Which Jesus Do You Believe in?

The election is almost over! (At least I hope so, since the alternative is a long drawn out legal battle over recounts, and I really don’t want us to go there again.) Anyway, an editorial on CNN caught my eye, Do You Believe in a Red State Jesus or a Blue State Jesus. It’s a fundamentally misguided article based on a flawed premise. However, it does make a point, even if it’s not the one it intended to make.

The premise of the editorial is that everyone picks and chooses which teachings of Jesus to follow, and it identifies a conservative “Red State Jesus” and a liberal “Blue State Jesus.” It certainly is true that people in our culture tend to pick and choose the biblical teachings we like, and downplay or even completely disregard others. The two presidential candidates, for example, seem to believe in radically different “Jesuses.” One appears to believe in Jesus of liberal Christianity the other the Jesus of Mormonism. The concept of competing “Jesuses” which is presented in the editorial is largely captured in the following quote:

“Jesus didn’t leave clear instructions,” says Molly Worthern, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who specializes in religious history.

“He was a man who said many things that were quite cryptic. All Christians tend to pick or chose to emphasize some of his teachings over the other.”

This editorial makes a couple of logical errors, most notably, it commits the fallacy of bifurcation. For example, it says that Jesus most be either “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” or “the champion of the poor and the oppressed.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Gospels should recognize this as a false dichotomy. The Jesus of the Bible is both. To choose one or the other is to ignore the real, historical, living Jesus and replace him with a more palatable idol of our own making.

This all reminds me of Joshua’s encounter with God before the battle of Jericho. A figure carrying a sword appears to Joshua. This text clearly presents him as a divine figure, as he later accepts Joshua’s worship. Many believe this is an appearance of the preincarnate Christ. Before finding out who he was, Joshua asked him whose side he was on, Israel or their enemy. In verse 14, he answers, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” In other words, Joshua was asking the wrong question. The question is not whether or not God is on our side, but rather weather or not we on his.

This principle applies in the election as well. God is not weighing the pros and cons of Republicans verses Democrats to decide which side he’ll support. He is where he has always been, on his own side. The choice is ours. Each of us must decide whether or not we are willing join him on his terms.

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