And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers." - Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV)
The worship of this nation is the last idol of the church age. Secular evil forces within one political party have co-opted leadership within the modern apostate church to form a most unholy alliance. They packaged two social wedge issues, abortion and gay marriage, and sold them to Christians for the past several decades. They promised, and not delivered on, either of these two issues but the worship continues. All they required was the blind assent of Christians for anyone with a little "r" next to their name when they voted. So, we have seen this faux-Christo-political machine grow and fester over the years. Every year is billed as "the most important election of our lives" as they regurgitate "voting guides" designed to generate a straight party line vote for the Republican Party. Something not so funny happened along the way, however. When you spend years berating one side and blaming them for all of society's ills, you end up with factions on the far fringes of reality who willfully abandon logic, compassion, the gospel, and sound doctrine in their zeal to not only beat the other side but eradicate them from existence. Sounds like hyperbole? Try last month when "Revivalist" Mario Murillo declared that anyone who votes Democratic cannot be Christian and are hell bound. All of them. Regardless of their faith in Jesus Christ. By default, if you voted the way he liked, you were assured of heaven's welcome. Just think of the insanity of those conclusions. You could have led a life filled with faith, shared the gospel and supported missionary work your entire life but when you stand before Christ you may hear these words, "well, I'd like to let you in but Clinton in 96? C'mon." Around the same time as Murillo's comment, psychotic pastor Greg Locke declared that all Democrats are actually demon possessed and not welcome at his church! That's an odd evangelism plan!
While these are the front-line crazies perpetrating their political agenda against the church, there are those that provide the cover and the fuel. People like Murillo and Locke have long since left any objective ability to divide the word of truth correctly. All they can do is proof text the points they want to make and leave the "academic" work up to others such as the author of the above linked article, Franklin Burroughs. Mr. Burroughs has a respectable secular list of accomplishments according to his bio. While there is no mention of anything Christian, he seems to have written before on the academic thought of Jesus and politics because that is what is needed for people like Murillo and Locke to survive. They need to be able to pretend that Jesus was a political animal during His ministry when nothing could be farther from the truth. Burroughs' premise today is that Jesus wasn't afraid to make political statements and therefore, neither should pastoral and church leadership. If you are wondering, hey what political statements did Jesus ever make, the answer is none. That's right. Not a singular statement on politics as it relates to Christianity and the cause of the gospel or the organization of the church. Zero, nada, zilch. So, in order to get there, people like Burroughs have to be duplicitous and deceptive in their work, as we will see while we reason again together through this article.
"Christianity focuses on Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and a wise, loving leader beyond politics. But throughout His years on earth, Jesus and His apostles encountered political situations and interacted with Roman politicians. Earthly politics involving the apostles did not end with Jesus's ascension. In a short online article titled "Jesus and Politics," Marcus J. Borg states that politics played a very important role in Jesus's life. His entry into Jerusalem by donkey illustrated a peaceful kingdom devoid of weapons of war; His public designation of the temple as a cave of thieves clearly reflected His concern about temple activists cooperating with Roman rulers and tax collectors." - Franklin Burroughs
Realizing the insurmountable mountain before him, Burroughs opens by trying to lower it. Never lose sight that his goal is to say that because of Jesus example, pastors and church leadership today should speak directly to the politics of this day, including the taking of sides. The reason why Christianity focuses on Jesus as a loving leader beyond politics is because that is who He is. His kingdom is not of this world. That does not mean that His earthly existence did not encounter the politics of His day but the point is not found in the encounter but in the response. Did Jesus interact with political figures? Of course! That does not give Greg Locke free reign to consign half of the people in this country to hell because of their voting record! The fact that politics continued after the ascension is irrelevant to this conversation. The only thing that matters is what did Jesus say or teach and the absence of such is a clear indication that it did not matter. The usage of the donkey by Jesus first and foremost fulfilled the prophecy about Him from Zechariah. From that same prophecy comes the nature of the triumphal king as meek and lowly. Yes, the donkey represents His entry as the Prince of Peace as opposed to when He returns as the conquering king on a horse. These are not political statements, however. They are of course religious. How do we know this? Because the bible gives zero indication that any political figure of the time even questioned the entry on a donkey the following week when the same people who cheered Him now demanded His crucifixion. Remember the connection Burroughs is trying to make. That because Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey that now means church leadership should be involved politically. That is an absurd connection to make that ignores the context, the prophetic background, and the spiritual representation. As for the designation of the temple as a den of thieves, let's take a look in the key verses for the proper