I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat.
I’m not a conservative and I’m not a liberal.
I’m a follower of Jesus, whose “kingdom,” He explicitly said, “is not of this world” (John 18:36). His politics are not of this world’s common order, that is. In fact, even a casual reading of the Gospels makes it abundantly evident that the kingdom of Jesus isn’t a little different or even a lot different than the politics of this world, but rather radically different. What Jesus offers is diametrically opposed to every political system this world has to offer.
Now, then, by revealing to you that I am not a Republican or a Democrat, I am not telling you that you should or shouldn’t be a registered voter with either of those political parties. That is your business and you have your reasons. I am inclined, as I am about to explain, to refrain from believing more or less of you due to your political affiliation or how you choose to vote. The issue is far more significant than that. What I am attempting to share with you is that, as a follower of Jesus, you should not be so loyal to, invested with, passionate about, or trusting of any political party that you would find yourself aligned against, angry at, attitudinal about, or at enmity with your fellow believers in Jesus who do not hold your political position. Jesus has called you to something absolutely higher on a scale of magnitude than any political party represents.
Allow me, now, to build my case. All I ask is that you hear me out with a sincere desire to understand a brother’s perspective, whether you end up being benefited by my perspective or not.
Two versions of the same thing
Jesus was crucified by a coalition of political-religious conservatives (the Pharisees) and political-religious liberals (the Sadducees), working through the secular government (the Roman Empire). The reason the liberals and the conservatives could unite in the common cause of crucifying Christ was that they had one vital thing in common:
They hated each other!
And this common hatred made them of the same essential spirit, while appearing to be enemies on the surface. Once Jesus showed up on the scene, representing a radical alternative to both of the extremes represented in the Pharisees (conservatives) and the Sadducees (liberals), they entered into common cause against Him. For purposes of political expediency, power maintenance, and financial gain, they united to eliminate Jesus because He posed the ultimate threat to the entire system both parties were dependent upon for their survival.
Why was Jesus a threat to both parties?
Because He would not unite with either party against the other!
If Jesus had united with the Pharisees (conservatives), He would not have been crucified. If Jesus had united with the Sadducees (liberals), He would not have been crucified. Why? Well, because loyalty to either party justifies the existence of the other.
The dark genius of the game our world’s political parties play is that each side feeds the hatred that sustains the other.
And Jesus would not play that game.
The Pharisees (conservatives) and the Sadducees (liberals) were two versions of the same system, and Jesus was something so completely different than either of them that He simply had to be removed. So they engineered a union of church and state to get rid of Him. The political element and the religious element came together to crucify God in the flesh, because there was one thing, and just one thing, that they could not tolerate:
More specifically, they could not tolerate the radical notion of eliminating all enmity between one another by loving their enemies as themselves, because to love their enemies would be to eliminate their enemies, and to eliminate their enemies would be to eliminate the very reason for their existence as opposing political parties grabbing up power and money from one another.
Given that this is the inherent nature of politics, it would seem that the follower of Jesus should never be fully committed to any political party on either end of the spectrum for the simple reason that the follower of Jesus is called to be a representative of an alternative system called “the kingdom of God,” which Jesus proclaimed and embodied by reaching with love in all directions, and for which He was crucified by the political ideologues on both ends of the spectrum due to the fact that He posed a threat to both. (Wow, that whole paragraph is one sentence. I’d read it again, if I were you.)
Jesus was crucified by a coalition of political-religious conservatives (the Pharisees) and political-religious liberals (the Sadducees), working through the secular government (the Roman Empire).
All political parties and systems are a mixed bag of good and evil principles, whereas the kingdom of Christ is composed only of good principles that arise out of God’s indiscriminate love for all people. As a follower of Jesus, therefore, I cannot be loyal to any one political party, but rather must affirm true principles wherever they may be found regardless of political party. I must subscribe to the good principles that are present on the conservative end of the spectrum and to the good principles that are on the liberal end of the spectrum. And that makes me a political freak, or at least a political anomaly, in a world of frenzied political hate.
So if somebody asks me, “Are you a conservative or a liberal?” I answer, “Yes.”
And with that answer, I can see their face contort with cognitive dissonance.
