Jesus for President 2012

Jesus For President

It was way back in 2004 that the spark for the Jesus for President campaign was born – by a bunch of post-evangelical Christians trying to figure out how to engage the political circus that happens every 4 years.  It started as a little bible study looking at the politics of Jesus and the social dimensions of the Gospels.  Four years later, in 2008, Jesus for President became a book and a national tour.  In the summer of 2008, we traveled through nearly every state in the US in a bus that ran off waste veggie oil, hosting packed out rallies in different cities each night.  It was a conscious decision not to have a fancy tour bus like the candidates but to sport an old diesel school bus converted to run off veggie oil we gathered along the way.  After all, we wanted to practice what we were preaching… like Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”  So our freedom ride smelled like French Fries.  Jesus for President 2008 made the news – from Fox News, to Al Jazeera, to a headline story on CNN.

Jesus for President.  Amish for Homeland Security.  We had some good ideas for serious change in America.

As Christians, we became convinced that the issues –things like immigration and health care, and the growing disparity between the rich and the poor – these things matter to God.  We see over 2000 verses in Scripture that talk about how we care for the poor and marginalized.  And too much of the Christianity we grew up with was so heavenly minded that it was no earthly good.  So the issues matter to us.

But, we were, and still are, political refugees in post-religious-right America.  No party feels like home.  No candidate seems to value the things we see Jesus talking about in the Sermon on the Mount.  Federal budget cuts have begun to look like the anti-thesis of the beatitudes where Jesus blesses the poor and hungry rather than the rich and wealthy.  You get the sense that if Mary proclaimed her famous “Magnificat” in Luke’s Gospel today — where “God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty”” – she’d be accused of promoting class warfare. As one theologian said, “Our money says in God we trust… but our economy looks like the seven deadly sins.”  What would America look like if Jesus were in charge?

Related: How Are We Political? A Dialogue Between Tony Campolo & Shane Claiborne

There just isn’t much talk in the debates about caring for the poor and loving enemies, the stuff Jesus was on fire about. It’s hard to imagine a candidate with a consistent ethic of life, a candidate who is pro-life from the womb to the tomb.  Many of us have grown tired of death, and share a faith that speaks of resurrection and proclaims the triumph of life over death and love over hatred.  We want life – less abortions, an end to the death penalty, hospitality to immigrants, an end to extreme poverty…  fewer bombs and wars and other ugly things.

Is it asking too much to hope that every person could have “this day their daily bread” rather than the current economic patterns that ensure that masses of people live in poverty so that a handful of people could live as they wish?

So here we are — in 2012.  This new bloc of vote-eligible Christians still does not have a home.   They are political misfits, setting records in polls for dissatisfaction with politicians.  The tea party just didn’t feel right –something about it seemed harsh, or  racist, or weird… many of us liked their zeal but not their politics.  Then there is Cornel West’s “democratic socialism” which makes sense to some of us; but there just has to be more. We are pretty sure the average third party candidate doesn’t stand a chance until campaign finance reform is front and center, and we figure Nader must be tired of losing.  Many folks have dropped out altogether; some have even put out new books on the old idea of Christian anarchism, evoking the traditional philosophy that Christians should NOT participate in the political systems of this world — encouraging folks NOT to vote at all.

But we’ve got something a little different in mind…

We are convinced that we have to engage, rather than disengage… after all Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the real stuff of his world – day laborers and unjust judges, widows and orphans, strangers and immigrants, abused women and exploited workers, redistribution of wealth and reconciliation with enemies.  So the real question is not “do we engage?”  but “how do we engage?”

We need a new political imagination.

So we think it’s time to declare once again in 2012 – “Jesus for President”.

Brave New Films

It was the early Christians who were jailed and executed for insurrection, charged with this in the New Testament:  “These people who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here. … They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus!”  (Acts 17:6–7)

In a world where pledging allegiance to Rome meant declaring, “Caesar is Lord,” substituting Jesus for Caesar offered a new political orientation. Every time the early Christians proclaimed, “Jesus is Lord”, they were also saying “Caesar is not.”  It was deeply and subversively political.  It was just as strange to say “Jesus is my Lord” 2000 years ago as it would be to declare him Commander in Chief today.  It was an invitation to a new political imagination centered around the person, teaching, and peculiar politics of Christ.  This political orientation invites every political leader and worldly power to conform to the norms of the upside-down Kingdom of God where the poor are blessed, the last come first, the hungry are filled, and the mighty are cast down from their thrones. It means aligning ourselves with the prophets who speak of beating our weapons into farm tools, rather than conforming to the patterns of violence and the business of war.

