Jesus, Capitalism, and Your Vote

What do you need? I needed money. It was the story of anyone running for office in this country, and at the Federal level, this was more true than it would have been in a district, or a local election. After asking I was provided with the lists. 

Donors from across the country. The lists were broken down by concern with each person’s name, spouse, address, phone number, work number, spouses work number, net worth, average giving per election cycle, causes they given to, and amount to request when calling if you were able to get someone to pick up the phone. 

As I looked through the lists and saw that numerous people pumped millions of dollars into elections all across the country, I realized… The myth that we have created of open and free elections in this country is not a myth at all, but a lie. 

A regular part of my day is spent asking people for money as I run for office because without at least a little bit of money, it’s impossible to run.  When you begin to follow the money pushing the “leading” candidates forward in an election, you begin to understand just how broken the system is. There are thousands of people across the United States who pump millions of dollars into elections, to see not just candidates in their communities elected, but to influence elections across the country. It’s the perfect confluence of money and power with the sole purpose of maintaining the wealth of a few while keeping the many impoverished and it’s working. It’s a system that puts money before anything else, any system that does this is antithetical to the gospel of Christ. It might be a hard thing for Christians that have become wrapped up in the trappings of consumerism while chasing after wealth to understand, especially if the attainment of wealth is placed above all else. 

We live in a capitalistic society that equates the amount of money and resources one can hoard as success, and our political system is one of the drivers of our capitalism and our view of wealth as status, driving our desire to acquire more. 

1 Timothy says, “For the love of Money is the root of all evil.” Money has been the driver of our political system since its inception. Though money as a poll tax doesn’t exist today, money as an election tax certainly is a very real part of our election process, and the amount of money a candidate brings to the election process either elevates a candidate or keeps them from progressing in the political system. It’s not how the founding fathers intended it to be, a system driven by the wealthy and corporations, pushing their interests forward, and the church is playing an active role in pushing the gospel of greed forward instead of the gospel of Christ. 

For justice-seeking and believing followers of Christ I point toward the Jesus of Matthew 21:12-13, and Mark 11:15-18, where Jesus turns over the tables of money changers in the temple, and argue that we should be no less bold in our approach to dismantling unjust systems. To those that would argue that they are not political because Jesus wasn’t political, I want to remind you that Jesus was executed by the state. Jesus regularly challenged unjust systems and our work should be no different. As followers of Christ, we should be actively working to create a political system that puts people first, and this can only happen if we are running for office, and voting. 

In our attempt to maintain the status quo of the church while trying to figure out how to save “dying” congregations, it seems as though the church universal has forgotten that Jesus was more about teaching people how to love and eschewing wealth than he was upholding legalistic systems that were unjust. 

I can’t help but think that a Jesus walking the earth today would be bulldozing the mega-churches we’ve constructed, would be wagging his finger at the legalism that is driving the church forward, and would be leading the protests shouting down the religious leaders that have put party and money before people. I believe our encounter would lead us to a raging and weeping Jesus.

You can make a difference. There are candidates in all of the races that you’ll vote for in November that have proven that they can’t be brought. They have put people first in their campaigns, doing more listening than talking, and they are working to live lives in a way that emulates Jesus, seeking justice for the marginalized and the disenfranchised, living simply, while focusing on trying to create communities that are more loving and just, and in the way of Jesus. 

The Way of Jesus. The earliest followers of Jesus were called followers of the Way. When we recognize the sacredness of being followers of the way, we will be able to create the equitable and just systems we desire, and we will keep turning the tables over until this happens.

By Rev. Dr. Michelle Lewis

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