October 31, 2018 at 8:25 am PST | by Gabriel Hudson
How would Jesus vote?

Gabriel S. Hudson, Ph.D., a democratic theorist, teaches at George Mason University’s Graduate School of Education and The Schar School of Policy and Government. He is the author of ‘Christodemocracy and the Alternative Democratic Theory of America’s Christian Right.’ (Photo by Oliver Lawrence)

It is difficult to say how Jesus would vote— his message was primarily apolitical. Besides, as a Jew, it is unlikely the Roman republic would have been permitted him to vote. And there is no evidence he attempted to influence electoral outcomes at all. And yet, he did. Jesus exercised political influence through his message of morality and his teachings of empathy, which were as threatening to the rich and powerful then as they are now.

Jesus purposefully courted public relationships with the most despised people of his time, including prostitutes and tax collectors. He taught that the most oppressed and rejected were the most spiritually prepared to practice selflessness.  According to the New Testament, Jesus intentionally dined with the morally despicable because those most hated by society often showed the most kindness to others.

Jesus admonished the Pharisees, the keepers of Jewish law who critiqued the morality of others, saying (Matthew 21:32-33): “Tax collectors and prostitutes will get to the Kingdom of Heaven before you.” In John (Chapter 8), he challenged moral hypocrisy and violent self-righteousness, protecting an adulterous woman from being stoned by religious authorities, saying “he who is without sin to cast the first stone.”

In the Bible, the treatment of immigrants, particularly refugees, is clear. In Exodus, God warns the Jews not to turn away foreigners and that hostility toward immigrants will incur his judgment. Later, in Kings, Jews are instructed to care for foreigners as family members. In the New Testament, Jesus clarifies that these commandments still apply. In Luke, when asked about neighbors, Jesus emphasizes the importance of showing mercy, especially to those that are not of one’s country.

Jesus, however, reserved his harshest rebukes for the wealthy. In Matthew, he warns his followers that it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to get into heaven. In Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy, Paul reminds early Christians that the love of money – not money itself, but greed – is the root of all evil. Jesus expects early Christians to forfeit all of their worldly possessions to give to the poor in order to follow him. And when early Christian followers Ananias and Sapphira lie about not giving up all of their wealth in the book of Acts, they are struck dead by the Holy Spirit.

Roman authorities and conspiring religious leaders were so concerned about Jesus’ conspicuous empathy, they considered him a revolutionary threat to their entrenched Establishment—rendering him a political hero to the subjugated populous, whether he liked it or not. 

Considering these storied accounts, it is inconceivable that Jesus would not have volumes to say about present political controversies. This Nov. 6, for instance, Californians will vote on four propositions that directly address the treatment of the poor. Propositions 1 and 2 would reallocate state funding to better provide housing for the poor and homeless. Proposition 3 promises greater availability of safe drinking water to those in need and Proposition 5 makes it easier for the elderly to afford their homes.

Jesus would also warn us not only to welcome but care for immigrants in need. It is unthinkable that he would turn away the caravan of migrants currently approaching the southern border, let alone condone using them for political fear-mongering. President Trump is considering removing legal protections for transgender people—but Jesus protected the oppressed from public scorn and even stoning. And although a strong economy and recent tax cuts bode well for the party in power, Jesus reprimanded anyone who forfeited empathy for financial gain.

Jesus knew people would do unspeakable evil in his name. He cautioned future believers to resist the efforts of Christians who claim to act on his behalf but fail to live up to his message of tolerance, acceptance, and empathy. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you,’” he says in Matthew 7:21-23.

Jesus may not be physically present to offer moral clarity. But he told his followers what he expected of them before he returned. “’I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me,’” according to Matthew 25:36-40.

That passage was shouted loudly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a meeting of the Federalist Society recently. So, how exactly would Jesus vote? With morality based on empathy. With a heart for the downtrodden and discarded. With animosity to greed.

What would Jesus say to the racists, the homophobes, the indifferent to the poor? To the self-righteous, the judgmental, the avaricious? He has already answered. “I never knew you.”

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