I am what you might call a liberal conservative, or a conservative liberal, whichever you prefer. Why? Because that’s exactly what we see on display in Christ: a perfect equilibrium of conservative and liberal principles. Therefore, as a follower of Jesus, I have to believe in true and righteous principles wherever they might be found, rather than be loyal to any political party and its entire portfolio of policies.
The follower of Jesus, I believe, can be, and should strive to be, a truly unbiased person who thinks in terms of and acts in alignment with pure principles over partisan politics. Operating in this transcendent manner will allow the Christian to occupy the vantage ground of an integrity that cannot be found on either end of the spectrum in partisan politics, and thus give a peculiar power to their witness in favor of the kingdom of Christ.
But most people, myself included, don’t like complexity, because it requires the hard work of thinking. We don’t want to think through the implications of the various issues and compose a perspective based on agreement with the good principles that may be found in both political parties while rejecting the bad ideas that exist in both political parties. It’s much easier to let others do our thinking for us and be simplistically loyal to a political party, because doing so allows us to be intellectually lazy while indulging in the shallow but euphoric satisfaction of getting all hyped up about how “my party is right and yours is wrong.” But to occupy that kind of position necessarily entails disobedience to the gospel of Christ and unfaithfulness to His alternative kingdom. In fact, Jesus commands His followers to enlist themselves in His kingdom and thus to break ranks with this world’s failed systems. To enlist in His kingdom entails committing to the high standard of loving all people, even Republicans, even Democrats, and to embrace righteous principles wherever they may be found.
In a word, we are called upon to love like Jesus loves.
And to love like Jesus loves necessarily involves doing the hard work of formulating and living out what might be called a politics of love.
Look at Him—carefully, obsessively, adoringly—and based on what you see in Him, deduce your political views and spirit.
We could stop right here, because we have pondered in broad terms everything we need to know in order to successfully navigate the ugly political landscape with which we are currently faced. But if you would like to dive a little deeper and perhaps achieve additional clarity, then I invite you to keep reading.
The politics of Jesus
Jesus launched His public ministry with the politically-charged announcement, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
A kingdom is a political structure, a governing system, a social order. It should not be surprising that Jesus, the Creator of humanity and the Author of reality itself, would come to our world claiming to be the architect of a superior political, governing, social order. Nor should it be surprising that He could not get onboard with any existing system. Rather, He prefaced the launching of His kingdom with the admonition, “repent.” The word in Greek is metanoia, and literally means change your mind, reverse your perception, move the train of your thinking process in the opposite direction. Jesus launched a kingdom so entirely different than the prevailing political order, that nothing short of complete paradigm shift is needed in order to grasp the revolutionary nature of His kingdom.
After announcing the launch of His kingdom, Jesus delivered a discourse we call “the Sermon on the Mount.” What is this message about? Well, it essentially constitutes a description of the relational principles by which His kingdom will operate. In other words, a political manifesto. According to His Sermon on the Mount, His kingdom is nothing short of revolutionary. How so? Well, because it delves into the deepest depths of the human condition and seeks to change us at the level of our hearts. Jesus wants us to
- see God in a radically different light,
- from which we will see ourselves in a radically different light,
- from which we will see our fellow human beings in a radically different light.
God is unconditionally good to everyone, including His enemies, so all who claim to be His children should operate in the same manner.
First, Jesus pronounces a series of blessings on certain categories of human beings that will compose His kingdom: the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who endeavor to make peace where there is relational discord. Do not miss the fact that Jesus is describing people who find themselves on the downside of our world’s power structures. As such, they sense what’s wrong with the world and desire things to be different. Jesus has come to offer something that will meet their expectations.
Then Jesus explains in the most direct and practical terms possible, exactly what kinds of attitudes and actions will make His followers “salt” and “light” to the world. He does not mention holding evangelistic meetings or articulating apologetic arguments, although these are good secondary endeavors to what He does mention:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
…much that bears the name “Christian” in America is actually a political nationalism that uses Jesus as its mascot.
