Eugene Cho

vote for me! the politicization and manipulation of jesus, christians, and religion

I confess that I don’t have much idea with what’s currently going on with the Presidential primary process but can assume that things are heating up as candidates ratchet up rhetoric about all things including their affection for Christ, faith, religion, evangelicals, etc.

And why does this make sense? Because supposedly, America,  is a Christian nation – or at the least, a religious nation.

Statistically, in the United States, 83% claim to belong to some sort of religious denomination 40% claim to attend services nearly every week or more, and 58% claim to pray at least weekly. The majority of Americans (60% to 76%) identify themselves as Christians… [source]

All this to say that it makes perfect sense why politicians and political parties would want to politicize religion or faith – however genuine their faith is or not. This is why it made perfect sense for President Obama’s opponents and critics to question, Is Obama really a Christian? And that’s why it makes sense & smart strategy for Rick Perry to throw down some religious rhetoric to say “I’m one of you” when he promised in a recent political ad (click here for RSS readers) to:

“end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. ”

He goes on to say…

“there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

While some folks holler and scream about Rick Perry’s ad, the blunt truth is that this has always been the consistent strategy of modern day politics.

Sadly, religion has become fair game for politicizing – at its best or worst depending on your perspective. What I’m saying is that I while I really dislike Rick Perry’s ad and strongly disagree with his assertion that President Obama has waged war against religion. But that’s not the point. My point is that we’ve allowed the politicizing of religion (and other things) to be FAIR GAME.

Listen folks: I’m not criticizing Rick Perry (or other candidates) because, truth be told, we’d probably do the same politick-ing.  I’m actually critiquing you and me. I’m critiquing us.

And as such, voters (and especially people of faith) have to realize that political parties and candidates (all of them) will engage, distort, manipulate, cajole, emotionalize, tug, and whatever other tactics to “speak” to our religion and faith. And if we’re not careful, we can be dumbed down and influenced in such a way that “religion” becomes the ruling or dominant way we decide to vote. Who cares what a respective candidate’s views are about economics, jobs, immigration, poverty, education, foreign aid, blah blah blah as long as we know that a particular candidate and I are “equally yoked”?

Don’t get cynical. Get smart. We have to remain engaged because politicization aside, politics really do matter.

This is why we need discerning, smart, thoughtful, and deeply engaged voters. Folks that will dig beyond the politicization (and manipulation). We have to attempt to humbly and discerningly become “the new evangelical voter.

That’s why I was really encouraged by these two young women’s video, “A Christian’s Response to Rick Perry, in response to Rick Perry’s commercial. I would have rather they titled it “Two Christians’ Response…” since they can’t possibly speak for all Christians.

Some might think it’s too simplistic. I don’t because what I hear is this:

“Our faith is important but please don’t politicize our faith. Rather, we want to hear: What’s your substance for the Presidency of the United States?”

What do you think?

Agree or disgree with what I shared above? Your thoughts about the videos?

Here’s the message of the two girls and their videos below:

We’re not ashamed to admit that we’re Christians, but we don’t think that being in a pew on Sunday is what makes you one.

We know there is something wrong in this country when you can spin the name of Jesus Christ, the living body of love and grace, into a political platform. Especially when this platform demonizes the very people who sacrifice their own lives so that you can have that platform at all.

Rick Perry, you said that you’ll end the war on religion. We’re waiting for a president who doesn’t dilute religion into a mere political constituency, but instead embraces it as a powerful way to bridge the gap of vast differences among our fellow Americans.

Grace is what makes us strong, and will make us strong again because not our country, nor Rick Perry, nor either of us deserve it.

We’re gay, we’re straight,
we’re black, we’re white,
we’re rich, we’re poor,
we’re conservative, we’re liberal,
we’re Christian, we’re not
…and Jesus loves the little children.
All the children of the world.
We strive to love you all extravagantly…
the way that Jesus loved.

