Published by Herald Press on May 31, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Politics
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Jesus sides with the oppressed. Will you?
In a world divided by left and right, red and blue, many Christians have upheld a “third way” approach in pursuit of moderation, harmony, and unity. But if Christians are more concerned with divisiveness than with faithfulness, we have failed to grasp the gospel’s political demands. We do not see Jesus taking a “third way” between oppressor and oppressed. And as followers of Jesus, neither should we.
For the sake of our faith, for the sake of the least of these among us, and for Christ’s sake, Christians need to stand firmly for truth, peace, and justice. In Jesus Takes a Side, author Jonny Rashid lays out the political demands of following Jesus and offers strategies for how to engage politics practically and prophetically—even if it means taking a side.
In an era of political polarization and increasing Christian nationalism, a contingent of moderate evangelicals have decried the politicization of faith and sought out compromise, believing that unity will come only when we put choose to not let our political differences bother us. But what if doing so harms the oppressed? In Jesus Takes a Side, Jonny Rashid insists that the Gospel comes with political demands and that we must be more concerned with faithfulness than unity. This sentiment evokes MLK, who famously wrote that the greatest enemy to progress was the moderate “who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
In no uncertain terms, Rashid writes that, when it comes to a good many social and political issues, Jesus does indeed take a side. He is on the side of the marginalized and oppressed. When I first talked about this book with a group of friends on the Internet, the conversation was quite telling—“Yeah, but whose side does he mean?” Human history is replete with people doing bad things in the name of God, or weaponizing God-rhetoric to justify their causes. When Rashid writes that Jesus Takes a Side, he doesn’t mean that Jesus is a Republican or a Democrat, he means that the political emphasis of Jesus is on the side of the oppressed no matter what.
In one chapter, he speaks passionately and prophetically about what he calls the “Lie of the Third Way” and how the only way to take a third way is to make the political argument so abstract that it has no personal relevance. Jesus Takes a Side specifically references the LGBQIA+ communities, using them as an example of a people group harmed by “third way” thinking. But when the dignity of LGBTQIA people is on the line, any compromise is fundamentally dehumanizing to them…The suggestion that there is an in-between here perpetuates bigotry and increases harm. This is something Rashid knows personally, having participated in such harm and now come to a place of repentance. That vulnerability and willingness to admit past faults makes Jesus Take a Side more authentic. It’s not a holier-than-thou manual of a liberal cultural warrior. It’s an honest look from someone who saw the harm they were doing and now seeks to not do that.
Throughout the book, Rashid’s words are punchy, pithy, and prophetic. You’re gonna love it or hate it. He writes about the Kingdom of God not being bipartisan—Jesus isn’t forging a moderate path between oppressed and oppressor. He is siding with the least of these; he’s making a partisan stance. He writes theologically, saturating his book with sections of the prophets and the Gospels. He leads readers into the political situation of Jesus’s day and explores how Jesus’s message was radically political—and a major part of what got him killed.
I could summarize Rashid’s plea in Jesus Takes a Side with one sentence from the book’s conclusion: How Christians act politically points to a Savior who is leading us. When we think politically, we have to ask “Does this reflect Christ? Does this reflect the Kingdom?” How did Jesus treat the oppressed, the poor, the immigrant? We must be politically engaged because the Kingdom is within the polis. Like a modern-day Amos, Jonny Rashid calls out a self-indulgent church fattened with its hollow religiosity and calls it to account for its sin. Jesus Takes a Side is a powerful work about how to enact a bit of the Kingdom within human empire.