Religion and politics are slippery subjects of discourse even when you’re not limited to 280 characters, which makes Twitter a less than ideal medium for such conversations. But that didn’t stop Bradley Whitford, star of projects like The West Wing and Get Out, from hopping on to opine about Jesus’ political beliefs. “Jesus Christ was a radical liberal,” Whitford tweeted on Sunday. Normally, this would just be another case of celebs talking about things they weren’t asked about, which is all Twitter is, but this statement is so uniquely charged in so many ways that, of course, folks had some thoughts
Jesus Christ was a radical liberal.
— Bradley Whitford (@BradleyWhitford) December 7, 2020
OK, before we get into reactions, let’s call out the elephant in the room. Jesus was not a radical liberal. He was not a radical conservative. He was not an independent, a libertarian, a socialist, an anarchist, a statist, a communist or any other political identity we use today. He was a first-century Jewish rabbi and his teachings can’t just be lifted wholesale and dumped into any of our modern politics boxes. Of course, Jesus’ teachings have ramifications for his followers’ political beliefs and Christians of good conscience can (and do) argue about exactly what that looks like, but anyone who slaps a modern political ideology onto Jesus hasn’t reckoned seriously with either Jesus or modern politics.
What exactly Whitford means by radical liberal is another question entirely. He was probably riffing off U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler’s oft-repeated characterization of Rev. Raphael Warnock, her Democratic opponent in the upcoming Georgia run-off election. “Liberalism” means a lot of different things to different people in 2020. Broadly speaking, liberalism is simply a political philosophy anchored in liberty, the consent of the governed and equality. In the U.S., modern liberalism is generally associated with the Democratic Party: a strong social safety net, a free market/planned economy hybrid, general support for the government’s role in progressive causes and other blue ideas. It’s not entirely clear which, if any of those things, Whitford thinks Jesus would have supported to a “radical” extent, but it sure sounds like a classic case of “This is what I believe, so it must be what Jesus believed.”
Of course, Twitter had a hay day.
— socialism (@ScrubUnoriginal) December 7, 2020
I am once again asking you to refrain from turning the risen Lord into a model for your pet political project. https://t.co/4UVbA4KoaU
— Robert Hasler (@rdhasler) December 7, 2020
Blessed are the means-tested, for they shall inherit the earth. https://t.co/ixHknOsAyS
— Cody Johnston (@drmistercody) December 7, 2020
For the last two thousand years and even during Jesus’ life, people tried to draft him into their political movements. And his followers today should do the exact same thing Jesus did at the time: remind those people that his kingdom is not of this world.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.