Run From Christlike Candidates

Run From Christlike Candidates July 17, 2016

I really wanted to believe it was satire when a website called GOPocalypse claimed that a Southern Baptist pastor named Robert Jeffress had said the following:

You know, I was debating an evangelical professor on NPR and this professor said, ‘Pastor, don’t you want a candidate who embodies the teaching of Jesus and would govern this country according to the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount?’ I said, ‘Heck no.’ I would run from that candidate as far as possible, because the Sermon on the Mount was not given as a governing principle for this nation.

Nowhere is government told to forgive those who wrong it, nowhere is government told to turn the other cheek. Government is to be a strongman to protect its citizens against evildoers. When I’m looking for somebody who’s going to deal with ISIS and exterminate ISIS, I don’t care about that candidate’s tone or vocabulary, I want the meanest, toughest, son of a you-know-what I can find, and I believe that’s biblical.

But Jeffress really did say that. You can listen to the radio show clip in which he says it.

This is Martin Luther’s famous doctrine of the two kingdoms in a nutshell. The teaching of Jesus is for individuals to practice or not as they see fit. Government – even Christians in government – should not be merciful in the way Christians are taught to be.

The irony, of course, is that other conservative Christian views, about same-sex marriage or abortion for instance, I am quite certain that Jeffress and others like him would happily see enforced by government. But concern for the poor or love for enemies? No way.

It is saddening that this approach to ethics and morality is so widely held in the United States. And perhaps it is unsurprising, given that there is a natural congruence between the Lutheran doctrine of two kingdoms, and the American approach to separating church and state.

Yet last I heard, a lot of fundamentalists don’t want separation of church and state, either.

And so is this outlook simple hypocrisy, or is there something deeper that could help make sense of it?


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • charlesburchfield

    “The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.”
    ― Adolf Hitler

    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

    • Ian

      Between the desire
      And the spasm
      Between the potency
      And the existence
      Between the essence
      And the descent
      Falls the Shadow
      For Thine is the Kingdom

      Eliot is my homeboy.

      • charlesburchfield

        Between the essence
        And the descent
        Falls the Shadow
        For Thine is the Kingdom

        gives me chills. I find the Lord making a way for me where there is no way.
        Do you know eliot’s biography?

        • Ian

          A little, from the introductions to critical editions, why?

          • charlesburchfield

            After a long torturous route he became a Christian at last. Joined Cof E. There is a movie:
            Tom & Viv. I love biographies!

          • Ian

            His famous “as for aesthetics, classical, as for religion, anglo-catholic, as for politics, royalist” yup. Out of kilter with his time on all three. I haven’t seen the film.

          • Shiphrah99

            Willem Dafoe & Miranda Richardson:

    • terremoto415

      Praise be to Nero’s Neptune, the Titanic sails at dawn
      Everybody’s shouting, “Which side are you on?!”
      And Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot fighting in the captain’s tower
      While calypso singers laugh at them and fishermen hold flowers
      Between the windows of the sea where lovely mermaids flow
      And nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row.

      — Bob Dylan

      • charlesburchfield

        Oh yeah that’s been a song lately I’ve come to that helps me deal with thangs! Been strung out on this crypto democracy far too long old chap!
        Here’s another from Tom thumbs blues:

        When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez when it’s Easter time, too
        And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through
        Don’t put on any airs when you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue

        Bob Dylan – Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues

        • terremoto415

          That’s one of my favorite Bobby D songs. Here’s a sweet cover from an album I had way back when:

          • charlesburchfield

            Thank you for this Lovely moment! puts me in mind of hitchhiking to California coast the summer of 1973. Mendocino! Santa cruz! Judy Collins rendition soooooooo soothing & mellow & dreamy! Dylan’s raw boned delivery doesn’t leave any room for nostalgia IMHO!

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    “the Sermon on the Mount was not given as a governing principle for this nation.”

    In my opinion, that is totally accurate.

