Jesus and Democracy
Question: I’ve heard that the reason Jesus didn’t speak up on political issues was because he didn’t have the benefit of living in a democracy. Since we do, don’t we have a duty both to God and our country to be involved in politics?
Answer: If the reason Jesus didn’t speak up on political issues was because he didn’t live in a democracy, how do we explain the fact his contemporaries were constantly speaking up and arguing about politics? The fact of the matter is that, while ancient Jews obviously couldn’t vote by casting a ballot, they had plenty of other ways of “voting” if they were interested in trying to alter the political landscape. Some refused to pay taxes. Others sabotaged various Roman endeavors. And still others took up the sword and assassinated Roman solders. These were the very political issues ancient Jews debated so intensely. Yet, neither Jesus nor his disciples (once they got clear on how Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God differed from the kingdom of the world, e.g., Mk 8:27-38; 9:30-37; 10:32-45) showed any interest discussing these options.
On top of this, Jesus had plenty of other ways of affecting politics if this is what he was interested in doing. As he told his disciples, he could have called “twelve legions of angels” to defend himself and defeat his opponents if that is what he was concerned with (Mt 26:53). In fact, at one point in his ministry he had all the authority of the kingdoms of the world offered to him on a silver platter. He could have instantly given the entire world the best version of worldly government imaginable. Yet Jesus rejected this offer as a temptation of the devil (Lk 4:5-7), for the Kingdom Jesus came to usher into this world is not a new and improved – or even “the best imaginable” – version of worldly government.
Clearly, Jesus’ lack of interest in worldly government was not merely due to the unfortunate form of government he happened to be under. Rather, his anti-political stance reflects the radically unique way of Jesus, and, therefore, the radically unique way we who follow him are called to live.