It’s political season, have you noticed? (Seriously, kill me now.)
As part of that political season, pundits like to crack numbers, explore potential paths to victory, and discuss voter blocks. One of those voter blocks is yuge– in fact, it’s hard to win the presidency without it: The Evangelical vote.
I know this block well– I grew up in it. I was one of them. I still hold many of the same theological values they hold, and if it were not for the fact the term has become a political term instead of a theological distinction, I might even still consider myself one.
But if Jesus ran for president? Well, I can nearly assure you: He’d never win the Evangelical vote. Here’s 10 reasons why:
10. Jesus was famous for giving away free healthcare.
One of the core aspects of Jesus’s earthly ministry was healing the sick– it’s actually how he became so popular (Mark 1:45). It is undeniable that healing the sick was high on Jesus’s radar, but sadly, I don’t see that priority shared within the political label of “Evangelical.” This election season, the candidates most popular with Evangelicals are actually running on the promise that they will take healthcare away from people.
You won’t find two more opposing messages than that.
9. Rich Evangelicals would see him as a divisive candidate who waged class warfare.
Let me assure you: Rich people wouldn’t be a fan of Jesus, because when he talked about rich people it wasn’t on positive terms. Instead, Jesus said things like “Woe to you who are rich!” (Luke 6:24) and even used hyperbole to argue that being wealthy makes it basically impossible to enter God’s Kingdom (Matthew 19:24). Contrast this with all Jesus’s talk on how blessed the poor will be in his Kingdom, and I can promise: He’d be accused of being anti-rich and promoting class warfare.
8. He threatened those who exclude immigrants and do not help the poor.
The political term “Evangelical” is not known for including immigrants and being focused on helping the poor– and those are the people Jesus threatened with eternal damnation in Matthew 25. This would be a political death-blow (it actually was), as the rich and powerful would be infuriated with the idea that building walls to shut out immigrants, and failing to be generous to poor people, results in an eternal punishment and exclusion from God’s Kingdom.
7. He told people to pay their taxes.
Jesus ministered in an area that was grossly over-taxed, and people were miserable for it. Yet when he was asked about this, instead of calling taxation “theft” and rebuking the government, he simply looked at the coin and said, “If the money has the president’s face on it, and the president asks for it, give back to him whatever he asks for.” (Matthew 22:21)
This clear disinterest in fighting issues of government taxation would not go over well with American Evangelicals.
6. Jesus was known for staging public protests at church.
Instead of political appearances at churches to try to win their political support, Jesus is the guy who confronted church leaders and said, “Hey you guys! Did you see that the the most notorious sinners have entered the Kingdom ahead of you?” (Matthew 21:31). He is also the guy who went into the only mega-church of his day and completely ransacked the place because they were oppressing the poor and excluding people the church thought were “out.”
That kind of activity not only fails to win votes, it actually gets you killed.
5. He often resorted to name calling when confronting the popular religious leaders of his day.
While I think many American Evangelicals would appreciate the fact that Jesus got verbally punchy at times, I don’t think they’d appreciate the people who were his target. When facing off with the Franklin Grahams and Jerry Falwells of his time, Jesus called them names like: hypocrites, fools, white-washed graves, blind leaders, and children of hell (see Matthew 23).
Thus, Jesus could never win the American Evangelical vote, because too many powerful Evangelical leaders would hate the names Jesus called them during his sermons.
4. Jesus would be viewed as anti-death penalty and soft on crime.
Jesus had his chance to prove that he was tough on crime, and he failed miserably. When faced with the public execution of a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery– where there was little doubt of guilt– Jesus stepped in and halted the execution. To make matters worse, he actually turned the tables on her would-be executioners and claimed they were no more righteous than the one who stood condemned.
The fact that Jesus would be advocating mercy for prisoners, while spending so much of his time rebuking the governors of America’s Bible Belt, would make winning an election impossible.
3. Jesus’s absurd teaching on enemy love would be seen as a threat to national defense.
If I’ve learned anything this election season, it’s this: The candidates who most claim terms like Evangelical or Christian also happen to be the candidates who most talk about slaughtering our enemies. But Jesus? Jesus taught the opposite– consistently teaching that we must love and serve our enemies, instead of killing them. In fact, the word Jesus used for “enemy” included both personal and national enemies, meaning his platform would be a threat to national defense.
Thus, in an election cycle where a bigger military is an Evangelical priority, a candidate like Jesus would never stand a chance.
2. Jesus rebuked those who were into concealed carry.
One could never win the Evangelical vote without being in extreme favor of unrestricted gun rights. But Jesus? Well, Jesus claimed that in order to become a child of God, one had to embrace a life of nonviolent enemy love (Matthew 5:44-45). In fact, he even publicly rebuked his best friend for pulling out a weapon with the intent to use it in self defense.
To all those looking for a leader to protect their gun rights, Jesus would be seen as a weak hippy instead of the Warrior Messiah they’re longing to follow. He wouldn’t be a candidate who gave speeches at the NRA, but he’d certainly be the guy who showed up to kick over their tables.
1. Instead of “American Exceptionalism” Jesus would spend his campaign talking about a place that is WAY better than America.
Expressions of American Exceptionalism are absolutely essential to winning the Evangelical block– in fact, when leaders offer a self-critique on our own culture they’re often labeled as being part of the “hate America crowd.” Jesus, however, would spend his campaign the same way he spent his ministry: Talking about a culture that is far better than the one we find ourselves in.
The central teaching of Jesus’s ministry is the Kingdom of God. You can’t flip more than a few pages in the Gospels without seeing Jesus talk about it. When you see this, what you’re seeing is a candidate who is claiming there is something better that what you see around you– a Kingdom that is unlike anything in this world. His Kingdom is not an abstract Kingdom that exists only in the future, but an alternate culture one can live and experience right now— one that is WAY better than American culture.
But to preach there’s something better than America, and that we should change to become more like it? That would be political heresy.
Honestly, I miss the days when being Evangelical meant you were a bearer of “good news.” I miss the days when this term meant you believed in the inspiration of Scripture, and that you believed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ– because in this way, I’ve always been Evangelical.
But these days? These days “Evangelical” is a political term where not even Jesus Christ himself could win their vote.
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