Is Jesus Political?
Keith Simon: Are you tired of tribalism?
Speaker 2: I think a lot of what the left supports is satanic.
Speaker 3: The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.
Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?
Donald Trump: If they don't like it here, they can leave.
Speaker 6: You could put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
Keith Simon: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?
Speaker 7: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican party? And the answer is absolutely not.
Speaker 8: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote democratic.
Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.
Keith Simon: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.
Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.
Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon, and we choose truth over tribe.
Patrick Miller: Do you? Big day in the Miller household, we took my daughter to kindergarten, oldest child, off to school.
Keith Simon: Tears?
Patrick Miller: No, no tears today. I will confess I cried a little bit on Monday when we did the little visit- the- school day thing so she could see her classroom.
Keith Simon: You kind of realized that she was going to be leaving. It's often hard for the first kid to leave home and go to kindergarten.
Patrick Miller: But honestly, what happened was we bumped into the gym teacher, who I didn't know. This is a Christian school, just to give a little bit of context because normally teachers don't walk up and start praying with you, which is exactly what this gym teacher did. She walked up to us. She saw that my wife had an injury and starts praying with us. While she's praying, I start crying.
Keith Simon: Wow.
Patrick Miller: Yeah.
Keith Simon: So you were that family in need that teachers prayed for later in the day," That family, man, they need help, prayers."
Patrick Miller: No truer words have been spoken right now.
Keith Simon: So if your daughter goes to a Christian school, my guess is this is a patriotic Christian school.
Patrick Miller: They tend to be.
Keith Simon: So my hunch is that they regularly say the Pledge of Allegiance.
Patrick Miller: They do every day.
Keith Simon: And given your perspective on that-
Patrick Miller: Compunctions.
Keith Simon: ...are you okay with your daughter saying the Pledge of Allegiance?
Patrick Miller: Okay. So Keith is bringing this up. Just in case you don't know, I personally do not pledge allegiance. I've had some awkward scenarios in my life where there have been public pledges, and I have not. For example, once I was speaking at a Rotary Club event. I didn't know that they pledge allegiance ahead of time. So here I am, the speaker. Everybody's pledging, and I just stood up and kind of tried to politely put my hands behind my arms and just prayed, Please, no one notice the fact that I'm not doing it right now."
Keith Simon: Okay. So just to be clear, you refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America because you're a communist. Is that right?
Patrick Miller: No, that's not right at all. Look, I would say I love America. I'm not afraid to say that statement. I really do love my country. However, I believe that when I pledge allegiance to a flag, I'm giving the flag and my country something that belongs only to Jesus.
Keith Simon: So it's kind of a priority thing, that you feel like you are committing idolatry if you pledge allegiance to the flag.
Patrick Miller: I have this deep discomfort about putting my hand on my heart and saying that I'm giving my allegiance to something that's not Jesus. I don't know. I can't explain it. By the way, I actually posted about this on Twitter and asked for people's opinions on it, and I had great Christians on both sides saying," Yeah, I have no problem pledging allegiance." Others saying," No, we shouldn't give our allegiance to a state." In fact, one of them was a vet of the Afghanistan and Iraq War. So Christians will fall on different sides of this particular issue.
Keith Simon: You bring up that he was a veteran because...
Patrick Miller: Well, I just thought it was interesting. Someone might expect that a vet, someone who went overseas to potentially fight and die for their country, would be a major advocate and say," Yes, you must pledge allegiance." But here he is saying," No, I actually don't think you should."
Keith Simon: So the point isn't that you don't care about the country or love the country.
Patrick Miller: Exactly.
Keith Simon: You can even go serve in a war to die for your country and you still might think," I shouldn't give my loyalty to my country over loyalty to Jesus." Now, by the way, people, you can like me out there. I do say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. I have no problem with that. I've never really thought that much about it, but-
Patrick Miller: That's the key. Don't think.
Keith Simon: ...my kid doesn't go to a Christian nationalist school either.
Patrick Miller: Okay. That's fine.
Keith Simon: We're just public school kids, not private school.
Patrick Miller: On today's episode, we are talking about the interface of religion and politics. In fact, the other day, I got into a debate, some might call it an argument with a good friend who said," I don't know why you're doing a podcast like this. Following Jesus is a spiritual matter. It's about saving souls. It's about helping people become more holy, walk faithfully with God, transforming hearts. Now you're bringing something that's in the background, politics, that Jesus doesn't really care that much about, and you're bringing it into the foreground. You're making it the main thing, and that's a mistake."
Keith Simon: Well, I don't think your friend would be the only one making that point. I mean if you just think how you were raised as a kid, you were raised to not talk about certain things with company that you didn't know very well. At Thanksgiving dinner, you don't go and talk about religion and politics and sex and money and all that kind of stuff.
Patrick Miller: Daniel, did your family talk about fun stuff?
Daniel: Well, I mean we would keep it pretty PC, but I was going to say that sounds just like a boring conversation at the dinner table.
Patrick Miller: I agree.
Daniel: If you're not talking about sex, politics, money-
Patrick Miller: What do you do?
Daniel: ...what are you talking about?
Patrick Miller: What else is there? I'm with you. My family, we got into lots of political debates because my parents were on two different sides of the political aisle. The funny thing is I actually used to be very much so in the Jesus is just spiritual, Jesus only cares about spiritual matters camp until I went to seminary. I was lucky enough to have a mentor who is Black. I was talking to him about this exact topic. He goes," Well, that's really cute that you think Jesus only cares about those things. But the reason you think that is because you can afford to think that." He goes," You've never been pulled over for driving while Black." Now, I didn't quite know what that was. He goes," Well, here's the deal. You know me. I like driving nice cars. And when police officers see me, a Black man driving a nice car, they will pull me over for no reason."
