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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. SeanM

    If god did not need a creator, why would the earth?

    March 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  2. Jmacq1

    Excellent article. I'm certainly not a big believer in Christianity specifically (I believe in a higher power, but not in any one religion's interpretation of it), but it's nice to see someone who is actually try to practice what they preach. To my mind, Christians should be mildly outraged every time someone tries to drag their savior's name into the muddy, dirty world of politics just to bolster their own chances of seizing political power.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  3. sargeanton

    What a stupid story. In Jesus' time there was no voting. When He comes back, He will be King of the earth...so He won't be doing any voting then either. He isn't here now - so the question is like what if 7Up tasted like Coca Cola?

    March 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  4. Bap Jr.

    Why is this on CNN? I really don't mind religion, or people's personal beliefs/values, but seriously... this is not news.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  5. Jordan

    If Jesus was real, what makes you think he would vote for anyone?

    March 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  6. tedferret

    When are we going to get with the program and acknowledge that if Jesus even existed (unlikely), he was arab? Not white, not blonde, not American. ARAB.

    Nothing wrong with that, obviously, but stip depicting him as a white guy. It's just stupid.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • CMoses

      No, he was Jewish.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Jamest297

      Actually, jesus was a semite, just like the arabs AND the jews.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  7. Infidelio

    A core belief for Mormons is that if you are a true believer in the faith then there are no limits to what happens in your afterlife. In fact, you become a God of your own universe. So, for Mitt Romney, being POTUS is simply a stepping stone between running Bain Capital and running an entire universe. Now, ask the question again: Would Jesus vote for someone who believes this? More importantly, what should we expect from a president who has such beliefs?

    March 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • toosliq

      And, even more potentially shocking, is there a more satanic concept than believing that you will become what God is now?

      March 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  8. stevensb

    I don't believe he be voting at all , for any candidate ........ if he was/is this supernatural being with divine powers , I think he would be among those that need him the most ........ the poor , the sick ( spiritually and medically ) doing what he was allegedly doing 2000 years ago , helping and healing .
    Oh , wait , that would make him a huge political target ..... egad , a socialist , a communist , a religious fanatic , a political hack with a social agenda ...
    ooppps , methinks he would meet the same fate again ............

    March 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  9. adam

    Jesus said to care for the sick, so it sounds like he advocates national health care. Jesus would not vote for a candidate that does not advocate giving to the poor, caring for the sick, not fighting war. He's a total democrat.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  10. tedferret

    Next time you write an article about who Jesus woudl vote for, have the stones to say it.

    Otherwise you're just wasting our time.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  11. Daddy2010

    Jesus would not vote for anyone because he did not and does not have any interest in politics. He also doesn't have any interest in football or basketball.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  12. Bootyfunk

    jesus couldn't speak english. republicans would have him deported. i guess he could try to get a fake ID.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Joel

      Stupid point. Thanks.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  13. jeremy

    he would want nothing to do with american politics. since it is mostly BS

    March 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  14. Granger

    Great...a liberal author trying to write another "unbiased," story...about Jesus no less....

    March 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      liberal?

      March 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  15. Bill

    The GOP/Tea Party are like the Pharisees, they reject true Christianity for "right wing conservatism" and consequently reject Jesus. The GOP has an extensive history of failed American and Global policies. For the GOP, historical outcomes is an indicator of future performance.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Joel

      What is "true" christianity? What you believe?

      March 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • nown

      Are you sure you're not confusing GOP with the Christian Church?

      March 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Granger

      I wish Jesus would come, and make the Obamas and the two kids all return to Chicago and the last 4 yrs would have just been a nightmare the country had....the last thing we need after Obama getting defeated is Michelle running for some office, based on the Obama name, and then in a few years, the two bratty daughters seeking office for being black and an Obama....wreaks of the worthless Kennedy lineage....

      March 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • BeverlyNC

      There are NO Republican "Christians" so He would not be voting for any Republicans. They twist His words, do not live by his teachings, and play multiple choice with which of the Ten Commandments they follow. Jesus would not know them. He would more likely view them as the moneychangers he threw out of the Temple for cheating the People and defiling the House of God. Romney is not even a Christian, he is a Mormon who worships Joseph Smith over Jesus. These Republicans are scary extremists more like members of a cult than any real religion.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  16. Joel

    You realize Jesus would not vote, right? It's in the Bible that he wished to stay out of politics. As an Agnostic I don't understand how I know the Bible better than the average "Christian".

    March 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • CMoses

      Knowing it and understanding it are two different things.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  17. Kevin

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIew3R_jAIk
    ..

    March 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • justme

      now that was funny and only 3 minutes to have a good laugh. now for my take, Jesus would have nothing to do with this worlds politics, he said he was no part of this world and his true followers would be also. if you are dedicated and baptized you have already voted for God's kingdom which is about to take over complete control of this earth and Wow, is it going to be exciting. Daniel 2:44, Rev. 11:18, Ps. 83:18 and so many more. hang on tight the ride is about to start;

      March 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  18. Woody

    Jesus was supposedly "God" or the son of same. He wouldn't have to vote for anyone. He could snap his godly fingers and his favorite candidate would be a shoe in. Better still, he could snap his godly fingers and make everything right (let's face it, his daddy really blew the creation deal), so we wouldn't need politicians or government. Now there's an idea.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  19. elvisg

    Jesus did not exist so he would not have voted. But if we pretend he existed, he would not have voted because (according to the Bible) he didn't get involved with political/secular activities. But if we pretend he existed and would have voted then he would not have picked Romney because he's Mormon, rich, and a flip-flopper; not Santorum because his name is synonomous with ass-juice and hates women, not Obama because he uses drones to kill people and not Gingrich because he is an adulterer. That only leaves Ron Paul...;

    March 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Jason

      You seem pretty certain of his non-existance.....proof?

      March 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  20. Adam

    Doesn't really matter who Jesus would vote for. Since Jesus didn't exist, his vote would be thrown out as invalid.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:34 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.