Jesus for peace and prosperity

Religion and politics don’t mix. That is wrong, but often spoken. Look at U.S. churches and synagogues, which are largely either red or blue these days. Politics and religion are deeply mixed in reality.

And yet, the statement that religion and politics don’t mix is probably meant to say they shouldn’t mix, and to state a deep discomfort with the fact that religion often masks agendas that have more to do with special interests than with faith.

I think what is usually meant by saying that religion and politics don’t mix is that religion and partisanship should not mix. People with different political philosophies used to openly worship together. But today there are many who see those who vote and speak differently as evil or ignorant.  We call it polarization and it definitely affects our churches.

I saw some Pew research results that showed that 31% of the people in the left-leaning United Church of Christ still identify as Republicans.  Other mainline Protestant denominations that have a social justice stance include even more. So we have many people who feel, “If my pastor or others in the church knew how I vote they would reject me as a person.”

Because I am a mainline Protestant, I notice this. But I am sure it is true that in denominations and independent churches with a social conservative agenda Democrats feel something similar.

Today this issue gets discussed by Christians in terms of what Jesus would do. Some see Jesus’ compassion and a tendency toward pacifism as meaning he would be a progressive. But others see Jesus as talking about personal, rather than government, behavior.  They see him taking a very conservative stance on things like divorce, work, and respect for authority.

I see Jesus as political in the sense that he spoke to a political crisis in his day. There was a danger of a tragic conflagration as Jewish nationalism and Roman imperial power came up against each other. In this context, Jesus spoke about “the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:42). These included community, mercy, and practical nonresistance. However, it is hard to see how he would have recommended particular policy initiatives to Pilate or Herod.

Politically Jesus had something in common with Jeremiah.

Jeremiah spoke at a time when Jewish nationalism and Babylonian imperialism presented a similar danger. Only in Jeremiah’s time Judah had a greater measure of independence. That is why I think he spoke against the particular policy of alliance with Egypt. Judah controlled its own foreign policy. But in Jesus’ day the Jewish nation was divided and relatively powerless.against the domination of Rome.

Jesus and Jeremiah both spoke out of an interest in the nation. Jeremiah spoke differently only after the Babylonian conquest and exile. He wrote to the exiles and told them to promote the welfare of the foreign nation where they lived. He told them to build homes and make families there. He told them to

seek the prosperity of the city where I have deported you, and pray on behalf of it to Yahweh, for in its prosperity you will have prosperity (Jeremiah 29:7 WEB).

One problem with contemporary interpretations of Jesus’ politics is that they often assume Jesus’ teaching applies to a non-Israelite situation as though the United States, Canada, and other modern democracies are sanctified states. These states, however, are based on the idea of separation of church and state and religious tolerance.

If Jesus had ever spoken to the situation of disciples living in non-sacred nations, he would likely have echoed Jeremiah. We should seek and pray for the prosperity of our nation.  In the case of a democracy (something neither Jesus nor Jeremiah could have envisioned) that would include the duty to vote and work for the policies that, in our best judgment, benefit the nation.

About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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1 Response to Jesus for peace and prosperity

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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