Hey! This may just be ‘snarky Bob’ venting again, but I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or to laugh at the politicians seeking the (ostensible) ‘evangelical’ vote in places such as Iowa and elsewhere. The platform that most of these candidates are running on is so totally other than anything that can be remotely identified with the evangel of New Testament Christianity that it is absurd—and no one seems to get the contradiction.

I’ve blogged this before, but the word evangel is a common Greek word that the New Testament writers adopted to define the teachings, as well as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a word that conveys thrilling good news. If folk are truly evangelical then their political principles and choices as citizens are going to reflect those same teachings of Jesus, and the agenda of Jesus, as are clearly recorded in the evangel/gospel accounts of the New Testament.

So here is the Jesus we discover in those documents. His mother Mary, in her Magnificat extols the God who has made her the bearer of the promised Messiah of Israel, and who has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, … has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of humble estate, … has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away (Luke 1:46ff). This is the Jesus who begins his public ministry by announcing that he is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives [usually in debtor’s prison] and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” [Jubilee year] (Luke 4:18ff). That’s at the beginning of his public ministry … but skip over to the final days of his pre-crucifixion life and it gets even more pointed as he tells of his ultimate return at the end of the age.

“When the Son of Man [Jesus] comes in his glory, and all his angels with him … Before him will be gathered all the nations and he will separate people f rom one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats … Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him saying: ‘Lord, when did we [do all these things]? And the king will answer them, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it unto me (Matthew 25:31ff).

If I cannot relate this teaching to the issues of poverty, minimum wage, prisons, immigration, refugees, economic injustice, homelessness, affordable medical care, etc. … then I can never claim to be an ‘evangelical’. As if this were not enough, in the couple of years of Jesus’ ministry he went about preaching God’s in-breaking New Creation, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and bringing hope and healing. In the midst of those teachings are his devastating parable of the rich man, Dives, who fared sumptuously every day and dressed elegantly but was totally indifferent to the sick and poverty stricken Lazarus who was laid at his gate daily in hopes of getting a few scraps. Economic justice was not a minor theme for Jesus. Feed in the encounter with Zacchaeus, or the parable of the unjust steward … and the economic justice demands of the evangel come closer to home.

I am willing to label those conservative folk who are indifferent to human need, at best, quasi-evangelicals, or imposters who claim the blessings of Jesus but not the requirements of repentance. The gospel of Mary’s Magnificat, and the teachings of Jesus are radical stuff!

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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