Putting Words in People’s Mouths

I am puzzled.

I found an article that argued very forcefully that Jesus, without a doubt, would vote for the Democratic Party candidate for President–if he was a United States citizen today. Shortly afterwards, I came upon an article that argued just as certainly the opposite: that Jesus, as an American, would be sure to vote Republican. Doubtless, if I had the time, I could find a Green Party Jesus and a Libertarian Party Jesus. PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is convinced that Jesus would be a vegetarian.

It reminds me very much of the so-called “search for the historical Jesus” of which the Jesus Seminar is the current media darling. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was one of the first of that merry bunch back in the late nineteenth century. He even wrote a book entitled, The Search for the Historical Jesus. The one thing that has been said of such research is that the searchers inevitably wind up finding out that Jesus looks remarkably like themselves in a mirror. He has their attitudes, their beliefs, and their approach to life. The search tells us little about Jesus, but a lot about those on the hunt.

So it is, it seems to me, with those who want to convince me that Jesus would vote a certain way. Remarkably, Jesus seems to always vote exactly the way the author of the article would vote. As someone said, we have a tendency to make the gods in our own image.

I think it is nonsensical, foolish and insufferably arrogant to suggest that a historical figure would vote or argue a certain way regarding a modern question, a question on which the individual in view never considered nor made any pronouncements. To try to extrapolate from what they did say to how we think they’d argue today about a given topic, it seems to me, is remarkably presumptuous.

How can we be certain we understand and know a historical figure well enough to be able to put words in his or her mouth? Some people wear bracelets with initials that stand for the phrase “What would Jesus Do?” I suppose such bracelets are harmless. They’re designed to keep their wearers from misbehaving. But they remain, in my mind at least, a bit peculiar.
First, do you really need to literally wear your conscience on your sleeve? And second, do you really know Jesus well enough to be certain what he’d think about you eating that donut instead of the bran muffin?

So why imagine we can tell how he’d vote? Especially, considering that our vote is supposed to be private. Do you think Jesus would even tell us who he picked?

On the other hand, back in the first century the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome that “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1). If that’s the case, then God chooses who the rulers will be anyhow.

So how would Jesus vote? Just look at the election results the day after and find out.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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