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Is Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative?

Is Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative?

Bilbao, Spain - February 17, 2015: Someone wearing red sneakers chooses between democrats and republicans. The United States presidential election of 2016 are scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

As Christians, have you ever considered how Jesus would vote in a presidential election or what party He would join, if any?  I have – and those thoughts haunt me every four years.  The last thing I want to do is cast a vote that doesn’t align with His will.

Jesus wouldn’t just vote along party lines or based on a single issue, as so many Christians do today.  It’s not that simple.  A close study of the life of Jesus reveals that His views don’t confine Him or conform to one party or issue.  To illustrate the point, it’s necessary to break the issues into the two that typically drive our allegiance to parties or candidates – Economics and Social Norms.  Each of us is either deeply concerned about the economic direction or moral direction of our nation, and we tend to vote accordingly.

NOTE: There are several political parties and ideologies in America today, but for purposes of this discussion let’s focus on the primary two.


  • Democrats think of themselves as = More Compassionate (more heart)
  • Republicans think of Democrats as = More Controlling (more rules)

Social Issues

  • Republicans think of themselves as = More Moral (more rules)
  • Democrats think of Republicans as = More Judgmental (less heart)

Democrats are generally considered “economically legalistic” (or “liberal) meaning they entrust government with greater liberty to invoke regulations, programs and taxes.  Republicans are considered “morally legalistic” (or “conservative”) meaning they cling to traditional social norms and oppose attempts to redefine them, whereas social “liberals” impose fewer rules or standards for right and wrong.

It’s possible to be an economic conservative and social liberal – with fewer rules on both fronts; in other words, smaller government and looser moral standards.  It’s also possible to be an economic liberal and a social conservative – with more rules on both fronts; in other words, bigger government yet upholding a more strict moral standard.  However, it seems few fall Americans fall into either of those combinations.  Today, most Democrats are both economic and social liberals – giving government more liberty to act and citizens more latitude to live according to their own moral compasses.  Republicans today are typically both economic and social conservatives – with greater restrictions on governments and citizens to act however they wish.

However, what if we define “economic liberal” not as asking the government to care for the poor, but as asking churches and Christians to do so?  Suddenly we begin to get a glimpse of where Christ would likely land – an economic liberal and social conservative.

Was Jesus a Liberal?

Yes, but only in terms of economics – generously serving and caring for those in need of help and hope. (Matthew 20:28)

Clearly, Jesus was more about heart than rules.  Jesus was first and foremost a servant.  He led with compassion, healing and feeding everywhere He went.  Jesus expected His followers to do the same, and the Church did for the better part of 1900 years.

However, the government has usurped (and/or churches abdicated) the front-line compassion role in America over the past century.  Jesus warned us of the potential abuses when political leaders wield too much power, assuming responsibilities that His Church was intended to have.  The government cannot provide hope, only help.  At the same time, Jesus did not deny the authority of government in society.  In fact, Jesus went so far as to subject himself to the legal system  and pay taxes, because He is the One who put those rulers in place (John 19:11, Romans 13:1).   Even when political leaders forget their intended roles as public servants, Jesus calls His followers to persist in serving others (Matthew 20:25-26).  However, the perception prevails today that Democrats are more inclined than Republicans, churches or Christians to help struggling families.

Was Jesus a Conservative?

Yes, but only in terms of social norms – holding His followers to a standard of behavior consistent with His intentions and will for our lives.

However, again here, Jesus was more about heart than rules.  Even the rules themselves were about heart for Him.  In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Love (heart) is the driver of the rules.

Jesus also spent his time with “sinners” because they were most in need of the “great Physician” (Mark 2:17).  He didn’t condemn those “sinners”, but instead rebuked those who condemned them.  In fact, Jesus was so much about heart that He felt it necessary to emphasize that He did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17).

Jesus was vocal about sin, but waited until He had demonstrated His love and compassion first before speaking out about it.  That’s the proper sequence Jesus modeled for us.  He knew society wouldn’t listen to what He had to say about morality unless they understood that He cared about them.

Fallout from Christians not Following Jesus’ Lead

The conclusion we’re drawing is that Jesus wouldn’t affiliate with a political party because he wasn’t fully liberal or conservative.  He was socially conservative yet economically liberal.

