Christ of Jerusalem Lost the Election

Christ of Jerusalem Lost the Election September 17, 2012

The New York Times has an article today about the tendency of candidates in Brazil to adopt creative and at times outlandish pseudonyms. From that article I learned that “Christ of Jerusalem” lost an election back in 2008, while Batman and a couple of James Bonds are currently on various ballots.

The appearance of a “Christ” on the ballot got me thinking. There are plenty of people who say that their true allegiance is to Jesus, and they will even make T-shirts, badges, and bumper stickers which say things like “Jesus for President.” Here are a couple of examples:



What needs to be remembered by contemporary Christians is not only that Jesus is not literally running for office today, but that “running for office” might be a useful analogy for what Jesus did – and didn’t do – in the first century. The evidence suggests that he didn’t garner enough popular support so that, had it been a matter of elections, Jesus would have been the successful candidate.

I suspect that most people who talk about “voting for Jesus” really don’t have a clear sense of who Jesus was as a historical figure and what he stood for. Jesus is an icon for them, who stands for their own cherished values.

If they really had to deal with the actual historical figure of Jesus as a candidate, without the benefit of hindsight but as a person confronting them with his claims and statements as Jesus did in his time, I suspect that a significant number of Christians would not vote for him. And I think that would be true across the political and economic spectrum.

What do readers think?

Let me close with one last example. I have to say that I find this banner striking – it seems as though whoever made it didn’t click that “son of man” is one of the ways that Jesus is referred to in the New Testament…

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  • My own agenda with the #JesusIsMyCandidate campaign (nightly twitter cyber-prayer of resistance 9 pm EST) is to decouple how we talk and think from a partisan, easily dismissive/dismissible lens. I’m surrounded by “litmus testers” and I’m trying to navigate through their land mines in order to get to the roots of the weeds that need to be ripped out. So for example yesterday in my sermon I gestured to the way that Jesus ate and drank with his day’s filthy rich commodity day traders known as tax collectors and pointed out that the pharisees were like any other passionate group of zealous activists saying boycott the oppressors. On other weeks, the pericope will let me talk about Lazarus and the rich man.

    Most of the political problems Christians have in our country are rooted in our incoherent theology (at least speaking as an evangelical), the most egregious problem being American Christianity’s attempt to put the square peg of individualism into the round hole of a gospel that says we are nothing without God and that God saves us from a lonely eternity by putting us in a body of people who are able to be a body because they have no delusions about their own self-sufficiency. When you try to combine self-reliance with total depravity (which of course make opposite claims about human nature), you end up with the utter farcical comedy of neo-Reformed, libertarian megachurchianity in which people say they’re the greatest of sinners except when they want to point out that they work harder than the poor people who don’t deserve their tax dollars. It seems like using conservative evangelical language is going to be more effective in reshaping these unhealthy paradigms than pointing out what Jesus has to say about “the issues.”

    #JesusIsMyCandidate is a subversive and somewhat amorphous meme in that I’m not literally saying vote for Jesus, be a sanctimonious moderate, etc. Part of what inspires it is that most of the people who go to the homeless shelter with me to eat and play games with the homeless are affiliated with the opposite political party and they have shown themselves to be very humble, generous people so however it is that they point things together, I feel like I can legitimately say we’re on the same team. So I want to find a way of talking about and addressing my concerns for the poor people I love and care about that won’t put people like that on the defensive. You should get on twitter tonight at 9 pm EST and add your prophetic voice to the conversation. #JesusIsMyCandidate.

    • Thanks for mentioning that – I only saw your blog post about #JesusIsMyCandidate after I wrote this blog post, or I would have mentioned it somewhere.

  • Straw Man

    Of all your political comments, this one makes me shout “Amen!” after every sentence. Wonderful stuff.

    Only one nit would I pick. I don’t think there’s anything to “click” in that last bumper sticker. According to my understanding of Hebrew idiom, “Ben adam” generically refers to a person, although with the added implication that the person is nothing special–one of the general run of humanity. When Jesus called himself that, he was specifically identifying himself as “just some guy.” Whether ironically, or humbly, or for what specific purpose, is a fair topic for theological debate, but he was claiming for himself the precise opposite of an exalted title. The psalmist is obviously using the idiom identically: in this case to emphasize that, crown or no crown, throne or no throne, a “prince” is no more capable of saving, nor worthy of trust, than a random street beggar.

    What gives me pause about the bumper sticker is wondering how it intends us to relate the two quotations. Is it calling for a human-run theocracy, as the Christian right likes to do? If so, it’s a clever bait-and-switch in which we “put not our trust in princes” by putting our trust in human theocrats! But it’s also possible that the bumper sticker advocates a society resembling that depicted in Samuel, where God rules for the most part with no human intermediaries at all. That would open up another interesting debate, but at least it would be using the two verses consistently.

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree that the idiom “son of man” simply means “human being” and it is only under the influence of the Gospels, with their literal rendering of the Semitic idiom into Greek, that we eventually find a sort of titular usage. My point was simply that the quotation might have been expected to sound like a less appropriate slogan for Christians steeped in that usage. Perhaps the maker of the bumper sticker was better informed about Hebrew and Aramaic idioms than I gave them credit for! 🙂

  • Haha weird stuff.