American Christianity is a very interesting breed. It is so caught up in political spheres that sometimes I wonder if it is really a religion at all. I am all for political participation, but very often it happens at the expense of faith. While I would never tell someone to completely separate religious belief from political action, I think a case can be made for re-examining the focus between them.
Would Jesus Vote?
Yesterday, I posted some audio from SoundCloud called “Jesus Would Have Voted Democrat.” It is a very interesting listen and shows some very different perspectives on the question, how would Jesus vote in American elections? Would he vote Republican? One debater in the audio thinks yes and shows the history of the Republican party on war and racism as evidence, though the majority of his evidence comes from before World War 2 and during that period. Would Jesus vote Democrat? One man argues he would because Democrats are active on social issues like poverty and healthcare, supporting measures that help people regardless of their wealth. Another commentator says he would vote for neither party because the choice is only between the lesser of two evils. Neither is good enough for Jesus and so he would do what he has always done, which is do what is right regardless of politics.
This is a very brief sketch of just some of the ideas in the audio to give you an idea about what the answers to this question could be. But my question is this: should we be asking about Jesus’ voting habits at all?
Inherently, this kind of debate requires people to make a claim on the person of Jesus that goes far beyond mere thought games. The sides have a vested interest in winning because being able to claim Jesus as their own gives them a moral high ground. Claiming Jesus is the ultimate coup. Basically, it says, “If you disagree with me, you are a bad Christian.” It’s about political leverage, not about true moral discourse. For that reason alone, I do not believe we should ever ask how Jesus would vote.
Action Not Platform
There is no morality in political platforms. They are aimed solely at drumming up support and, therefore, are mere popular iterations of beliefs. Beliefs can be wrong, but beliefs are not inherently moral or immoral. It is what we do with those beliefs that can lay claim to morality. If I believe that equality between the sexes is necessary, that belief has no moral quality. But if I take action on that belief in some way, say by appealing to create quotas for representation, then that action has a moral quality. It is action, not belief, that is moral. This is why political platforms are not involved with morality.
The concepts of Republican and Democrat are platforms. Neither is more moral than another. The actions people take in the name of these parties are open to classification. I have tried to emphasize this point because it is so important to how we see each other. Our politics should not alienate us from one another. If someone tells you, “I am a Democrat,” you should not assume anything about their morality from that idea. Instead, you should examine their actions to decide the question of morality (if you should be deliberating on someone else’s moral standing at all). This is rarely done, but it is something we should all try to be doing anyway, myself as much as any other.
This is the space in between religion and politics. Politics in itself is not moral or immoral. But people’s actions are. Action does lie in the realim of religious examination.
But that is not how the American world operates, is it? How many times have we asked how someone can be a member of a political party and be a Christian? Google is full of answers for such questions and all are equally unsatisfying. Why? Because it is the wrong question entirely. Instead, the question should be, can I do this particular thing and still be okay with Christ? Basically, it should all boil down to one terribly simple idea: What would Jesus do? Not how would he vote or who would he support in an election, but what his actions would be.
The answer to that question is not one I have or will venture to provide. But I will say that Christ gave us a way to figure it out. The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you. And that is the only platform I want to stand on politically.