When Jesus spoke of the “Kingdom” of God he used the word “Empire”–and the empire he spoke about was not just something we hope for when we die.  It was something we are to bring “on earth as it is in heaven.”  It was about bringing God’s reign to earth.

Joining the politics of Jesus is about joining God’s redemptive plan to save the world. It is about allegiance, hope, and a new Kingdom.

Also by Shane: Ku Klux Clowns in East Tennessee

So we are indeed hopeful people in 2012, but not because we have found a candidate that fulfills our deepest hopes – but because we have learned how to hope differently. Our hope does not lie in Romney or Obama, or even America.  As the old hymn goes:  Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus… all other ground is sinking sand.  And there is a lot of sinking sand these days.

We are tired of empty rhetoric and stale debates.  We want a pro-life politic that looks like Mother Teresa.  We want a radical new way of doing business that does not have 5% of the world owning half the world’s stuff.  We have the audacity to believe that America can do better than spending 20,000 dollars every second on militarism, as the country goes broke.

We want a new dream – the old American dream is bankrupt.

And we have found a new dream – a new dream for America, and a new dream for the world.  A new empire is breaking into this troubled world.  It’s not just about who sits in an office, but how every moment, every action, even the super-small and non-governmental ones, makes redemptive love present.  Every person is an actor on this stage.

So, we may vote on November 6.  But we will also vote today, and tomorrow, and the next day.  We are convinced that change is not confined to one day every four years.  Change happens every day.  We vote with our lives. And we are convinced that voting for a new President may be little more than damage control. For Presidents and Caesars do not save the world. But there is a God who can…

Enough donkeys and elephants… long live the Lamb.

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About the Author

Shane Claiborne

Shane ClaiborneShane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way, a radical faith community in Philadelphia. His most recent book, Executing Grace was released in June.View all posts by Shane Claiborne →

  • Dennis

    amen! thank you

  • dawnland

    Jesus is King…Stating that Jesus is President is making Him less than who He is…He is interested in all that we do… “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21). I believe that it is my responsibility to vote for and support godly candidates.

    • taylor

      dawn. ‘jesus is king’ is exactly what shane is saying (we don’t have kings now). so who will you vote for. the mormon who does not embody the “politics of jesus” or the christian who doesnt. his point is that our responsibility is to the kingdom, not the voting booth.

      • dawn

        That is where the article is fuzzy…What candidate is the Christian?

  • john

    Good article! Every election I wonder why the poor are not mentioned and it is always the middle class.

    The government can and will only do so much. We must do what we can where we are. Let us each be a mustard seed that will grow into that large tree,even though we can’t see it!

  • Very telling that you did NOT complete the verse of that hymn.

    “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS . . . On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

    What is it with y’all that you can’t utter “blood” the same way Obama can’t utter “Islamic Terrorism” every time an Islamic Terrorist strikes Americans here or abroad? What have you got against the BLOOD OF JESUS?

    But really. Do you really think that if Jesus wanted to be King yesteryear or President today He wouldn’t have been/be? What was it He said when asked about earthly thrones? Something about His KINGdom not being of this world? Jesus showed no propensity for DIRECT politics and did NOT command His disciples do get DIRECTLY involved with politics as POLITICIANS, but nor did He forbid doing so.

    And do you actually think that if poverty could be eliminated or that God insisted it be eliminated that either 1) Jesus would not have eliminated it or 2) After the “War on Poverty” and the trillions spent, including and especially Obama’s $14,440,000,000,000 the last 3.8 years, and the $1,100,000,000,000 spent every year for the last several years on Welfare by Federal, State, and local governments, that poverty would NOT have been eliminated?

    And what about the fact that,

    “According to the Census’s American Community Survey, the number of households with incomes below the poverty line in 2011 was 16,807,795,” and that “If you divide total federal and state spending by the number of households with incomes below the poverty line, the average spending per household in poverty was $61,194!

