Don’t Let Them Hijack Jesus

It really gets old, doesn’t it?  Every election cycle, the story is the same.  This Christian says that Christian is not really a Christian.  And why is that? Is it because they differ on critical issues relating to the content of the Christian faith?  Is it because of doctrinal or ecclesial disputes?  No, the reason for this inability to recognize and respect each other as Christian sisters and brothers is because those Christians belong to a different political party and support different political candidates than we do.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, they may have doctrinal or ecclesial disputes.  We just don’t ever get to find out because the wedge issue that lies at the surface is our political differences.

One of the most common critiques of Christians in our contemporary culture is that we are “too political.”  This has been borne out by study after study, and it’s a huge turnoff to younger folks.  In fact, it is such a turnoff that in droves they are leaving churches that cannot properly distinguish their political positions from their Christian faith.  And, frankly, who can blame them?  Why continue to be a tarred by the rancorous debates over politics?  Interestingly, it was Barry Goldwater who presciently said:  “Frankly, these people frighten me.   Politics and governing demand compromise.   But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise.”  And, therein lies the crux of the problem:  because we are sure God is on our side, any attempt to compromise with those who disagree with us is judged to be a betrayal.  The outcome?  Rather than Christian faith being a thing that unites us, it becomes distorted and used for partisan gain.  It seems that being political power brokers has become too seductive for us to resist.

But, you know what?  Those who attempt to hijack religious faith for partisan gain do so because, well, because it works.  And, as long as it works, they will continue to do it, election cycle after election cycle after election cycle.  It will continue to divide, rather than unite, and with each cycle, more folks will throw up their hands in desperation and walk away.  It can be stopped, though.  In fact, we can stop it anytime we want.  All we have to do is make it clear that we have had enough and will no longer tolerate it.  And that’s exactly what we’d like to have you help us do.  How?  Join our campaign, pledge not to use religious faith for partisan gain and to do all you can to resist those who do.  Come by our website (www.dontletthemhijackjesus.com) where we will have video messages from our partners, take the pledge with us, then share it with your friends.  Together, WE CAN stop the unhealthy alliance of religious faith and political partisanship.

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Dr. Charles (Chuck) Gutenson is co-author of the new book, Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide. He previously served as the COO at Sojourners, after 10 years at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, most recently as the professor of Theology and Philosophy. He received a M.Div. from Asbury in 1995 and a PhD in Philosophical Theology from Southern Methodist University in 2000. A member of the International Society of Theta Phi, an honor society for theological students, scholars in the field of religion and outstanding religious leaders, Chuck is the author of three books (one forthcoming) and numerous articles on a variety of theological and philosophical articles.

About Chuck Gutenson

Dr. Charles (Chuck) Gutenson is Chief Operating Officer of Sojourners. He previously served 10 years at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, most recently as the professor of Theology and Philosophy. He received a M.Div. from Asbury in 1995 and a PhD in Philosophical Theology from Southern Methodist University in 2000. A member of the International Society of Theta Phi, an honor society for theological students, scholars in the field of religion and outstanding religious leaders, Chuck is the author of three books (one forthcoming) and numerous articles on a variety of theological and philosophical articles.

  • http://singingwithcrows.blogspot.com Marian L. Shatto

    I certainly understand and sympathize with your frustration. I’ve felt for a long time that the right-wing war mongers had stolen our flag and wanted to steal Jesus, too. But I disagree that the answer is to remove any reference to Christ from political discourse. There is no way around it ~ Jesus was a highly political figure. Anyone who declares that God will judge the nations by whether or not they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and minister to the ill has made a strong political statement. Anyone who calls the ruling authorities “whited sepulchers” and preaches a sermon with the refrain “Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites” is very much getting in the face of the powers-that-be.

    I will admit it; I am very partisan. I agree strongly with what Latin American Liberation Theologians have termed “God’s preferential option for the poor.” I have spent my life doing my best to stand with those who seek to form sustainable community, to end wars and oppression, to establish peace with justice throughout the lands. And I unapologetically cite Jesus’ teachings to support my stand. While I avoid judgment on whether or not another person is a Christian, I do not hesitate to name greedy, oppressive, and violent policies and actions as contrary to the teachings of Christ.

    Rather than a pledge “not to use religion for partisan gain,” I suggest that what is needed are more strong voices speaking out on the side of the poor and oppressed, and doing it precisely because faith in Jesus requires it.

    • John R Huff Jr

      You state my feelings absolutely. This book and article is not worth the time of day.

  • JMB

    I’ll be happy when the unspoken requirement is no longer that the president (or whatever political candidate) even be Christian. I could care less what faith the person has, or whether they subscribe to any faith at all. They could worship a water stain on their ceiling for all I care. If they are trustworthy and honorable, and have the best ideas and intentions for leading this nation, that is more important to me than what diety they pray to.

  • Donnie

    I left the UMC over the left-wing stances of the GBCS. It goes both ways.

    • John R Huff Jr

      With your beliefs, I am glad you did leave. We have no use for your brand. Go join the Southern Baptists or some other air head group.

