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. Dmac

    Why does CNN continue to give religion a platform? His book basically asserts that if you are an atheist, you are cold, graceless, and contribute to the corruption of morals and society. What an ignorant message.

    It seems pretty clear that Jesus would have voted for a Democrat as he was an advocate for the poor and disaffected, and focused on people over power and money. Which party today do you think better upholds the values of what is on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."?

    To me that is the ultimate irony of the Religious Right and conservative Evangelicals. Jesus was a progressive and today he would be vilified by them.

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

      Who would Jesus vote for? He'd vote for Me.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  2. beleef

    We have candidates and a sitting president who all truly believe that Jesus is guiding them, and we wonder why our country is in such bad shape.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  3. Damo

    CNN. The NN is meant to stand for "News Network". Please stick to reporting news.

    "What might a delusional carpenter that's been dead for almost 2000 years think of politics now?" is not news.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Bob

      I agree – it is not news – which may be why its part of the "Belief Blog" (doofus).

      March 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • rb

      ditto Bob

      March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  4. Mark

    I really don't understand how religion has anything to do with politics. Keep religion out of government. Keep god out of politics
    You just can't mix oil & water.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Jon

      Society's values have to do with politics, and for many religious people, their religion (or what they think is their religion, as determined by their leaders) determines their values. Of course, because the laws are for everyone and not just christians, this is not good at all - when it comes to public policy issues, christians should really defend their values based on reason alone, as that is the only foundation for values which we all share. So I agree, its a real problem.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Brian

      Mark, what religion has to do with politics is the same as any other deeply held belief. You cannot divorce your beliefs from you consistent actions. If you believe God does not exist you will live accordingly. If you believe He does and He will hold you accountable you will live accordingly. Most of the time in politics people to put if religious pretense for votes and support. I am religious and this bothers me. But You cannot get away from your personal values (religious or not) from influencing your decisions. Also as a politician you were voted into office by those who have similar values and beliefs as you. So your actions will likely reflect them. That is what religion has to do with politics and politics has to do with religion in short.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  5. bloop pop do dope

    Since politics in America are not faith based, Jesus would probably note vote. Political decisions in America are not based on faith beliefs like it would be in other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and so on. We have the separation of church and state. Faith in America has been pushed aside when it comes to government and political decisions. Its sad.

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

      Yeah, it's a shame America isn't more of a theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia...wait, wat?

      March 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Mikey

    Sorry, the answer we were looking for was "Ron Paul" .

    March 6, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  7. Pedro

    Very well written article....that will probably end up sparking a religion vs atheism debate. Nevertheless, I focused on the article itself and appreciated it and Jesus in the process

    March 6, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  8. Damien

    Jesus wouldn't have voted; he would have spoken to those who were voted into office directly to try and change them. Hypothetically? He'd vote for a bleeding heart candidate, as Jesus was a hippie.

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

      Or he would face the same dilemma that the rest of us do every 4 years which is voting in a bad choice because the opposition is worse......................

      March 6, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  9. Butch2U

    My Take: Who would Jesus vote for? ........As the executive director of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, I cannot legally tell you that.
    Not that I value your opinion or anything but thanks for wasting my time!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  10. Carl

    I don't know who Jesus would vote for, but I know he'd look at Santorum and Perry and would just shake his head thinking "These guys really don't get it"

    March 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  11. Karen

    Feeding the poor, offering health care to the sick, ending wars... Sounds like Obama to me.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • green

      Problem is that Obama is for abortion. If your democrat, you support killing unborn babies. If your a Republican you support not killing unborn babies. No human being on earth is perfect. The only human being that was perfect was jesus and we killed him.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Karen

      A.) The president does not legislate abortion. B.) I am a pro-life democrat. But I am also anti death penalty, anti-war, and vegetarian. If you are going to value life, be consistent.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  12. Joseph