Keith Simon: And this guy's an Army chaplain.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. He always got out really easy. He'd show them his Army ID, and they'd say," Thanks for serving. Sorry about that. See you later." But he was just making the point that, no, I think Jesus's concerns are more broad than just your heart.
Keith Simon: Yeah. It's easy, I guess, if you're a white evangelical or maybe of just certain backgrounds. Maybe we shouldn't make it all about race or wealth or class. But it's easy if things have gone relatively well for you and you're pretty independent to say that religion and politics should be separate. But different people, maybe of different races or classes, they live in different places and they are more comfortable marrying religion and politics because there's a sense in which they need the government to enact justice for them.
Patrick Miller: You're making me think about the critiques of Martin Luther King from people like Jerry Falwell, who said," You shouldn't be out there marching. Your job is to save souls as a pastor, so don't mix these things up."
Keith Simon: Yeah. I think they said that laws don't change people's hearts, and that's what we need to end racism is heart change. If I remember it right, Dr. King said something like," You're exactly right. Laws don't change people's hearts, but they can keep them from lynching me. That's a pretty good place to start."
Patrick Miller: I call that a slam dunk. I think he won that particular argument. I think maybe even more importantly is a basic question. Does Jesus talk about politics? Does Jesus have a politic? Did He care about only the human heart and spiritual matters? Or did He have concerns which expanded outside of that? The more I've read my Bible, the more I've studied Jesus, the more I've come to the conclusion that the answer to that question is yes.
Keith Simon: Last fall, right before the presidential election, Christians were asking WWJV, who would Jesus vote for?
Patrick Miller: So like the bracelet, WWJD, what would Jesus do?
Keith Simon: Yeah. They wanted to know if Jesus had a vote, who would He cast it for?
Patrick Miller: Just out of curiosity, anybody here wear one of those bracelets? Keith?
Keith Simon: Heck no. I didn't grow up in a Christian home. I wasn't wearing one of those.
Patrick Miller: Daniel? Be honest.
Daniel: I definitely had one.
Keith Simon: You did?
Daniel: But have you guys heard about the new one?
Keith Simon: No.
Daniel: V trendy right now. He would love first, HWLF. They wear both of them. It's a very trendy thing in the college world.
Keith Simon: I haven't seen it around at all. But you can tell by Daniel's stories that he grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school and-
Daniel: And had all the bracelets.
Keith Simon: ...probably said the Pledge of Allegiance over and over. You'd get suspended from that school.
Daniel: Oh yeah, expelled.
Keith Simon: Expelled?
Patrick Miller: Wow. Profound,
Keith Simon: Dozens asked America to be their Lord and Savior at Daniel's church.
Patrick Miller: Wow. That is brutal, man. No, see, this last fall people were asking," Who would Jesus vote for?" So Keith and I, we actually led a class that was called Who Would Jesus Vote For. I thought about this question. Maybe some people would say He's going to vote Democratic or Republican. Maybe others would say Jesus would vote for Himself. But the truth is Jesus can't vote. That's the answer to the question.
Keith Simon: Because why?
Patrick Miller: He's not a US citizen. He doesn't meet the legal requirements and according to Romans 13.
Keith Simon: You got to follow the law, baby.
Patrick Miller: You got to follow the law.
Keith Simon: So if Jesus had been voted, it would have been illegal, like trying to steal an election or something like that, vote packing.
Patrick Miller: Something like that. It would have been vote packing.
Keith Simon: Even if Jesus could have voted, He wouldn't have voted for Himself. I mean that would have been an incredible demotion. You go from king of the universe to president of one nation with a four- year term.
Patrick Miller: Throne of heaven to the Oval Office.
Keith Simon: Yeah. I mean that might be a promotion for you and me, but it would be a big demotion for Jesus.
Patrick Miller: Absolutely. One reason I've become increasingly convinced that Jesus does have a politic is actually around this idea of heaven. Now, for a lot of evangelicals, when they hear the term heaven, really, Christians in general, what gets queued up in their minds are visions of the afterlife. So if you read a passage in the Bible and it says something about God establishing His throne in heaven, what we hear is, oh, this is talking about the place I go when I die. The reality is when the Bible talks about heaven, that's not what it's talking about. Heaven, from a biblical perspective, isn't the place of the afterlife. Heaven, from a biblical perspective, is the place of God's throne. It's the place where God rules, where God reigns. It's His command center.
Keith Simon: So let's just put some Bible verses to what you just said. Psalm 2: 4 says that," God is the one who is enthroned in heaven." In other words, He sits on His throne where? In heaven, because that's the place that He rules from.
Patrick Miller: In the ancient world, a throne was the place where the politics happened. That's where you have your court. That's where you have decisions that are being made about both domestic and international policies. Again, the throne was the Oval Office. Every time you read throne in the Bible, it should be, Jesus' Oval Office is in heaven.
Keith Simon: Yeah. We have a Congress, a judicial branch, an executive branch, but all of those are wrapped up in the throne in the ancient world, or in any world that there's a monarchy who rules the nation.
Patrick Miller: So in other passages, the Lord has established His throne, His Oval Office, in heaven and His kingdom rules over all. If Jesus isn't political, that's a nonsensical statement. His kingdom is ruling over all. Well, that's a politic that has something to do with how He engages with other nations.
