How Would Jesus Vote?

First of all, it is important to state emphatically that there are no grounds to the rumor that Jesus is … Continued

First of all, it is important to state emphatically that there are no grounds to the rumor that Jesus is a registered Republican. He himself was asked (Matthew 21, 15-23) if he were voting with the Jewish Nationalists or the Herodian (accommodation with Rome) party. (“Should we be paying taxes to Caesar?”) His answer, seemingly evasive, made clear that his teaching was not concerned with man’s political arrangements, but with the salvation of his soul.

In his recent book “Jesus of Nazareth” Pope Benedict XVI makes the following observation: “While the Torah presents a very definite social order, giving the people a juridical and social framework for war and peace, for just politics and for daily life, there is nothing like that to be found in Jesus’ teaching. Discipleship of Jesus offers no politically concrete program for structuring society.” (p.114)

Benedict expands on this point later in the book: “Concrete juridical and social forms and political arrangements are no longer treated as a sacred law that is fixed ‘ad litteram’ for all times and so for all peoples … The concrete political and social order is released from the directly sacred realm, from theocratic legislation, and is transferred to the freedom of man, whom Jesus has established in God’s will and taught thereby to see the right and the good.” (p.118)

On another occasion (Luke 12, 13-22) someone asked Jesus to adjudicate an inheritance dispute. “Man,” he replied, “who made me judge or arbitrator over you?” That’s not my mission. He then proceeded to give a warning about the moral issue at stake. In that instance it was covetousness. In another setting — under today’s circumstances — Jesus might speak of peace or poverty or the sacred duty to protect human life. But he would not offer a concrete political program.

  • Roy

    So Vicar, you are saying Jesus would not tell his followers that if they voted a certain way, he would deny them His table? How interesting that the Catholic Church is not Jesus-like in this regard.

  • Linda Hodges

    I agree with the post by NHredhill. Jesus’ actions were quite political in nature.He also, like other Jewish prophets before him, sought to bring hope in the form of this-worldly reforms, calling his people back to Torah and the Mosaic covenant. For much better commentary than I have provided, please read anything by Richard Horsley,but especially, Spiral of Violence, The Message and the Kingdom and Jesus and Empire. Please also read John Dominic Crossan’s book, God and Empire. Your life will never be the same. Jesus was political.

  • NHredhill

    It is only St. Paul and Pauline editors of the NT who take Jesus outside the mainstream of Jewish life. It’s likely Jesus, being a devout Jew, would have viewed his apotheosis as a divine figure with dismay. For instance, in Matthew 5:17-19, the truest words Jesus is recorded as speaking, should be taken at face value. Jesus is also helped by a (fellow?) Pharisee in Luke 13:31, who warns him of King Herod.I’m reminded that when Jesus healed the leper in Luke 5:12-14, he instructed him to go to the Temple and offer “sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing,” which is certainly not what a figure who was replacing the Law would have done.Further, argument of this sort I’ve encountered in Hyam Maccoby’s Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity.

  • Mark W.

    Monsignor, I was disspointed yesterday. Several of my heroes turned out to be phonies. It’s terrible realizing that someone I thought was brave turned out to be a chicken, putting fear above doing the right thing. They remind me of deer stuck in headlights, paralyzed by fear.Perhaps the worse memory of my life was a man in a car paralyzed by fear. I was riding in the cab of a locomotive one dreary afternoon when life changed in an instant. Engineer and I were holding a low key conversation when in an instant we realized a car was stalled on the tracks before us. There was nothing to do as I watched in slow motion the look on that man’s face while we could do nothing to impact that man and car. After the collision, an explosion of sorts, our momentum still carried us hundreds of yards while we could hear the grinding metal of that car with a man contained inside being sucked under to 200 ton locomotive. The engineer watching me get up out of the chair to go outside said to me calmly, “Don’t get up son, that man is a goner”.In absolute powerlessness of that situation, I just said the Lord’s Prayer hoping that I was worthy of the Lord’s ears for that young man.My opinion is that Politicians enabled the crucifiction of Christ in a power struggle between church and state. For both parties, it may have looked like a win-win situation. And yet the loss of his life sparked a movement. Former Attorney General Ashcroft called Christ the greatest Civil Rights leader of all time. We have been struggling here in the United States for centuries with that “All men are created equal” thing. And I know discrimination too, too well perhaps being labelled a nutjob and golddigger at times.Thing about it is, politicians will always disapoint society. And yet we are taught to put our trust in God. The Father is perfect in love, kindness, justice and mercy. Everyone else falls short. Certain lessons, I am hard to learn. I feel like Charlie Brown at times. Maybe Lucy will actually hold that football right this time, so I can kick it, not. So time after time, I have fallen on my butt thinking this time will be different. Oh but there is hope. Maybe one Day Charlie Brown will obtain a kickstand of his own to practice field goals.

