Large Government Jesus - Small Government Jesus

I recently read an article, Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus, from Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology, Pitzer College in Claremont, CA.

I disagree with the author on many levels although his general point is right.  I agree that Christians often neglect the social issues that were a concern of Jesus.  I disagree when the author seems to replace the Republican Jesus with a Democratic Jesus.  

Zuckerman brought up the issue of gun control.  Biblically, there is no passage that stands up for or against gun regulation.  Now, we might be able to make good arguments against guns, but I have often said the the issue is more of a city versus rural issue.  Out here in the country, hunting is fairly common.  Killing a stray fox is sometimes a necessity.  Personally, I don't own a gun, but I have friends who would be more than willing to take care of a stray pest in my yard if the need arises.  In the city, the issue is much more extreme.  There really is no need for a gun except for shooting other people and defending one's self from corrupt government or crazy people. 

The author also deals with the idea that rich people are hated in Scripture.  They are not.  The author references, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" [Matt 19:24 (ESV)].  Zuckerman fails to do the passage justice in its context.  Right after that passage referenced, Jesus taught, "When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'" [Matt 19:25-26 (ESV)].  It is impossible for a rich person to enter into the kingdom but what is impossible for man is possible with God.  It is not wrong to be rich; it's wrong to be rich while not being generous.  The rich need Jesus just as much as the poor to be right with God.  It might be a common misconception that one being wealthy means that they are right with God.  Jesus is denying that thought while providing hope for the wealthy at the same time.

Jesus did not preach socialism, but he did preach generosity.  The early church modeled a voluntary communal system, but it was never mandated although it is mandated that we are to help a brother or sister in need.  If we don't, then we don't love God (1 John 3:17).

The author confused being a follower of Jesus with holding a position on what sort of government we should have.  Jesus never addressed that issue.  Whether the government takes a more active social role, which I am fine with and often encourage. Or whether an individual is against large government, it does not make one more or less of a follower of Jesus.  We can be either big government or a small government Christians.  Both sides seem to make the mistake that their side is the only side that Jesus would be on.  My thought is that Jesus would not be on either side but remain a prophet proclaiming the call to love others as we love ourselves to both.  A person could be faithful to Jesus, against big government, and be passionate about loving the poor outside of the government.  Unfortunately, we get confused by the heartless conservatives who do not care for the poor, claim to follow Jesus, yet are not in step with his teachings.  While on the opposite side, we can see people who love the poor but refuse to acknowledge Jesus.

But Zuckerman is right in saying that being a follower of Jesus is much more important being saved from hell.  We follow Jesus, not for fire insurance, but because we really believe that Jesus is the best life to live.  Too often we get confused in thinking that following Jesus is all about getting to heaven.  It isn’t.  That is the frosting on the cake.  Following Jesus is about transforming this world.  In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Your will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven.”    

And Zuckerman's last sentence is right on.
"Of course, conservative Americans have every right to support corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, and the death penalty, and to oppose welfare, food stamps, health care for those in need, etc. -- it is just strange and contradictory when they claim these positions as somehow "Christian." They aren't."
Opposing corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, the death penalty, welfare, food stamps, and health care does not require a person to take the large government position that the author seems to insinuate that it must.  (Except for the opposing the death penalty.  That one is inherently governmental and political in nature. Ironically, it's smaller government)  You can be a socially-conscious, small government follower of Jesus, but if you say that the government shouldn't be doing certain things to bring about social justice, you must be leading the charge in equipping and empowering the church to take up the slack.  You should be providing free medical clinics, food distribution, housing the homeless and training them, promoting peace, and preach out against the unfair profits on the backs of workers.  All this can be done outside of the government or within the government, but it needs to be done by follower of Jesus. 

The author made the mistake of linking achieving social justice within a large government to the teachings of Jesus. The real argument that Zuckerman needed to make is that social justice can only be achieved through the government.  I don't know if that point can be made.  Zuckerman did not even try.  The whole article was written under the false assumption that that point is already commonly held.  He must not have any small government Christian friends who are bringing justice about in their world.