My belief and thoughts on the politics of Jesus would take more than just one blog article to make my point but this is an attempt to give a general overview.
BY PETE WATTS
This past election cycle was challenging for African American Christians who wanted to be faithful to their Christian values and faithful to their neighbors who are marginalized and maligned by an American Christianity that sometimes doesn’t have the same viewpoints and approach to solving the world’s problems in practical ways. This is what I believe that one Christian hip hop artist tried to express in an article in Christianity Today a couple of years ago.
ONE IN A SERIES:
HOW WOULD JESUS VOTE?
I find it interesting that Franklin Graham is going on tour with this campaign “Decision America,” encouraging Christians to vote when in the past much of mainline evangelical Christianity said politics and religion shouldn’t mix. In the historic African American church and amongst mainline black evangelicals they have never separated the two. They understood there needed to be engagement with biblical values AND social justice.
Let me start by saying that I don’t believe that people who voted for Trump and were Republican are all racists just as others on the right shouldn’t believe that anyone who voted Democrat supports abortion. At the end of the day, where I draw the line is at the same ledge that James Baldwin did when he said, “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
If Jesus were to vote today he wouldn’t be on the side of the Republican ticket or the Democratic ticket. His agenda would be and always has been a Kingdom agenda. Today’s politics and climate of our American culture and Christianity has led us to take sides based on our own flawed interpretation of scripture to confirm our own agendas.
Two issues in particular I’d like highlight to prove my point. There has been documented and historical evidence proving the reality of voter suppression. This is played out in both Texas and North Carolina most recently. Coincidentally, both of these states were in violation of federal law. This was the Republican Party’s attempt at subverting the Voting Rights Acts by enacting what has been termed as Voter ID Laws. Yes, on the surface it sounds legitimate but when you dig deeper there is something more nefarious that targets specifically African American communities in poor areas.
If Jesus were to vote I’m quite confident he wouldn’t vote Democrat but would be in line with the Democratic party on the issue of Voter suppression.
Quite interestingly, just as vigorous in defending the right to vote, Jesus would also defend the right to religious expression and fight against religious exclusion. This idea of exclusion plays out in different ways, including the far left’s launch of an all-out attack on those who have Christian beliefs that are contrary to the agenda of Democratic party. There are examples and reports of many people who are running for office and who have run that received threats on their lives because they supported the right to life, or stood against same sex marriage. Some of these pastors are leading predominantly African American churches, too.
Jesus dealt with similar trappings and issues in the gospel. One pericope that I point to specifically is when he was asked by the Pharisees and Herodians in the gospel of Mark about paying taxes. The Bible said he saw their hypocrisy and how they wanted to trap him in his words. Jesus responded as one who is about the Kingdom of God and not the politics of the Pharisees or any other religious or political group of his day. He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” When you look at his response it doesn’t say that he was on either side of the issue exclusively.
This shows us that the politics of Jesus doesn’t land on one side of the coin but both. In considering how Jesus would vote, we should consider the perspective of the Kingdom and what an upside-down Kingdom looks like when fighting for the poor, disenfranchised, the privileged and the outcast.
Unfortunately, I think Franklin Graham got it wrong when he encouraged Christians in California to vote because they need to penetrate the “blue wall.” I think if Jesus was preparing his people to vote, it would be because the wall he wants people to penetrate is purple.
That’s the color of the Kingdom. It’s the color of royalty.
Rev. Pete Watts oversees World Impact’s mission for all of Los Angeles and its surrounding communities. Born and raised in Southern California, Pete holds a Masters in Communication and Education. After serving as an elementary school teacher, he opened the Thurgood Marshall Entrepreneurial Academy Charter Middle School in 2007. Pete has also felt God’s calling him to preach. After being ordained by Missionary Baptist Church in Compton, he and his wife Didi launched The R.O.C.K. Church in 2008.
To find out more about Rev. Pete Watts, check out his blog.