Jun 122014 9 Responses

Jesus Isn’t As Conservative (or Liberal) As You Think

When I was in college I listened to a politician do a Q&A with students when one student asked the question, “How can you be a Democrat when you know Jesus would’ve never been a Democrat?” I don’t remember the answer the politician gave, but I do remember the stunned silence before he began his answer. How could one answer such a question?

When I was in graduate school and then Governor Bush was running for President, I overheard a conversation in which a person said, “Man, Jesus must hate those Bushes.” I’m not sure which was more strange: hearing the word “Jesus” and “hate” in the same sentence or the fact that no one in the conversation seemed to object to the statement. (See: The Most Confident Christians)

What’s interesting about these two scenes from my days of receiving an education is the only real difference between the two was location. Both statements were made within Christian circles and among people of great faith. I loved them, and as far I know, they loved me. The only difference was that the first scene was in rural America and the second scene was in the inner-city. Location determined political affiliation which defined theological belief.

Do you notice the danger of that progression?

Sadly, the latter happens more than the former.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to politics. (See: Three Lies Christians Tell Themselves)

  • How often do you struggle with the tension between your political belief and what the Bible is teaching?
  • How is the Bible making you more liberal?
  • How is the Bible making you more conservative?

If you never feel the tension…

If you aren’t becoming both more liberal and more conservative…

If you struggle to even consider Jesus might have a different political view than you…

Then you are probably defining Jesus more than he is defining you.

It’s a funny thing, the Bible should make us more liberal and more conservative than we want to be. It should be changing us, but sadly we are trying to change it.

What often amazes me about Jesus is how rarely he is like me. Every time I think I have him figured out, I read a story and he surprises me.

  • Who could have predicted, “Blessed are the poor in spirit?”
  • Who ever imagined he would flip over tables?
  • Jesus quickly forgives the things that I judge and often judges those things I too quickly forgive.

He is not like me. I want to be like him. (See: If This is True, It Will Blow Your Mind)

This is why preaching is fun for me. It’s why reading the Bible is exciting. Every text I read shows me how God is not like me and provides an opportunity for me to repent and become like him.

This should radically influence every area of my life, especially my politics.

It should:

  • make me less certain of many of my political beliefs
  • give me a deep compassion toward those who disagree with me
  • create an openness in my heart to change political opinions
  • cause me to often agree with my political opponents and disagree with my political friends
  • result in true friendships with people of all political persuasions
  • make me realize some people will hate me because of my political stance
  • give me both political zeal and political skepticism

Nothing should mess up our political beliefs as much as our faith in Jesus. Our faith should turn our politics upside down because that is what Jesus does with every other aspect of our lives. Every time I think I have him figured out, he surprises me. But he surprises me in a way that draws me closer to him even as I struggle to apply his teaching in my life.

Some are quick to say, “Jesus would be a conservative.” (See: Why the President Won’t, and Probably Shouldn’t, Listen to Christians)

Others are quick to say, “Jesus would be a liberal.”

The only thing I’m quick to say, “Jesus is rarely what I think he is. He is always much better.”

9 Responses to Jesus Isn’t As Conservative (or Liberal) As You Think
  1. Kim Reply

    Was Jesus even political at all? Does he care about how freedom affects us politically or systematically, or would he say focus on me and stop talking about politics, and thinking about politics? I wonder because some in the hipster Christian movement right now seem to act like caring about politics and politicians is not Chrisitian cool. Nothing makes me feel old like caring about politics, but I wonder if there is something wrong with caring, how much is too much?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Kim, I think one key is to remember there isn’t one specific way regarding this. Some feel called to be highly involved while others choose not involvement. I think either option could be right. Whatever we choose, we much consistently check our hearts.

  2. RJ Reply

    I’m happy to say that a couple of years ago I had the kind of experience that you are describing. I’m not sure I become that much less conservative, but I certainly learned to define the terms differently. For instance, if I claimed to be pro-life was it enough to value life and to want lives protected only up until the point they were born? That made me look at immigration, welfare, and public healthcare with a little different perspective.

    One of the main things that brought about my change in perspective was reading books by guys who would be referred to as “liberal Christians” in polite circles. People like Rob Bell, Jim Wallis and Brian McClaren. Now don’t get me wrong these guys are completely upside down in some of their theologies. But they see people and politics differently than the typical evangelical. And that has value.

    The big problem that I see with conservatives (at least as I saw myself) was this almost irrational sense of being right. I think that has a lot to do with political conservatism being so tightly linked to Christianity in general, and Evangelical Christianity in particular. Obviously we base our theology on the Bible and see very little room for negotiation. Then we start to think in those same terms about politics and assign moral absolutes to issues that should be negotiable and which are acceptable to compromise. Liberals in general seem to be less certain (or strident) in their positions and are willing to negotiate away those positions.

    Another problem with conservatives is that we seem to want to live in an echo chamber. A recent survey said that 50% of self-described conservatives get their information exclusively from one source. Fox News. Self-described liberals are willing to get their information from a wider variety of sources with the highest percentage being the 1/3 who get their news from the Big 3 network newscasts.

    Anyway, whether conservative or liberal, it takes a bit of effort to put aside some things that you are stridently committed to and see things from a new perspective.

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