In Luke 4:18 Jesus announces his full entry into his earthly ministry by reading from the book of Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,”.
Shortly following this proclamation in his hometown Jesus narrowly escaped being pushed over a cliff by the religious leaders in Nazareth. I fear if Jesus were to appear today, in most evangelical Churches he would be met with the same disdain he met in Nazareth. The message he preached was radical, and revolutionary, and is still offensive to many people; most of them inside the Church.
Understanding Christian Social Values
Most Christians see and advocate for only one or two biblical social values. If we truly read the scripture asking what Christian social values are, we find at least 9 probably more. 1) Respect for human dignity (undergirding all the others) 2) sanctity of life, 3) family and community participation, 4) preferential care and support for the poor, marginalized and outcast 5) solidarity with the working poor, 6) stewardship (personally and over creation), 7) human equality, 8) charity in a way that supports dignity, 9) loving our neighbors especially immigrants and refugees.
Some of us will always prioritize the sanctity of life over all the other Christian values. Some of us will always put the poor and loving our neighbors as our top priority. It depends on how we read the scriptures and our denominational background. None is more or less Christian than the other. American politics is poisonous to the gospel and the Church, because it divides us. It forces us to argue over which of the Lord’s teachings and values we should prioritize. All of these values reflect God’s heart for society. Subjugating one Christian value to another in an attempt to shape society to be more Christian is extremely misguided. Placing any faith in a political system to bring about societal transformation is missing completely what Jesus was saying in the Gospels.
American Politics are Poisonous to the Church
Jesus was not worried about the politics of Rome, rather the new world order that he was proclaiming, where the first would be last and the last would be first. The role of the Church is never the politics of present-day Babylon. It is about living out and advocating for all of these values in a way that transforms us, our families, communities, culture, and society. It is never about choosing which of Jesus’s teachings are less important than others; something US political parties demand.
Politics speak to the world as it is, driven by consumerism and focused on power, greed, materialism, and ideological idolatry. Politics can never bring about societal transformation only the Jesus can do that.
The Gospel speaks to our active participation with the Holy Spirit to make the world as it should be; more loving, more compassionate, and more just for everyone. The Gospel is about making the words of Jesus “On earth as it is in heaven” a reality. If we miss that part of the Gospel message, we miss it all.