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Dave Brisbin

The Politics of Jesus

If Jesus were here today, would he be a Republican or a Democrat? Really? What I first thought had to be a rhetorical or facetious question was being asked in all sincerity. And the quick answer: that he would be neither or both, while possibly technically true, would be an evasion, ignoring the complexities and subtext of the question. Such a question deserves to be answered with the seriousness with which it is asked, because at a time when politics have been equated with morality, with opposing positions not simply wrong, but evil, we really want to know.

If we revere Jesus, or just believe our opposition does, we’re going to want Jesus in our camp, and some of us are absolutely certain he already is. But if Jesus had any political beliefs, they are not recorded in the New Testament, which means they are not important, non-essential to his message. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have any.

Jesus was a fiercely loyal Jew to the end. He said he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, yet he never refused compassion and assistance to anyone whether from his own camp or any other. He was the first to criticize his own people, then added insult to injury by praising their most hated enemies. Jesus had a side, but his identity was with his unseen Father first—and from that vantage, what he saw far transcended his politics.

Over a thousand years before, Moses set up the Tent of Meeting a half mile outside the camp of the Israelites; if you wanted to meet God, you needed to go outside the camp. Just when we think we’ve got Jesus figured, domesticated, co-opted, he rocks us back on our heels. Always comforting but never comfortable, if you want to meet Jesus again for the first time, you will need to go outside your camp. If you’re asking whether Jesus is a Republican or Democrat to justify a position, prepare to be frustrated. His answer will not scratch your itch. And if you’re looking to Jesus in all sincerity as your north star, he will lead you—but prepare to be led well outside your camp, your party, and anything else in which you huddle for security.

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