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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. Mr Pibbs

    I'd suspect that he'd look at the voting machine, realize that the writing isn't in Aramaic and that society had evolved beyond the bronze age and immediately resurrect Paul Tsongas and Ronald Regan to form the ultimate bi-partisan ticket to save us from our impending doom. Either that or he'd be deported.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  2. JC in Western U.S.

    I have never heard any evidence to support the notion that Jesus held political beliefs. He seems to have been rather removed from worldly affairs. I recall only that he was furious with money lenders in the temple, and his reference to giving unto Caesar the things which are Caesars (in reference to a question asked by Zealots about whether or not they should pay a certain tax). So to me, that says that Jesus did not want people to focus on or be concerned about the transient worldly things, but instead to focus on doing the right thing. And it also says to me that Jesus was capable of separating religion and politics.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  3. Dexterszyd

    Lets see....which candidate wants peace and personal responsibility? Hmmmmm only one I can hthink off. The same guy our news outlets ignore and act like he doesn't exist.....good luck America...your being duped!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • JC in Western U.S.

      Don't be ridiculous. None of the candidates propose a permanent state of war and irresponsibility.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  4. jamie in MN

    How is who a fictional character would vote for relevant to news? What next? Who would Winnie the Pooh or Big Bird vote for?!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • JM

      You do realize that there is archaeological evidence of His existence, right?

      March 6, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • jamie in MN

      link to a vetted academic paper proving this?

      March 6, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • LinCA

      @jamie in MN

      You said, "How is who a fictional character would vote for relevant to news?"
      It is relevant because some 80% of the eligible voters in the US still believe in the fairy tale.

      You said, "What next? Who would Winnie the Pooh or Big Bird vote for?!"
      Not until they lower the voting age.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • JC in Western U.S.

      I think that there's quite a lot of evidence, actually, that Jesus existed. Whether or not he was a supernatural being is a matter of faith. We need to be capable of separating the two. It's possible to accept that he existed and that he was a great teacher who had important things to say, without knowing for sure whether or not he was immortal. Uncertainty or disbelief in his immortality doesn't preclude learning from his words.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • LinCA

      @JC in Western U.S.

      You said, "I think that there's quite a lot of evidence, actually, that Jesus existed."
      Outside of the bible, there is precious little evidence to support the case for his existence.

      You said, "Whether or not he was a supernatural being is a matter of faith. We need to be capable of separating the two."
      True. But without a strong case for him ever having existed, the odds of him being supernatural are even slimmer.

      You said, "It's possible to accept that he existed and that he was a great teacher who had important things to say, without knowing for sure whether or not he was immortal. Uncertainty or disbelief in his immortality doesn't preclude learning from his words."
      While it is possible that he existed, and even that he had some important things to say, accepting that he was immortal is irrational. Over the centuries, the Jesus story has been told to sell religion. The story is told with an agenda. There is no reason to believe that what is alleged to be his word, is actually his.

      By creating the myth and assigning supernatural attributes to the figure head, the masses are more easily controlled. He is simultaneously the stick and the carrot. The boogeyman is waiting for those that don't follow the religious teachings, and for those that do there will be reward.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  5. rose

    Jesus would be for the leader who tried to reach out to include everyone, of every belief, without forcing his own. To believe in God and Jesus as savior, one must understand that he was always inclusive of those most in need of his mercy. I believe he never turned his back on one person, never gave someone up as a lost cause, but embraced everyone regardless. Jesus spent the majority of time trying to reach out to those who needed him, and he did it with love, not vile insults, condemnation, attacks or threats. I have many wonderful people in my life, some of whom are atheists, Buddhists, Jewish, Pro-Choice and Pro-life, etc. I love them all, even if I disagree with them on certain points. My beliefs say God loves them too.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • William Demuth

      Rose

      You do get the idea that when Jeebus comes back he is going to overthrow world governemnts and kill anyone who won't worship him don't you?

      The Bible is very specific about not agreeing with him, and the price you must pay.

      I suspect even a Christian can realize that has NOTHING to do with democaracy!