Keith Simon: So when Jesus presents Himself and His ministry, think about how He presents Himself and what title He takes on. Because I think when we hear His titles, we think of them as religious or spiritual, but if you lived in the first century, you wouldn't have heard it the same way.
Patrick Miller: So one example, Son of God, I was always taught that Son of God was a way of saying that Jesus is God. But is that how people in the ancient world would have heard it?
Keith Simon: No, not at all. The son of God was the Roman emperor. Specifically, Augustus, who's the Roman emperor, declared his kind of adopted father, Julius Caesar, to be God after his death.
Patrick Miller: So that he could be called the son of God?
Keith Simon: Exactly.
Patrick Miller: Smart.
Keith Simon: In fact, when we see Roman coins with Augustus' picture on it, he's called the son of God. So now when Jesus comes and He takes that title, do you see what the people in the first century are hearing? They're hearing that Jesus is taking on the name, the title, the authority of the Roman emperor, the king of the known world.
Patrick Miller: It's not just Son of God, Jesus calls Himself Savior. He calls Himself Lord, the bringer of peace. His birth is announced as a gospel, as good news. And again, if you know anything about Roman culture, these were all titles and terms that were used to talk about Caesar. Caesar was called the savior. He was called the lord. He was called the bringer of peace. There's a inscription that was actually found that was made in Priene. It says that Caesar's birth is the gospel. It's the good news that he was bringing peace to all humanity. When you realize that when Luke starts calling Jesus all of those things and describing His birth at that time, this is a radically political statement.
Keith Simon: So in Rome, the good news was that Augustus had come and he was going to bring the Pax Romana or the Roman peace to the whole world. Now here comes the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is that the true king of the universe is come to bring real universal lasting peace. And then think about Jesus' death. After He's nailed to the cross, they put on that cross the title, King of the Jews.
Patrick Miller: Which was His sentence, that's what He was convicted of.
Keith Simon: So it's pretty clear what they were crucifying Him for. They weren't crucifying Him because He was this guy who went around and said," Love your neighbor." They were crucifying him because He claimed to be a king, and that kingship of Jesus was a threat to Rome.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. He was crucified for treason. He wasn't crucified for saving sinners. Now, His crucifixion does, by the way, save sinners, but that's not why He was killed. It's also not why the early Christians were martyred one after another. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3: 20 that," We are citizens of heaven." Again, that's a treasonous statement if you are a citizen of Rome, Paul was a citizen of Rome.
Keith Simon: Let's just go back for just a second. Think also of Herod, King Herod. When the magi come, they've heard about the birth of this new king and Herod freaks out and tells them to go worship the king, but then come back and tell him where he is. Why does Herod freak out? Well, it's because he thinks he's the king of that area. He's ruling that area. And now he's being told that there is a new king and he wants to eradicate that king, which is why he sends his people to go kill all the babies, because he's trying to eradicate the king.
Patrick Miller: So Jesus comes on Earth and He announces Himself as a rival to Caesar. That's political. His followers then follow that up by saying," And by the way, we aren't citizens of Rome. We're citizens of heaven. We're citizens of the place where Jesus' Oval Office, His throne is. That's what determines our politic. That's what determines how we live." And again, this is why they are executed. All this fits, by the way, into the bigger picture of the Bible and how the Bible talks about world powers, which makes me think about the Book of Daniel, a book, which talks a lot about the empire. So in Daniel chapter 7, he has a vision of these monsters. There's all these crazy beasts. They're coming up out of the water. one is devouring the next, just devouring the next is devouring the next. He goes on to reveal that each of these violent monsters is a different empire. You've got the empire of Persia and then the empire of the Greeks and the empire of the Romans. At the end of all of those empires, something new shows up, except it's not an animal. It's a person. It's a human. This human conquers all of the animals, and that human calls Himself the Son of Man.
Keith Simon: So the point Daniel is making is that all of these empires come and go. They look fierce. They look like they're going to last forever. They have so much power, so much glory, but they eventually crumble. They crumble in the presence of the one who is the true king, whose kingdom will never end. That while we look at our world and see it ruled by human empires, the reality of now and fully later is that Jesus' empire is the one that will last.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. Jesus called Himself, the Son of Man. In fact, it was His favorite title for Himself. He's clearly going back to Daniel 7. So if you want to say Jesus isn't political, you've got a major problem because the titles He picked for Himself, not just in terms of Roman culture, but also in terms of the story of the Bible, all suggests that He saw Himself as the one who is coming to conquer and end the reign of human powers. That is an incredibly political idea.
Keith Simon: Now, I can imagine that some of you are uncomfortable because when you hear us talk about Jesus being political, what you're hearing is not what we're saying. But what you're hearing is that Jesus is partisan. He's a Republican. He's a Democrat. He's a libertarian, that Jesus supports a particular party platform or a political candidate. That's not what we're saying.
Patrick Miller: In fact, I've known a lot of Christians who have a Democratic Jesus, other Christians who have a Republican Jesus.
Keith Simon: What about therapy Jesus?
Patrick Miller: There's therapy Jesus.
Keith Simon: Platitude Jesus, Starbucks Jesus.
Patrick Miller: There's dinosaur Jesus. There's one where He's riding on a dinosaur.
Keith Simon: Jesus is your buddy. Jesus is your homeboy.
Patrick Miller: But that's not what we're trying to do right now. We are not trying to present Democratic Jesus or Republican Jesus, because Jesus isn't partisan. At least the real Jesus of the Bible, He's not partisan. He is political.
