Monday, October 31, 2011

The Real Christian Candidate

By Jeff Fulmer

Right or wrong, a candidate’s religion is often at the center of a political campaign. George W. Bush proudly touted that his born-again beliefs would be at the center of his decisions as President. A video of a Barack Obama’s fiery, some said radical, former minister put his faith into the national spotlight. And whether Mitt Romney or Rick Perry wins the Republican nomination, you can be sure it will be a major issue, although for different reasons for each man.

Since phrases such as “Christian Values” are bandied about in the public arena, it seems like it would make sense to go to the source and see what Jesus Christ might actually have thought about the issues of our day. Surprisingly, some of the hot button issues are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the Bible. There are, on the other hand, several scriptures and parables that give us a pretty clear indication of what a “Christian” candidate should actually stand for, and what he or she would stand against.

1. Some fights may not be avoidable, but a Christian candidate would at least look at how to end wars, not start them. “Blessed be the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). In the same Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his followers to ‘turn the other cheek’ (5:39) and “love your enemies…” (5:44). Now, I don’t think we’re going to hear a Presidential candidate go that far, but that is Christ’s position and he’s on the record.

2. Throughout the gospels, Jesus healed as many people as possible. He healed friends and strangers alike, and he didn’t do it based on their income, job, or status. In fact, many were outcasts with nowhere to turn, such as the blind beggars and lepers. When he healed, he was ‘filled with compassion’ and ‘moved with pity’ (Mark 1: 41). While a politician is not a faith-healer, I don’t think it’s wrong to expect a level of compassion for the sick and desperate.

3. Jesus is clearly on the side of the poor. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). In Matthew 25, Jesus goes so far as to tell his followers that when he returns, they will be separated as either sheep or goats based on how they care for “the least of these.” And the early church took this very seriously. Paul tells us the disciples told him “to continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Galatians 2: 10).

4. By the same token, Jesus did not try to cozy up to or coddle the rich and privileged. On numerous occasions, he stood up to the powers that be, whether it was telling the rich young ruler to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor (Mark 10: 17 – 25) or the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16: 19 – 31). Would Jesus raise taxes on the rich? I don’t know, but he wouldn’t be afraid to try.

5. The Old Testament certainly protects the treatment of foreigners. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). “You are to have the same law for the alien and the native born” (Leviticus 24: 22). According to the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph and Mary took Jesus from Bethlehem into Egypt to hide out, making them all undocumented aliens. Thankfully, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Minutemen weren’t manning those borders.

6. Jesus didn’t seem to be threatened by any religions, except the rabbinical priests in his own religion. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews, yet Jesus not only chats up the Samaritan woman at the well, he makes the Samaritan the good guy in his parable. It’s almost as shocking as treating Muslims with equality or allowing them religious freedom to build a mosque.

7. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). And in case you didn’t get the hint, Jesus follows with, “You hypocrite, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). If Christians actually believed and obeyed that command, we would cut out over half the political ads on TV and virtually eliminate political punditry overnight. What a wonderful world.

8. To be fair, Jesus doesn’t weigh in on ecological or conservation causes. Of course, no one was drilling for oil in the Dead Sea or using mountain top removal on the Mount of Olives. However, in the beginning (Genesis 1:26), God charges man with good stewardship of all of nature, including animals and the earth. Does it make sense that a Christian candidate would want to “Drill Baby Drill” at all cost to the environment aka ‘creation?’

9. For taking a stand on these issues, a true Christian candidate should expect to be persecuted. They accused Jesus of eating with sinners and tax collectors. They spread lies about him. “Isn’t it true that you are demon possessed and a Samaritan?" (John 8:48) It’s interesting that it was the self-righteous religious types that were the most venomous in their attacks.

Many believe that it is wrong to ever mix politics with religion. However, believing that church and state should be separate is not the same as your faith informing and influencing your political views. Personally, I try to be guided by the principles in the Bible and the life and teachings of Jesus.

I encourage everyone to read their own Bibles and pray and meditate on the scriptures and come to their own conclusions about what they believe – and possibly how they should vote. But I warn you – the answers you find just might surprise you.

Jeff Fulmer is the author of the book "Hometown Prophet."

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