Literally no political leader in history has ever launched a kingdom like this. Furthermore, almost nobody believes that Jesus means exactly what He says here. The words of Christ run so completely against the grain of human nature, that we immediately attempt to figure out ways to “interpret” His words to mean something other than what they plainly say. Even those who do believe He means what He says, find His words to be a preposterous assignment that simply can’t be done in this world. This led G.K. Chesterton to observe, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” And yet, Jesus insists that this is what His kingdom looks like in action. We are “salt” and “light” to the world, He says, only as we live out the giving, forgiving, generous, enemy-loving, non-violent love of God toward our fellow human beings, especially toward “evil” persons, toward those who “slap” and “sue” and “spitefully use you and persecute you.”
By contrast to the Sermon on the Mount, much that bears the name “Christian” in America is actually a political nationalism that uses Jesus as its mascot. It is painful to watch, mostly because of the extreme damage that it does to the reputation of Jesus in the minds of unbelievers. But let’s be clear: the “Christianity” making all the noise on the public political stage isn’t the Christianity of Christ and the apostles.
How do I know?
Bible prophecy doesn’t lie
In a single ingenious line, Paul encapsulates a profound truth we desperately need to understand in these hyper-pretentious times in which we live:
“They are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6).
Yeah, do a double take on that.
During the time of Christ and the apostles, the leaders of national, institutional, mainstream Israel had sold their souls to the Roman Empire in exchange for political power and economic advantage.
Back then, the language and forms of the Hebrew religion were maintained as a thin veneer in order to dupe the masses, and perhaps to pacify conscience, but the real thing that Israel was meant to be was gone. Jesus likened the religious leaders of His time to “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
Of course, there were faithful individuals in the soulless system, such as Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zacharias, the shepherds cherishing the messianic hope in their hearts, the wise men from the east who had somehow gotten their hands on the book of Daniel and were pondering its prophecies about the coming Deliverer, and many others who discerned the hypocrisy of the system and longed for an authentic demonstration of God’s love in the form of love for people.
The same corruption in religious leadership is evident today, but on a grander and more diabolical scale. We should not be surprised by this, because Scripture actually foretold that the end-time period of history would be characterized by religious phoniness on an epic scale. According to the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, and other prophetic segments of the New Testament, the monolithic system known to the world as “Christianity” is nothing more than a grand masquerade.
According to the prophecy of Revelation 12, the visible “Christianity” operating on the world stage throughout the Middle Ages was, in fact, a political vehicle driven by the dragon, Satan himself, through which the character of God was grossly misrepresented and by which millions of true believers were slaughtered in the name of Christ. Simultaneously, according to the prophecy, the true church of God operated as an underground movement, in the shadows of the Christ-less “Christian” empire. This underground church proclaimed the true gospel of Christ to the trembling masses who were politically dominated, theologically oppressed, and financially pillaged by “the Christian Church.”
According to the prophecy of Revelation 13, Catholic and Protestant “Christianity”—“the beast” and “the image of the beast”—will eventually hijack the American political system for purposes of forced “worship.” While many in mainstream “Christianity” are crying out against atheism and secularism as the big dangers of our times, Revelation 13 warns that apostate “Christianity” exploiting the power of the state is the greatest danger to the world. Let it register deeply in your consciousness:
The prophecy of Revelation 13 explains that the church will manipulate its way into politics and use the state to force religious laws upon the public by enforcing a “mark” of allegiance that can be received in the “forehead” or in the “hand”—meaning that some people will buy into it with their belief system and other people will merely comply with it in order to maintain economic security. Every “Christian” motivated by financial self-interest will either believe in or comply with the illicit union of church and state that will rise up like a monstrous “beast” to destroy religious liberty in the name of Jesus.
According to Revelation 14, the true Christianity that went underground during the Middle Ages would reemerge on the global stage to proclaim a series of three messages symbolized by three angels crying out from heaven:
- The first angel’s message proclaims the everlasting gospel, which is the good news of God’s non-coercive love and His unmerited favor lavished upon all human beings in Christ. Because “God is love,” Christ chose to allow Himself to be crucified rather than force Himself on the world. Only by love is love awakened, and it’s only love God wants. Therefore, religious liberty is inherent to the gospel of Christ.
