I wrote a book about theology and politics. I fully anticipated that certain readers from the left wing of American politics would deeply dislike it, if they ever got around to reading it. It is a commonplace these days to accuse people like me (conservative politically, evangelical in theology) of just using Jesus to rubber stamp my political agenda.
That is always a concern, which is why we must listen to the whole Bible and allow it to shape what we think of political issues.
But it is not just conservatives who sometimes succumb to this temptation. Here is a piece written by a left-leaning evangelical (Mark Sandlin, no relation to the boss, I hope) entitled, "10 Political Things You Can't Do While Following Jesus."
My overall assessment? When the author looks to Jesus for political guidance, he might as well just look in the mirror. Jesus agrees with him.
How about a brief, point-by-point critique? Yes. Sounds fun.
#10. (You Can't) Force Your Beliefs or Religious Practices on Others.
The author warns us against "using the government to compel people to practice your spiritual beliefs." No idea what he might have in mind. I'm not aware of anybody suggesting fining or imprisoning somebody for not attending church on Sunday. Is restricting abortion using government "practicing my religious beliefs"? He realizes this is a pretty complicated assertion, so he adds: "There is a difference in letting your beliefs inform your political choices and letting your politics enforce your religion." And...? That's it. Not a word telling us exactly what the difference is .
I suspect what this saccharine paragraph is really saying: You Christians shouldn't be seeking God-honoring marriage laws because that is "using government" to practice your religious beliefs.
#9. (You Can't) Advocate For War.
Never mind a millennia-long tradition of Christian jurisprudence and deep theological and ethical thinking about war. Mark Sandlin just knows that pacifism is the way of Jesus. After all, Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking over fifty times, he observes!
Let's just get one thing straight. Jesus said about his appointed Apostles: "If they reject you, they reject me" (Luke 10:16). Pitting Jesus against his own Old Testament tradition and against his own Apostolic tradition (the New Testament) is... well, heresy. You can look it up.
#8. (You Can't) Favor the Rich Over the Poor
Mark Sandlin believes, without a whiff of argument or evidence, that free markets inherently favor the rich over the poor. Economic and theological nonsense. Free markets have lifted more people out of poverty than any other idea, economic theory, or government program in history. This is not a deniable fact.
#7. (You Can't) Cut Funding That Hurts the Least of These
Any funding? What if there was a steady supply of charity money being laundered by a Drug Cartel? Should that be cut? How about a Mob that launders its racketeering money through charities? Should that be cut?
Oh, but he means government funding. You know, the funding extracted by the threat of coercive law. There are no better ways, not even theoretically, in Mark Sandlin's universe of "helping the least of these" except government redistributive welfare. The kind that thinks the 8th Commandment was an 8th Suggestion.
#6. (You Can't) Let People Go Hungry.
Another left-wing phantasm designed to protect the sacred cow of Food Stamp assistance. You know what I find odd? I am constantly being told by the same people that we have a hunger epidemic in poor communities in America, and that the greatest threat against poor communities in America is obesity.
#5. (You Can't) Withhold Healthcare From People.
Because people who oppose Obamacare want to withhold healthcare from people, you see. They want people to just die on the streets. Tough luck.
Mark Sandlin's argument is that "the government can provide healthcare, therefore it must provide healthcare." This is, frankly, idiotic moral and economic reasoning. There are lots of "goods" the government could do; but the mere existence of something "good" does not immediately transfer that "something" into the realm of government jurisdiction.
#4. (You Can't) Limit the Rights of a Select Group of People.
He gives no clue who he is talking about, and his whole paragraph is unintelligible. Jesus loves everybody, so everybody gets to do what they want. Or, maybe not. Or...something. Every law ever passed in the history of humanity restrains and limits somebody's perceived "rights." Does Sandlin have anything to offer with respect to law and jurisprudence beyond this Kumbayaesque nonsense? Nope.
#3. (You Can't) Turn Away Immigrants.
Yes, this one reads right off the pages of Scripture, doesn't it? I'll just say this: if Mark Sandlin really believes his own paragraph here, he thinks borders are immoral. Something tells me he'd offer a qualification or two...
#2. (You Can't) Devalue Education.
He means cut funding to government education programs. King Jesus prohibits cutting government education funding. Okay? Just take Mark Sandlin's word for it, because that's all he offers.
#1. (You Can't) Support Capital Punishment.
Because all that Old Testament stuff was really bad, and all that stuff in Romans 13 is just Paul, so we don't have to take him seriously. God used to approve of capital punishment (Gen. 9), but we know better how to love now than God himself.
I've seen some bad pieces in my time, but this one is breathtaking in its ignorance and arrogance. Just look at that list of items. It is as if Mark Sandlin got a memo from George Soros about what his political priorities should be, and was instructed to write a piece slapping Jesus' name on it. Oh, wait! That probably did happen, since Sojourner's is partially funded by...
I think at one time Sojourners was respectable.