  • Earl Zimmerman

    Jesus did have a radical, faith-based political message and program rooted in his vision of the reign of God and his creation of a community of disciples. That’s why the political and religious leaders in first-century Palestine collaborated to have him executed for sedition.

  • Luther E. Franklin

    “Jesus might speak of peace or poverty or the sacred duty to protect human life”

  • BGone

    Now reconcile, “…Discipleship of Jesus offers no politically concrete program for structuring society” with the bishop that declared a vote for Kerry to be a sin. Jesus WAS certainly a registered Republican. And, what with the economy getting crucified Jesus has switched parties.Or the GOP dumped Him, Lucifer now prefers the Democrat party. Don’t you think? Follow the big money and it will lead you to God.

  • Kamlesh Parekh

    Jesus would be full of compation towards all mankind. Therefore, He would not allow war with Iraq,Iran,Afaghanistan or any country. He would not vote for abortion – Thou shall not kill. He would love all man irrespective of color, race, disability, gender, religion, national orgin, age, etc.

  • Raphael

    While I certainly find the question (and even more so the anwsers) interesting, I’m more concerned about what Jesus has to say about saving my soul.

  • Ryan Haber

    NHRedhill,You wrote, “I’m reminded that when Jesus healed the leper in Luke 5:12-14, he instructed him to go to the Temple and offer “sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing,” which is certainly not what a figure who was replacing the Law would have done.”But you warp the Gospel that you do not know or understand. “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished,” (Mt 5:18).”It is only St. Paul and Pauline editors of the NT who take Jesus outside the mainstream of Jewish life. It’s likely Jesus, being a devout Jew, would have viewed his apotheosis as a divine figure with dismay.”Probably, if he were an ordinary devout Jew. He was not. Ordinary devout Jews, for starters, were not murdered by their leaders. At the very least, he was a hard-to-control devout Jew. But the whole point of all not only the Pauline letters, but also all four gospels, Acts, and, well really the whole New Testament is that Jesus was NOT an ordinary devout Jew. He was God made flesh.Now, the NT writers may have been wrong in that assertion, but it is what they asserted. It underlies every single statement they wrote. To rip their statements out of that context is to do violence to the text. Once we start doing that, we can make “Jesus” seem whatever we like, as the prolific “historical Jesus” writers have been doing the last 150 years.For instance, in Matthew 5:17-19, the truest words Jesus is recorded as speaking, should be taken at face value. Jesus is also helped by a (fellow?) Pharisee in Luke 13:31, who warns him of King Herod.Linda Hodges,Many say that Jesus was political. Witness the exchange between Herod and Jesus: Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:34-37)Now Jesus did not make the claim to be a king, and specifically refrained from accepting it. He was not interested in political power, and not much more interested in political parties. There were political causes that may have interested him, but notably, he wasn’t interested in who paid taxes to whom (Mt 22:21), which is perhaps the most perrenial political question.Now Jesus was interested in something that is always an affront to political leaders – especially powerful ones that want their own way for their own reasons. Jesus was interested in truth. Not just in some big, abstract way – but in concrete nitty-gritty details. He wanted people to deal with reality. To this, Pilate cynically responds, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38).The gospel message is an affront to the powers of the world because it claims to have a content they cannot mold. Its whole point is that a man, Jesus of Nazareth, was God. That he came into the world because he loves it – people and fish, mountains and trees, lock, stock, and barrel – so much so that he would enter into its worst depths in order to pull it out with him. The God-man died, and on the third day rose from the dead, destroying death’s ability to rob us of life.Pilate, and all imperial strong men, governments, thieves and murderers answer that nagging philosophical question this way, “Truth? You want truth? I can kill you – with a bomb, a guillotine, a cross. That’s my truth!”The Resurrection is God’s trump card over death. The Jews yearned for it (see the Wisdom Literature and 1 & 2 Maccabees) and Jesus, in his own flesh, has provided the first installation on that ancient promise of hope. By union with him, we can share in his Resurrection. Because of the Resurrection, we do not need to fear sickness or death, let alone Caesar, Hitler, or Big Brother. What’s the worst they can do to us? Kill us? Big deal. For the powers that be who would coerce the rest of us into obedience, the Resurrection is bad news indeed.So you see, Jesus’ message, life, death and Resurrection are not intentionally political, but they certainly have immense implications for the whole of life, one aspect of which is the political.Now, if Jesus was just a Jewish rabbi or profit, much more so if was only some kind of 1st century union activist – who gives a jot or dittle what he said? Really, why should it matter to me at all?But again, if the gospels are all just cooked up third-hand accounts with little or no historical validity, than who gives a crap about any of it? If the gospels cannot be at least basically trusted for a basic accuracy about basic matters of fact, then ditch them and get it over with. You mustn’t ditch the gospels because they contain things that you think are impossible, like miracles, especially the Resurrection – unless you are willing to outright admit your materialism and atheism. If God is God then He can do miracles at times and places of His choosing, or He isn’t God.If you think that Jesus was just a rabbi, and that any points of the gospels that disagree with that assertion are later accretions – don’t take the name Christian, please (not that you have). You’ve only replaced very ancient documents with your own witness account of what “really happened” 1950 years before you were born, and in the name of “historicity.”But if Jesus was who He said he was, if He was who He acted like He was – God Almighty enfleshed – then we had better mind Him, and His promises and the hope of Resurrection can propel us to accomplish immense things in his name. He promised as much, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father,” (Jn 14:12). And we can take Him at His word if He is really God. We can do the right thing in our sphere of influence without fearing mistreatment or failure because we know that God will follow through on his whole promise to create a “new heaven and new earth,” out of the wreckage of this current place.So yeah, the Gospel has political implications. But to limit it in any way to a political message, to the cultural milieu in which it is set, to a set of platitudinal teachings, is to miss its point entirely.

