Conservative / Right: To conserve and maintain traditional values and practices. Liberal / Left: To improve and construct fresh ways of thinking.
Our world is becoming ever more polarized. Social media is nothing if not a platform for the two camps to rip each other to shreds. I thought I may ask where Jesus, the founding figure of Christianity, stands along the political divide. Not surprisingly, everyone hopes one of the greatest persons who ever lived fits squarely into their camp.
But does he? Let’s take a look.
Religion and Money
First, Jesus believed in God [Right]. He prayed a lot and wouldn’t be caught dead talking about a ‘cosmic consciousness’ or the ‘gods within us’. Having said that, Jesus often hit out at religious hypocrisy and oppression [Left]. In fact, it could be said that his worst enemies were the religious teachers and leaders; it was they who arrested him, eventually. For Jesus, there was nothing inherently wrong with mono-theism [Right] and everything right with an authentic other-centered spirituality [Left], but he spoke about a God who loves the world a lot more than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton could.
Jesus did talk a lot about evil. A huge part of his career involved casting out demons and telling people to quit sinning [Right]. To Jesus, sin was a serious thing. He even quipped that if one of your eyes stared too long at Porn-Hub you may have to consider tearing it out. Jesus clearly doesn’t believe in ‘free sex’ [Right]. On the other hand, he also told people (not least the religious folks) to stop judging others [Left]; he seemed to be equally pissed at ‘religious’ people who make it a habit to point fingers at sinners [Left] as he was with sinners themselves.
The plot thickens because despite all his attacks on sin, Jesus had a rather casual attitude towards religious rules [Left]. But make no mistake, Jesus specifically said that the traditional Law of Moses was A-okay [Right], despite freely re-interpreting (and even breaking) it when he felt the need to [Left].
Maybe this is why when the religious right wanted to execute a woman for adultery, Jesus declared that the sinless person should fire the first shot [Not Right]…before admonishing the woman to quit sleeping around i.e. sin no more [Not Left].
It’s as if Jesus thought of God’s law as neither soul-killingly unchangeable nor discardable on a whim. God’s law seemed to be constructed for humanity’s well-being, and for that reason it could be flexible without being trivialised.
Regarding money, Jesus spoke up against the rich, against the accumulation of wealth, and even gave free food to the poor [Left]. He didn’t mind when a lady wasted a jar of Chanel Grand Extrait on him [Right], but he also had no qualms telling a rich yuppie to liquidate everything and give it all away [Left].
It’s not clear he’d be okay with today’s form of Capitalism and the normalised obsession with making crap loads of money. But it’s also unlikely that Jesus would want people to be overly dependent on the State [Right], instead telling folks they should trust in divine providence the way birds and flowers do (hardly great examples of centralised economics). Jesus viewed Mammon as a rival God [Not Right] but he didn’t possess the kind of sanguine view of human nature which thinkers like Marx seemed to have in which human desire and wants can be managed by wiser humans [Not Left].
In other words, for Jesus, the structure of political economy wasn’t the world’s biggest challenge. To him, at the heart of the human problem was the problem of the human heart.
It’s pretty obvious Jesus would not have been pro-war, pro-2nd Amendment or have anything to do with violence [Left]. He even did an on-the-spot healing gig when one of his followers cut off an enemy’s ear. Having said that, Jesus was absolutely non-violent to the point of probably standing on the side of Pro-Lifers [Right] i.e. non-violence cannot be limited to bullets and bombs, but must include the protection of all human life, even those in the womb.
Israel, Trump, Racism, etc.
Obviously, Jesus was pro-Israel and his primary mission was to the Jews [Right]. But, as mentioned early, the Jewish leaders hated him and his modus operandi of non-violence is surely something modern Israel could never accept [Left]. Needless to say, Jesus would have serious problems with a Zionist state co-existing with an open-air refugee camp; I would be surprised if Jesus didn’t feel much compassion for the suffering of the Palestinians [Left]. Having said that, it’s unlikely that groups like Hamas would approve of Jesus’ methods of ‘resistance’ [Right].
Likewise, there is no way in heaven or hell Jesus could be considered ‘anti-Israel’ [Not Left], but there is not a chance he can be considered a Supremacist either [Not Right]. He would have castigated the Klu Klux Klan but he’d rebuke Antifa for their mercenary tactics, too. From the looks of it, Jesus would probably be sympathetic to ‘Black Lives Matter’ except he’d insist that the best way for the blacks to achieve equality and ‘status’ in society is to suffer for their oppressors (in this respect, Martin Luther King, Jr. was simply echoing him).
But speaking of ethnicities, whilst Jesus focused a lot on redeeming Israel as the ‘chosen’ people of God [Right], he also had laudable things to say about non-Israelites, too. He praised many outsiders (and even claimed that a Roman centurion had more faith than anyone else in the land — which is kinda like a Palestinian leader saying that an Israeli General was more Arab than other Arabs) and had an extremely progressive view of women [Left].
Jesus didn’t spend a whole lot of time prioritizing ‘outsiders’ [Not Left] but most of his words for the powerful ‘insiders’ were pretty harsh [Not Right]. Maybe that’s why he was treated like a terrorist by the very people he came to save?
Would Jesus have been pro- Trump or anti-Trump? It’s hard to say. He clearly wouldn’t approve of an arrogant womanizer, and his mum did sing a song about the proud being brought down [Left]; then again, Jesus isn’t the type who despises ‘public enemy #1s’ simply because it’s the cool thing to do [Not Left]. And given his warning against ‘not letting your left hand know what your right hand does’, he’s probably be against virtue-signalling [Right]. Without a doubt, terrorism would outrage Jesus [Right] but unless the gospels are completely off I think he’d prefer forgiving and loving the suicide bomber as opposed to launching missile strikes at their families [Not Right].
Jesus is one of the least PC personalities in his time [Right] but his acceptance of everybody suggests he wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about building walls [Left]. He was open to everyone [Left], even nasty people [Not Left]. He fought for his own ethnic group [Right], but did so by rejecting this same group’s exclusivity in their own eyes [Not Right].
There is no evidence that Jesus would be in favour of ruling regimes [Not Right], but there is also evidence that Opposition parties would consider him irrelevant or not impactful enough [Not Left].
Beyond Right and Left?
Good Friday came and went a few weeks ago. It’s the day forgiveness takes center-stage. So maybe that’s the key word here, the thing which Jesus does to rip apart the Right-Left polarities.
Forgiveness─hardly something Ben Shapiro or Linda Sarsour (or almost any major political commentatory or activist) are famous for. Self-sacrificial giving─not exactly the qualities Scott Adams or Jimmy Kimmel talk about often. Suffering for those who hate you─something quite beyond either Piers Morgan or JK Rowling. Loving one’s enemies─a virtue neither Netanyahu nor Abbas will be caught dead promoting.
In fact, loving one’s enemies and praying for them is something nobody talks about. It’s something beyond right and left, but─hopefully─not beyond all of us.