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. Jeepers

    Jesus was a Birkenstock wearing, peace loving, hippie progressive who said we should help those less fortunate than we are. I say he'd be a Democrat.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • William Demuth

      Jeesus was a gay Palestinian revolutionary

      He would start blowing up synagouges on the West Bank.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • jimtanker

      Subst.itute abortion clinic for synagoug and and you have your typical right wing republican there.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  2. Joe

    None of the above.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  3. SPW

    Abraham Lincoln was an atheist, who would he vote for? That's something I actually give a damn about, Jesus would likely not vote and just shake his head at us.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  4. Sybaris

    The alleged Jesus was not capable of critical thinking therefore his vote would have been no more worthy than a 5 year olds.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Anon

      That's "MERICA for you. LOL

      March 6, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  5. Patrick

    Jesus was an independent. You could try but he was a real hard guy to nail down.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      You speak like an eye witness on CNN.
      Very funny!
      I like the nail down part.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  6. Antonio Nitsua

    Their all going to hell, so none of them! What a dumb 5 year old question!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  7. LOL

    Who would Jesus vote for? That's the same as asking: Who would the Spaghetti Monster vote for.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  8. Save Us Jeebus!

    Christ isn't a U.S. citizen, since he was born out of country and never applied to become naturalized (that I know of). He wouldn't be able to vote...or hold elective office...in America. Well, and there's that pesky fact that he's NOT REAL!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  9. jake

    look I am a christian but i thnk this is stupid who cares who would jesus vote for we did seperation of church/ power for a reason there are more than just christians in this world and we need to do what is best for us as a whole not just who we think "jesus" would vote for come on america get it together

    March 6, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • David

      Do you know why we did a separation of church and state? Because when you have a civil ruler with ecclesiastical power history shows you will have persecution. The bible clearly tells us that before Jesus comes back we will experience persecution such as the world has never seen. That is significant since the Roman church State persecuted the people of God for 1260 years.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  10. citizen_by_choice

    Jesus in modern times would be an illegal immigrant. Somebody at the bottom of the social scale, persecuted and vilified.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  11. Anon

    Let's all vote for Ronald Mcdonald.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  12. Jeff

    Jesus would probably vote for Bernie Madoff.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  13. Slovensko

    Great article. Sums it up perfectly with "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." If anything, the current state of the political climate should make this glaringly clear.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:07 am |

    Seriously: Jesus is coming as KING OF KINGS which means he rules!!!! AMEN

    March 6, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Bruce

      King of what Kings?

      March 6, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • JoJo

      Why does it always come down to a master?? What loving compassionate God would require you to kneel before them? Does your God ever laugh or show humor? You God sounds very vain and megalomaniacish. Kneel or be destroyed, huh?

      March 6, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • William Demuth

      Joe means King of the Latin Kings, who ALREADY rule LA!

      March 6, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  15. Patricksday

    The Republican Party cant do the things they have and would like to do to Humanity and call them self "Christian" they are like the Taliban of "Christians", GREED, HATE, JUDGEMENT and SELFISHNESS are not the Qualities that Jesus Christ taught. But NO ONE ever calls them on this stuff.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • JoJo

      Isn't it amazing how few Christians actually follow the teachings of Christ? Boggles the mind really.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  16. dano

    Seriously....Who the *&%$ cares

    March 6, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Wipe your ASS so that we can care!

      March 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  17. Really?

    Who cares? Religion has no place in politics or the running of a country. Do you really care if the person running your country is Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or Wiccan? If the person has a religion other than mine I don’t care unless he/she starts to tread on my freedom of religion. The only time someone else’s religion should matter in any way, is if what they are doing for worship breaks the law or harms others. Honestly can anyone give a good reason why someone who is Scientologist for example, cannot lead a country as well as someone who is Christian? Put aside the fact that you don’t like/agree with them on a religious basis. If either person has an answer and plan to help the job market and economy would you elect them so they can fix it or would you ignore them simply because they don’t follow your beliefs? Before the attacks on my religion start, I was raised Roman Catholic though I’m an Agnostic now.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • JoJo

      Who cares?! I DO! I don't want anyone leading me who believes in imaginary people, just like I don't want anyone basing their decisions as a leader on what an imaginary person tells them to do! Wow... you people these days...

      March 6, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  18. Martin Walters Seattle

    Christ would not be eligible to vote since he would move to Canada.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  19. thereik1

    Trying to drag Jesus into politics? Jesus already made it clear he has no interest in such matters. When the people asked him if it was right that they should be made to pay taxes, his response was; give onto Ceaser, what is Ceasers, and to God what is God's. Jesus indicated he was not about temporal Kingdoms here on earth, rather the eternal and spiritual Kingdom that is God's. The reason all religious leaders ignore this meaning, is because they will not enjoy the power that comes from having political influence in a community, group or nation. As a way of illustration, contrast the Pope's garments with the image of Jesus' simple clothing and ponder the great irony in the difference. The truth is, Religion and Politics do not mix well. Jesus taught us that. Religious leaders should not endorse one candidate over another. Their role is in bringing about the salvation of individuals, not ruling over them.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  20. Skegeeace

    I don't think Jesus would vote. He's a bit above the whole political process, isn't He? I can see Him laughing going, "Haha, leader of the free world. I'm the leader of the UNIVERSE!"

    I love Jesus. 😀 He even paid His taxes. LoL

    March 6, 2012 at 11:04 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.