context. Is there any reference to cooperating with Roman rulers? No. The issues were that these people were robbing those seeking to make sacrifices unto the Lord. If they had foreign money, they had to exchange it and the exchange rates were price gouging. Additionally, those in charge of the temple would often find "flaws" in the sacrifices they brought so they could sell them new ones at exorbitant prices. They did this with impunity and in doing so the focus was no longer on God but rather on profit. Even if the Romans took a cut, that would have nothing to do with scripture teaching us that political involvement is green-lighted. God is not vague beloved. He told us exactly how many people should be allowed to speak in tongues in any given church service. Do you honestly think He would expect us to read this far into something to take the pastoral focus off of the gospel for any subject, let alone the carnal politics of this world? Burroughs continues:
Jesus' message emphasized the establishment of God's kingdom, a possibility viewed as a threat to the Roman Empire. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus's story involves conflict and His crucifixion represented a political act intended to show what might happen to individuals who regularly fought against political authority. Jesus didn't avoid making what might be considered political statements. When asked if He would pay taxes to Caesar, He asked for a coin, scrutinized the surface of the coin and discovered Caesar's image. He then answered the question posed to Him concerning His willingness to pay taxes to Caesar. He said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." His response to the question showed His respect for earthly organizations and established processes without taking a particular political stance. John King points out in his online piece titled "Did Jesus Get Involved in the Contemporary Politics in Israel?" that Jesus did not speak out about any specific political issue, forbade His disciples to declare publicly that he was the Messiah and refused to lead any movement among the populace intended to result in a kingship for Him." - Franklin Burroughs
It seems now that Burroughs is getting desperate. So, his new rationale is that because Jesus used the word "kingdom" that the Roman Empire may have viewed Him as a threat to their empire? Seriously? Where is this even remotely supported in scripture? Oh, that's right it is not. The opposite is. Remember that Rome crucified Jesus at the behest of the Jewish people and even tried desperately not to! They offered a choice between freeing Him and a cold-blooded killer and the Jewish people chose Barabbas. It is equally unsupported that they chose to crucify Jesus to send a message about fighting against political authority. How can we know this? Because Jesus never fought against political authority! He went like a lamb to the slaughter! He willingly gave up His life! This is what happens when you try to proof text and read things into scripture that just are not there. You end up abandoning even the most basic tenets of doctrine. His response regarding the coins did not show respect but rather indifference. You want the temple tax? Go catch a fish. The rendering unto Caesar is indicative of scripture that shows Jesus separating a difference between the things of His kingdom and this world. The reason why He made no political statements is because politics did not matter to Him. The reason why He tried to cover His identity as long as possible was to spread the gospel as long as possible before the powers of this world came against Him. To somehow morph this into a reason to desire pastoral and church leadership to preach politics today is simply unsupported.
"Jesus' selection and organization of His apostles even proved to be a political exercise, and it irritated the local politicians and the conquering Roman Empire. The selection process resulted in political diversity. Matthew, for example, worked for the existing government as a tax collector and held liberal political views. Peter belonged to a conservative group and believed the government should keep out of citizens' affairs. At times, he worked against the existing government. Simon the Zealot held membership in a group referred to as zealots, who strongly opposed the Roman occupation of Israel and even assassinated Roman soldiers to express their dislike of the Romans and their despotism. In Chapter 13 of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul declares that every individual should be subject to "the governing authorities." Verse seven of the chapter reads as follows: "Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." Paul remained pro-government even after his conversion to Jesus's teachings. In an opinion piece titled "The Politics Among the Disciples of Jesus Christ," Joseph B. Freeman points out that Jesus engaged in a "delicate political exercise" when He formed the group of apostles; the Roman conquerors and their local agents began to fear Him. They thought He might initiate an insurrection against them." - Franklin Burroughs
Wow. First of all, it was completely normal for a Rabbi to have followers, or apostles. This was not uncommon at all and hardly political. Just because Simon the Zealot was more political than Matthew was not Jesus making a political statement. If anything, Jesus was mocking the notion of earthly politics by selecting people from every persuasion and then making them forget those earthly pursuits in exchange for kingdom priorities. Matthew was a liberal and Peter was a conservative yet those things were irrelevant once they both became Christians. THAT is the point that walked right by Burroughs. Simon the Zealot wished for the deliverance of his people from Rome and yet Jesus NEVER addressed that. Did Simon leave the Apostles? Of course not. The only fear about people following Jesus that scripture teaches is that the Pharisees were concerned that everyone would follow Him, resulting in their own personal loss of power - thus they conspired to kill Him. Once again this is a spiritual matter, not a political one.
