians. Ha! You're kidding me, right? You are for all that Jesus was against. Jesus did not discriminate. He did not believe in violence. He wore tattered rags instead of expensive clothes. He didn't care about the rich, he cared about the poor.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  4. Carol

    Why Obama, of course, just as I will.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Jim

      He wouldn't vote for anyone, but I think for Obama (and several others) He might be inclined to say, "You draw near to me with your mouths, but your hearts are far from me."

      March 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  5. Johnny

    implying there was ever a "jesus"

    March 6, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  6. edge

    "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book" Hear that? Vote because a religious leader tells you it's what god wants and get plagued. It is only by grace that you are saved.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • jimtanker

      Or, you could live in the real world.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Jim

      It is worth noting that phrases like that occur in several places in the Bible (including the Old Testament).

      March 6, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  7. Jim Lefeber

    Jesus would vote for "none of the above".

    March 6, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  8. Jim Mooney

    How can the question even be asked? Jesus loved the poor – Republicans hate the poor. They show by their Actions as well as their words. Jesus said a rich man would have trouble getting into heaven. Republicans think the rich are the only ones deserving of heaven.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Ranch Girl

      Poor Jim what a slanted view. Your speaking of all one group who raised you ? A pack of donkeys? Jesus came to save not vote ! God bless you & keep you.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • John

      REALLY JIM!!!...Republicans hate the poor....Have you gone to HOLLYWOOD lately full of LIBERALS do you think they LOVE the POOR...give me a break.
      CONSERVATIVE VALUES is what OUR LORD would VOTE for...and the DEMOCRATS are OPPOSED to ALL of them.
      Simply put...HOW COULD OUR LORD be for OBAMA that DESTROYS HUMAN LIFE with his policies...CONTRACEPTION – ABORTION lets call it what it is KILLING HUMANS...HOLOCAUST

      March 6, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Jim

      You've clearly been reading too much propaganda. a) Republicans do not hate the poor - they simply disagree that perpetual Democrat hand-out programs really help the poor nearly as much as they help Democratic candidates.
      b) Many of our richest are Democrats, so Republicans certainly don't think that riches are the path to heaven.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • oneSTARman

      @Ranch Girl – " Your speaking of all one group who raised you ? " – and we wonder why Red State 'folks' have to have the bible READ to them instead of READING it THEMSELVES.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • oneSTARman

      @Jim – Please refer to Matthew 25:31-46

      March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Richard

      @John, you're silly. God gave us the option to choose. I think it's strange that man has decided he knows what god wants from me when God himself hasn't put any barriers to prevent me from those freedoms. I mean if he wanted to keep contraception from existing then why even allow us to have it? If you says it's because he wants us to make the right choice then I say great, it's awesome that he gives me that freedom so why would any human take that freedom from me?

      March 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  9. catholic engineer

    Who would Jesus vote for? This question shows a Judas complex . Judas the Zealot saw in Jesus the "man for our times" trying to make Him relevant to current events. He saw in Jesus someone who would boot out the Romans and establish anew the ascendency of the Israelites. To ask who Jesus would vote for is to try to make Him "relevant to the times". He would rise with the times and collapse with the times. Jesus is always "irrelevant" because He always transcends. He's not a "catch the latest wave" kind of guy.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Bhawk

      Jesus never taught against the Romans. It was not the Romans who sentenced him but the Jewish establishment. Roman only cared about threats to Rome and allowed most religions to carry on. Jesus never attacked the Romans only the Jewish leadership.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  10. glyder

    i don't think he would vote.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Jim Mooney

      If he did vote, I'm sure his vote wouldn't be counted – he'd be in the wrong district like all those po folks in Florida in 2000.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  11. Coyoteliberty

    I suspect that Jesus wouldn't vote at all. If anything, he'd be an anarchist. He seemed, as I recall, to spend a lot of time trying to skillfully and quietly subvert the existing power paradigm.

