Reviews | Putting ‘Jesus’ on your bus ain’t faith

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On Thursday I saw tweets featuring the debut of a campaign bus for Kandiss Taylor, a republican candidate for the Governor of Georgia. It’s adorned with what is obviously its platform: “Jesus, Guns, Babies.” That’s it. No further explanation is needed, or perhaps more accurately, no further explanation is given.

Many people mocked the online bus, seeing that “Jesus, Guns, Babies” doesn’t really make sense on its own (a friend joked it looked like Jesus was pulling babies out of a cannon).

At 3% poll, Taylor isn’t a major factor in the race, but I’m fascinated by what she stands for. She’s an example of how a lot of the biggest things that trigger polarization in this country are performative. It reminds me of being at a big game. We wave our giant foam hands and sing the cheers without really having a clue what we’re saying or why we’re saying it.

This is what our politics have become: we are often just fans of a party – or even a religion – and not supporters of real principles.

As someone who has covered politics, I can appreciate the stark simplicity of Taylor’s message. But as a Christian, I’m… depressed about it. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of all, who was born of the Virgin Mary and suffered and died on the cross at Calvary because of the sins of mankind. I believe he then rose from the grave, and like the Nicene Creed, an ancient declaration of faith, he said, he will return in glory to judge the living and the dead.

I believe that just as much as I believe the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. I regularly read the Bible (from Genesis to Revelation to the Acts of the Apostles, my favorite book of the Bible) and I think a lot about my faith and its role in my life. Suffice it to say that faith is hard – faith in the unseen, faith in something that encourages you to act against your first instinct, faith that no matter what you want to do, tells you what you should do instead.

It is not difficult to be a Christian in America since the majority of Americans identify as a Christian and virtually all public institutions bend over backwards for us. But it’s hard to live a Christian life – to exist as someone who believes in an eternal savior but spends a lot of time wondering what that really means.

Putting the word “Jesus” on a campaign bus is not difficult. And it’s not an exercise in faith. No one can learn anything about Jesus Christ from this campaign bus.

Some will see the word and pump their fist in accordance with what they perceive to mean – the equivalent of putting a “Go Blue” sticker on your bumper or waving a Red Sox flag at a football game. baseball. Others will shake their heads, and the two sides will find themselves estranged from each other for no reason other than performative religiosity polarizing. Either you’re in the club or you’re not. In the Republican primary in Georgia, religious faith – the faith that I share, or at least I could share – is obviously not meant to be followed or respected or lived out or rejected or challenged. Instead, it’s a cudgel, nods to passers-by.

The slogan is not new in politics, of course. Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 with the line, “He kept us out of war.” And even if the claim eventually turned out to be false, it was at least a clear argument. More recent presidential campaigns have relied on slogans that seem more illusory, ideas compressed and downplayed into phrases that act more like talismans than promises – Jesse Jackson’s “Keep Hope alive” or Barack’s “Yes we can.” Barack Obama.

Performative religiosity is just as outdated. Few people were better able to understand the power of displaying belief for political reasons than Donald Trump. In 2016, Trump noted“No one reads the Bible more than I do,” and he accused Secretary of State John Kerry never to have read it. It was like the time he told MSNBC host Chris Matthews that women who have abortions should receive “some form of Punishment”, a point of view that even anti-abortion groups resisted.

The Bible is the story of people who are people – at best, at worst and at most unnerving (see: Aaron and the golden calf.) Saying “no one reads the Bible more than I do” doesn’t tell me if you’ve struggled with the Psalms or contemplated your own sins or spent a dark night of the soul wondering what God thinks of you.

Did any of us think it was possible that Trump wrestled with such questions? No matter. It is enough to display a cultural symbol to be “the right type of Christian”. And you certainly don’t need to prove your knowledge of the scriptures or your adherence to the real faith minutely described therein. It is a posture that we all recognize and understand, but which ultimately has no meaning apart from a weak political gesture.

But somehow Taylor and his bus seem like a new nadir. A campaign based entirely on “Jesus, Guns, Babies” feels like a travesty, like what a TV writer would think a Republican voter in Georgia wants — a bit too much on the nose.

With this list, she does not even claim to have read the scriptures or to have engaged in any way with Christianity. She has three words, and that’s all she thinks she owes voters. She is part of the Jesus team. She even prepared the bus. In a way, it’s so honest how stupid our political process has become – how crude and empty – that I almost admire it.

It reminds me of Matthew 6:5-6, in which Jesus explains to his disciples how to pray, telling them that it is not necessary to do so publicly, showing their religious devotion in order to attract attention (or to polarize the people around them). Christ said to them: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. Because they like to pray standing in synagogues and on street corners to be seen by men. Verily I say unto you, they have already their full reward. But when you pray, enter your inner chamber, close your door and pray to your Father, who is invisible. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And, I assume (but never assume), that those instructions include “Don’t put the name of Jesus on a campaign bus.”

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