Pontius Pilate is inextricably linked to the trial and crucifixion of Christ, and this Easter New Jersey-based megachurch Liquid Church is drawing parallels between the ancient political figure and the current presidential election cycle in the hopes of helping congregants learn how to discern godly leadership.
"As Christians we want our faith to inform our politics, not the other way around," said Liquid Church lead pastor Tim Lucas. In a humor-laced message this week dubbed The Politics of Pilate, Lucas defined "Pilate politics" as when leaders cater to special interests first, calling ancient political figure Pontius Pilate the posterchild for failed leadership and a symbol for what not to do as a public official. Lucas highlighted how the Roman governor's "political compromises" altered the course of history.
"Pontius Pilate really is the perfect politician to represent this moment in American history," said Lucas. "He is cynical, he is calculating and he is under pressure from a bloodthirsty base."
That bloodthristy base was the Sanhedrin, ancient Israel's supreme council who advocated for Jesus' crucifixion. Lucas called the tug-o-war between Pilate and the special interest religious group "the most powerful political struggle in human history," and explained that Pilate knew the Sanhedrin was acting against Jesus out of self-interest because of Christ's popularity, his mockery of their empty rituals, and his undermining of their authority.
While he found no fault in Jesus, Pilate knew that if he didn't give in to the demands of the Sanhedrin, who had incited crowds to call for Christ's crucifixion, he would inspire an uproar throughout Judea. Pilate made a political compromise and approved the crucifixion of Christ, wanting to appease the crowd — his "bloodthirsty" political base.
Without saying it outright, Lucas next made an apparent connection between Pontius Pilate and Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.
"Times change, but politics don't ... " said Lucas. "Right now the electorate is angry — both sides are voting with their middle finger … Like Israel, our nation is looking for someone to blame for their diminished power, and is desperate for a strong man to restore our nation to its former power and influence and glory." Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again" could easily fit into this scenario.
The pastor added, "When people feel angry or afraid, they'd rather have someone who is strong and wrong, than someone who's weak and right. And it looks like that's what's happening right now in our culture. There's this mob mentality that prevails."
Much like Pilate catered to the special interests of the Sanhedrin, many of today's elected officials and candidates will do almost anything to win the approval of the masses, including tell lies, slander others and pander to special interest groups, Lucas explained.
The pastor identified areas in American society where he believes Pilate politics are at play with special interest groups, including extreme gun lobbyists. "All these mass shootings, and yet leaders in Washington have had an inability to form any meaningful, common sense-like legislation ... like background checks for, you know, the mentally ill," he said.
"How is that not happening? Easy, because the extreme gun lobby is a very powerful special interest. They are adept at screaming, and stirring up the public, and very few elected officials, Republican or Democrate — either side of the aisle — are willing to take them on. It'll just keep happening [mass shootings], but Washington is paralyzed. That's Pilate politics."
Lucas also named Wall Street bankers as another special interest group, saying that there's a presidential candidate who was paid $675,000 for three speeches to top Wall Street banks.
"How can you say you're not going to be influenced by people who are paying you that kind of money?" Lucas asked, " ... Special interests — they donate millions of dollars to super PACs, both Republicans and Democrats, for one reason: the point is to help carry favor and influence decisions in their interest ... instead of serving the public good, there's a vested interest in preserving the status quo. And Pilate politicians just accept that arrangement. They cater to special interests to preserve the base and protect their position."