Among the apostles themselves competition emerged. James and John, for example, asked Jesus if He could reserve posts for them on His left and right sides; their parents viewed both posts as places of distinction and wanted their children to enjoy the prestige a close, noticeable association with Jesus might bring. Jesus rebuked the whole family. Despite their political diversity and personal competition, the apostles came together and cooperated in relation to Jesus's work here on earth. God's unconditional love shown them through Jesus united them in their commitment to Him and His purpose." - Franklin Burroughs
What? What in the world does this have to do with politics? Absolutely nothing. If anything, Burroughs continues to disprove his point. Despite the desires of this particular family, which were not political, Jesus corrected all and they all still worked together for the cause of the gospel and furtherance of the kingdom. Are we sensing a theme yet? Franklin Burroughs has yet to produce a single example or scripture that even mildly supports the notion that Jesus charged His church and its leaders with being politically active. The reality is that neither political party cares a whit about the cause of Christ. As much evil as you can find in one can be found in the other if you honestly look. In 2000 and 2004 the Christo-political forces demanded a vote for GW Bush. The result was John Roberts as the Chief Justice for the Supreme Court which was roundly celebrated by Christians. A decade later and most of the churched folks hated him and his insistence on having some balance in the court. Meanwhile, over a million dead people in Iraq from the Bush presidency. Remind me again about innocent blood and God? Meanwhile, GW said in a 2004 interview that he believes Christians and Muslims worship the same God. What kingdom damage was done from that we will never know. This is not to say that John Kerry would have been any better. Just to stop thinking you have the corner on righteousness just because your guy has a little "r" next to their name. Jesus was apolitical for a reason and we would be wise to be about the Father's business and not our own. Burroughs concludes:
"After Jesus's death and Resurrection, He physically ascended into heaven in the presence of eleven of His apostles according to the Bible, but His message did not die. Energetic apostles like Paul worked diligently to carry the message to various parts of the Roman Empire. Roman officials did not at first accept Christianity as a legitimate religion; relations between converts to Christianity and Roman officials showed considerable interpersonal and intergroup tension. The Romans often persecuted and formally punished Christians. Negative relations and sometimes scary politics between Christians and the Romans persisted for some 300 years, but Christianity gained prominence and acceptance during the reign of Constantine the Great (A.D. 306-337). Constantine converted to Christianity and began to promote the Christian tenets of faith. In A.D. 380, the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius signed a decree in the presence of the Western Roman Emperor that Christianity would from that point in time be accepted as the religion of the state and non-believers could be persecuted. Christianity began to transition to a dominant religion of the Roman Empire." - Franklin Burroughs
It is only fitting that Burroughs concludes on a point that has nothing to do with what he was trying to prove. Yes, politics and Christianity have intersected throughout history. This has not been an exercise in denying the existence of politics. Politics by nature is the business of ruling this world. I view it in the prism of the Titanic. We have struck the iceberg and the ship is going down. I have seen the end of the movie. There is no "saving" the Titanic despite the obsession of the NAR dominionist movement with revival. We can however save the individual people on the Titanic before it settles into its icy grave. There is a lifeboat and His name is Jesus. He has room for all who come to Him. Our job as the church is to point people to the lifeboat, not argue over who we think is best to be captain of the sinking ship. We are not called to point people to George W. Bush, Donald Trump or the Republican Party. In fact, if you think it is the cause of Christ to point people to anyone other than Him then you have missed the entire point of the gospel. Don't follow anyone pointing you to man.