Keith Simon: So does Jesus have a political party right now in 2021 in the United States of America? Well, of course not. No, absolutely not. But He does have a politic. Now, maybe we're using that word in a way that you're unfamiliar with.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. I mean I've said the word politic about two dozen times. I'm sure someone wonders what,"What in the world is a politic?
Keith Simon: So maybe it's time to define it. There's a guy named Lee Camp, who wrote a book called Scandalous Witness. Just for fun, let me tell you that I was reading this book about a year ago and I'm halfway through it, maybe not even that far. I'm on my elliptical early in the morning reading and I stop and I text Patrick at 5: 30 in the morning. I said," I just found your new favorite book of 2020."
Patrick Miller: It turns out I think he nailed it.
Keith Simon: I think I was right.
Patrick Miller: I read it several times in 2020.
Keith Simon: I bet you have. It's not very long.
Patrick Miller: No, it's easy to reread.
Keith Simon: But Lee Camp defines what a politic is. So let me just read this paragraph.
Patrick Miller: And just ask yourself this question as Keith is reading, does Jesus talk about this kind of stuff?
Keith Simon: He says," A politic is an all- encompassing manner of communal life that grapples with all the questions the classical art of politics has always asked." Now he's going to list some of these questions. How do we live together?
Patrick Miller: Jesus talked about that one.
Keith Simon: How do we deal with offenses? How do we deal with money? How do we deal with enemies and violence?
Patrick Miller: Definitely something Jesus never talks about.
Keith Simon: How do we arrange a marriage and families and social structures? How is authority mediated, employed, ordered? How do we rightfully order passions and appetites and much more besides? But most especially add these. Where is human history headed? What does it mean to be human? What does it look like to live in a rightly ordered human community that engenders flourishing justice and the peace of God?
Patrick Miller: So every political party has answers to those questions. Every nation state has answers to those questions. Jesus has answers to those questions. That's what we mean when we say that Jesus is political, not partisan. He has His own answers. He doesn't need to ask Joe Biden or Donald Trump or anybody else to get His opinion on these issues. He doesn't need to listen to Fox or CNN. Jesus has the answers. That's His politic.
Keith Simon: So the question is, how do we give our loyalty to Jesus? Remember that's where we started this whole conversation about, can we pledge allegiance to the flag or not? The real question there is who gets our ultimate loyalty, Jesus or our country? Of course, as Christians, we want to say Jesus. But now we're still citizens of this country. Now you got to figure out how do we operate as Christians to bring God's kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven, which is what Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6.
Patrick Miller: I think if you're personally partisan, you have to ask yourself the question, what comes first in my heart? Is it going to be my political party, my political party's agenda? Or is it going to be Jesus' political agenda? One of the best examples I've seen of this in recent history was a guy named Tim Farron. Keith, maybe you can introduce who he is.
Keith Simon: Tim Farron was a British politician. He had risen to the top of his party, the party leader of the Liberal Democrats. Now, you can't always make a one- for- one correspondence between English politics and political parties and American political parties. But nonetheless, Tim Farron was the leader of this party and it was more left, more progressive.
Patrick Miller: It was a very progressive party.
Keith Simon: Especially on social issues. So Tim Farron is a man of deep Christian conviction who's trying to lead a political party that is pro- choice, for same- sex marriage, and is more liberal and progressive on other social issues.
Patrick Miller: His personal position, I believe, is that he was pro- life and he was not personally for same- sex marriage, but he didn't necessarily bring that... He was happy to work with the party and go the other direction.
Keith Simon: So we can all have some sort of sympathy to him, because to be involved in politics, whether it's in England or the United States-
Patrick Miller: You have to compromise.
Keith Simon: ...is to have to figure out how do I keep my convictions, knowing that everybody else in my party doesn't necessarily share those convictions? So he started getting a lot of negative pushback from people in his party who held the progressive policy positions, and they demanded that he hold them, too.
Patrick Miller: Personally.
Keith Simon: Not just that he lead the party through it, but that he personally hold those convictions. He was in this tough spot. How do I lead a party from my Christian convictions when the party doesn't align with my own personal beliefs?
Patrick Miller: So he ends up choosing to resign. His speech, you can listen to the whole thing on YouTube. It's actually great. But there's one part at the very end that I find deeply moving. So let's listen to that.
Tim Farron: You see, I joined our party when I was 16 years of age. It is in my blood. I love our history, our people, our values. I love my party. Imagine how proud I am to lead my party, and then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honor. In the words of Isaac Watts, it would have to be something so amazing, so divine, it demands my heart, my life, my all. Thank you.
Keith Simon: Yeah. So the point to take away here is that Tim Farron put his loyalty to Jesus above his political party. Now, when we think about Jesus' politics, what we want to remember is that they're not left. They're not right, and they're not religious.
Patrick Miller: That's exactly right. When we think about Jesus' politic, it doesn't neatly fit onto the left or into the right, and it's not religious. Now, I think we should take each one of those backwards. Let's start with what it means that Jesus' politic is not religious. This kind of goes back to where we start with my argument with my friend, that there's a lot of people who think that you have your spirituality in one little compartment and you have your politics in a different compartment. An interesting illustration of that was John F. Kennedy. He was the first Catholic president to be elected. There were these questions circling him of if he became president would the Pope control him?
Keith Simon: Yeah. In the run-up to the 1960 election where he ran against Nixon, people were afraid that if Kennedy was elected, that the Pope would really be the president of the United States and that JFK would simply be his puppet.