      • TJP

        Oh, that is such a wonderful Christian and tolerant response, John. Congratulations on having achieved such a mature spiritual position.
        Sincerely,
        An “Air Head”

      • Bill Wiley

        Seriously, John, grow up.

  • jerry lynch

    It still amazes me to this day how few Christians will put their complete trust in love. God is love, but that does not seem enough. The law perfectly fulfilled by love, but that does not seem enough. They appear to think they need the added arsenal of earthly weapons, such as politics.
    The article was about “partisan gain” through politics and a call for that to end. It is divisive and sends a mixed message about the way of Christ. Jesus got in the face of religious leaders, to Rome, who was taxing the Jews out of existence, he said render it without any further comment.
    Converting what is a spiritual path (our kingdom is not of the world, we are citizens of heaven) into a political movement, no matter how much it may help “the least of these,” does the same damage as going after partisan gain. The “least of these” are also those bereft of decency and honor, who act cruelly and dishonestly. We are separated out to advance the kingdom, not attack the world.

  • jerry lynch

    “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).
    The question is “entanglements.” To be friends with the world is to be at enmity against God, entanglements. There is meant to be a clear distinction between what is godly and what is worldly. We are to be IN THE WORLD out of love of God–not a particular nation, culture, race, group, or party–reflected in love of neighbor. Our attachments to the wisdom, values, and treasures of finite things slowly die to be replaced by the wisdom, values, and treasures of the eternal.

  • jerry lynch

    Why Christians so willingly, even enthusiastically, submit to the governing authorities when it comes to war (which leaves “the least of these” in those nations with lasting psychic and physical scars) and so aggressively resist those governing authorities when it comes to taxes (as poignantly played out by the biblically unsound and, to me, sinful American Revolution and our present Right wing Conservative Christians).

  • http://www.faithinterface.com.au/ Roger

    I agree – Jesus should not be highjacked into representing right-wing, conservative political ideology and libertarianism. Nor, of course, should He be highjacked by left-wing, socialist political ideology. We are all guilty of constructing a Jesus of our own design. We must resist this temptation.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I wish they would leave Jesus out of it (politics) altogether.

    NO political gospels. How much time did Jesus spend trying to rectify the injustices of the Roman rulers of the day? Not much. He had much bigger fish to fry.

    Thanks.

  • ToronadoBlue

    Just a quick comment because I have to get to work, but as a Christian I have a hard time supporting a party that supports abortion because I believe the unborn are really “the very least of these”.

    • Cassandra

      So don’t. Who is asking you to do that?

      I would have a hard time as a Christian supporting a political party that cares only for the ultra rich, that interferes with a woman’s reproductive rights (including access to contraception), that is homophobic, that allows racist speech, which is xenophobic, etc.

      Nobody is forcing me to vote Republican and no one is forcing you to vote Democratic. So we’re both okay.

      • ToronadoBlue

        FYI,
        it is the author of the blog post who is asking me to remove my faith from politics. That is who is asking me.
        As far as your other assertions, racism, homophobia, etc, I’d be more than happy to address if you’d like, but only after we address my original point and concerns with regards to the unborn. Thanks and have a blessed day.

      • TronadoBlue

        2 days ago I responded to Casandra but my post has been removed. I tried to repost but it seems I’m being blocked. I’m using a different name this time to see if it works.
        The questions I asked was:
        Is ‘Reproductive Rights’ a fancy way of saying ‘Murdering the unborn’?

      • TronadoBlue

        Casandra,
        Would definitely appreciate a response from you. Thanks.

        FYI… here is some racist talk from the Democrats.
        http://twitchy.com/2012/06/28/justice-thomas-dissents-left-hurls-vile-racial-slurs-house-nigga-uncle-tom/

  • Nate Sauve

    Don’t let “them’? Seems like the ability to divide and cast aspersions come easily to us all.

  • James M. Martin

    There is one thing all Christians have in common: they worship the myth of an individual who never existed and was in any case, nothing but a new edition of a plethora of death-and-resurrection deities used since the most ancient times to keep people in thrall of a non-existent God the better to cope with fear of death.

    • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

      For you, Her does not exist. Therefore you are right. For you, there will be NO God.

      Jesus did live. Even Pagan historians wrote about him. And He did die, for us. That we might live again. With Him in peace and harmony, forever.

      Sounds pretty good to me. You just want to be worm food and that’s it…so be it.

  • ToronadoBlue

    “WE CAN stop the unhealthy alliance of religious faith and political partisanship.”

    I noticed in a previous blog post on ‘Faith Forward’ the author is praising President Obama as representing the author’s values as a christian.

    Is this blog willing to stop mixing faith and politics?

  • Dale

    The reason why any mythology is ‘hijacked’ during an election cycle is simple marketing. A politition wants to have as may votes as he or she can get, so it easiest to get a block of votes is pander to a mytholgy group. Even beter for the polititian, the members of mythology groups have been trained since birth to believe whatever the person speaking is saying without a second thought. If you want to make it even more easy to get that block of votes, you hold up a group of people that the mythology has been trained to hate.


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