Many little girls and boys like to play dress-up. As a kid I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy. I had the helmet, shoulder pads, jersey and pants.
At some point, we all outgrow the childhood desire to play dress-up. Or do we? Are there some Christians today who like to dress up Jesus to fit their image?
I have witnessed the demonization of both Republicans and Democrats. One side is accused of taking the country down a dangerous road, and the other is charged with trying to keep the status quo even though the economy is in the tank. Some Christians join the political accusations and pick a side to fight against a chosen enemy. But who really is our enemy? Which side is correct? I would argue that neither has an authentic view of Jesus.
Do some Christians in the United States baptize Jesus as a capitalist Republican rather than a Jew in the first century? I grew up thinking that there was a good versus evil in politics and surely God was on my side. My Jesus wore a red tie, went to church every Sunday, and had a pro-life bumper sticker on his Lexus.
Conservative Christians contend that socialism is against the will of God. To have a socialist government would be unholy – even heretical. Jesus would want to protect my money and my freedom to do whatever I want with my resources because he is my personal savior. While that may be true that Jesus saves you as an individual, this does not mean you can adjust Jesus to save you any way that you would personally prefer.
A radical view is also true on the Democratic side. President Obama is not the one who can solve all the issues in America. Bigger government is not the answer to all our problems. To Democrats, Jesus wears blue flip-flops, hangs out in coffee shops and drives a hybrid car.
The capitalist way of life permeates our thoughts as Americans, and Christians even take the capitalist mindset into the church. The current game is my church versus the church across town. How can we get more people in here? How can our service be better than theirs? This struggle is true among ministers as well. How can I make more money than my colleagues? How can my church be the top church in fill-in-the-blank category?
When I read the scripture, I try to develop my worldview based on the text. Jesus lived in a specific context with different issues. It was a Roman world in which Jesus claimed, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Jesus lived in a different political, social, religious way that was called the “Kingdom of God” – not the kingdoms of this world.
I see a lot of Christians spending time worrying about their own kingdom and missing out on the coming/present/future Kingdom where the peace of God will transcend. Seldom do we get a true answer when we ask What Would Jesus Do. We get our own “dressed-up Jesus,” in our choice of clothing, and we find an answer that suits us.
If we took the time and effort to see the real Jesus, our world would be turned upside-down for the better. That is the kind of Christ-following of which I want to be a part. I want to be in a Christianity that does not pick a side in the political struggle but transcends the hollowness of the game of dress-up.
Paul Hood-Patterson is the ministry resident at First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Fla.