If Jesus Ran for President by Gina Messina


Gina Messina-Dysert profileIf Jesus ran for president, what would his campaign look like?  Where would he stand on social policy? Who would be his running mate? Who would (not) vote for him?  With our current political dialogue dominated by supposed Christian views and a nation that overwhelmingly claims the teachings of Jesus as the basis for its morality, what would the response be if we came face to face with the (unintentional) founder of the tradition?  How would we really respond to Jesus’ teachings in contemporary society? And maybe more frightening, how would Jesus respond to us?

Imagine that Jesus was in the US today and launched his bid for the Whitehouse. Don’t imagine him announcing on the deck of an Aircraft Carrier, he’s more of a Homeless Shelter guy. Would he be the conservative “Christian” he is often labeled by the right? Would he be a Democrat as so many book titles have claimed? A libertarian? Green party? How do his teachings measure up with the various political parties and would there be room for Jesus at any of their tables?

What would Jesus think of our current and past presidents, nearly all whom have invoked the Lord’s name during their time in office.  What would he think of both Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush claiming that God wanted them to run for POTUS?  What about Bush’s (and Ronald Reagan’s) claim that God guided all of his policy making decisions while in office? And what about Barack Obama’s statement that when it comes to his politics, at the end of the day, “God is in control”?

Although not bringing God into the conversation would be career suicide for any politician and a large population of voters in the US claim a Christian identity, few would actually vote for Jesus if he ran for president.  Many of the values and ideologies associated with Christian views are in direct contrast to the teachings of Jesus.  For one, Jesus was anti-materialistic and we are living in one of the most gluttonous nations in the world.  Let me say upfront, I am guilty.  I have an unhealthy obsession with handbags and little makes me happier than a good sale at Nordstrom. I own it. But that doesn’t change who Jesus was or his teachings. Even if he was alive today I don’t think Jesus would be swayed by Nordstrom—-although I have seen amazing sandals there.

We have adopted Jesus as an American Icon, and in doing so, have twisted his words and teachings to support our own ideas.  It’s enough to make one think those WWJD bumper stickers stand for “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?” And so, if Jesus did run for President, it is impossible to imagine, in a country that has adopted him as its icon and claims a “Christian” identity, that Jesus would ever be elected. His understanding, loving  approach would probably bar him from even getting a reality show—which appears to be key for a presidential resume these days.

Jesus Tweet

That’s right.  Likely no Christian would vote for Jesus and most would attack him for his teachings and politics – yes, Jesus was highly political. Some might like his message, but the media would label him unelectable and the GOP would go after him for being a left-wing, pro-union, welfare supporting, Obamacare enthusiast and democrats would argue that Jesus is a nice guy but doesn’t know a thing about running a country. If it came down to it, and the country was under threat, Jesus would never push the red button. Both would rather him be a mascot for their campaigns – “Jesus the carpenter” – AKA the new “Joe the Plumber.”

While Jesus the American Icon might have a chance in a presidential election, Jesus the Jewish carpenter of the Gospels would be laughed off the ballot.

This article is an excerpt from  If Jesus Ran for President coming from the Far Press in Fall, 2016 and was co-written with Steven Mazan.comingspring 2016

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Religion and Gender Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for The Huffington Post, has authored multiple publications and is the co-editor of the highly acclaimed Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website ginamessinadysert.com.

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Categories: Politics

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10 replies

  1. Interesting post, Gina. I have a question about your method. Are you arguing that we can know what Jesus’s essential teachings were? And which of the words attributed to him are not essential? I would argue that we cannot know by any objective criteria what Jesus’s “main” or “essential” teachings were even in his own time. We can only know what we from our standpoints interpret those teachings to have been. Inevitably, individuals and communities will pick and choose from among the teachings attributed to Jesus, making some central and ignoring others. So, I would say that as long as there are communities with different interests interpreting the teachings of Jesus, these teachings willl be understood differently. We can argue against some interpretations, but we must also acknowledge our own standpoints. For example, I suspect that there are words attributed to Jesus (perhaps the extreme apocalyptic ones) that you choose not to make central. This is why Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza always states that her interpretations are situated in the community of wo/men seeking liberation.

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    • HI Carol, Thank you so much for your comment – a fair point and one I know you and I have discussed before. I am certainly writing from a gender focused and liberative perspective. But I also question interpretations. I have had many conversations with Rosemary Ruether about this. And she argues that interpretations that are not liberative are problematic. They are misinterpretations of Jesus’ words. I think that what we can know about Jesus from the Gospels are well demonstrated through this words and actions. His decision to be baptized by John the Baptist, his use of the “Our Father” – although not gender neutral – was shared with a very specific political and liberative intent, and his teachings overall that were focused on love and justice.

      You are right, Jesus was apocalyptic – I don’t deny that. But, the central message of his teachings – I think – are very clear. And if Jesus was alive today, the millions of Christians who claim him as their savior would very like turn their backs. The understanding of Jesus’ teachings is far from what Jesus really spoke. Those are my thoughts at least.

      I know you will challenge me on this and I appreciate it. You keep me focused on refining and rethinking my work and for that I am grateful!

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      • Yes I do think RRR and ESF disagree on this point. Judith Plaskow and I agree with ESF.

        My point is that we don’t know what Jesus’s words are–those in the Bible? Well not all of them, most would say and if not all, how do we know which are true.

        Yes, interpretations that are not liberative are problematic–from the perspective of those seeking liberation. But this feeling and judgment does not resolve the question of what Jesus thought or taught.