      March 6, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  6. Ashfaque

    Well, Jesus was not an American citizen so why would he care to vote. If he was in this world today, USCIS would have screwed him on the border every time he tried to come even if with all valid papers.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  7. Gary

    Guys,

    jesus is dead. (if he ever actually existed) get over it and move on. (unless of course the mormons want to baptise him posthumously). there are more important things we have to deal with and CNN should be ashamed that this is even a topic. By the way if mormons can posthumously baptise someone, can they also replace their foreskin? just askin'

    March 6, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  8. chuckly

    I know one thing, if Jesus was running for office himself, the GOP would be slamming him with negative ads because he was way too liberal and a socialist!!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Mike

      Exactly!!

      March 6, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  9. Elizabeth Baltimore

    JESUS WOULD NOT VOTE – he was a Theocrat – his exclusive devotion belonged to his father GOD who is the Sovereing of the universe. Jesus stated at John 17:16 ...I am no part of this world. World – mankind alienated from God. He fled at one point when followers impressed with his preaching and miracles sought him out to make him KING.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Psalms Chapter 2

      Very excellent point Elizabeth! Jesus would not vote for a human government when his allegiance is with his Father and God's Kingdom.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Matt

      Thank you – Sister – I too have already voted for him and his Kingdom and just waiting for Daniel 2:44 to be fulfilled.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  10. TING

    Who would David Koresh vote for?

    March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  11. Gail D

    "Neither priest nor publican be"

    March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  12. Nathan Prophet

    Jesus can't vote; he doesn't have the proper ID.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  13. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    Wow. Bunches of people professing to know whom a mythological person would vote for! Very funny. But I can tell you whom I and the vast majority of my many family members and friends are voting for: Barack Obama, who is a far more competent and moral person than the Republican clowns. Actually, I know two people who ARE professional clowns, and they are much better and more intelligent people than the Republican candidates. The Republicans give clowns a bad name. These two clowns I know, who also work as a nurse and a window washer, are also very liberal, as all intelligent people are. Obama/Biden 2012!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Gail D

      Mythelogical ? Really? There is proof, you idiot. You make a poor athiest

      March 6, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • William Demuth

      Come on, Romney would make a darn good clown!

      March 6, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Sybaris

      Uh gail, stop reading Lee Strobel books. They'll rot your brain.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  14. AtheistoMachisto

    He would vote for an atheists, rational people make good presidents.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  15. acgheen

    Reblogged this on acgheen.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  16. Steve

    And... Cue the snarky atheist response!!

    March 6, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • William Demuth

      Who you calling snarky?

      March 6, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  17. Elliot

    Jesus would be too busy banging women to worry about voting.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  18. Irene

    I don't know. But I do agree with Mahatma Gandhi's quote:
    "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ"

    March 6, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • JM

      So, unfortunately, very true.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • jww33

      Good for you, Lady – there is really nothing left to say. Thank You.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  19. Psalms Chapter 2

    This article takes the position that Jesus would actually choose a human ruler over himself who has already been appointed King of God's Kingdom. This is a false viewpoint.
    In the beginning of mankind's history, Our Creators enemy (and mankind's) introduced the concept of human rulership apart from God by saying "For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it, your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad." – In other words... You don't need God to tell you what to do and to decide for yourself what is good and bad. You can decide for yourself and you will be better off if you do!

    What has been the outcome? What has been the fruitage of mankind's human rulership apart from God?
    Nothing Good. Hatred, Selfishness, Bigotry, Warfare, greed and more... 6000 years of human rule has brought nothing but suffering.

    This is why the very theme of Jesus teaching was GOD'S KINGDOM. Only God's Government could bring the solutions that mankind needs. Only God's Kingdom would bring lasting peace and security. With Jesus Christ as our King, mankind has a real hope of peace, security and life.

    Jesus is now ruling. Which government will you choose? Man's? Or God's? This is the real choice. Not which man you will choose. Where does your allegiance belong? Mine is with our Creator Jehovah and his son Jesus Christ.

    See: Genesis 3:1-5 / Psalms Chapter 2 / Daniel 2:44 / Matthew 6:10 / Matthew 24:14

    March 6, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Matt

      Thank you – Brother – Very well Put. Psa 37:11, 29

      March 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  20. arthurrrrr

    JESUS WOULD NOT VOTE–HE IS COMING HERE TO SET UP A GOVERNMENT RUN BY HIM. ALL WHO HATE HIM WILL BE ASHES.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • William Demuth

      Is that Christian for death to the Infidels?

      Whats next "Jeebus Akbar" before blowing yourself up?

      March 6, 2012 at 11:29 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.