Recently I have read a number of articles that castigate American Christians for denying Jesus. The argument goes like this: Evangelical Christians are responsible for sending Donald Trump to the White House. Donald Trump’s policies toward the poor, the sick, and the marginalized do not reflect the compassion of Jesus. Therefore evangelical Christians functionally deny Jesus.
Common to these opinions is a failure to distinguish between personal practice and public policy. I am personally acquainted with any number of generous, compassionate, and Christ-like men and women who deny the proposition that the federal government is responsible for feeding for the poor, integrating the marginalized, and caring for the sick. Such men and women, while personally generous and kind, do not believe that the federal government offers the best answer to social ills. That conviction, rather than representing a departure from Jesus’ ethos and teaching, is in fact quite complementary to it.
Jesus never attempted to coerce the Roman Empire to alleviate poverty; He made no effort to impose government mandated healthcare on its people; He offered personal compassion to marginalized people, but did not pursue legislative means to force others to do the same. Government has its place, as does personal responsibility. The inability to distinguish between that which a government should do over against that which an individual or voluntary society of individuals—a charity—should do increasingly serves as ideological fodder for the public shaming of Christians.
Many Christians did indeed vote for Donald Trump; many others did not. Some are conservative, while others are liberal; many stand in between. Each person who identifies as Christian must decide how best to alleviate the challenges of poverty and hunger and social ostracism. For many, the federal government is not only an unappealing answer—it is an unbiblical answer, which absolves the individual of his or her responsibility to pursue Christ-like compassion, while undermining the works of faith-based charities. Others disagree.
Whatever decision each individual Christian makes, one truth is certain. The suggestion that a Christian who does not support a Big Government solution to social ills has denied Jesus is ludicrous.