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  2. Thanks Gina, I love what are called the Beatitudes, because they bless what is already at work in healing the world, rather than judging or chastising the world, and so they offer great hope for that reason. Among other things, Jesus says, almost as a feminist manifesto:

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
    Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.”

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  3. The only part of the Bible that makes sense to me is the Sermon on the Mount. I also love the Beatitudes and see great truth in them. But if they became campaign slogans??? Hardly anyone would understand what the candidate was talking about! The Far Right so-called Christians don’t seem to bless anyone who isn’t exactly like them. Alas.

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  4. Thanks Gina. I often think of how Jesus would be “welcomed” in our society. I believe we would have the same response as the Roman and Jewish power structures – we would take him into the country or some dark alley and kill him. Or maybe strap him to a gurney and inject poison into his vein since we are so much more “civilized” in how we treat traitors and criminals these days.
    I say “traitor” because Jesus preached a “kingdom” that is opposed to the empires of this world. I think the closest we come to a written account of his proclamation of this “kingdom of god” is in Mt and Lk and the “sermon on the mount/plain”. Who knows what archeologists will unearth in the future. But I think there is enough for us, if we dare, to compare his teaching to our practice and find strong oppositions.

    I think that “Christianity” lost it’s way very quickly and wonder what it would be like if Jesus had lived longer and had more time with his disciples. The Patriarchal society in which he (and we) lived never really “got it”. Constantine’s “legalization” of Christianity was a total conquest of empire over what Jesus preached of God’s kin-dom. The oral tradition of the people was overcome by the written accounts that added interpretations to be fought over for centuries. Would the story have survived without the written accounts? Like so much of life, it’s a mixed bag.

    “Constantine” surfaces in the Trumps and Ryans of today, Jesus groans for all those who use his name to justify their own selfishness, greed and arrogance, claiming “persecution” because they are expected to obey just laws of non-discrimination and respect the consciences of others. Meanwhile the Roman liturgy perpetuates the “Fathers” nonsense of imaging the Holy as two men and a bird while dismissing the value and memory of the “Mothers” who are largely forgotten or ignored by religious power brokers.

    But Jesus said we would know a tree by it’s fruit. And even tho they are considered “nuts” by many, there have been, and do, arise people like the Berrigans and all the disciples who have gone, are in, prison for opposing the violence of “America the Great”. Simone Campbell and the “Nuns on the Bus” continue to challenge those who claim Jesus as their “saviour” while they oppress the poor, orphans, widows and single parents. Tom Berry and others proclaim a Creator who calls us to repent of our greedy abuse of creation. And they work with others who don’t claim the same religion or any religion at all, but who live in love and compassion and welcome refugees, work for justice, feed folks who are hungry, etc. … because Jesus wasn’t an isolationist, or “founder of the true church” or probably anything like a lot of people claim.

    Thus endeth my rant! Sorry – kinda. It’s nice to have a safe place to do so!

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  5. Thank you for your thoughts, Gina. I agree totally with your conclusion. I have thought, and said, the same for a couple of decades now. From conversation, from readings, from listening to present, and former, presidents. And, with some exception, managed not to gag after hearing their comments (measured against their actions).
    A tickle in my mind while reading. A question: WWJD? He would likely vote for Bernie Sanders, who, in my opinion, although not perfect, comes closest to WWJD. Ironic, isn’t it?
    Thanks again.

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  6. He would be truth, pure love, peace and understanding and uniting all.
    All religions would turn into oneness with science.

    First he himself would hold on to false beliefs, then look for truth, do meditation and remove false beliefs, just like he removed his own false belief to look for truth, God, oneness the last time in the deserts.

    You will probably recognize him from a kind of light shining from him, but it is not visible and can not be measured by scientists, but you can feel it. You will also begin to feel the same light shining from others.

    His politics would aim to make world peace, and balance with nature, the very thing most religious leaders so often must learn to do. In peace all races can feel pure love toward one another. Races would live both separate and together at the same time, giving all people a feeling of relaxation and harmony, one race not replacing the other, but existing in balance, so that all people can feel comfortable and happy and love can flow freely.

    His politics would share the bread and wine between all people, between brothers and sisters, old and young, in a fair way. Murder rates would plummet and crime rates would disappear, except for violent sects who has to live separate from the others and for a while will continue with overpopulating, suffering, killing and celebrating their warmongers, their kings and queens of chaos, until they get tired of it.

    More people would live more simple lives like him in balance and harmony, only have a balanced amount of children and live in harmony with nature.

    People under his reign would eventually get rid of their fuel guzzling cars, more people would live together in big houses and the fancy jewellery would be replaced with natural jewellery and they would have larger eatable ecological gardens.

    Large corporations would be in the control of the most competent for each task. Work will be less and less. Robots will only produce good when there is a real need and people will become less and less needy. Television will be replaced completely by the Internet connecting us all. There will be no more lying through the media about other counties.

    Nasa would continue to find ways for humanity to explore further into space and eventually realize that life exist in more places in the Universe and adapts to its environment and the fight for survival by colonization of other worlds therefore is futile.

    All worlds would be allowed to exist in their own environment and no more species would be killed by religion or humans.

    Jesus politics would be the combination of many existing political ideas, like a wonderful rainbow but shining brighter than a rainbow, it would function on a higher level removing fear and bringin acceptance and respect, combining them in an intelligent emotionally correct God-like way creating harmony and happiness for all.

    The greedy 1% will loose their fear of loosing control, they will feel safer and more happy in the new reign, not needing bodyguards anymore. Money can not buy life!

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