Patrick Miller: So to help assuage Protestant Americans, he goes in front of a very large group of Baptist pastors and he gives a speech about this topic. Catch what he says. He says," Whatever issue may come before me as president, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subject, I will make my decision without regard to religious pressures, or dictates."
Keith Simon: That probably won him a lot of Baptist votes, right? That's what they wanted to hear. But I take it that you're saying that it's not necessarily the Christian way to think about it.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. Well, I mean think about what he's communicating. He's saying," My Christian faith is private. It's a private, personal matter about my maybe personal morals and how I run my own family, but it has nothing to do with the public sphere. I won't bring that into my politics."
Keith Simon: There's a lot of cultural pressure on Christians to keep their faith out of the public square. In other words, they don't care if you're a Christian in your home or your private life, what they care about is if you try to bring that faith into discussion about cultural or political ideas. So there's a New York Times columnist. I think he's a former columnist now. He's gone on to Duke University to be a professor, if I got it right. His name's Frank Bruni. He's an openly gay columnist of The New York Times. I loved to read him. I thought he was a great writer. I remember when he was writing in 2015 on the Obergefell decision. Leading up to that court case, he said this in his column. He said," I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish in their pews, homes, and hearts." So you see how he wants you to keep your faith private, but don't bring it into the public discussion. I don't think Jesus goes for that.
Patrick Miller: And unfortunately, there's plenty of Christians who would happily agree with Frank Bruni on this point. I see two big problems with this. The first one is if Jesus isn't shaping your politics, who does?
Keith Simon: Somebody is.
Patrick Miller: Something's going to fill the void. It might be Fox. It might be CNN. It might be your favorite politician, but you're not going to become apolitical.
Keith Simon: Right. Everybody brings their worldview into a political discussion. What they're saying is," We're going to bring our worldview in, but you people of faith, you keep it out.
Patrick Miller: If you're willing to trust Jesus on the most significant things... I'll trust you with my salvation, with my life, with my eternal security, but politics, I think there might be some people who know a bit more than you on this one.
Keith Simon: I'll trust you with my eternal life, but not my daily life.
Patrick Miller: I think when we start thinking about it that way, we realize how absurd it is. Jesus is the wisest human to ever live. He's the best king to ever reign. If there's anybody to ask political questions to, it's got to be Jesus.
Keith Simon: And the second problem is that when you read the gospels, you encounter a Jesus who makes claims about all of life, not just the spiritual area of your life.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. When He starts His ministry, we read about it in Luke 4. He's in Nazareth, His hometown. I guess in His hometown, He was the most popular Torah reader. They brought out some scrolls. This one's from the Book of Isaiah. He begins to read this passage from Isaiah, where He says," I am the fulfillment of these things."
Keith Simon: If I understand it right, He picked this passage to read, correct?
Patrick Miller: Yes. He selected it. It says they gave Him the scroll. He opens it up. He finds the place, and He says," This thing that Isaiah talked about, it's happening now in your presence."
Keith Simon: He's making a point.
Patrick Miller: Ask yourself the question, is Jesus talking about spiritual or material things? Let's go, Luke 4: 18," The Spirit of the Lord is on me because He had anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor." Spiritual or material? Well, He didn't say the poor in spirit. He says that in other places. But here, He just says," I'm giving good news to economically impoverished people." Okay. Let's keep going." He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners." Just prisoners to their sin or literal prisoners? Again, let's pause here. In Luke's second edition, he has lots of stories about literal prisoners being set free.
Keith Simon: Luke's second edition?
Patrick Miller: Acts.
Keith Simon: Oh okay.
Patrick Miller: His second book. His follow- up, Luke II, Revenge of the Luke.
Keith Simon: What edition do I have in my Bible? Is at the first, the second?
Patrick Miller: The second book. That's good. Yeah, the second edition of Luke. I don't know if you've heard it.
Keith Simon: You mean the sequel?
Patrick Miller: The sequel. Yeah. Thank you.
Keith Simon: Okay. That makes more sense, the sequel.
Patrick Miller: Not his second edition, you're right. Okay. Let's keep going. But just to note what Jesus said, He is proclaiming freedom for prisoners, which literally happens later on in the story, and recovery of sight for the blind. Did He say people who are spiritually blind or blinded by their sin? Well, no. I do think Jesus deals with that, but what does Jesus do in His ministry? He goes around and He finds real- life blind people, and guess what? He gives them sight again. He says," To set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." That last phrase is taken from Leviticus, and it talks about this time called the Jubilee when people will be set free from their deaths. So again, it has this economic dimension to it. So it's hard to say if Jesus is going to start His ministry reading this passage, saying it's coming true. It's hard to walk away and say He only cares about spiritual things.
Keith Simon: Yeah. I think depending on the tradition you've come from, this might be blowing your mind that Jesus isn't just concerned about attending church or a Bible study or memorizing verses. He's concerned about your whole life. Just to pick up on the theme that Patrick's talking about in the Book of Luke, the same author writes the Book of Acts. What you find is that where the gospel goes and where the church goes, it attacks not only spiritual problems, but also physical, real world problems. For example, the early church shares resources, food and other financial resources to take care of the needs of real people.
Patrick Miller: You might call it communitarianism.
Keith Simon: But not communism, Patrick.
Patrick Miller: It's not communism because it's not run by the state.
Keith Simon: But it's community- oriented.
Patrick Miller: It is a community- oriented generosity.