    The appropriate follow-up would be, “Jesus’ teachings constitute a new nation – a new kingdom that finds herself having to make her way in all nations, being in them but not of them. America is not the kingdom of God, and if we want it to look more like the kingdom of God, then we can accomplish it best by being a living alternative -to- America -within- America and being a far more compelling ‘nation’ than anything America could ever be with her missiles and her money. If people fall in love with that vision, then America will find herself depopulated, and a community of Christ followers will exist in her place, and we will deal with other nations the way we always deal with them – calling people out of them and returning their abuse with blessing.”

    Instead, the follow-up we got was, “I still want to govern America, and I recognize the law of the kingdom runs contrary to America. So, let’s get rid of that and think about how we can make the most powerful America we can!”

  • Al Cruise

    At least Jeffress is being honest, he is all for a Christian version of a Nazi or fundamental Islamist style of society.

    • Jon-Michael Ivey

      Nazi Germany was the “Christian” version. Their motto was “Gott mit uns,” or “God with us.”

      Of course, they preferred “Positive Christianity,” which kept the trappings of the religion while completely rejecting all the actual teachings of Christ.

  • Michael Wilson

    I agree with Phil. The Christian “state” is a utopia where everyone is loving and wise so their is no need for governors, police, prisons or armies. For a Christian predident to believe that her state is God’s kingdom is to fail the test Jesus offered Satan. Police and soldiers cannot be the instruments of Chistianity. Ask you self, if we had elected Jesus instead of Obama, would Jesus have ordered the assaination of Ben Laden? Seek the death penalty for that kid, Roof, that murdered those people in a church? Ordered drones against Al Quada operatives even if it meant innocent bystanders? Attacked Quadaffis army to prevent the mass murder of civilians? Would Jesus order people that refuse to pay taxes be sent to prison?

    Basically if Jesus were president, would the nations governance just pass to who ever had a gun and the will to use it? If not what do we make of turning the other cheek and going an extra mile or giving all that ask?

    These are good questions because I don’t think Jesus ever thought hustory would play this way. He never expected his followers would be emperors or goveners

    • charlesburchfield

      predident? The Bush family bidniz is to get as many of the booger eatin morons be predident!

      • Robert O. Robbins

        Com’on people. This is a very important subject. At least use real words, able to be found in Webster’s dictionary. This type of entry is childish.

        • charlesburchfield

          Are you the type of person who is excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning? There are reasons and wisdom for you to be like that that you can’t help.
          SAD! =(
          Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.
          You can’t really be strong until you see a funny side to things.
          Ken Kesey

          • While I do appreciate the need to be able to laugh at yourself, I do think that comments like the one that prompted Robert’s response are inappropriate, because I try to maintain this as a place for serious discussion.

            Might I suggest saving the silly comments for silly posts, of which there are plenty here, and not interjecting those sorts of comments into more serious exchanges?

          • Michael Wilson

            I didn’t know what to make of it, maybe it was a hab at me, but if you don’t say anything there is nothing to respond to, so I ignore it.

          • charlesburchfield

            It was just the way you spelled president as predident in:
            ‘For a Christian predident to believe that her state is God’s kingdom is to fail the test Jesus offered Satan.’ It tickled my funnybone! `€=-)

          • Michael Wilson

            Well, I’m glad I could brighten your day 🙂

  • Jeffress is correct, it is biblical, though he appears to be endorsing Rehoboam. 1 Kings 12 has a very different view of Kings that are the “meanest, toughest, son of a you-know-what”. It isn’t flattering.

    Ironically, I just finished posting my own piece on religion and politics, specifically calling out the fact that: “There is no room in politics for the sermon on the mount. It does not bless the meek, the merciful or the peacemakers. Politics blesses the loud, the angry and those who fight to take back what is theirs. Hostility, beligerance and antagonism are worn proudly.”

    Didn’t expect to see my views vindicated so quickly or forcefully by fellow Christians.

    • Al Cruise

      Exactly, Earthly politics and government are a creation by Satan, that is what he offered to Jesus. Sometimes Satan gets his man in there as he did with Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, the Un family and so on. Other times he doesn’t get quite the person/persons he wants, but he usually gets someone who, passively at the very least , works to empower and protect the institutions that oppress the poor and least among us. As is the case in the west.