    “This dollar figure is almost three times the amount the average household in poverty lives on per year. “If the spending on these programs were converted into cash, and distributed exclusively to the nation’s households below the poverty line, this cash amount would be over 2.5 times the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, which in 2011 was $22,350 for a family of four.

    Houston, LA, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, etc., WE HAVE A PROBLEM!

    Once a home that was PREVIOUSLY living below the federal poverty line begins to receive over $60,000 worth of goods and services LESS bureaucratic overhead, there is NO WAY the adult occupants of that home are going to want to work for minimum wage. In fact, the hourly equivalent of $61,194 BEFORE taxes working 40 hours per week is $29.42 per hour. After taxes at a 15% effective tax rate that would be $33.83 per hour. When you factor in travel costs to and from work plus a premium incentive to actually work for money as opposed to getting “free” money for doing NOTHING other than filling out some forms and making an occasional trip to the Welfare office, that hourly wage easily approaches $40 per hour or just over $80,000 annually BEFORE bureaucratic waste!

    What jobs are offering $80,000 annually WITH health benefits to the skill and experience level of the typical adults living in a home chronically on Welfare? Virtually NONE!

    America. This is a 21st century form of Communism; it’s got the disincentives to work, it includes radical redistribution, and it collectivizes people into government dependent, undignified pools of NON-LABORING Labor.

    Anyone who has studied and/or has serious experience observing human behavior KNOWS that we can NOT reasonably HOPE that our Employment rates will go UP and our Welfare rolls DOWN so long as we take away the primary incentives to work: the Dignity derived from creating something or accomplishing a goal, hunger, the need for shelter, the concern for being able to access and pay for health care, the wisdom of providing for a rainy day, the desire to be successful and leave a positive legacy, fear of the future, etc.

    By spending, on average, over $60,000 worth of in-kind goods, services, and direct cash payments to people PREVIOUSLY below the poverty line, now living up to 2.5 times above the poverty line — HIGHER than many hard-working Americans NOT on Welfare of any kind — we effectively take away the incentive to 1) acquire the skills needed for the 21st century Labor force, and 2) even LOOK for work, never mind actually going to and doing work, given that many of these same people are likely to work very hard, if they can even find a job, for tens of thousands of dollars LESS annually than they’re getting currently for “free” DOING NO WORK.


  • This election is NOT about the “lesser of two evils.” It is about good vs. evil. NOT absolute good vs absolute evil — that’s God’s sole purview. But the difference between LIFE (Romney) and DEATH (Obama) because the former opposes filicide and the latter loves it, going so far as to refer to his prenatal grandchildren as “punishments.”

    It is about LIBERTY vs Tyranny, and we are Creator endowed with the right to Liberty, as we are to Life. Obama wants to tyrannize people of faith and conscience with a TAX (actually 21 taxes) that forces people to contribute to evil behaviors that God forbids, not the least of which are abortifacients and ABORTIONS; Romney opposes these, Obama has staked his entire political career upon them.

    And then there’s solemnized homosexuality under the guise of God-given marriage between a man, who will leave his mother and father, and cling to his WIFE, and the TWO will become ONE FLESH.

    And it is about the pursuit of HAPPINESS which can NOT occur APART from LIFE and LIBERTY. One must make it out alive from the womb in order to LIVE, and one can NOT be constrained against one’s moral and religious conscience and convictions and enjoy Liberty. Obama governs NOT based upon what the Constitution MANDATES him and Congress as contained in Article I, Section 8, otherwise known as the Enumerated Powers, but based more upon “emanations of penumbrae” — what’s NOT actually found within the text but what mostly Godless or unGodly judges found HIDDEN in the unwritten shadows of the Constitution which are no more real than ghosts, goblins and zombies.

    In short, this election is about either “Voting for love of country” or VOTING for REVENGE, Romney’s and Obama’s closing arguments, respectively.

    Do you know for WHAT and AGAINST whom Obama wants you to vote for REVENGE? Especially after the venerable John Adams, our 2nd President, adjured us:

    “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, REVENGE or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

    Vote in favor of our CREATOR endowed unalienable rights to LIFE, LIBERTY, and the unfettered by BIG, immoral government pursuit of HAPPINESS!

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