We received three responses to Alexander Jacobs’ op-ed, “Yes, Jesus was a conservative.”
By Mitchell Palermo
Jesus was not a conservative. Jesus was also not a liberal. Contrary to what some might tell you about the lord’s position on politics, God has not aligned himself with any political party. Last week, an article was published that strongly argued for Jesus being a member of the GOP. The author, Alexander Jacobs, explained how God disapproves of stealing and therefore disapproves of wealth redistribution, which is generally considered a liberal economic policy.
On the point of God’s condemnation of stealing, I completely agree with Alexander Jacobs. Now, the trouble with his viewpoint lies in his understanding of wealth redistribution. We don’t live in an era where Robin Hood vigilantes roam the earth looking for opportunities to help out the little guy. The kind of wealth redistribution that is lauded by liberals does not amount to stealing.
The concept of wealth redistribution that we are familiar with often comes in the form of taxation or legislation, which Jesus directs his followers to abide by. In Mark 12:17, Jesus is confronted by his critics and asked whether it was lawful to pay taxes to the ruler of the time. Jesus answers them by saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” By affirming the paying of taxes, we can only believe that God desires that we participate and respect the legislation of our government.
In the book of Romans, Paul’s divinely inspired words take this concept further. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
In light of these Scriptures we must accept that legislation with the aim of wealth redistribution is not evil or stealing; it is simply the product of our government and as such, we must submit to it.
What I don’t want you to hear is that we must wholly commit to support the actions of governmental leaders or institutions. However, we must be wary of using Jesus’ words out of context to support our political convictions.
Mitchell Palermo is an undeclared sophomore. He’s also the media services technician for Academic Technology.
By Tyler Ussery
I am not concerned with Jacobs’ characterization of liberals and their policies. My main qualm is with the supposed idea that Christ is partisan in any regard. The Christian theologian and pastor Timothy Keller argues that “neither party can fully encompass the full range of the Christian socio-economic dogma.” Listen to any of his sermons long enough, and he time and again brings up where each party falls short.
If we are to look at governance and taxation through the lens of Jesus’s words, then let’s first turn to how he addresses taxation. Matthew 16:24-27 deals with the temple tax. Luke 20:20-26 deals with paying taxes to Caesar. In the first scripture, Christ doesn’t view the domestic tax imposed on the Jewish people for the maintenance of the temple, and the social welfare projects that it conducted, as stealing. In the second scripture, Christ doesn’t condemn the taxes imposed by the occupying Roman empire, which many Jews thought were improper. The argument that money demanded by the government for the execution of government matters is stealing and thus violates the Eighth Commandment is preposterous. If that were true, Christians would have to be conscientious objectors to all government, which is not exactly a conservative value.
Our culture is becoming polarized on a whole spectrum of issues and beliefs for a number of reasons. The poison of polarization has crept into almost every facet of our lives. Christianity is an easy target for either side to justify why they do something. When your chosen political party’s platform doesn’t line up with your chosen religious preference, a sort of cognitive dissonance forms, and something must give. The easiest course of action is to take scripture out of context to justify what you already believe instead of basing your beliefs on what scripture actually says.
Jesus Christ would not be a Republican nor a Democrat. He might support legislation for either party, but more likely he would be too busy healing the hurt caused by all sorts of diversionary titles. There is a fatal flaw with trying to use Christianity to justify your chosen identity. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must take up their cross and follow me.” Being a Christian has cost many their lives, but for most western Christians free of religious persecution, this verse demands you to put aside all previous notions and identities and view everything through the lens of Jesus’s teachings.
Jesus is concerned with revealing the love and grace of God his father. His goal is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven nearer. In John 4, Jesus rejects the social stigma of speaking to a woman who belongs to a shunned group. In Mark 2:15, Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus associated with a known promiscuous woman in Luke 7:36-50. The 12 disciples were a motley crew of rich, poor, religious and doubters. His followers went on to start churches that valued people of all races and backgrounds, united under one creed.
I encourage anyone curious about any of this to seek out one of the many on-campus ministries and see for yourself by reading a Bible. Don’t go into it viewing it as something the “religious right” pushes, or by focusing on the “liberal doctrine” that some extract, but instead read it looking at the barriers broken down through the Gospel. There will be challenging sections that you won’t understand, naturally, because you are reading passages written thousands of years ago to an audience that understood their own culture. Give it a chance, and if you are a “Christian” adhering strictly to another identity, I urge you to reconsider.
Tyler Ussery is a junior business major with a minor in theatre.
By Savannah Wagner
Imposing American political ideologies on a 2,000-year-old Jewish Middle Eastern man is necessarily anachronistic. I admit that an argument framing Jesus as a fiscal conservative is something I’ve never come across before; it speaks to the exciting range of possibilities for interpretation of Scripture. If liberal Christians were uncomfortable with that reading, they could turn to Matthew 5:42, in which Jesus says, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” The verse could be applied to both the needy and the government when it collects tax dollars. They could turn to Matthew 22:21 as well, in which Jesus states, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,” and make the argument that our earthly money should be returned to its earthly creator “” the government.
Ultimately, trying to change people’s perspectives on politics and religion is far from easy, and opposing opinions too often lead to attacks on the other side instead of constructive discourse. Coming after liberal Christians for their political beliefs by way of their interpretations of Christ is not going to accomplish anything aside from putting more people up in arms. At this highly politically polarized time in American life, attacking the other side “” regardless of the side you are on “” is the last thing we need to do.
I feel that most people are aware that hostility and contempt will solve nothing, as both conservatives and liberals have experienced people they disagree with trying to push religious views on them. Such actions are never meant to be deceitful and are believed to be sincere, but the offending party would still do well to acknowledge that their actions are perceived as disrespectful. Perhaps insistence on respect for their religious beliefs is something liberals and conservatives can come together over. Don’t worry, there is enough room in the Bible for anyone who wants to find a home there.
Savannah Wagner is a senior religion major.