We have just endured the most contentious, divisive, uncivil presidential election in my 80 years yet without a single serious word let alone sermon was devoted to the subject in most churches. Jesus's kingdom was spiritual, not political kingdom but answering Kipling's questions reveals powerful political aspects of His ministry. “I keep six honest serving men [They taught me all I knew]; Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.”

We have just endured the most contentious, divisive, uncivil presidential election in my 80 years yet without a single serious word let alone sermon was devoted to the subject in most churches. Jesus’s kingdom was spiritual, not political kingdom but answering Kipling’s questions reveals powerful political aspects of His ministry. “I keep six honest serving men [They taught me all I knew]; Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.”

What Jesus said about bringing about the “Kingdom” and being the Messiah was to avoid premature capture, incarceration, and crucifixion by the principal political figures of his day—both Jewish and Roman. Also, his message reinterpreted and denigrated the message of those in politics. But, as pointed out in this series, achieving what he said now involves some of the most contentious political issues with which governments must deal.

Why he was crucified was ultimately a trumped-up political charge of treason but in fact was because he was attracting crowds that had the potential to riot and ruin Pilate’s standing in Rome. He totally rejected the Jews’ emphasis on the Old Covenant [Abraham’s physical descendants Gen.17], in favor of the New Covenant [belief as righteousness, Gen.15:6]—in the process undermining their authority—and privileges bestowed—by the people

When The Roman Empire was enjoying Pax Romana in 5-6 B.C. when Jesus was born and Pilate was the prefect in power and in league with Jewish political and religious leaders who prevailed upon him to sentence Jesus to death. Julius Caesar ended the endless wars and terrible taxes warring leaders exacted from provinces like Judea to pay for the wars. He appointed able , fair administrators. He was such a welcome relief they gladly conferred dictatorial powers and a religious title on him [Augere-Augustus]. Upon Herod the Great’s death governance of Judea was divided among his three sons and Galilee was given to the best, fairest of them, Herod Antipas who reigned the entire life of Jesus [4 BC-39 AD]. It was written that in this era, “the region gradually gained political stability and became prosperous.” “Today, our highest labors seek to revive the Pax Romana for a disordered world.” [1]

How Jesus had to preach and teach in ways that ducked under the Jewish and Roman radars in order to avoid arrest. Many of his teachings are thus spoken as parables.

Where he lived was determined by politics. In 5-6 B.C., Joseph moved his family to Egypt until Jesus was two to escape infanticide by Herod’s troops. Upon his return, Joseph chose Nazareth because it was a five-day walk north of Jerusalem—residence of his greatest foes. Nazareth was only a day’s walk from Caesarea, the region’s political and military capital—indicating Joseph felt little threat from Rome.

Who Rome had nothing to do with who Jesus was, but they everything to do with how he was interpreted by the rest of the world through Christian missionaries. As the Empire died the Church and the Empire merged into Christian [aka Western] Civilization. In 313 Constantine won a battle at the Milvan bridge in northern Italy. He said he was inspired by an apparition saying in this sign conquer [hoc signo vinces].It took him a lifetime, but he converted himself and his Empire from pagan and political to Christian. Persecution of Christians soon ended.

The Roman Catholic Church [RCC] believes these events fulfilled the prophecy, “the government shall be upon His shoulders, and the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord.”

Christian Civilization

Many of the characteristics of the Roman Empire were adopted by the RCC and were “passed like maternal blood into the new [Christian] religion, and captive Rome [persecuted Christians] captured her conqueror. The reins and skills of government were handed down by a dying empire to a virile papacy; the lost power of the broken sword was re-won by the magic of the consoling word; the armies of the state were replaced by the missionaries of the Church moving in all directions along the Roman roads; and the revolted provinces, accepting Christianity, again acknowledged the sovereignty of Rome.” [1,672]

If you will Google the wealthiest, most advanced economies of the world in terms of per capita income, you will find a strong correlation with Christian nations in northwest Europe. Why is the West so wealthy? They have ‘inclusive’ economic institutions to build sound economies: institutions securing private property; an unbiased rule of law; public services in which people can exchange and contract; and freedom to enter new businesses and choose one’s own career. [2] Israel began with almost all of these, Roman law added much of the rest; and, Western Civilization conveyed it to the West—including the USA. [3]

Now

Every Sunday pastors avoid politics and religion some on principle and some for fear of speaking in conflict with the dominant beliefs of their culture and congregation. Yet, they speak on the basis of 3,000 year old book and its truth from another time on the basis of the assumption that human nature is unchanging. Human nature and needs are unchanging but how we meet them has totally changed—and improved. Most of the needs Jesus met through miracles are now met through public agencies. That puts the responsibility on every voter e.g.; you and me. As I have written, Jesus was both helped and hurt by Rome, the State, and it is every Christian’s obligation today to influence how our the State meets timeless human needs.

[1] Durant, Will, Caesar and Christ, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1944. p670-2.

[2] Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail, NY: Crown, 2012, 74-5.

[3]Schlesinger, Arthur M., The Disuniting of America, NY: W.W. Norton, 1991, p28.