Keith Simon: They do the same thing when it comes to the famine in Jerusalem. Paul goes around and he collects money to take care of the people who are experiencing the famine. Or you see, like Patrick already alluded to, that there are many prisoners who are set free. So what you're seeing is the prophecy about Jesus coming true in real time. It is both spiritual and physical.
Patrick Miller: We want to be clear. We're saying both. We're not saying it doesn't matter if you read your Bible. I mean we've got a whole podcast called 10- Minute Bible Talks where we help people read their Bibles.
Keith Simon: We're pro- Bible, right?
Patrick Miller: Yeah. We're for the Bible. We're for your heart being transformed. We're for personal holiness. We just don't want to stop there. We want the whole Jesus, not just the little part of Jesus. Maybe the last illustration of this point is the prayer that Jesus taught us all to pray. Jesus taught us to pray, your kingdom come on Earth as in heaven. He didn't teach us to pray, your kingdom come when I die and go to heaven. So Jesus has a politic here. He wants His kingdom to come to Earth. He wants the politic of heaven to be alive on Earth.
Keith Simon: Yeah. So it completely blows your mind to think that God's kingdom is going to come on Earth instead of us leaving Earth and going up somehow in the sky to God's kingdom. But the main takeaway here is that Jesus is politic is not religious. It's not only concerned about the spiritual area of your life. It's concerned about all of life.
Patrick Miller: So if Jesus' politic isn't religious, it's not just Jesus concerned about spiritual things. Maybe the next temptation is to think that His politic is a politic of the right. Because in America at least, in our modern moment, religion and the right, they've had a little merger.
Keith Simon: Well, there's a lot of people in Jesus' day who wanted Him to restore Israel, that they were looking for a Make Israel Great Again. I mean they were, that Rome had come in and Rome had oppressed them. They'd had a number of oppressors throughout the years, and what they were hoping is that Jesus was going to come sit on the throne in Jerusalem, appoint the disciples to important roles, and reign and rule Jerusalem, overthrowing the Roman overlords.
Patrick Miller: So there was a temptation in Jesus' day to do two things at once, to seek after power so that you could make your nation the best. You could make your nation the greatest. I think we see that exact same temptation happening on the right.
Keith Simon: So just as Christians today are tempted with power, including political power, so Jesus was offered the same political power if He would just worship Satan. Here's how it plays out in Matthew 4: 8. This is in the desert where Satan is tempting Him." Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you, he said, if you'll bow down and worship me." Now, you hear the temptation. You can have power. You can bypass the cross and go right straight to be the one who is in charge of all the kingdoms of this world. You can make Israel great again. But Jesus responds," Away from me, Satan. For it is written, worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only."
Patrick Miller: In a few weeks, I'm not quite sure how many, we'll have an interview with a guy named Greg Locke. If you don't know who Greg Locke is, that's probably not a giant deal, but a lot of people do. He's got about 2. 5 million followers online. He's become famous for being anti- vaxxer and telling people they can't come to his church if they wear masks. But part of this is also interfacing with what we're talking about, a form of Christian nationalism where he has, for example, he was there in January 6th to lead prayer events. He has this idea that God wants to, in some sense, make America a great country. When I asked him the question, why do you like Donald Trump? His answer was really straightforward. He goes," Because he gives me power. Because he's giving me a seat at the table."
Keith Simon: Power's an incredibly addictive drug, and we'll do almost anything to get more of it. That's what makes Jesus' turning down the power that Satan offered Him so remarkable.
Patrick Miller: Oh, it is remarkable. Let's assume the best in the temptation. Jesus might have thought to Himself in this moment," Well, gosh, if I got all the power, think about all the good things I could accomplish, all the wonderful things I could do." And yet, He resists it because He understands there are both right and wrong ways to get power. Unfortunately, according to Jesus, the right way to get power is dying on a cross and laying down your life. It's not compromising your ideals by, in His case, worshiping the devil or your nation or whatever else might come before God.
Keith Simon: So Andrew Sullivan is a heterodox thinker who has been let go by major media corporations and now has his own Substack that is behind a paywall. Before he went behind the paywall, Andrew Sullivan wrote an article for New York Magazine called America's New Religions, where he talks about how politics is the new Religion. in that article, he takes to task both the right and the left. Now in a moment, we're going to get to the left but, first, let's start with how he takes the right to task, especially, and how they crave power.
Patrick Miller: Maybe we'll queue up some fun music for this one to capture the spirit of the moment.
Daniel: Oh, I've got it.
Patrick Miller: Okay. Here we go. Yes. Many evangelicals are among the holiest and most quietly devoted people out there.
Keith Simon: That's me. Maybe not.
Patrick Miller: Some have bravely resisted the cult, but their leaders have tribalized a religion explicitly built by Jesus as anti- tribal. They have turned to idols, including their blasphemous belief in America as God's chosen country. They have embraced wealth and nationalism as core goods, two ideas that are utterly anathema to Christ. They are indifferent to the destruction of the creation they say they believe God made. Because their faith is unmoored, but the religious impulse is strong, they seek a replacement for religion. This is why they could suddenly rally to a cult called Trump. He may be the least Christian person in America, but his persona met the religious need their own fates had ceased to provide. The terrible truth of the last three years is that the fresh appeal of a leader cult has overwhelmed the fading truths of Christianity.
