A nearly year-old blog post authored by Herman Cain has lately drawn ire from several liberal outlets, including The Daily Kos, ThinkProgress and the left-leaning Faith in Public Life. The post is interesting and provocative, to say the least. In it, Cain claims Jesus Christ was “the perfect conservative,” condemned by a “liberal court”:
He led without a mandate. He taught without a script. His common sense parables filled people with promise and compassion, His words forever inspiring.
He never condemned what others believed – just sin, evil and corruption.
He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps. And everywhere He went, it turned into a rally, attracting large crowds, and giving them hope, encouragement and inspiration.
For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done. He didn’t travel by private jet. He walked and sailed, and sometimes traveled on a donkey.
That’s all true, as far as it goes. But I have to say I agree with the lefties when they point out that many of Jesus’ teachings amount to anything but common sense.
And, more broadly speaking, I can’t help but think it’s a mistake for a Christian to call Jesus either “conservative” or “liberal,” even if certain of His principles could be labeled as such and even though Christians must necessarily decide for themselves what political ideology squares best with their religious views. To reduce Christ to a 21st-century political label is to forget that Jesus reminded His followers regularly that His kingdom is not here in this world, that He reminded them to work for what lasts, to store up treasure in heaven.
When Jesus speaks of a kingdom outside of this world — what St. Augustine called the “City of God,” as opposed to a “City of Man” — He is not saying that a Christian’s religious beliefs shouldn’t inform his life in this world. On the contrary, the Christian is to carry those beliefs into every avenue of his existence. But Jesus is reminding His followers of the transcendence of the eternal, reminding them that, on some level, who wins what political battle (among other things) will someday matter not at all. For a Christian to use Jesus as a political tool (whether by claiming Him for a particular ideology or by pouncing on someone else who did so) is to sacrifice a greater good for a lesser — the very height of foolishness. If calling Jesus “conservative” or “liberal” costs Him a convert of the opposing ideology, then, for a Christian, labeling Him is a mistake — even if it wins political converts. But as it’s doubtful to do that, either, seems better to just avoid IDing Jesus with political adjectives entirely.