We’re sisters, and we approve this message.



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34 Responses

  1. My mentored called him out before I even noticed anything. She said he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s the truth. I’m not too much into politics but we as Christians need to be because we need to take a stand for our nation.
    I will NOT be voting for him ever since I’ve done my own research…
    Thank God for discernment and not just taking people’s word for it.

  2. Well said. On an individual level, our faith shapes our politics – my views on economics, foreign policy, human rights, etc. should reflect and depict my faith. But I need to understand and respect that someone across the sanctuary in my own congregation with whom I have so much spiritually “in common” may have come to very different conclusions on these topics.

  3. JM Smith says:

    There is one evangelical candidate who has refused to use his faith as a platform plank and has only addressed it when questioned about it.

    Ron Paul.

    I encourage those who are cynical to give him a listen. He’s won me over…which is something I NEVER thought I’d ever say about any political candidate. http://jmsmith.org/blog/ron-paul

    • Eugene Cho says:

      I’ve been surprised and impressed with R. Paul.

      • JM Smith says:

        That’s a common sentiment among so many people, Eugene. He truly does speak for the majority of Americans when one lays out all the issues as a whole. And he’s the only GOP who seems to believe the Golden Rule applies to things like foreign policy and religious/ethnic stereotyping.

        I hope Republicans do the right thing and nominate him. If not, I’ll be writing him in again this year regardless.

  4. There’s no such thing as a Christian political candidate. Political power is one of the temptations that Jesus resisted (Matthew 4:8-10). In a time when the Jewish expectation of the Messiah was one who would free them from Roman rule, it’s significant that Jesus, time and time again (not just in Matthew 4) refuses to take on the cloak of political power (most significantly, in the days before his crucifixion in Jerusalem).

    That said, it is possible for Christians to enter politics. In fact, I think it’s necessary. However, it’s a dangerous, delicate balance. There’s no such thing as a Christian political candidate, but there are political candidates who are Christians. One way to understand the difference between the two is to say that the former sees and uses Christianity as a means to an end (political victory). The latter sees Christianity as what infuses her/his life with meaning, calling, purpose, love.

    IMHO, Rick Perry’s video looks to me like too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

  5. Ryan P says:

    Thank you for tackling this! It seems like many just don’t see a problem there. We’ve gotten into the habit of voting based on sentimentality and confusing faith and nationalism. It’s classic idolatry, the same as was so often written about Israel.

  6. Clay Jones says:

    Thanks for the blog. I agree with your thoughts and appreciate the 2 young ladies’ video as well.

  7. Sue says:

    I have come to the conviction that as a follower of Jesus own compelled to love my neighbor, and to have mercy on whoever I may have mercy on, through my vote as well as any other thing in my life. This means I am not looking for a candidate who is one of “us” (Christians), but whether that candidate is serious about leading for the benefit of all my neighbors, not just some. If a candidate panders to those who lack compassion for others, is fuzzy with the truth and issues talking points designed to hide rather than explain, I don’t think s/he meets that test.

  8. I’m SO tired of religion. I hope that one day our Christian faith will take hold of our souls and people will notice. People will think we are peacemakers with grace for sin, praise on our tongues and reverence for the downtrodden. Let’s do it!

  9. mattsmithis says:

    Yes, yes and yes. Don’t throw a praise Jesus my way and then hide behind your white washed walls while making decisions that are inevitably going to lead to more hunger, more death, and more suffering. Republicans and Democrats are guilty. I attended the Response rally that Perry sponsored, organized or whatever and even volunteered to help. Whether I agreed or disagreed with it or his motives it can only help to pray for the state of our nation and the world. No president is going to fix what is wrong in this Nation and the world though.

