taking the words of Jesus seriously

I read an article on Huffington Post today about a new survey by a nonpartisan organization called YouGov of self-identified Christians. Asked how they believe Jesus would vote on various hot current topics, here’s a run-down of the results:

1. Jesus would not support gay marriage.
2. Jesus would oppose legal abortion.
3. Jesus would support universal healthcare.
4. Jesus would not support the death penalty for murderers.
5. Jesus would not support stricter gun laws.
6. Jesus would not support high taxes on the wealthy.
7. Jesus would support reducing carbon emissions.

Like me, you probably nodded in affirmation of a couple of these and sighed or rolled your eyes in exasperation at others. Suffice it to say that this Jesus, as described by the opinion poll, at least, doesn’t fit many, if any, of our expectations about what WE think Jesus would value.

Related: Stop Comparing Your Christianity to My Christianity!

It reminds me of the well-known saying about how God created us in God’s image, and ever since then, we’ve gone to great lengths to return that favor. As I talk about at some length in my upcoming book, postChristian: What’s Left? Can We Fix It? Do We Care? We have not only created false constructs of God and Jesus in our minds and in our churches; we’ve come to worship them as if they are the one, true divinity.

And yet, throughout scripture, Jesus is forever throwing ideological curve balls that don’t conform to an us/them, yes/no sort of binary.

That said, there’s evidence in scripture to support whichever position we’ve already taken, and to coerce others into believing that Jesus, as the Bible clearly states, is on our side:

  • Libertarians would cite Jesus’ challenges to empire as a clear advocate for reducing the role of government in our lives.
  • Progressives would emphasize his vocal and active care for the poor and marginalized as a basis for him voting democrat.
  • Conservatives would note his warnings about pure thoughts and his apparent example of chastity when claiming him as a republican.
  • Christian anarchists would highlight his refusal to engage systems of government all together to achieve his ministry, and draw a distinction between oppressive systems of democracy and Jesus’ persistent calls away from violence.

We’d all love to claim Jesus for our team, but in doing so, we can safely assume that Jesus actually would wriggle free from such limitations. While it would be comforting to validate ourselves by claiming Jesus as a Baptist, Disciple, Catholic or something else, what we’re effectively trying to do is keep from changing ourselves. We want to rest in the certainty that we’re all right how we already are, with no real need to grow or do things differently.

Also by Christian: Five Reasons Churches Need to Come Out on LGBTQ Rights

But the reality is that if we allowed this Jesus to look deeply into our hearts, to know our motivations, our insecurities, our desires and shortcomings, we know that we have work to do. We democrats, we republicans, we human beings.

Jesus isn’t a free agent to be courted and recruited to our team. That’s not the kind of person worth modeling one’s life after. And yet we preoccupy ourselves with such haggling and partisanship because it serves as a relatively pleasant distraction from the real transformative, reconciling work at hand that is yet to be done.

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