Society largely associates Christians with the Republican party (and vice versa) and the prevailing view of churches and Christians is that they’re judgmental and not compassionate – more about rules than heart.  Therefore, the Republican party is deemed “guilty” by association.  The reason the Republican party is struggling so severely today is that “social conservative” side of the party came to dominate the “economic liberal” side.  Christians and churches have talked too much and not done enough, choosing words over actions.  Failing to follow Jesus’ example has cost the Republican party and Christians dearly.

Churches were the food bank and homeless shelter during the first roughly 150 years of U.S. history, and society generally thought that Christians cared.  As churches and Christians have pulled away from compassion and focused more on moral issues, they’ve gravitated to the Republican party and shifted the party toward moral legalism.  Many have become single issue voters, whether it’s economic (welfare) or social (gay marriage).  Jesus wouldn’t vote for one party or one issue so why are Christians doing that?

Ironically, the more Christians have become disenfranchised (because of their failure to act before speaking), the louder they’ve yelled about where the country is headed.  However, rather than turning up the volume on the megaphone, Christians and the Republican party should be fighting the culture war using love (heart) as the chosen weapon – i.e. a “ground war” of compassion.  Continuing to drop verbal bombs, fighting an “air war” (rules) will only cause fewer and fewer to listen.

Further, why would Christians expect those who don’t believe in Christ to obey Christian laws?  A post-Christian nation isn’t going to subject itself to Biblical rules.  Therefore, our first task as Christians is to show we care, then society will care what we know.

Now, all this doesn’t necessarily mean Republicans actually have less “heart” than Democrats.  Democrats legislate more government assistance to poor families but studies are mixed about whether Republicans or Democrats donate more personally to charitable causes that help those less fortunate.  Republicans give a higher overall percentage of their income to non-profits, but that includes donations to churches (and we shouldn’t include tithes and offerings in measuring “heart” since the average church today spends less than 2% of its budget helping those outside its own “4 walls”).

Should Christians be Liberals or Conservatives?

Disciples of Jesus Christ are Christians – not Republicans or Democrats.  What’s important is that we each examine ourselves and make sure we’re not more about rules than heart.  Are we morally legalistic or genuinely driven by concern for the eternal fate of non-believers?  Let’s ask ourselves how we feel about “sinners”.  Is our concern for whether others obey Christian rules based in love and concern for their salvation, or in self-righteousness?  I’m sure most of us believe our political stances are grounded in love, yet somehow that’s not the message coming across to society today.

If churches and Christians want America to return to being socially conservative, they must return to being economic liberals, not leaving the responsibility for caring for poor, helpless, lost and hopeless to the government.   Until then, the socially liberal agenda of Democrats will continue to prevail because society aligns more closely with the economically liberal agenda of Democrats – associating them with compassion.  Being socially conservative is a good thing, but Republicans and Christians must dispel the notion that’s what they’re all about.  Christians must prove they truly love the sinner and only hate the sin.

It’s Your Turn

It’s not about what party we join.  It’s not about what we say.  It’s about what we do.  Will you #CastAnEternalVote during this final week before the election?

By the way, check out the latest Press Release about Vote for Eternity 20:16 and listen to our Interview on Faith Radio.


47 Responses

  1. Your disingenuous when you suggest that liberals are more likely to serve others and be the party who cares for people’s hearts. In fact, statistical research shows that it is conservatives who donate more and serve in humanitarian causes four times as much as liberals. It is conservative republicans who have throughout the history of this nation fought for the rights of the minority. Republicans wanted to end slavery, democrats stood against it. The democrats were also responsible for the Jim Crow laws and the creation of KKK. If that wasn’t enough, liberals stood against the Civil Rights Act. There was not one liberal vote for civil rights. This article is disingenuous and deceptive hoping to confuse people who don’t know the facts of history. What party would Jesus belong to if he was alive today? I guess that would depend on his mission, but be sure, he would bevery likely to shouting and calling many ppolitical leaders bind guides, hypocrites and vipers as well as making a whip and driving merchants out of the temple. That was also done out of a heart of love.

    1. Eugene – Thanks for your comments. You make important points about the history of the Republican Party, but given that history, this blog post in large part seeks to answer the question of why the Republican party today has become known as hateful/judgmental whereas Democrats are viewed as the compassionate ones. I’m not (intentionally) suggesting nor do I believe that Democrats are inherently more compassionate than Republicans. What I am suggesting is that Republicans (and Churches/Christians) have created that perception about themselves by not following Jesus’ model of acting (compassionately) before speaking out on social issues. In terms of the research, studies show that the average church has slashed its local missions/compassion budget from traditionally 40%+ to less than 2% today and that Republicans give roughly the same amount to compassion-based charities as Democrats (if you exclude tithes to churches). Until Republicans and Christians once again begin to look more like Jesus by leading with compassion, that perception of Republicans and Christians will persist – and society will continue to gravitate toward the Democratic party’s social/moral agenda, which is not at all Biblical.