  10. “I’m not a Christian, I’m not an Atheist, I’m not Jewish, I’m not Muslim. My religion, and what I believe in, is called the Constitution of the United States Of America.” – this is the opening line of the movie “Ides of March.” I’ll vote for the first real presidential candidate that says that. The perry video is pretty much hated by the entire internet

  11. Patrick says:

    All the candidates do it as you said. Did you even hear Obama bringing his religion into politics. But if anyone is against war, promote civil liberties for the LGBT community, I think Ron Paul needs to be considered.

    Most media outlets deny his message because his policies would oppose their sponsors interests. I don’t agree with many things, but I would choose honesty over deception any day.

  12. Patrick says:

    As for Rick Perry, he’s all but gone (did you hear his ‘gaffe’). Ridiculing him at this point is like kicking someone who got KO’d in a boxing match.

    It’s like ridiculing Sarah Palin’s pentecostal faith. The jabs come too easy.

    • Patrick says:

      Having said that, if you notice Rick Perry after that disaster, he seems to be progressively coming out more humble if you’ve been following the debates.

  13. [...] vote for me! the politicization and manipulation of jesus, christians, and religion (eugenecho.com) [...]

  14. Dennis Lyons says:

    I am so glad Eugen, that you choose to adress this issue. Many of the comments written by people who have read and watched this , are encouraging. Trying to stay informed and willing to vote wisely, gets very dicouraging because ‘religion’ and supposed ‘faith’ always seem to come out in ‘glandure’ when election time nears. I too, would welcome the canidate whoes LIFE demonstrates his “faith and beliefes” rather then his tounge confessing what his life’s betrayals are.
    Much prayer and discernment are needed at this time, if we are to find a true leader whose heart is set on the American people having any kind of future!

  15. Garrett Chan says:

    I think Rick Perry’s ad smacks of desperation for votes. Sadly, I don’t think any of the GOP candidates have something to offer except for Ron Paul or maybe Jon Huntsman. But your average GOP voter hates them because:

    Ron Paul: Speaks his conscience, opposes our wars overseas, and has spoken out about the influence of lobbyists in government.

    Jon Huntsman: Is a Morman like Romney. And speaks Mandarin Chinese. That’s right, speaking Chinese = you must be in league with the Yellow Peril.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      I’ve been checking out Ron Paul a bit and have been impressed with his content.

      I wonder, though, how much he’d be supported if he had the oratory skills of Pres. Obama.

      • JM Smith says:

        It’d be no contest. Even if he had the oratory skills of Newt. RP’s biggest hindrance is that he’s not as “smooth” as most career politicians. He’s not as much of a sound-byte factory as others…because his views take time to think through and digest…as they should when we’re talking about leading the most powerful nation on the planet, I believe.

  16. Troy Livesay says:

    Good thoughts … We’ve been removed for a number of years and find it crazy (disturbing) to see how things have changed in just five or six years.

    praying, listening, watching from Haiti,

    T.

  17. keewonhuh says:

    Personally, I think Keller says it best in his talk “Arguing about Politics” – http://bit.ly/aQ5gEp

    I believe it should be extremely difficult for a Christian to sit comfortably in any of the political parties if she is a critical thinker (as you challenge evangelicals to be) and has the gospel as her central paradigm. So often I see Christians cherry pick or distort the bible to make it toe the party line. That’s actually a fairly pedestrian statement as it’s so clearly obvious, as you rightly point out.

    Ideally, politics is the usage of power for the good of the people. Leveraging God as a means of attaining that power while supporting a party that clearly contravene’s the gospel message drives me crazy. Case in point is the tacit Republican mantra “God helps those who help themselves.” (Oftentimes, it’s actually fairly conspicuous.) Unfortunately, what the gospel teaches us is God helps us precisely because we cannot help ourselves. (Not all Republicans hold this view, of course, but the party line leans heavily toward this eisegetical nonsense especially when it comes to our economy, and the application differs in a weirdly hypocritical manner depending on the class to which they are referring.) The same applies to many Democrats who distort the bible to support a moral compass that clearly has its hands bent.