  • liberalinlove

    Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Makes heaven look a little scary with all these war-mongering candidates waiting for our enemies to be blown to kingdom come.

  • John MacDonald

    I don’t think Jesus’ ethical stance of “Love your enemy” was ever intended to mean we can’t take practical action when pacifist options have run out. Rather, Jesus advocated we must sometimes take drastic action, such as when Jesus violently overturned the tables of the moneychangers:

    15Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” 18The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching. (Mark 11:15-18)

    There is no reason to think Jesus, if he was alive today, wouldn’t take a strong stance against radical Islamic terrorists.

    • John MacDonald

      There is no reason to think this event actually happened, since there would have been guards stationed at the temple to prevent precisely this sort of thing from happening, but the pericope still offers a window into what Mark thought Jesus’ ethical pragmatics would be like.

      • Michael Wilson

        John, in a crowd control situation, one has to take the possibility of escalation into consideration. Jesus has come with hundreds, maybe thousands of supporters. Arresting him may have triggered a riot, Roman involvement, maybe a cancelation of Passover. Like in Baltimore, the guards stood back, let him blow off steam, and as text indicate, wait for a better time to arrest him. Its very reasonable.

        • John MacDonald

          Why do you think Jesus came to the temple with thousands of supporters?

          • Michael Wilson

            Maybe, most ancient authors exaggerate at a whim, and so the crowds of 4000-5000 Jesus spoke to might be high. But given the population he could have attracted a couple of thousand to see him in Galilee, and a big chunk of Galilean pilgrims to Jerusalem that year could have been followers. Exact numbers are noit given, but the impression of a big crowd is. I think at least 300 is likely, and a couple of thousand not out of the question. It would have been a scary presence in Jerusalem with hundreds of Galians proclaiming this guy the Messiah.

          • John MacDonald

            I don’t think your interpretation of a worked up crowd really fits the text.

            Mark says Jesus only began to preach to the crowd AFTER Jesus had already entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and had overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and he had stopped anyone from carrying merchandise through the temple.

            Only after these events did Jesus “begin (Mark 11:17)” to work on the crowd.

          • John MacDonald

            Mark also says “the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching,” which probably means they hadn’t heard the teaching (“Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN”) from Jesus before then.

          • Michael Wilson

            John, Mark 11 talks about many laying cloaks and branches going ahead and following. They know this guy. Astonished can mean a number of things, the nrsv uses spellbound. I don’t think we can use this to assume they were surprised by the message, though it is not unlikely that his message at the Temple was not just a rehash of his other preaching.

          • John MacDonald

            As I said, Mark 11:17 says Jesus did not begin to incite the crowd at the temple about it being a “Robbers Den” until after the confrontational events (such as the overturning of the money tables) had already happened. The sense is that Jesus had attracted a big crowd because of the disturbance he was causing, not because he brought a massive crowd with him that the temple guards would have been scared of.

          • Michael Wilson

            I don’t think your reading eliminates the existence of the crowd that greeted Jesus with their cloaks and praise. I suspect they would follow him around and knowledgeable people would know Jesus has an entourage. At least twelve, probably more. You get a bunch of dudes protecting a guy kicking over tables, maybe joining in, and the people at the tables are intimidated, they don’t overpower Jesus. The guards present may not feel sufficient, they call for back up. The sargents are nervous and by the time it comes to their attention Jesus is preaching. He is not violent so they let him say his shit and move on. Happens all the time in crowd confrontations.

          • John MacDonald

            I think the temple pericope reads more like a folk hero episode like Robin Hood than actual history (Jesus running around the temple with his “merry men” sticking it to the corrupt Jewish elite). In fact, this temple pericope may be where the Robin Hood tale originated from.

          • John MacDonald

            And there is no reason to think Jesus was travelling around with thousands of people. Mark records that when Jesus was arrested all the disciples fled, and there is no reason to think there were any more people with Jesus at the time other than these few individuals.

    • John MacDonald

      And there is no reason to think Jesus was absolutely against violence. He may have thought it necessary in certain drastic situations. Mark records of one of Jesus’ followers, as Jesus was being arrested, that “But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. . (Mark 14:46-47).”