      1. Conservatives are historically not about minority populations or the common person….so lets look at Conservative as opposed to Republican and Liberal as opposed to Democrats…
        Historically in America neither party has been for minority people….however Conservatives were without doubt against people who were not European….

        Conservatives have always hidden behind the Bible or some other religious book to justify the brutality against those they conquered….and that includes Christianity who conquered the world for profit and then passed a bible as justification for the absolute raping and destruction of the indigenous populations.

        1980 The White Evangelicals left Jimmy Carter and supported Reagan because the IRS told them to integrate or lose the tax exempt status….the ost atrocities committed against Indians and African Americans was in the so called Bible Belt and other Conservative communities …nationwide again justified with a Bible.

        Your article is interesting but factually leaves out tones of factual history……and Bible information The entire Book of Acts is Socialist…and the original Church was socialist…Jesus told that Bloke in Luke 14 to sell all he owned and give the proceeds to the poor….in fact you had to give everything you owned to the Church to join and the Church distributed via a welfare system….

        Racism in the name of God is the Foundation of European Christianity since 325 AD…first in Europe and then throughout the world via the alleged AGE OF DISCOVERY” and the EMPIRE System.

        Today’s Republicans are essentially straight NAZIS hiding behind a bible and code words that they refuse to specifically define when challenged….that White Evangelicals would overwhelmingly vote for Candidates openly supported by the Klu Klux Klan speaks for itself…and the Klan uses the Bible as well….
        Interesting article…Good day.

          1. Even funnier is that you don’t even know enough about the history of your own country to realize that the Democrats were the more Conservative party during that era.

    2. Eugene
      I humbly suggest that you got your history wrong. Both the Democratic party and the Republican party have liberals and conservatives alike in their midst.The Democratic party that opposed abolishing slavery and was responsible for Jim Crow laws and the creation of the KKK was mainly southern and overwhelmingly controlled by religious and social conservatives. In today’s America that “Democratic party of old” is now the Republic party and that Abolitionist Republican party of old,that was mainly northeastern and overwhelmingly liberal is now today’s Democratic party.In the 1960s southern conservatives left the Democatic party en masse to the Republican party and northeastern liberals left the Republican party en masse to the Democatic party so the two parties simply swapped constituencies.In every society/culture anywhere around the world its always been social and religious conservatives within the majority populations who have always opposed minority rights so your assertion that liberals stood in the way of the Civil Rights Act is not right.Those who opposed the civil rights act were not liberals,they were conservatives.They just happened to be in the Democratic party then.

      1. Playing the Liberal Democratic party “Switch-a-roo” again. Everybody just swapped constituencies…The Democrats where really Republicans back then. Yea…Sure…To speak to only one of the many atrocities and acts against God’s teachings, think about this! .Tell that to the millions of babies that were aborted by the actions of the Democratic Party. Over the last 50 years. The Church “The People of God” will be able to actually speak to these Souls in the New World that Christ will bring to us. For Conservative Christians like me, we are fed up with the rhetoric of the world. We would rather listen to his voice and speak directly to Christ and witness to what he has so far reveled. God Bless you Guys…

        1. “I’m not going to refute anything you said, because I can’t. What I CAN do, however, is completely change the subject to something that suits my own agenda.”

    1. I apctapiere a win as well as the next drunken fan, still the Jets are not NFL ready. That coach was better when he weighted a ton. Anyway I hope Dennis got drunk. BLEEP!

      1. I’m an economist and this comment makes FAR more sense than the article or any of the other comments about it. Not a single one of these people has any idea what they’re talking about and they’re all dumber than a bag of rocks.

  2. I agree completely with Eugene, however neither have mentioned the 50 million innocent babies killed each year because of ”’choice”. These choices are made for economic, convienience & social reasons. I think the choice for eternity would be on the side of life, the rest can be worked out. If you continue to vote for people that has no problem killing a baby just as its born, you my friend are as guilty as they are.