    Frankly, it’s a gut-wrenching experience to vote because the political system is set up in such a way that you always get a package deal, and in that package are components that fall in line with the gospel worldview and others that don’t. It’s like I have to rend my heart to let go of a conviction as a means of realizing another one. Some call it compromise; I call it living in a fallen, broken world and system. What also complicates matters exponentially are (1) politics is always a shifting landscape and (2) getting comprehensive, unbiased information and cutting through the rhetorical manipulation is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, we must try. And we must try while on our knees.

    My short tirade, by the way, applies to both parties. I am neither a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or any of the others. But I do vote because as Eugene says, it matters.

    Thanks for the good read, brother.

    PS: I think the two girls land some real, solid blows, but there is some idealism mixed in there that dilutes its effectiveness. Actually, maybe it’s good to retain some idealism, no? ;p As you said, cynicism shouldn’t be the way to go as it demoralizes and stifles passion, creativity and action. Thoughtful girls, nonetheless.

  18. debi says:

    What a breath of fresh air…gives me such hope. I find all the politicized christianese heartbreaking. As believers we need eyes wide open, and to listen way more than we speak. Thank you for being a voice in the craziness.

    Merry Christmas ;)

  19. [...] Where’s the Bible? If there’s one on the shelf, why isn’t it prominently placed on the table? I knew it. He hates our religious heritage.  [...]

  20. [...] vote for me! the politicization and manipulation of jesus, christians, and religion (eugenecho.com) Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  21. [...] I am a staunch independent when it comes to political parties and urge Christians to not be played, swayed, and seduced by the powers to be. What I’ve tried to urge others is to be cautious of the politicization and manipulation of Jesus, Christians, and religion. [...]

  22. [...] I am a staunch independent when it comes to political parties and urge Christians to not be played, swayed, and seduced by the powers to be. For this reason, I’ve tried to urge others to be cautious of the politicization and manipulation of Jesus, Christians, and religion. [...]

  23. [...] At the same time, I am an independent when it comes to political parties and urge Christians to not be played, swayed, and seduced by the powers to be. For this reason, I’ve tried to urge others to be cautious of the politicization and manipulation of Jesus, Christians, and religion. [...]

  24. [...] At the same time, I am an “independent” when it comes to political parties and urge Christians to not be played, swayed, or seduced by the powers that be. For this reason, I’ve tried to urge others to be cautious of the politicization and manipulation of Jesus, Christians, and religion. [...]

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What a joy to celebrate Dr. John Perkins' legacy this week. Like many others, he has been a deep inspiration to me. 
When I finished the first draft of my upcoming book, OVERRATED, he was one of the first folks I showed it too. 
He wrote back with the following endorsement: "We are called to give ourselves to our generation, and Pastor Eugene's work here in OVERRATED is exactly that. This deeply personal narrative takes readers on a lived journey of wrestling through the realities of being a justice fighter today. I've given my fifty plus years to this fight, and his story is my story. I believe it may be yours as well. I encourage all believers to read OVERRATED. It lays a course for how we must proceed as humble but faithful justice leaders in an unjust world." Needless to say, I'm humbled by his endorsement and words of encouragement. It was painful to complete (and I'm still working on final edits)...but I CAN'T wait to share the book in September when it releases. Wow. Blessed are the artists that help others reimagine the Gospel. #HeIsRisen #questchurch Amazing Resurrection celebration service. Especially love celebrating Communion every Sunday. Today, hosted a super Feast with bread from many different countries. #HeIsRisen Don't rush too soon to the empty tomb. Reflect on the cross. Thank you, Jesus, for your life & love. Thank you, Jesus, for you have redeemed this day of injustice and violence to be "good." You are truly the Light of the world. #GoodFriday Layover. San Francisco. Having grown up here, my heart still flutters. No other city like it. A quick, busy, & meaningful 26 hrs in Wash DC but managed to go for an hour walk for this view.

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