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. jon

    He would vote for the person that can restore this country and return us to our roots. We prospered because we had morals and we worked hard to care for our own families and our community. There are no perfect candidates, but Obama would be at the absolute bottom of any short list

    March 10, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  2. Jonathan

    Do I go with the South Park reference, or the classic 80's movie? So hard to decide.

    Actually I'm sure the real answer is probably closest to the movie Brewster's Millions, where Richard Pryor ran a political campaign to get people to vote for "None of the Above". I seriously doubt that he would support any of these yahoos.

    March 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  3. Lucy

    This question 'who would Jesus vote for?' reminds me of what happened in Joshua 5:13-14a

    [quote] Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” [end of quote]

    The key word is NEITHER.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  4. Martin

    Would Jesus have supported US military actions in Vietnam and Iraq? What might Jesus say about the treatment of native Americans by settlers? If Jesus was near a TV set when viewers were shown images of the "shock and awe" campaign against Iraq, would he have said, "Wow, cool! Awesome, like a video game! This rocks!"? Or might he have pointed out to anyone who did say such things that every flash of an exploding bomb probably destroyed homes and lives, including the lives of many innocent children, women and men. It is the height of irony that people who would crucify Jesus today, albeit in secrecy so as not to create a martyr, are among those who use Jesus' name to promote their own un-Christian agendas. They are so successful at this that countless people consider themselves Christians who support things that are in diametrical opposition to Jesus' teachings.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  5. Gopherit

    Jesus did not involve himself directly in politics because that was not his mission. Also he avoided being political because he did not want his mission of redeeming the world from the punishment for our rebelling against God, which involved him being nailed to a cross, criminal-style, to be hijacked and appropriated for causes motivated by selfishness. His recorded political statement regarding Roman rule was that people should pay their taxes, and he was extremely sympathetic to Roman authorities especially when they demonstrated that they understood him and what he was doing, which contrasted considerably to what the Jewish religious establishment thought of him.

    The same applies today. Jesus wants people to believe in and have trusting faith in him and his mission as those have been ordained by God, and according to the Bible Jesus is God, from God,and of God. If politicians are actually Christian and not simply attempting to hijack Christianity to achieve their own selfishly-motivated purposes, they will leavs Jesus out of their rhetoric unless they are preaching a totally non-poltical agenda. And for a political person to preach such an agenda obviously will not result in their being elected. Much of the U.S. and the world is as resistant to what Jesus actually was preaching and advocating as was the Jerusalem religious establishment and its followers when Jesus was ministering in person. If many of those who refer to themselves as "evangelical Christians" and instead are actually advocating what amounts to a political agenda instead read and act upon what Jesus is recorded as having said in the Bible in Matthew 5-7 the U.S. and the world would be transformed into something vastly different from what it actually is and what the political establishment is and has been working towards.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  6. Mickey

    If you're religious – and believe in any deity EXCEPT GOD, you are the problem in this world – and in the next world, you will find that God told us NO other gods before Me!!!

    Since the onset of Christianity, there has been no peace. For those of you who think that the Jews are the problems, go look in the mirror.

    Oh, and do not forget - Jesus was always an orthodox Jew. He did not start a new religion!!! He would be appalled at the churches and people who pray to him as if he was god. Oh my!!!

    Repent!!! You would crucify Jesus the Jew again – if he returned. Of that I'm 100% sure and then some.

    March 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • CNNtime

      Something to think about:
      Jesus is God: "The Father and I are one" -John 10:30
      He took religion from the Jews: "...the Kingdom of God will be taken away from [Jews] and given to a people that will produce its fruit." -Matthew 21:43
      And He established His Church: "...and upon this rock I will build my Church..." -Matthew 16:18

      March 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  7. Reality

    Only for the newbies:--–>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care who a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would vote for!!!!!!

    March 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  8. MontanaLuke

    As I was listening to this segment this morning I raised my hands and shouted "I am not alone any more! Someone else in the world sees Christian politics the way I do"! It made my year!
    Jesus (via Paul) calls us to be ambassadors, ambassadors represent their home government and are very very careful about involving themselves in their host government's politics. Just remember this simple formula, "religion" plus "politics" creates a vortex of bloodshed and violence. Jesus came to deliver us from both. Come on Christians, JESUS IS THE ANSWER, not politics!

    March 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  9. WorldBelow

    Who would jesus vote for? Nobody – he's dead.

    March 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Yoyall

      You sure......?

      March 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  10. Paul Wilson

    I doubt he'd vote for anybody, if sects that forbid voting are the "One True Church".

    March 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  11. Simeon Johnson

    Correction of previous Post: Mark 12:13-17 [KJV] The affinity that Christ demonstrated toward the poor – is an insightful observation of this article. The thirty three and a half years of His ministry here on earth, is paragon example of this fact. Therefore, in response to the question of the subject matter; who would Christ vote for? Can be gleaned form His statements?

