My Fall from Republican Jesus
In the late 1980’s I became a follower of Jesus. It is a decision which I will never regret. The last 30 years have been some amazing years in my life as I have watched God mold and shape me. My conversion to the way of Jesus came around the birth of the Christian Moral Majority. The Moral Majority was simply a politically conservative action group in the United States which consisted of many well-known Christian leaders and conservative politicians. Many conservative Christians were concerned about the direction the country was heading especially after major losses in the courts over prayer in school, and the right of the unborn. Politically this movement decided to take the fight for our country right into the heart of the church. I can remember receiving voter information cards about what candidates believed or did not believe. Certainly, this type of information is always good, but the intent was, to know exactly who was on God’s side and who was not. The Moral Majority had created a crusade against those “evil people” who were bent on taking away our country which was a nation founded under God. This was the culture my faith grew up in.
I cannot speak for other Christians but something I noticed in my life over the last 30 years is my faith somehow looked like the platform of the Republican Party. I can remember having conversations with my Christian friends in which we were puzzled how anyone who was a democrat could actually be a Christian. When Fox News hit the air in 1996 I felt like I had a spiritual friend. Whatever they taught I believed. I also began listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. The things they were saying seem to make sense to me. Their enemies must be God’s enemies. Whatever the political issue, if the Republican Right stood for it and Rush and Fox News endorsed it, then it must be of Jesus. Than something happened which changed my Republican Christianity to simply following Jesus.
I cannot really tell you the date of the change but within the last 5 years I have gone through some major transformations and paradigm shifts in my thinking about Jesus and politics. Part of my shift was the realization that Jesus was very political but not in the sense or the way I thought of being political. I began to read books which challenged my Republican Jesus. Scholars like Tom Wright, John Howard Yoder, and John Nugent challenged me to look at Jesus in new and refreshing ways. This new and refreshing way challenged me to look beyond my culture. I found that cultural biases are not easy to break. Martin Luther King Jr, understood this in his fight against segregation. In describing white America he had sympathy for the white race because he knew the powerful influences which culture had on them. He stated,
“They are misguided. They have fine reputations in the community. In their dealings with white people they are respectable and gentlemanly. They probably think they are right in their methods of dealing with Negroes. They say the things they say about us and treat us as they do because they have been taught these things. From the cradle to the grave, it is instilled in them that the Negro is inferior . . . The whole cultural tradition they have grown under-a tradition blighted with more than 250 years of slavery and more than 90 years of segregation-teaches them that Negroes do not deserve certain things. So these men are merely the children of their culture.” Oates, Stephen B.. Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was a child of the Republican moral majority culture. I saw scripture through this lens. When I began to look at scripture through the lens outside of my cultural trappings (this is not an easy process and probably never perfected) I saw a different Jesus. I sought to focus on seeing Jesus through his cultural context. What did he mean when he said, “blessed are the poor” or “love your enemies”? Soon I began rereading the words of Jesus and the Bible in a whole new light. The Jesus I discovered in the Bible was not trying to make nations Christian (something impossible to do) but was seeking to build a Kingdom and society which stood in contrast to the Worlds systems and political parties. Jesus movement was not about accepting him in your heart than going on with your life until you get to heaven, but he was calling for allegiance to Him and his policies. This allegiance superseded my cultural and political allegiances. I realized that Jesus did not promote republican, or even democrat ideas, but he promoted Kingdom ideas. He was not trying to create a better earth but within this World create an alternative and new culture. He was asking me to pray for Heaven to be brought to Earth. This could not be done by the politics of any national country but only through the politics of a sovereign God.
The more I study the politics of Jesus the more I fall in love with Jesus. Sometimes people will label me either conservative or liberal based on my understanding of Jesus. A friend once told me not to worry about labels and simply follow Jesus. I am ok with people labeling me. In Jesus day they called Jesus all kinds of things. So, what does this all mean. First and foremost, I have no allegiance to any nation but only to Jesus. Secondly, I hope to think and act more like Jesus than the political culture around me. I will respect and love others even those I may not agree with all the time. I will not be swayed by politicians who use the name of Jesus to push their agendas. My hope for the church is that we will lift high the name of Jesus. Like the Christians of old who had no king(or political alliances) but Jesus, I too declare him my only king.