Christianity and Politics
The gospel does not address politics because at those days the gospel and the state were not separate. If Jesus wouldn’t look into the governments for how they handle specific issues and let Cesar handle taxes that doesn’t mean he was not politically active. Jesus taught spiritual lessons to the people of Israel and asked them to seek God, but the reason for the people to be so lost was that the Pharisees had failed to do their jobs as shepherds for their nation. (See for example Matthew 9:35-38 and John 10:1-21).
When we look back to the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is a political book. God’s requests regarding how to live as a nation are explicit all across the paper. In all cases, people should live with the rules brought by God, and each time when they didn’t, after a severe punishment, they were asked to obey God’s principles. Look how many times Moses goes to Pharaoh to ask him to change his behavior.
Of course, political ambitions are not what we are talking about, but when the ruling political class crosses the line, all prophets have stood up against it, and Jesus was no different in doing so but different in his approach. His activism was not about a party but to lead people against slavery. Who did always keep people under bondage? The rulers, kings, and politicians so yes Jesus would never let his people worship anything but God.
Arguing about political activism, some people refer to John 18:36 when Jesus says:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
This statement does refer to the fact that if God hasn’t decided to sacrifice his only son, the ruling class would have never had the ability and the power to arrest him.
There was no separation of church and state, and if the government would rule against the word of God, the believers have always been instructed to react. Jesus asks us to obey the authorities, as long as this obedience doesn’t override the obedience to God.
He directly challenged the corrupt system and disobeyed the authorities when he turned over the tables which was the only time he used physical violence. He performed miracles on the Sabbath. He defied Rome by calling himself a king.
He would object to the same thing anywhere in the world as he believed the whole world belongs to God. So do we so, what is the difference? The only difference is that the religion had not weakened Christianity to the point it is today, so our leaders refuse to deal with the corruption and meet their political commitments. He was crucified because the political authorities saw him as a threat to the political structures, not the religious establishment.
Jesus was brought to Pilate just because the Jewish authorities did not have the permission to impose the death penalty but when Pilate found him innocent; the Jewish leaders threatened to accuse him as the enemy of César because Jesus is calling himself a king implies the claim of being a second king. That was why Pilate agreed to his death, political motivation against César.
Jesus was strongly political, but his approach was not verging a war. His lessons were political. His ministry was political too. He challenged the political and religious powers of the ruling classes which were the Sadducees and Pharisees who were continually rebuked for their corruption and twisted interpretations of Hebraic law. Remember that the Sadducees and Pharisees were not merely the religious rulers of Israel but also the political power or party as you may call it because they were the equivalent of the congressmen and senators today. As long as the Jews paid their taxes and didn’t revolt, the Romans didn’t want to have anything regarding their internal affairs. They even had their own police to watch the temple. They had political, legislative, judicial and religious functions. Acts 23:6
Which class perceived danger to its existence by the presence of Jesus? The ruling classes.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Jesus also threatened the financial source of the Pharisees. Jesus was very involved in politics. He called them hypocrites for not executing five books of Torah which are the first five books of the Christian Bible. Jesus says he didn’t come to abolish them but rather to fulfill them(Matthew 5:17). These five books are civil codes or the constitution which deal with how the rich treated the poor and talk about justice, moral and legal aspects of God’s law towards other people. Jesus did not separate politics from Christianity. His first words after going public were these:
Luke 4:18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Freedom? Oppressed? I don’t see these terms as non-political terms at all. Jesus had a political agenda and, thinking about the minimal and religious society of the day; he could have been considered as a liberal. When he forgave the prostitute or dined with the tax collector, he was liberal in that context and not as a today’s liberalism which means no rule, no clothes, do whatever makes you feel good, no way. But at the time, the religious leaders saw him as a rebellion who cures in Sabbath, dresses cool like a hippie, smiles with his long hair, goes around with prostitutes, frequents the Romans while his disciples like Peter for example slur and talk worse than a gypsy. They were quite a scene if you pay attention and that was the beauty of the Gospel because anybody could come into the kingdom, anybody could walk with Jesus and anybody could be part of his movement. That was challenging to the power of the establishment.
The general view of Jesus only as “a savior,” is a myth and far from reality. His theology and ethics shine in a political light as it is not possible to separate Jesus from the social and political reform of his time which for a believer means for all times. The political ramifications of his message, his lifestyle and his disregard for certain traditions were perceived by his opponents as threats to the very cornerstones of Jewish society and subsequently to the Romans. I believe changing the reality of Jesus’s message and transforming him to a messenger, without a political message is the reason for our politics to be so corrupt, but still rule over the people. People are programmed to be inactive.