    “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.” Mark 12:13-17 [KJV]

    The putrid effluviums emanated from the mouths of the Presidential Candidates cannot be associated with the views of Christ. We must thwart the malevolent schemes of our enemies by praying for them, mandated by Jesus – to pray for our leaders, and those who rules over us.

    March 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  12. Simeon Johnson

    Correction: Who would Jesus vote for? Mark 12: 13-17 [KJV]

    March 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  13. Simeon Johnson

    The affinity that Christ demonstrated toward the poor – is an insightful observation of this article. The thirty three and a half years of His ministry here on earth, is paragon example of this fact. Therefore, in response to the question of the subject matter; who would Christ vote for? Can be gleaned form His statements?

    “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.” Mark 12:13-17 [KGV]

    The putrid effluviums emanated from the mouths of the Presidential Candidates cannot be associated with the views of Christ. We must thwart the malevolent schemes of our enemies by praying for them, mandated by Jesus – to pray for our leaders, and those who rules over us.

    March 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Skeptic

      Nice use of $10 words.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  14. btruth

    Jesus, if He was willing to look past the OBVIOUS luciferian corruption of ALL GOVERNMENTS, since the time He was "tempted" by satan, would vote for the only one who has the COURAGE to mention the ILLEGAL federal reserve. Which is not federal or a RESERVE, BUT A PRIVATE COMPANY, RUN BY "BANKING MAFIA FAMILIES" a.k.a. THE "KINGDOMLESS KINGS" OF Revelation.
    It's the same "system" (beast) that He got Righteously angry over, when confronting the "money lender" inside His Temple. It's a system of debt/slave creating usury, called "centralized banks & FIAT currency."
    All countries have one, ALL countries are controlled!

    March 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    March 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Skeptic

      Name one thing it's changed.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      March 8, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • Jesus

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~~"

      March 8, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  16. Carl

    God applies politics (people manipulation), and so did the Lord Jesus Christ. However, He assured us that “His kingdom is not of this world”, and I can see why and wish you would do too. Concerning the United States of America... the United States of America reveals a disturbance reality by the GOP contest namely; the American people are indecisive, hence are going through a humbling succession of military defeat, moral decline, and economic disaster. This is after years of self exaltation. Remember wisdom: “He who exalts himself will be humbled, he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Now is the time for the United States of America to humble herself by focussing on her economy on the principle “love your neighbour as yourself”, and all the other things will be taken care off. How to do this is as described by “the World Monetary Order”.

    March 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  17. Awesome

    Nobody. He's already King.

    March 7, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  18. Jeff Fulmer

    While Jesus was pretty apolitical, he did share with us his values.... and they are often at contrast with the religious conservatives today. If Christ were a candidate, what would his platform be? Check out "The Real Christian Candidate" http://www.hometownprophetbook.com/the-real-christian-candidate/

    March 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  19. ﺶﺶHeIsGodﺶﺶ

    Christ is King of Kings....why would He vote for anyone that will put him above Him?

    March 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  20. Henry

    People also laughed and stoned Jesus Christ when he was alive! I believe people of faith, people that truly believe in what they have read in the Bible need to pay close attention to the times of which we are living. We are living in the time of the BEAST and Ron Paul is our only Defense against him. All of us that are awaken need to reach out to Christian with this message. Read what the Bible said about the Beast. The Beast is made out to have 7 HEADS. Count the heads under the Shadow Government that is controlling our country. If you are not a believer this may make a believer of you. Listen to what Rick Santoram has been saying, there is Evil in the world Satan is alive. Rick is a man that is sleeping and does realize who the people are behind him because he is a man with very little common sense lead by the inspiration of being the highest power. Satan also offered Jesus Christ everything at his weakest hour. If Risk is elected The War of All Wars will be around the corner. He will begin a Religion War and the the end of the world as we know it. If you have Children and Care about their future open your eyes and help open the eyes and brains of others. How people can not see and understand who Ron Paul is? The others should be washing his feet. And I believe they know it.

    March 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm |

    • I can't think of a way to troll this.

      March 7, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Observer

      Ron Paul looks a bit frail. Is he really a match for Satan?

      March 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Skeptic

      the beast is made of 7 heads. Yes, the bible is really a good source of truth and wisdom. It's a fiction book. Wake up.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Wayne

      "We are living in the time of the BEAST and Ron Paul is our only Defense against him."

      Does revelation say anything about Ron Paul? So you already know Ron Paul is going to fail. Why would you want to stop the beast anyway? That would just delay the inevitable right?

      March 12, 2012 at 11:24 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.