Jesus was crucified by the state, y’all.
I see and hear my fellow white American Christians celebrating the fact that they are very close to imposing their peculiar version of Christianity upon an unwilling populace, because they have “captured Congress, the Presidency, and now the Supreme Court!”
Jesus was crucified by the state.
Jesus did not attempt to overthrow the government (although he was charged with that).
Did not condemn the government for existing (he complimented the Roman soldier who behaved with respect to the law, which—when you think about the cruelty permitted by the Roman soldiers, is an awesome thing for Jesus to say).
Did not attempt to force people with the power of the sword to convert or to obey his teachings. (You might remember the 3000 on the hillside. They gathered voluntarily to listen. Some even followed through by following Him. But there was no forcible confessions of faith.)
Jesus’ entire ministry was about two things: 1. Compassionate behavior from God to the people who were lost and sick and hungry and lonely; 2. Instillation of principles to his followers to behave the same way.
His followers turned the world upside after his cruel death, believing (as I do!) in his resurrection as a sign of the truth of his words about love conquering sin.
His followers, without a brand and without government help, poured into the Roman world and by their example and with only the words of “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ is coming again” changed the hearts and then the minds of people.
No Sunday School classes. No exemption from the state regarding taxes. No attempts to use the state to force others to listen and repent.
Just words and deeds.
When the state protected the believers and their beliefs (by not openly suppressing them), the message of Jesus prospered.
When the state openly persecuted the believers and their beliefs (by arresting them, then jailing, torturing, and killing them), the message of Jesus prospered.
His message does not need the state but can accommodate it, because it is about transformed lives and informed minds.
Just showing the world through their own lives of action that Jesus was a powerful force to change the despair and pain and hopelessness of our lives. “I can be persecuted, ignored, or protected, but in all these things, Christ is supreme in my life.”
We can talk later what happened when the church finally got the state to be not only its protector but its enforcer (Hint: Constantine).
But there was literally no need by believers to force others to turn themselves to their own peculiar Christian behaviors.
People watched the behavior of Christians, saw the changed lives and hearts, and voluntarily chose to follow Jesus.
That didn’t last, because—like always—men want power, and will use anything for power. After two centuries of growth and change, the Christian church saw its savior in Constantine, who turned the state into the enforcement mechanism for Christian behavior and belief.
Followers of Jesus today in America are tempted with the same choice: let the power of Christ attract and change people as expressed by a changed heart, a changed mind, and changed behavior, or use the state to enforce peculiar Christian—and decidedly conservative white American behaviors—upon the nation?
No follower of Christ in Roman times needed to worry about the behaviors of others as a point of challenging their own beliefs. You believe in Jupiter or Astarte or Zeus? Fine. Just don’t stop others.
But white American Christians are now hoping to use the state to enforce their peculiar beliefs.
They are looking to erase the transgender.
They are looking to shame those with same-sex attraction.
They are looking to push the poor and sick away from help.
They are looking to condemn the alien and stranger.
They are looking to enrich the already rich.
They are looking to expand gun violence.
They are looking to start a war with an enemy nation that is not quite determined.
They are looking to use the state to not only embrace their peculiar Christian values, but to enforce them on others.
I am a follower of Christ, and personally have no objections to the existence and choices of others, given a few ordinary restrictions of “don’t harm me.” I might not understand or even accept other choices in that I might say “Hmm…think that through.” As long as what you do does no harm to me and others—feel free.
And if I did have objections, such as, for example, same-sex marriage is wrong in the eyes of God (a belief I do not hold, by the way), then at most I would say “I don’t think that way, and my version of God doesn’t accept that—but I will do nothing to forbid you or block you.” If I was a follower of Jesus who also thought same-sex marriage was wrong, then I would simply try to use my own example to convince you to change your mind—and when you did not, I would do nothing further. I would not force you to change, and I would not make the government condemn you.
I recognize that the state crucified Jesus, and any attempt to use that state to enforce my values and beliefs is an attempt to use that same state.
It saddens me to see Christians lusting after the power to finally shut down “those people” who don’t act like them.
A true follower of Christ might be grieved at the behavior of others, and grateful for the state when it acts to protect people from violence.
But a true follower of Christ is not going to take their own brand of belief, turn it into a political philosophy, and then attempt to subvert the state to enforce that philosophy.
Christ didn’t do that.
The early followers of Christ didn’t do that.
And followers of Christ today should not.