This is the script of a speech shared by Paul Swearengin, The Non-Partisan Evangelical, at an event called Q Commons in Fresno, CA on October, 24, 2019
A woman contacted Jesus on social media.
Her profile picture showed her in Sunday-best, with her grandchildren at an Easter event at her large church. She posted a question on Jesus’ page.
“My Lord and Savior,” said her comment, “what must I do to be a really good Christian in today’s evil world?” The response from Jesus came quickly, as he was already using his device to post posting pictures of a neighborhood event he’d attended that day at a park, with his team and a group of families.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord?’” was his text response.
“That’s the name I’ve used for you since I said the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ as a little girl,” the woman replied – with a “praying hands” emoji added at the end. Anyone sitting with Jesus would have seen him look at the screen with glassy eyes, his heart going out to this sweet woman. He knew she was asking with a sincere desire for assurance that he was pleased with her.
“In this ‘evil’ world,” he typed, “what you DO to be a really good Christian is this…” Jesus posted this part of his reply and then hesitated, imagining her growing anticipation.
“A ‘really good’ Christian must adamantly oppose abortion and vote for pro-life candidates,” he continued, “even if those candidates will do a poor job in the role to which they’re elected. You must share social media posts in support of laws banning gay marriage and keep your children and grandchildren from watching secular media.”
No God is not Republican, but God is into Republican people – and Democrats and Libertarians and Green Partiers and Tea Partiers and No Party Preferencers and all the rest.Paul Swearengin, The Non-Partisan Evangelical
“A ‘really, REALLY good’ Christian must be a strict constitutionalist, fervently support the second amendment and oppose all taxes. You must be angry at illegal immigrants and free-loading welfare recipients and display a love for country, always standing at attention for the National Anthem. If one has an American flag pin with a cross to wear – all the better. That displays your allegiance to me, as an American.”
Having finished, Jesus hit the “share” button and sat back to await a response.
At her kitchen desk, the woman smiled as she read the text on her screen, very pleased at what Jesus had written. She could barely contain her excitement as she responded.
“All of these things I’ve done all my life.”
The smile faded from Jesus’ face as he read her words on his screen and prepared to respond again.
“If you DO all those things to be a really good Christian, then there are just a few more things I require,” Jesus began to type, the white letters sharply contrasting the dark green of the screen.
“…you must go to your local abortion provider office and stop a young woman from having an abortion by promising that your family will provide her with financial support. Offer to pay for any health care costs she and the baby will have and promise to pay for all day care needed while the mother completes her education.”
“After that, go to a local farm and work the fields with the workers there and learn their stories and go to a local African American church and accompany a black mother as she visits her son wrongly held in prison without a chance for parole. Next, you must meet a married gay couple in your area and love them as much as you love your own family.”
“Finally, visit a local elected official of the other political party and post a selfie you take with him or her. Publicly commit that you’ll pray everyday for that elected official’s success and well-being as you’ve been commanded to do in the New Testament.” The cursor blinked as Jesus allowed those words to linger on the screen.
Jesus sat in an awkward, elongated digital silence as he waited for the three dots to appear on the screen that would show the woman was typing. Instead of words, however, a frown emoji popped up.
After a few minutes of hearing nothing more from the woman, Jesus decided to send a private message to her. Jesus was surprised, however, to find she had unfriended him and blocked him from her page.
Jesus typed a new post – “Oh, how difficult it is sometimes for Christians today to live the life I displayed in the Gospels.”
You might recognize my story as being a modernization of the Bible story called “The Rich Young Ruler.” The parallel of the two stories is that in each, there’s a person who loves God but who’s misinterpreted what following God looks like: two people who feel like their actions should come from some religious form rather than actions that emanate from an alignment with God’s heart.
The title of my talk is “Is God a Republican?” It’s an interesting question. That question inspired me to write my new novel Joseph Comes to Town, subtitled: When the Religious Right Goes Religiously Wrong. I wrote it because I see a right-wing evangelical church that doesn’t really say it out loud but certainly displays the idea that God is a Republican – or at least that God requires his people to be.
And I wondered – what would Jesus say about that were he on earth today? He certainly didn’t have good things to say about the politically nationalistic mindset of the religious leaders in the first century. How would he feel today about an evangelical Christianity that seems to believe legalistically forcing others to obey the ten commandments is righteousness and that patriotism is a fruit of the spirit?
How would Jesus view an evangelical Christianity today that complains about the immigrant but takes no responsibility to follow the Bible’s command to care for the foreigners in our land – even those who are here because we made a deal to turn a blind eye as they gave us cheap labor.
How would Jesus view an evangelical Christianity today that would seem to prefer a 1950’s America that is not quite so multi-culturally complicated – as opposed to following Jesus’ model to sit with a marginalized woman at the well even though she shared neither his heritage nor his religion.
How would Jesus view an evangelical Christianity today that protects “our” elected officials at all costs and curses of all the others and curses the institutions of our culture, disregarding the Bible’s edict that everyday, through our mouths – and keyboards, we make the choice to speak life or to speak death over those elected officials and our institutions
As Christians we like to say We like to say, “Let’s stand for our rights – we want to be able to say ‘Christmas’ again” – God says “If someone forces the injustice on you to go a mile, go two.”
We say, “Get rid of taxes” – God says “give to Cesar what is Cesar’s – so as not to get distracted by being offended or offending others.”
We say, “Let’s get together and vote to gain political power” – God says, “True power is displayed in being able to love enough to lay down your life for a friend – and for your enemy.
Is God Republican? I believe God is nothing of the sort. God’s not a Democrat either. The Bible tells us God is neither Jew nor Greek the Bible tells us. I don’t think God’s into politics at all. But good government that spreads justice over our cities and shalom over the people? I think God is way into that.
The Bible says that government rests on the shoulders of Immanuel – God with us and In us – and for that government, and the peace it will bring – there will be no end. That should be our desire – not a government based on Republican values, but on heaven’s values. Not on the hope to ban things, but one that’s in alignment with a God didn’t enter this world to condemn people but to heal them: body and mind – as well as their soul.
Our desire should be to have no unwanted pregnancies, no unwanted children, No unwanted people
No God is not Republican, but God is into Republican people – and Democrats and Libertarians and Green Partiers and Tea Partiers and No Party Preferencers and all the rest. That my friends is the gospel – the Good News.
My evangelical friends – we CAN see things change in our culture. But only if WE areIf we’re willing to humble ourselves and pray. To seek God’s ways and turn from our wicked ways of partisanship, condemnation and “other-ness.” When we realize our political power can never compare to the power of God’s amazing grace, we can see our culture healed in ways better than we ever imagined.
Better even than a god who’s republican.