Keith Simon: So you hear there's two temptations here. There's a temptation to power, and there's a temptation to nationalism, kind of American exceptionalism. America's the greatest nation on Earth. God's behind America. God promises to bless America. All that's wrapped up in what Christians on the right are often tempted to.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. We're not, by the way, saying that all Christians on the right buy into these idols. We're saying this is the temptation. This is the risk on the right is to idolize nation and to idolize power. That's problematic because Jesus chose against power, and Jesus' tribe, the people He's brought together, is people made up of every tribe, every tongue, every nation. So there is no special nation for God.
Keith Simon: To be really clear, we're not saying that you shouldn't love your country. Just like Patrick was pointing out, there is a veteran of the Afghanistan War who was willing to go risk his life for his country. He loved his country that much, but was unwilling to say the Pledge of Allegiance because he wanted to make sure his loyalties were in the right order. So that's all we're saying, love your country. Let's just make sure our loyalty is to Jesus first. It's like Russell Moore, who's a great theologian, said," We can be Americans best if we're not Americans first." In other words, put Christ first. That'll make you a better American.
Patrick Miller: So if Jesus' politic isn't religious, it's not just Jesus cares about spiritual stuff. If it's not on the right, it's not buying into the idols of power or nation. Then could it be that Jesus' politic is on the left? Let's talk about that next.
Keith Simon: So if Jesus isn't on the right, I guess that means He's on the left.
Patrick Miller: We finally narrowed it down. Figured it out, cracked the case. Okay. Let's move on. Thanks for listening.
Keith Simon: All Christians vote Democratic. Well, maybe not so much because if people on the right are tempted by power and nationalism, people on the left have their own temptations. That is that they believe that government and maybe humanity in general can create its own utopian society in the here and now.
Patrick Miller: It's almost as though we want the kingdom of God without King Jesus present.
Keith Simon: I love that. So who's going to bring in the kingdom, if not Jesus? Themselves-
Patrick Miller: The state or Jesus?
Keith Simon: ...political candidate, a cultural movement. We want the kingdom. We want all the blessings that Jesus has offered and promised, but we don't want Jesus to be the one who does it. We want to do it ourselves.
Patrick Miller: Interestingly, this was a temptation that Jesus Himself had to face. There's a story in all the gospels about Jesus feeding 5000 people miraculously. But John is the only one who tells an interesting story about what happened afterwards. It says that Jesus, this is John 6: 15." Jesus, knowing that they, the crowd, intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew to a mountain by Himself." Let me try and paint the picture in its cultural context. In that day, people went hungry all of the time and feeding people was a major political act. If you were the one who could feed someone, you were the ruler. Feeding people was utopian. And so Jesus comes along. He feeds people, and what do they say? We want to be a part of this kingdom. We want to be a place where our bellies are full. We want utopia. They come after Jesus and say," Hey, we're going to make you king. Let's start the utopia right now." And Jesus says," This isn't how it works."
Keith Simon: Can you imagine having people say that they want you to be their king, their ruler, how much we love power? You can imagine Jesus being tempted to say," Yeah, make me your king. Make me your ruler." But He knew that they didn't really want Him as king. What they really wanted was full bellies.
Daniel: But can we just pause for a second and say that it seems easy for someone to just go to the mountains. Hey, I can't deal with this situation. I'm going to go to Breckenridge, right?
Keith Simon: Are you stressed out, looking for a vacation?
Daniel: Well, I'm just saying every time I hear," Hey, let's just go off to the mountains, let's experience the peace of the mountains," I'm like," That's expensive." Just my thoughts.
Patrick Miller: I don't think Jesus was going to Breck. I think He was just-
Daniel: He wasn't skiing at Vail.
Patrick Miller: I think He was just escaping the crowd. He was escaping the crowd to make it absolutely crystal clear that He wasn't going to allow Himself to be co- opted into a social justice mission.
Keith Simon: So, remember Patrick read from the Andrew Sullivan article about politics becoming the new religion. We said he would not only take on the right, but he would also take on the left. So if you enjoyed him going after one side, well, you get it now.
Patrick Miller: It's about to burn.
Keith Simon: So here we go.
Patrick Miller: Hit it, Dan.
Keith Simon: So the young adherents of the great awokening exhibit the zeal of the great awakening. They punish heresy by banishing sinners from society or coercing them to public demonstrations of shame and provide an avenue for redemption in the form of a thorough public confession of sin. Social justice, now he has that quotes." Social justice" theory requires the admission of white privilege in ways that are strikingly like the admission of original sin. A Christian is born again. An activist gets woke to the belief in human progress unfolding through human history, itself a remnant of Christian eschatology. It adds the Lennon- esque twist of a cadre of heroes who jumpstart the revolution.
Patrick Miller: So Andrew Sullivan's point here is that the left, again, is tempted to create a utopia. But the way it creates that utopia is incredibly religious, as he points out. Instead of admitting sin, we admit privilege. Instead of being born again, you get woke. Instead of believing that God's kingdom is coming to Earth, that's Christian eschatology, the idea that there is going to be an end to this story. It says," Hey, that's going to happen now." The way it happens now is through activists and heroes who are willing to jumpstart that revolution.
Keith Simon: Today, the revolution on the left is led by a group of progressives. Well, there were progressives in the first century, too, that wanted to throw off the oppression of those in power. It sounds very familiar to the political discussion that is happening today on the left. But I think you'll be surprised by who the moral progressives were in the first century.
