Political Punches and Jesus Jukes: Do Faith and Politics Meet?

Every Tuesday and Wednesday, I drive the 45 minute commute to and from my Evangelism and United Methodist History classes. I use that time in the morning to drink lots of coffee, listen to NPR, and occasionally get road rage as I stare directly into the sunrise for almost an hour. On the way back, I stop to get groceries for the week, drink kambucha, and call my mom to catch up. You know, the tiny sassy feminist I’ve mentioned before.

We talk about it all – family gossip, inside jokes from long ago, the latest stupid viral videos. But it inevitably always turns into a religion and politics debate, because – hey – why not have an emotionally charged conversation during your lunch break? Yesterday was no different as we began to discuss the Democratic debate that aired on Tuesday night. For the record, it’s no secret my mom and I are both extremely passionate about politics. I’ll also put on the record that we agree on a lot of things, but we disagree over more.

And full disclosure, I have to admit that yesterday got out of control.

That road rage that I give into in the mornings came back on the way home. I felt my heart rate rise and my foot press down on the pedal, speeding up faster and faster on the interstate. And I know I’m not the only one who’s ever found themselves in a conversation with someone, where you’re both talking but neither are listening. At some point in the conversation, I told my mom that if she kept yelling I was going to hang up on her. (She wasn’t the only one yelling — love ya Mom)

escalated quickly

And just as I finished my threat, the call dropped.

Terrified that it appeared like I HUNG UP ON MY MOTHER, I called her back and apologized. She apologized too and pointed out that a little “time out” was probably best for the both of us. The 30 minutes following was the most productive half hour we have ever had when it comes to discussing politics. We were cordial, calm, and logical in ways that simply aren’t possible when you’re convinced the other side is 100% wrong. The more I think about this, the clearer it is to me that Christians on both sides of the political spectrum love Jesus.

I’ve been wanting to write a post on politics for some time now, but quite frankly, I was scared to. If my mom and I yelled each other the way we did yesterday, what kind of verbal bashing might I get on the blog? I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of feedback. But honestly, I’ll probably never be ready for it, so here goes nothing.

We live in America, where separation of church and state reigns supreme. But Christians, separation of church and state does not mean individuals separate their faith from their politics; in fact, our faith should inform our political choices. It doesn’t give us carte blanche to separate our Christian ethics from how we vote. Of course, we can debate what Christian ethics even are, but I’ll get into that later.

As someone in ministry, I hear this question a lot: “Who would Jesus vote for?” If you’re wanting me to answer that, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not my place or my calling to use my leadership to manipulate others into voting for a particular candidate. But I do believe it is my calling as a Christian leader to help equip voters with a biblical viewpoint on some of our current issues. Clearly, Jesus’ context was vastly different from America in 2015, and he is silent on some of our major issues. Other issues remain subjective rather than cut and dry. But Jesus is clear on some things. Like loving others as we love ourselves. Not killing. Things like that. We all know that Jesus is for loving others, but it’s those pesky grey areas where Christians on opposite sides of the political chasm tend to take up arms.

There’s quite a bit of speculation on whether or not Jesus would have even voted at all. I think he probably would have, especially since there was no such thing as separation of church and state in the first century, but that’s another post altogether. Regardless of whether you think he would have voted or not, Jesus certainly has something to say for a number of our current issues: guns and self defense, the pro-life/pro-choice debate, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, racism, and the refugee crisis. It goes without saying, but I should probably say it: that is not an exhaustive list.

For my next few posts, I’m going to take a look at those issues in light of Jesus’ life. As I address these sticky topics, my goal is to encourage thoughtful Christian dialogue and to provide some biblical and theological insight to voters, so that when Election Day rolls around, we are better equipped to allow our faith to inform our politics, rather than vice versa.

Here’s what I’m not going to do: I won’t tell you who to vote for; I won’t tell you who I’m voting for; I may not even mention specific candidates at all. I’m under no delusion that any one politician can reflect Jesus’ life at all times – let’s be real, can any of us?

My first post on this blog provided the foundation on which I intend to write – that all people are created in the image of God. Therefore, my goal and my prayer is that I communicate clearly, fairly, and lovingly as we navigate the choppy waters of faith and politics. We can all be jerks at times; it’s easy to demonize one side or the other and assert that our beliefs are superior, but Jesus took a rag-tag group of disciples from all walks of life and political leanings, and he made it work. I believe we can make it work too.

pp-and-jj-do-faith-and-politics-meet

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