Would Jesus be a Christian Today?
Would Jesus be a Christian Today?
In a recent 2015 Pew Research poll 92% of the members of the current Congress profess to be Christian. Ninety-two percent. One nation under God. Yet in poll after poll Congress’ approval ratings are unbelievably dismal. Gallup and CBS polls found that of those surveyed only 18% approved of Congress’ decisions and actions. Eighty-two percent disapprove. Even conservative news outlet Fox News found an incredibly low 17% approval rating, even though the majority of the members of Congress are conservative Republican. What should we make of the fact that 92% of Congressional members profess to be Christians and yet nearly the same percentage of American citizens disapprove of what Congress is doing? And, what does this say to the rest of the world?
How can we profess to be a Christian nation and present such a horrible witness? Republicans in Congress (who actually represent an even higher percentage of professing Christians) constantly disrespect the President – not just disrespecting the man but disrespecting the Office. It doesn’t matter if one agrees with him or opposes his policies, he is the duly elected President of the United States. That alone demands respect. One foreign leader suggested that Congress’ behavior is evidence that America is crumbling from the inside. A Christian pastor (presidential hopeful Ted Cruz’s father, in fact) made national and international news when he declared that President Obama should just “go back to Kenya”. Does that sound like a Christian sentiment? I can hardly believe Jesus would agree of approve.
Some in Congress are proposing to cut Social Security, Medicare and a variety of safety net programs like food stamps and other aid to the poor. Some want to take medical insurance away from millions of Americans who finally can afford to see a doctor. Shouldn’t we, as the wealthiest, most advanced nation in the world, insure that no one suffers needlessly if we can prevent it? Wouldn’t that be the Christian thing to do? Those who argue that it’s necessary to cut these programs in order to balance our national budget are not being honest. They know that there are many other ways to reduce the budget deficit.
As a Christian nation (or at least a nation of Christians) how should we think about these things? Interestingly there are over 2000 verses in the Bible relating to the poor and their care. Proverbs 14:31 is typical: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God”. Are our politicians showing contempt for their Maker? Are they being kind to the needy and, as a result, honoring God? Are we?
There used to be a popular saying, “What would Jesus do?” What if we applied this to our understanding of the 2000+ verses that address treatment of the poor in our society? How does Jesus look at these things? I know there are some who will cite passages suggesting that if a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat and several others that honor the work of our hands. And there are a handful of other cherry-picked verses that are cited to try to justify our neglect. But, really, what would Jesus do?
Many years ago I attended the Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs. There was a joke, made by both the teachers and the students, that if Jesus came back he couldn’t be a Nazarene. In other words, He would not be religious enough to be a Nazarene. In some ways, that seems like our nation today. Could Jesus be a Republican today? Could he be a Democrat? Would he be either? Would He be proud of the way our Congress is behaving, leaders who, presumably, are called by His Name? Would His approval rating for Congress be any higher than the current polls show? If not, shouldn’t the 491 professing members of Congress be ashamed? Shouldn’t Christians everywhere be ashamed? Perhaps it’s time to tell our politicians to live up to their professions of faith and seriously ask themselves, does this honor God? Is this really what Jesus would do? Are our politicians just talking out of both sides of their mouths? Would Jesus say to them, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).
If we are, in fact, a nation of Christians, if the majority of people, as the polls indicate, are professing Christians, then one commandment in particular (and by Jesus’ own statement the most important commandment) should drive our policies, our actions, our attitudes and our decisions. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31). It’s one thing to declare that 92% of our Congressional members are Christian, or that 83% of Americans call themselves Christian. It’s quite another to act like it, to continually ask ourselves, what would Jesus do, or at least ask, sincerely, do our words and actions honor God, really?
There’s a reason politics and religion don’t mix. Politics, particularly in a democratic society, is based on the ability to compromise, to balance competing interests, and to protect the weaker from the excesses and abuses of the powerful. Religion, on the other hand, is all about no compromise. The less a believer (in any religion) compromises, the greater the esteem. The lack of compromise in the U.S. Congress seems to be a badge of honor, an emblem of principle. But in Congress the unwillingness to compromise is not based on religious beliefs but rather “no compromise” has become a political slogan. No compromise not only undermines the democratic process, it erodes the very foundations of democracy. Unfortunately, it may get worse before it gets better.
All of this brings me back to my original question: would Jesus be a Christian today? Perhaps the better question is: would Jesus be proud to call Himself a Christian today? I’m not so sure. And though I would never assume to speak for Him, I would be surprised if he would be any more pleased with what happens in His name in America today than He was with the Pharisees and Sadducees of His day. They were hypocrites, claiming to believe in God but denying the power therein. They were offended that He was offended by their economic practices (fueled by greed and exploiting religion). He loved, and gave Himself, for the entire world, all races, all people, even all religions. They are all His children. Do we believe that? He does.
I suppose that if 92% of Congress and 83% of Americans call themselves Christians, and behave the way they do, then I think it’s time to reconsider what it means to be a Christian. Perhaps it’s time to find a way to differentiate between those who simply “profess” Christianity and those who genuinely practice what the Bible actually teaches. I fear that what has happened in America is that we have actually created God in our own image and have ceased to be created (and recreated) in His image. We like God because, in our minds, He’s just like us. Of course He values the things we value. Clearly He supports the ideals we promote. Obviously what matters to us matters to Him. How can we be wrong with God on our side? What a friend we have, indeed.
If you read the international papers you will understand that Congress over the past four years has so severely eroded the international community’s respect for American democracy that our leadership role in the world has been terribly compromised. Other countries watched in disbelief when 47 senators wrote an open letter to Iran’s leaders in an incredible breach of diplomatic protocol, humiliating themselves, disrespecting the President and further undermining America’s strength. The House of Representatives was severely criticized abroad, even in Israel, when they, once again circumvented international protocol, openly and defiantly snubbing the White House, when they invited a foreign dignitary to address Congress. These actions, the unwillingness to compromise, the belligerent disrespect that has been shown to our President, has not strengthened America but has undercut us on so many fronts.
In the end there’s no mystery as to why over 80% of Americans disapprove of Congress’ behavior. If America is ever going to regain the respect of the international community we will have to start working together, balancing special interests, compromising on budgets and programs, and, once again, start leading the world. Perhaps it’s time for the 92% who call themselves Christians to “humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, then He will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chron 7:14). Or, to put it far less eloquently, it’s time to put up or shut up. If you call yourself a Christian, act like one. And that begins with a critical analysis of our own personal lives, actions, and values in light of the Word of God. If we call our country a Christian nation, or more accurately a nation of Christians, then we need to act like one. It begins when we, as a nation, are willing to come to face to face with “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” so help us God.