  • BGone

    Kamlesh Parekh:You are so so right. Amenophis IV refused to go to war to protect Egypt’s territories, all of the promised lands mentioned in Exodus.There is a problem with the story as told in Exodus. It was not slaves in Egypt that took over the promised land but rather it was the Hittites.The Hittites were entitled to the promised land by the God given right of conquest. But then the promised land only belonged to Egypt, “by right of conquest.”Those who refuse to fight to protect what belongs to them are known as goons. You’re right, Jesus was a goon. There’s no worse leader in time of war than a goon.Is, “by right of conquest” really God given or does Devil make people do things like that?

  • Vercinget

    I think Jesus never had voted specially in any divisive campaign making opponents. Jesus probably had used his rigth of free speech trying to spread his New Testament.

  • Vercinget

    How would Mohammed voted? To that one fulfilling the islamic precepts. Moreover. If he would lose then open war was a chance.

  • p.coulter

    take a look at three biblical references clarifying Jesus’s position on which “party” to side with. Matthew 22:21, John 17:16 and John 18:36. There are much bigger issues to consider than fluff as to the question of which party band wagon to hop on.

  • Daniel Pavsek

    “But he [Jesus} would not offer a concrete political program.” A reasonable answer to the question, yet the Roman Catholic Church which Fr. Bohlin represents, seems to always insist on offer a concrete political program. From a member of Opus Dei, this is a very interesting observation.

  • Anonymous

    Ryan Haber:Don’t be silly. The pope is prepared to crown any head of state that pledges his loyalty to the Vatican and promises to enforce church law. Didn’t you see the newsreel of three presidents kneeling before the dead pope’s casket? What do you think they do when the pope is alive, only kiss his ring?

  • Ryan Haber

    Daniel Pavsek,What concrete political program does the Catholic Church offer?

  • Vercinget

    I agree. Jesus might speak of peace or poverty or the sacred duty to protect human life. And he was acted following his own mandate. There’s nothing shoking more a man soul than receiving peace when he is looking for war. So it is also a means to act. And that man is also a God’s son. If not then no special interest would exist to spread his doctrine. The lavish son with a father waiting ever for him.

  • Vercinget

    Yes. Jesus surely was not trying to found any new religion. He was a rabbi. But he tried to give soul to the only words. Interpretation. He finally declared Messiah to himself. Since them there are only two options about. He was a false Messiah or alternatively judaism didn’t believe in the Messiah.

  • BarKen

    I think it unlikely Jesus would be eligible to vote. He would, no doubt, be a felon.He would have refused to pay the portion of his taxes used for America’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.He would have been in prison ministering to the 5% of the black male population presently in the cells. 1 in 20. He would, no doubt, have been dragged weeping from the gates of Guantanamo Bay.Every day he would interrupt the business channels to call our attention to America’s wasteful society in the face of starving billions.I suspect he’d have better things to do than vote.

  • Ryan Haber

    Right. So the Pope stands with anyone who stands with him. Fine. Who doesn’t do the same? If the president of a nation has vowed to undertake some initiative whose ethical implications meet Christian expectations for right living, is the Church supposed to publicly insult him? When a Catholic person dies, Catholics very typically kneel by the coffin and pray for the repose of the deceased’s soul. So? Now who’s being silly?I repeat my question, “What concrete political program does the Catholic Church offer?”Is the Church socialist? Then why do socialists hate it so much?Is the Church capitalist? Then why does it speak out against globalism and neoliberalism so much, and earn the disdain of so many capitalists?

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