The Political Jesus
Which candidate looks the most like Jesus to you? If you participate in social media, or even if you simply have a pulse, then it’s likely that you’ve seen, or heard this question being asked. As we’ve entered into the depths of the political season here in America, it seems that everyone has an opinion, complaint, grievance or general insight into our current political landscape. So, in light of that, I’ve decided to throw my two cents into the conversation.
I enjoy a good conversation about religion, politics, racial tension and other hot button issues today, but I rarely engage in these conversations via social media because I feel that most of my sentiments are best expressed through face-to-face relationships. It’s in that context that I’m certain I’ve surrounded myself with people who care for me, rather they agree with me or not. It’s in this loving discourse that I find my thoughts and values being changed and molded into something that I become happier with each day. I’m not saying I’ve “arrived”, but I feel as though I’m much more well-rounded today than say, a year ago. This isn’t to say you can’t have a great conversation of FB, or even Twitter. I’m merely pointing out my personal process for creating a value system. I’d rather have my beliefs impacted by those who have earned the right to speak into my life by engaging in relationship with me. Those who have invested the time and energy to get to know me, my personality and my heart, and through that developing relationship have been allowed access to my life.
After all, isn’t that relationship? Giving someone access to parts of your life that you don’t give to just anyone? When we open ourselves up to relationship with each other, outside the cultural context of FB, and choose to dive deeper, then we will constantly notice the complexities of the person(s) we’re sharing our life with. What I intend to say here is that we are quick to place people into certain categories, especially here in America. I’m sure there are a lot of historical markers we could look at in order to deduce why this is the case, but I don’t think any of us can deny that we all have the tendency to place people into nice, neat categories. We do this because it helps us compartmentalize life. It helps us “understand” a person without actually having to spend the time to get to know them. This is dangerous!
David Dark, in his book Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious, says “When I label people, I no longer have to deal with them thoughtfully. I no longer have to feel overwhelmed by their complexity, the lives they live, the dreams they have. I know exactly where they are inside – or forever outside – my field of care, because they’ve been taken care of. The mystery of their existence has been solved and filed away before I’ve had a chance to be moved by them or even begun to catch a glimpse of who they might be. They’ve been neutralized. There’s hardly any action quite so undemanding, so utterly imaginative, as the affixing of a label. It’s the costliest of mental shortcuts.”
I’m especially drawn to the last sentence from that excerpt. It’s the costliest of mental shortcuts. In a society that is filled with life-hacks, and advice on how to make your life easier I fear that we often bypass the beauty of process and how that develops us personally. If we do this, then we are certain to bypass the processes of life within the context of our relationships, but nevertheless we all tend to take these mental shortcuts on occasion.
Don’t believe me? Let’s say that politically, you’re a social conservative and you find yourself in a discussion, debate, or even an argument with someone who is socially liberal in their politics. At the end of these types of conversations have you ever found yourself walking away and justifying your stance with the thought of, “oh well, I know I’m right because they’re a liberal?” Perhaps you’ve placed someone in one of the following categories, to which your mind may hold a negative bias:
Christian, Liberal, Conservative, Homosexual, Atheist, Democrat, Muslim, Republican, Baptist, Charismatic, Calvinist, and the list goes on!
My point is that we all do this on some level, and when we do we ignore the beauty and complexity of the individual we just encountered. Which brings me to my point:
The politics of Jesus are those that never ignore us, and never marginalize our lives. He’s the one that is constantly beckoning us to come in for a closer look. If he was running for office today, I’m confident his campaign slogan would be something along the lines of, “Get to know me, I’ll take the time.” Because the fact is, he has all the time in the world, and he’s not running out of it. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection in Chapter 20 of the Gospel of John, his disciple Thomas wasn’t easily convinced that the man he was witnessing was actually the risen Jesus. As a side note, when I mentioned Thomas in that last sentence how many of my Christian, Bible reading friends immediately thought of the phrase “Doubting Thomas?” Even unintentionally we place people we’ve never met, people who’ve been gone from this earth long before we arrived, into categories they didn’t earn.
As a matter of fact, I like to think of Thomas, not as Doubting Thomas, but rather Inquisitive Thomas. His doubt only seems to bother the religion in us, and it never bothered Jesus. Note Jesus’ response. His response wasn’t to throw him into the category of “Ye of little faith.” Rather, Jesus’ response to Thomas was one that drew him closer into relationship. Jesus didn’t categorize Thomas at that moment as someone who didn’t have enough faith, but instead he invited him into a deeper relationship where Jesus would reveal the scars he bore, and the holes in his hands and side. What a true friend!
During this political season, and thereafter, I hope that the politics of Jesus can become my politics, and that we can approach each other with open minds, but mostly open hearts. Hearts that are ready to receive each other as individuals. Take a risk in your relationships and get to know those around you before forming your easy opinions which are sure to inaccurately sum up their lives. Don’t be tricked by the hatred of the political spirit to take mental shortcuts in your relationships, but rather embrace the process of getting to know those around you. That’s when we become someone who looks like Jesus, rather our presidential candidates do or not.