Biblical Jesus vs. Political Jesus
I remember scrolling through Facebook shortly before the presidential election in 2020. A picture posted by a neighbor of mine caught me off guard. It was a digital painting of then-president Donald Trump sitting at his desk in the Oval Office with Jesus standing behind him, pictured as a white man with light brown hair, dressed in white, with his hand on Trump’s shoulder. I would be lying if that image made me gag a little bit. But why? Where was this disgust coming from? From the idea of Trump showing up on my feed? Or was it that Jesus was portrayed the way He was? I’ve seen other depictions of Jesus with a MAGA hat on or even a “Jesus Saves” flag at the January 6th Capitol Riot. We see Jesus’ image warped and changed throughout history to fit a political agenda when the true Jesus is lost in the shuffle. In this piece, I will break down these manipulative ways and how we can go forth using the accurate teachings of Jesus in our politics.
Let’s begin with the manipulation of Jesus and the Bible in politics. The scene is set like this. It’s 1946, and a group of Catholic holy men sit at a round table. The opt to change a simple word in Leviticus in the King James Version. “Boy” into “man.” This action deems homosexuality worse than pedophilia. That says a lot coming from Catholic priests, doesn’t it? But, I digress. We see this warp, manipulation, and contradiction of Jesus constantly within the church, the word morphed to fit a political agenda, to cover up crimes, to justify hatred. In this case, the Bible was used to cover up unspeakable deeds of the Catholic church, which became a staple of conservative parties for years to come, even to this day, homophobia rampant amongst right-leaning individuals. I find this funny because this goes against the inherent nature of Jesus: universal love. Some scholars even discuss the possibility of Jesus being asexual, including Marilyn Sewell, a Unitarian Universalist minister, who wrote an entire article on HuffPost about this possibility.
Moving to more modern days, I remember my January 6th very clearly. I went rock climbing with a friend for the day. I had been taking a winter class over my break and this was a day that I had caught up on work, finally getting some time to enjoy myself. We drove about an hour away, enjoyed some climbing in the crisp air, ate some Panera Bread, and then went home. I dropped her off and drove back to my house, which was only five minutes away. In these five minutes, she texted me: “Turn on the news.” I ran inside, my mother was cooking stew, and turned on the first news channel I could find. The riot had begun. Dark clouds hung over the Capitol building and my mother, brother, his girlfriend, and I watched in silent terror. But that wasn’t the worst part. A large yellow sign was held by one of these domestic terrorists. In large, black letters were the words “Jesus Saves.” Alongside such violence, hate, and oppression, was the name of Jesus. This brings us to the idea of Christian Nationalism and its influence on American politics.
Almost the biggest argument and contradiction in Christian Nationalism is the topic of childbearing. The conservative, fundamentalist Christian faith preaches a faithful heterosexual marriage so one can have many children. Yet, Jesus Himself, according to the Bible, never wed and never had children. So, why do these Christians condemn single parents, teenage parents, same-sex parents, or infertile couples? That fact always makes me chuckle at its ridiculous nature.
Yet, we see so much of politics centered around forcing some people to have children and scolding others who do. So much of it is centered around our children. We should take care of them then right? You would think. But it seems as if the conservative Christians care more about a clump of cells than born children. Instead of improving the adoption and foster care system for our children, they are more concerned with fining women who have miscarriages, according to Texas legislation. Or carrying a child of rape to full term. By doing this, they are annihilating the options of safe abortions and Planned Parenthood to these scared, defenseless mothers in the Lone Star State. Is this what Jesus would have wanted? I can’t answer that, I cannot speak for Him. But what I do know is that he preached of love, equality, justice. This meets none of that.
But what did Jesus actually look like? What does the Bible truly paint Him as? I think the best evidence roots in his exact words. As I said, He preaches of love, acceptance, justice, equality, and faith, something that is lacking in today’s Christians. But more importantly, let’s look at the historical context of Jesus. Firstly, Jesus wasn’t white (I have this sticker placed proudly on my water bottle). In fact, there were no white people in the Bible at all. They were all Middle Eastern. Makes you wonder why their names were Matthew, John, Luke, and so on. Next, there is scholarly work done on the possibility of Jesus being asexual. Born of a virgin and His Father of divine nature, it has been a mystery on the sexual attraction of Jesus for decades. Going further, Jesus claimed Himself to be the Son of Man, humbling Pharisees, destroying the Temple, and befriending tax collectors and sex workers. This is not the sort of behavior fundamentalists Christians enjoy.
This all leads me to wonder if these fundamentalists Christians even understand the Jesus they are worshipping. Or have they twisted the image of Jesus so far, warping Him into a false god, only to cover their blatant racism and homophobia in their faith? I don’t think it is unfair to assume that.
You see, society has seemed to stray from Jesus’ image, and who am I to talk? I used to be a strict Catholic and believed in a white Jesus. But, I grew up, I immersed myself into other viewpoints, I educated myself, and I began to know Jesus’ true nature. So, what comes next? How can we shape our world to emanate an image more like Jesus? I have an idea, but it requires a lot from us. But for now, we need to remember Jesus for who He is: love, acceptance, equality, justice, and the good of humanity.