Jesus' Social Gospel
We who are Christians must look at the world, including the life of our nation, through the eyes of faith. As followers of Jesus we must ask the question: how does Jesus view the world and how should that influence me?
Quite often through the centuries, Christians have domesticated Jesus, using him to bless their many campaigns and actions. Constantine, we're told, marched to victory under the sign of the cross. As a result the religion of Jesus became the religion of Caesar.
As I was pondering these questions -- about faith and life, I did a trip through a couple of my historical resources. In the book Sources of Christian Theology in America, edited by Mark Toulouse and James Duke (Abingdon, 1999), there is a selection from Walter Rauschenbusch's Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907). I think this paragraph from this father of the Social Gospel is worth considering.
There was a revolutionary consciousness in Jesus; not, of course, in the common use of the word "revolutionary," which connects it with violence and bloodshed. But Jesus knew that he had come to kindle a fire on earth. Much as he loved peace, he knew that the actual result of his work would not be peace but the sword. His mother in her song had recognized in her own experience the settled custom of God to "put down the proud and exalt them of low degree," to "fill the hungry with good things and to send the rich empty away." King Robert of Sicily recognized the revolutionary ring in those phrases, and thought it well that the Magnificat be sung only in Latin. The son of Mary expected a great reversal of values. The first would be last and the last would be first. He saw that what was exalted among man was an abomination before God, and therefore these exalted things had no glamour for his eye. This revolutionary note runs even through the beatitudes where we should least expect it. The point of them is that henceforth those were to be blessed whom the world had not blessed, for the kingdom of God would reverse their relative standing. Now the poor and the hungry and sad were to be satisfied and comforted; the meek who had been shouldered aside by the ruthless would get their chance to inherit the earth, and conflict and persecution would be inevitable in the process. (p. 297).
When we say "God Bless America" or "In God We Trust," which God do we have in mind? Is it the God of Jesus? As a Christian, I must ask that question! Even though I have great hope in the person I believe will be the next President of the United States, I also know that ultimately he is not the one who brings the hopes of the world to fruition. Ultimately, my trust must be in God, the God revealed in the person of Jesus.