Patrick Miller: So the group that modern progressives are closest to is actually probably the Pharisees. Now I know that's going to shock some people. When you hear Pharisee, you probably think about conservatives, people with conservative sexual ethics, that kind of thing. But that's not the case in Jesus' day. You see, the Pharisees were, at their heart, a revolutionary movement. They wanted to throw off the yoke of Rome, and they thought the way that God's kingdom would come on Earth was by living out highly moral, highly just lives. That's the way the revolution happens. So this meant that they enforced strict morals, which included public shaming and public confessions of sin.
Daniel: Sound like anyone?
Patrick Miller: It included, on top of that, exclusion of people who did not abide by their moral norms, again, very similar to modern progressives. It included public demonstrations in favor of their political agenda. They thought by living these kinds of lives, that was going to be the thing that caused the revolution. I think we're seeing the exact same thing happened with progressives.
Keith Simon: Just add to that list that the Pharisees were big on public shaming. Think of the woman who's getting ready to be stoned for adultery. That's the same kind of public shaming that we see today on social media or people being run out of their jobs because they've said the wrong thing.
Patrick Miller: Or when you look at diversity trainings that are being forced in HR departments, which is essentially saying," You have to change the way you think, because until everybody thinks the'right way,' the revolution can't start. We can't transform." Again, Pharisees had an entire education system built around changing how people thought and acted morally. They were vigorous about enforcing their morals against the people who disagreed.
Keith Simon: Now, just to be fair, there have been times where conservatives in our country have taken on the role of the Pharisees and tried to enact legislation or tried to force people into acting a certain way-
Patrick Miller: Absolutely.
Keith Simon: ...thinking that by acting according to a moral code, God's kingdom would come. But today at this particular moment that we're speaking into, the left has a lot in common with the Pharisees.
Patrick Miller: So if Jesus' politic isn't spiritual, it's not religious. If it's not on the right, it's not tempted by power and nationalism. It's not on the left. It's not seeking to build a utopian society through moral rules, rigorously enforced. Well then, we're left with the question, what is it?
Keith Simon: All right. So Jesus' politic is not right. It's not left,, and it's not religious. Well, so where does that leave us? That's what we're going to wrestle with on Truth Over Tribe. That's what a lot of our conversations together, a lot of the people that we're bringing in to interview, those are the kind of things that we're going to discuss.
Patrick Miller: And we're not saying that we have all the answers. If we could, in one podcast, summarize Jesus politic, we will have accomplished something no one else has. I'm not very hopeful about that. But we do think that Christians should be actively dialoguing about political and ethical and cultural topics and thinking through them carefully, both in light of what Jesus says and in light of what we know to be true about the world.
Keith Simon: Yeah. So we as Christians have a responsibility to bring our faith in a winsome, loving way into the public square and bring it to bear on the conversations our culture is having. Now, think about this for a second. If we're only going to talk about Jesus paying for sin and going to heaven, I don't want to minimize that. All that's important stuff. But if we're going to have that as our primary thing we're talking about, then we're going to miss out on this large conversation that our culture is having, because they're trying to figure out how do we think about the environment and business? How do we think about racial justice? How do we deal with this virus and provide safety and yet, at the same time, allow for freedom? These are the conversations the culture is having every day, and Christians have something to say in that moment. We have something to speak into that conversation, but we're going to have to be thoughtful. We're going to have to be winsome in how we approach it, and we're going to have to be willing to be courageous to speak up in a humble, kind way.
Patrick Miller: So over the next few months, we're going to have episodes that touch on topics that maybe you're not used to hearing Christians talk about. I think this is a huge opportunity to engage in the conversation Keith just opened up. We're going to listen to voices that we agree with and voices that we disagree with. We're going to try to model what it looks like to be people who are willing to have dialogue in the public square and not just come up with the answers and offer them to everybody else.
Keith Simon: This is going to be hard for you to listen to if you're the kind of person that can't handle disagreement, gray areas. You can't handle pushback on your views. I love that kind of stuff. There's nothing better than to be shown I'm wrong, because I know I'm wrong on things. It's just I don't always know what they are. So if somebody can show me where I'm wrong, now I can leave my wrong position and embrace a right position, a true position, a more helpful position. So Patrick and I love to dialogue with people who disagree with us or just have a new perspective. So if you're willing to go along on a ride with us, if you're willing to be open- minded, if you're willing to be challenged, if you're willing to suspend judgment, to not have to be right, to not have to defend your turf or your tribe, I think you're going to love the next few months and what we have in store. But on the other hand, if you're the kind of person that's always got to be right, and everything's got to be put neatly in the box-
Patrick Miller: Just turn us off, because I don't want any hate mail.
Keith Simon: Yeah. It'd be better for you to find something else to listen to because this is going to be way, way, way too stressful for you.
Patrick Miller: So here's a closing thought. Heaven has a politic. Jesus has a politic, and we are going to be most faithful to Him when we apply His political vision to our lives, to our communities, and to our country. Now, that's not easy to do. It's not always clear what the answers are, but that's the journey we want to go on right alongside you.
Keith Simon: Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.
Patrick Miller: And make sure it's at least five stars.
Keith Simon: Stop, no. Just be honest. Reviews help other people find this.
Patrick Miller: Okay, okay. At the very least you can share today's episode. Maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain.
Keith Simon: And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter, @ truthovertribe_. We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.
Is Jesus political? Is he on the left or the right? In this week's episode, we dive deep into why or why not Jesus is political. You'll hear us define what a politic is, and then we look into the idea of Heaven and how that might help us decide on Jesus' politics. Later in the episode, we discuss temptations and how addiction to power plays a role in religion and politics. Tune in now!
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