    If he was around today, I suspect he'd vote Libertarian. Again, as I recall, he was very big on personal responsibility and people doing good because they choose to, not because someone held a gun (okay, a sword) to their head.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Bhawk

      Your bible is different than mine. He taught that man had a personal responsiblity to all of man kind. If Mary was a prositute he extended his grace to her and told others not to judge her. He told people to give unto Ceasara's(government) what was Ceasars. He showed anger with only the businessmen of the temple. He healed, feed, and comforted all he meet not say"its your own damn fault". He was never said anything about "personal responsibilty" in fact he was more "my responsiblity to my fellow man".

      March 6, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Jim

      Politically one would have to say He had both Libertarian and Socialist views, but He wouldn't vote - if asked by a reporter He'd likely say something like, "Let's talk about something more important, like your soul and how you treat your fellow man."
      As far as BHawks comment, I think everything Jesus said spoke to both personal responsibility AND responsibility for others - When He told the crowd "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and then the adulteress, "Go and sin no more," He was NOT saying it wasn't a sin, He was telling the crowd it wasn't their place to exact judgement and telling her that it was a sin and that it was her responsibility to repent.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      There are evil ones who do indeed "spend a lot of time trying to skillfully and quietly subvert the existing power paradigm" but Jesus was not one of them. His purpose was to establish the Age of Grace once the religious leaders descended from Judah and Israel rejected Him. Once the Age of Grace is complete, He will boldly destroy the kingdoms of man (Daniel 2)

      March 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  12. jimtanker

    Who would Superman vote for?

    March 6, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  13. MikeMazzla

    As an athiest. from what I know from my religious friends and my less informative years being forced to go to Sunday school, Jesus was all about helping the poor, the unfortuate, was non judgemental, advocated welfare to help, etc etc. So just from that I know what party he wouldnt vote for...im just saying

    March 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • AAAAA

      Do you really think that Jesus would have been pro-abortion????

      March 6, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Too bad they forced you to go to Sunday School because it seems your motivation to learn the truth about Jesus is not fully mature. The party system we vote in is steeped in evil and most people who partake of it don't realize it. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, so He predates and supersedes any manmade political contraption. He loves you dearly so get to know Him

      March 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  14. Tommy

    No one...just like the rest of the Bible, it is fake...

    March 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  15. Cheese NachoMan

    Trick question!

    'Cuz Jesus wasn't 'Mercan!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  16. Thinker

    Whats next? Will we be asking who Santa Claus would vote for? What about the Easter Bunny?

    March 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • MikeMazzla

      good one

      March 6, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Mark

      I'm sort of partial to the Easter Bunny myself

      March 6, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  17. edge

    As an Atheist, I don't think Jesus would vote from the way I understand him. He always said we are in the world but not of the world. Governments and laws are not eternal, so we should turn our minds to things that are.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Well said. The real Jesus is likely someone you can relate to, from what i can see in your words

      March 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  18. Marty in MA

    Statistics show that 52% of Americans believe in angels so the Jesus thing must be important. for the rest of us that are grounded in reality, vote the guy that you think is the best for secular America.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  19. TMan

    Hmm. Either this guy did not write this article OR did not edit this article OR needs to hire new editors. He claims to exercise his right as a believer toward the end of the article, but failed to realize a critical error near the beginning that no believer would miss. King of Kings is not capitalized? That would be like writing an article and not capitalizing mother theresa or julius caesar. Come on. You can run but you can't hide.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  20. Jack

    Hey Larry Alex Taunton – you big weasel. The way the tax laws are written, you most certainly can write an opinion piece telling us your opinion, and telling us you can't is big fat LIE. The law reads that your organization can not devote a significant portion of its activities to promoting a political cause. Your opinion piece represents a minimal amount of effort, and would therefore cause no conflicts at all.

    The reality is that you simply don't want to upset your financial supporters, and you're willing to lie to avoid doing so.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:41 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.