- The second angel’s message announces the fall of Babylon, or the demise of apostate “Christianity” with its illicit use of political power. Babylon falls as a result of the gospel capturing the attention of the world, magnifying God’s non-coercive love and defending religious liberty. The gospel causes the fall of Babylon by revealing the utter impotence and moral bankruptcy of politically-driven religion.
- The third angel’s message is a warning against apostate “Christianity” using the power of the state to force religious compliance upon the public. The final display of illicit church-state union will be played out as an effort by the church to legislate in favor of itself against all other belief systems. The prophecy goes on to explain that, under this crisis of liberty, the whole world will ripen like a harvest, meaning that both good and evil, in the polar opposite forms of love vs force, liberty of conscience vs legislated religion, will reach their zenith-level manifestations and divide the whole world into two camps—the persecutors and persecuted.
Revelation 17 depicts a whore riding on the back of a beast, which is an ingenious symbol, although graphic, of the church working through the state to wreak havoc on the earth through political process.
For those who care to hear the warning, Bible prophecy is telling us that it is the MO of corrupt religious leaders and systems to hijack the state for the purpose of advancing their own political and financial power.
In the time of Christ, the Pharisees and the Sadducees did it.
In the 4th century, Constantine did it.
Through the entire Middle Ages period, a political lineage of power-mongering gangsters called “the popes” did it.
Neither the Pharisees, nor the Sadducees, nor Constantine, nor the popes were really representing God by all their violent political exploits. They were simply using God’s name in vain as cover for the purpose of securing political power over the masses. Politicians know that fear-based religious sentiment is extremely powerful as a driver of action. So they assess the religious sentiments of the majority and then craft language to arouse those sentiments against their political opponents. The goal is to mobilize religious groups into voting blocks, not to magnify the beauty of God’s true character and lead people to worship Him from the freedom of their own hearts.
Revelation 18 announces with added emphasis and detail what the second angel’s message proclaimed:
“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury” (Revelation 18:2-4).
First, Babylon is fallen theologically and morally, because it peddles a grossly distorted picture of God and harbors morally corrupt religious and political leaders under the protective cover of religiosity. But then Revelation 18 tells us that the theological and moral corruption of Babylon leads to its eventual political and economic fall. The fornicating union of church and state is an unsustainable alliance and will bring the entire system crashing down.
The book of Revelation basically informs us that the thing everybody thinks is the thing really isn’t the thing it claims to be. To put it in the most straightforward language possible:
“Christianity” as the world knows it is actually the “antichrist.”
What much of the world at large despises as “Christianity,” is really an ugly form of pagan nationalism that has hijacked the name of Christ for its political ends. To paraphrase Paul, “They are not all Christians who are of Christianity.” The politically and financially motivated system everybody thinks is Christianity, really isn’t Christianity.
Ellen White, an unusually enlightened 19th century writer, explains that the day is coming when the falsity of political “Christianity” will dawn upon the world with clarity:
“Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins, because of her rejection of the truth sent to her from heaven” (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 606).
Yes, the end-time “Babylon” warned against in Bible prophecy “is the church.”
And the faster we realize this, the better, because then the unbelieving world can finally evaluate Christ for who He really is, apart from the colossal fake system that has robbed the world of His sacred name.
What much of the world at large despises as “Christianity,” is really an ugly form of pagan nationalism that has hijacked the name of Christ for its political ends.
For many of us, it will be a painful realization. But once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and it will open your eyes so wide that you’ll never see politics and religion the same again.
Back to Paul’s insightful formulation: “They are not all Israel who are of Israel.” In other words, there are those in Israel who are genuine lovers of God and people, and there are those in Israel who are using the religious system as cover for their self-serving political and financial agenda. Paul is simply explaining that the religious leaders of Israel during the time of Christ had made Israel a mere vassal, or lapdog, of the Roman state. Eschatological Bible prophecy comes along and informs us that apostate Christian leaders at the end of time will do the same.
Politics and religion are a lethal mix.
And the separation of church and state is the only doorway through which a human being can enter into the liberating love of God.
The gospel of Christ, by revealing God’s non-coercive love, insists that church and state must remain separate and that liberty of conscience must be preserved, for only those who are truly free can love God supremely and love their neighbor as themselves.