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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. Robert

    If Jesus voted at all, he would probably vote for none of the above. The Republicans have no passion for the poor, and the Democrats have no respect for the unborn. As for the other parties, the Communists do not believe in his father, the Libertarians don't believe in sin, the Green party? hmmmmm

    March 6, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Anon

      How can a non-existent myth/farce based on the over-reactive collective imagination of he Christians actually vote?

      March 6, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  2. MB

    The Bible clearly says that Jesus is a King. (You know that whole king of kings lord of lords thing) So, why would he vote for some other king to rule against him? The Psalms 2:2 tells us clearly what the sovereignty of nations equates to in God's eyes. (treason)
    The Bible clearly describes human rulership as being a terrible failure at Eccl. 8:9 – "All this I have seen, and there was an applying of my heart to every work that has been done under the sun, [during] the time that man has dominated man to his injury."
    Yes – we dominate each other so much that we do it to the extent of injuring our own selves.
    Considering Christ literally said that his kingdom (government) was not in the world . . . he wouldn't vote for idiot politicians on earth who are corrupt. Rather he put his trust in the heavenly government... you know the one you supposedly pray for, "thy Kingdom come." What do you think that means? Come by for tea? Per the Bible you are praying for it to come and take over the earth again and fix things.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Jerri

      Great answer MB!

      March 6, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  3. J Mann

    It depends. If he wants to jump start the Apocalypse, then Santorum would be his guy or Romney if that is the only GOP choice. If he really is about peace then he will go with Obama.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  4. ja

    not one of the gop canidates, they all claim christianity, but belong to exclusive clubs of privilige, no beleif of helping the socalled least of, the healthcare opposition is a prime example, Christ healed the sick of the common, and didn't hoard riches, even the ministers of today might rethink their wealth

    March 6, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  5. Marion

    I don't think Jesus would vote at all or involve Himself in a political process. "render to Ceasar..." and all that.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Brad

      I agree. When Jesus said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” I think he was separating the political/economic system entirely from what he was focused on: the Kingdom of God, which he defined and described many times.

      March 6, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  6. larryb

    I think it would be more like jesus in the temple with congressional desks being thrown asunder ...maybe time for another burning bush

    March 6, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  7. alpg49

    I think Lincoln had it right. Something to the effect that he was less concerned with God being on his side than with his being on God's side. (Feed the poor, cure the sick. Sound familiar? If not, push that camel through the eye of the needle again, Mitt!!)

    March 6, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  8. El Flaco

    Jesus' overriding concern was to expel the Romans and overthrow the monarchy. Jesus would vote for anyone who promised to expel the Muslims and other non-Jews from Israel

    March 6, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Literal

      Complete fail..... Muslims did not exist in Jesus' time.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  9. J.W

    Well Santorum only gave 2% to charity, Gingrich commits adultery, Romney is not concerned about the very poor. Ron Paul may be ok. Jesus would like that Ron Paul does not want to go to war. So either Ron Paul or Obama.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  10. Bart

    The the conservatives were to hear that Jesus was a liberal, they would hang him!

    March 6, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  11. *facepalm*

    congrats, CNN, on posting an opinion piece that doesn't really have much of an opinion or substance, but because it contains the words 'jesus' and 'vote' is bound to generate tons of traffics. You've played us rubes well.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • The Mob

      One of the more enjoyable pieces I've seen in a while, and hits a lot of truths without falling into the trap of modern-day society where someone thinks they have the one-size-fits all answer for everyone.

      March 6, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  12. filthburger

    we'd probably consider Jesus to be crazy. i can tell you, i doubt if he would vote for Santorum.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  13. Jerri

    Well, we know that when he comes back he's coming back as a King not a president. It will be a Monarchy and not a Democracy. And it says he will rule with a rod of iron. It will be his way or the highway. To those that love Him now, they will be eternally blessed!

    March 6, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • William Demuth

      He will slaughter millions of children, just as his father did.

      Its like the Assad family on steroids.

      March 6, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Steve

      Yes but Jesus in his lifetime that "some who are here standing will not taste death" before he returns. So clearly the expectation was within the lifetime of that same generation. There was also a threat to residents of capernaum and two other cities that for rejecting "the message" they would suffer worse than Sodom or Gommorrah. The latter failed to occur, this undermines credibility, but I think the former still has legitimacy...at least until Keith Richards dies.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  14. Anon

    Neither, since Jesus is just another mythological farce created by men for men.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  15. Bannister

    Why, Jesus would vote for the peace candidate of course – Ron Paul hands down!!!!

    March 6, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      FACTS UNDISPUTED: Ron Paul is a RACISTS by BIRTH ..................... period!
      Know the FACTS and his past. He still hasn't disposed of his white pillow sheets still hanging in his closets. From what we all know he missed a couple of white pillow sheets meetings. That's all. Nothing have changed in heart or soul.
      Ron Paul is and still a RACIST. If you're now a closet RACIST; you're STILL a RACIST ....... period!
      No bones about that!

      March 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  16. David Scott

    Jesus would not vote. He would say let the world vote for their worldly leader.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  17. Tom

    Why people try to pull religion in to politics again . So sick of it. It's not even Sunday.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • David Scott

      What does Sunday have to do with anything. Saturday is the Sabbath

      March 6, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Epidi

      Well, David, because the Christians had to have thier own ya know? They liked it and made it the day next to the Jewish Sabbath to try to assimilate more into the Christian faith – just like they did with the Pagan holidays/observances.

      March 6, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • David

      Well if Christians were truly following God, they would observe the day the Lord created as the Sabbath.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  18. ConcernedCanadian

    Who would Jesus vote for? Really? What the heck is wrong with your country? I understand that this peice what hypothetical/satire, but you guys are way to obsessed with religion, and having it influencing your decision making.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Anon

      Welcome to 'MERICA the land of the christards.

      March 6, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Epidi

      As an American I find the question this article poses totaly stupid, even as satire. Why are people continually trying to mix politics & religion? Jesus was concerned with the politics of his time which was the Jews having to submit to Roman domination. Why? Because that is what was going on during his lifetime (here on earth). Enough of these stupid ramblings – it's as annoying as the politicians who say God told them to run. We have free will people – make your own choices and don't listen to this drivel – I think God would be more concerned what you think – not what he or she thinks. Get it?

      March 6, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Anon

      Yahweh/Jesus is the god of self-inflicted ignorance and blind submission.

      March 6, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  19. Double R

    First of all, if Jesus returned it wouldn't matter who he would vote for... we'd all be bowing to him.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      If Jesus returned he would be under a bridge in Brooklyn holding a sign that says "the end is near" like the rest of the cooks.

      March 6, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  20. Ken

    I think different branches of the Church have tied themselves too closely to both political parties. God's people have always been called to speak the truth to society, regardless of political affiliations.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • David Scott

      Amen!

      March 6, 2012 at 10:41 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.