I was challenged by a question a few weeks ago: Who are your heroes?
I know the purpose of that question was to help illuminate the people I try to immitate. Immitation may be a the sincerest form of flattery, but it also happens to be one of our most important means of learning as well. In fact, I bet we copy the behavior of those we respect long before we truly understand why they behave that way. This creates intense defensive mechanisms that we employ when our imitated behavior – that of our heroes or the same behavior we do ourselves, is brought into question. This may be what makes our current political climate so interesting right now. Something has happened that is causing us to move beyond our defensiveness and really start to question those heroes we have and the behavior we have been modeling.
The subject of Christian Politics is moving. Some of the former concepts about Christian Politics (that the term may be an oxymoron and that the concepts of Christianity and Politics inherently corrupt one another) are being challenged. The identities and affiliations of Christian Politicians is being questioned. There is a disturbance in the force and we are all trying to figure out what the answer is. Unfortunately, we may all be jumping the gun, looking for answers, when we do not know what questions to ask.
I want to begin with a few postulates that may seem obvious, but I think will help us uncover some false assumptions we have later on.
- Jesus did not speak about nor institute the United States of America. Any talk about the USA being a “Christian Nation” does not bear the same legitimacy of Israel and have only been borrowed by analogy – an analogy that can be used by any nation at any time in our world with enough logical argument.
- Jesus taught very little on politics directly. There are only a few statements He made in the gospels that speak directly on the subject of authority of one person over another. What He did teach about was many of the issues that politics deal with such as economy, justice, relationships, and duty.
- While Jesus did not speak to a large extent on the issue of political authority, He modeled in it His actions significantly throughout all four gospels. He did in fact, teach by example.
Back to the question of heroes… Often when we speak of Christian politics, we choose our models from the founding fathers of the United States (such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) and great leaders from our history (such as Abraham Lincoln). We then scour the historical documents of these leaders in attempt to prove their faith and justify our support of one or more of their political efforts. I suspect that this is due in part to postulate #2, that Jesus did not teach much on politics directly. Today it probably has to do with maintaining a kind of religious separation or objectivity, knowing that the name of Jesus invokes enough cultural irritation today, the same way I expect a political leader invoking the name of Mohammad or Buddha would. I expect this is why there is a also a lack of church leaders cited as political heroes. There is little mention of Augustine, Patrick, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, or any others.
The net result of this shakiy foundation and distancing from Jesus Himself creates a dillution of the values that truly embody Christian politics. It is at this particular juncture that I ask the question: Can we base Christian politics on Jesus Himself? If we considered Jesus one of our heroes of Christian politics, what behaviors would we find ourselves modeling?