    1. If you are so hell bent to support babies being born why do you not support raising the minimum wage and Universal Health Care and such and also proper funding of education for these children after they are born..and Food Stamps to feed the needy and all that? Abortion is a red Herring argument…

      What about the out of control Police murder of unarmed people…and such….the same Political Party you support because you so love an unborn person is guilty of starving and murdering people after they are born….which goes against the core teaching of Scripture which is “WHATEVER YOU HAVE DONE TO THE LEAST AMONG YOU HAVE YOU ALSO DONE UNTO ME”

    2. God takes care of his own. I lost a baby a few weeks ago. It was a horrible experience and I grieve, but the end result was the same. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you. You must be born again.” My prayers, for whatever reason and to my knowledge, were unanswered that day, but God promised me this. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” Jeremiah 1:15. God knows and takes care of his own and we should take care of those that here with us today. We have hungry children in the US, we have parents teaching these children hate instead of love. We each have our own cross to bear just as Jesus did.

  3. According to Jesus and according to the prophets, both nations collectively as a whole and, individuals should help the poor in any and every way possible. Modern Christians who teach and/or practice otherwise, are not followers of Jesus but rather, followers of the god of Babylon confusion. Jesus very clearly in Matthew 25 teaches that God will judge nations collectively as a whole that do not help the sick and poor and, Ezekiel specifically stated that God destroyed Sodom because she did not help the sick and poor. Again, those who teach otherwise, regardless of what they call themselves, are not followers of Jesus.

  4. Also, in addition to above, it should be noted that Old Testament Hebrews were specifically commanded by law to leave 10% of their fields un-harvested so that immigrants, strangers and the poor could feed off of them. Compare conservative Christians today, who instead of demanding that “we the people” as a collective nation whole help immigrants, they instead support the worst kind of leaders who propose building walls rather than helping immigrants, lowering taxes on the wealthy and ending government-sponsored aid for food, shelter and health care for our sick and poor, which according to Ezekiel and according to Jesus, is a major sin against God.

    1. Also every seven years debt was forgiven, and lands sold we’re returned. Let’s see the Christians in America do that.

  5. Oops, I spoke too soon. Each of both Richards’ comments were insightful and show intelligent thought. As I mentioned, I am an Economist, and the author, though clearly far more intelligent than many who made comments, does not have a clear understanding of economics, or even sociology for that matter. Better perhaps to stick to theology.

  6. I have always felt that one of the downfalls of this country is voting party and not person. I have said to many, that church and state need to be separate. I think people who bash other religions are ignorant of those religions . I live in Tn., just voted, and split parties locally. I told people i wish i could have split the primary but i will be able to in November, depending on who ends up being the front leaders. As for liberal vs conservative, i think we all have some of each in us. For those who say they do not, i say get out your dictionary !

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  9. JMorgan ~ A relative brought this article to my attention today, and I wanted to say thank you for pointing out that it is the church who will serve the poor and needy much, much better than the government. In fact, that is the job God gave to us specifically. Certain economic policies actually give us more freedom to do so, and we should steward that freedom carefully and wisely.

    Throughout the gospels you see Christ simultaneously caring for people’s physical and spiritual needs. Weren’t His first words, “Repent and be baptized?” He never stayed silent about sin. In fact, Jesus did not abolish the Law but came to **fulfill** the it by perfectly obeying it in our place, and then taking the punishment for our sin on the cross.

    I want to suggest a book for you that might help probe further how Christians engage with the world around us, specifically in the political realm. Though neither political party is in perfect conformity with God’s word, our voting has direct Kingdom building consequences. There are deeper questions we need to ask which can help us not just at the ballot box, but how we think through and respond to issues like immigration, abortion, sexual ethics and government services in light of Jesus’ words to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

  10. The idea that Jesus was “socially conservative” is mind-boggling to me.

    Hint: people who are actually socially conservative don’t get crucified by the established government – with the connivance of the established church – for their teachings.

    He wasn’t even “socially conservative” in the sense of “rules-based”. Indeed he explicitly overturned the rules-based, 10-commandments, Mosaic approach, to be replaced with the single principle of love.

    In the Sermon on the Mount, there are no “Thou shalt”s – only “Blessed are the”s.

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  18. I think your analysis is spot on, in today’s world. Many people want to go back and look at historical beginnings of political parties but where their logic fails them is the fact that there’s a constant changing of the guard (the people), so to speak, within those parties. Parties can always change for the worse or for the better but that always depends on the people affiliated. At the end of the day, Jesus is the party we should all be striving to live and act like.

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