    Jesus has cast his vote.So have his genuine deciples.What's his vote you may ask? Read for your self in the Bible what he said.Luke 4:43, Luke 8:1. In essence he said:' I have come to Preach the Kingdom of God,for this I was sent forth'.
    Jesus himself is the anointed king chosen by God to Rule God's Kingdom. Genuine Christians cast their vote not to any world political candidate.They Choose Christ as the Perfect candidate for God's Kingdom. In this way Christ is their Leader.That means we, Listen,Follow and obey our Leader Christ 'not to be Part of the world 'and its Politics.1John 2:17 says, "The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remais forever"

    March 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      sorry, no write in votes allowed

      March 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Frank

      Very well said Joseph! That government will never be brought to ruin! (Daniel 2:44)

      March 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  13. bobby

    I am pretty sure that jesus would be very upset with our current politicians from both sides. Not sure what he would do but if his actions in the temple when he was upset at the merchants is any indicator, I think it would be bad for both parties.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  14. SeattleMark952

    Not the right question. The question is whether WE vote for the Savior, or not. Not wise to entertain philosophical questions that might have a ulterior motive lurking (to point people toward a particular candidate).

    March 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  15. 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 (Muslim actually) and I believe in Jesus as a leader and I think he'd be the one everyone else follows...

    March 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • TING

      We're talking about the real historical Jesus, not the "I can do magic" Jesus. There would be a very small crowd following him.

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

      As a Christian, I respect your response and I agree. *HUGZ*

      March 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  16. IO

    Hmmmm I don't think Jesus would vote. But I do believe he would have warmer feelings towards candidates who were not warmongers, fearmongers, who taught common sense and believed in allowing man free will as much as possible. Someone who kept church out of state affairs, and pushed to ensure civil liberties. I'm guessing he would have some good things to say about Ron Paul.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  17. becca

    A theocracy, or leadership by God, is how God planned it to be but the Israelites demanded their own ruler like the pagan countries. God let them have their way and they chose a man to be their king, then regretted their decision later. Jesus would advise us to have a theocracy and follow God's ten commandments to protect our relationships with other people and our relationship with God.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Yeah the dark ages were a great time for man kind.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • SAC

      sounds like the taliban.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • TING

      Are you in the FLDS? I thought you were not allowed to have computers.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • mdan

      Yes, a Theocracy would be wonderful, then you would just execute all the non-Christians. That's right, God wipes out the wicked, the non-believers, the "sinners" so in a theocracy, to follow the King James Bible (notice, it's not Gods bible that everyone follows, but the one some king had written hundreds of years ago or a version of it) myself, an atheist and Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, etc would all be converted or put to death.

      Ah, the crusades all over, follow God or die!!!

      No, Jesus, according to bible was a hippie, peace, love and welfare - God, OTOH, is a mean spirited, murderous SOB who loves us all to death. Really, the OT and NT of the bible are so at odds you know it's all man's devices, not God's or Jesus's.

      But, Jesus, not God, was a liberal, bleeding heart kind of fellow.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  18. leftover

    If jesus could prove he was a citizen, (he's non-white after all…can't be too careful), and if he satisfied all the voter ID regulations in whatever state he was registered in, Jesus would vote for Jerry White and Phyllis Scherrer of the Socialist Equality Party.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  19. GGinSandiego

    If you've ever read ANY of the new testament you would know. Jesus would vote for Obama. No question about it.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Joey

      Sooo, Jesus would vote for a man who endorses the abortion of babies?

      March 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  20. Jim

    If Jesus were to vote, there is little question who He would vote for. Read the Sermon on the Mount Matt 5:1-34, and
    that will provide some insight as to how we are to live, including priorities. Look and listen to the 4 GOP candidaters,
    and pick out the one whose messages are the closest to the biblical direction. God's man in this election is very clear
    to the redeemed. Rick Santorum is the one.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • atroy

      Thanks for the laugh...that was hilarious.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      lol, good one, made me chuckle.
      why stop at 5:34? why not go on to the sections about not shouting about your religion in public? or giving to those that ask for stuff? about not hating people? etc etc etc.
      Santorum doesnt meet the conditions for any endorsement.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • mdan

      Right, Jesus would vote for hatred cruelty, bigotry and evil ... Sanatorium. I think your confusing Christ and Anti-Christ.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
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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.