Jesus never uttered the words “Democrat” or “Republican,” “liberal” or “conservative.”
That doesn’t stop some folks from appropriating Jesus as their own in an election year.
The most recent example: As part of “iPledge Sunday,” held in Charlotte Sunday and beamed to 2,000 or so congregations around the country, certain Christian leaders “asked voters to take a political stand and elect into office those who believe in the same Christian values,” the Observer’s Gavin Off reported.
“We live in such a day where the call for Christian citizens has never been needed more,” said Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte.
Who are these “Christian citizens”? What are these “Christian values”?
Sunday’s event was co-hosted by the conservative Family Research Council and American Family Association, and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was a leading speaker. There was a lot of talk about the national debt, cutting federal spending and getting the government out of health care. Actor Kirk Cameron suggested it was sad that the country is even debating the definition of marriage or the abortion issue.
The truth, though, is neither party can claim exclusive ownership of Christianity. Christians holding starkly different political beliefs from each other will vote their faith on Nov. 6. For some, that will mean voting Democratic. For others, it will mean voting Republican.
Whatever their party preference, Christians who base their vote on Jesus’ teachings will, presumably, remember some of his core lessons, actions and admonitions, including:
Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies. Blessed are the peacemakers. Do not hinder the children, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. When you fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, invited the stranger in, clothed the naked, cared for the sick and visited the imprisoned, you did it unto me.
We have no problem with leaders calling on believers to vote their faith. We don’t believe, though, that Republicans are “more Christian” than Democrats or vice-versa. We do believe citizens voting their Christian values vote with compassion in their hearts for “the least of these.”
All this talk of Christianity in politics will turn many people off. Understandably so for the millions of Jews, Muslims, Hindi, Buddhists, Sikhs and others who are part of this great nation.
Others may think it improper to mix religion and politics. Jefferson’s separation of church and state, however, referred to the First Amendment’s guarantee that the government would make no law regarding the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. That does not suggest that a person’s religious beliefs should play no role in his public life. On the contrary, for many, extricating the two is impossible, and undesirable in any case.
At Sunday’s service, Santorum said that “true happiness comes from doing … what God has called you to do.” Probably so. But we might not all agree on what that is.