Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty named Jesus Christ among his political heroes Thursday during a meet and greet in Webster City, Iowa.
The GOP presidential candidate was responding to a voter’s question about who some of the influential figures are in his life. After listing his father, he went on to say, "I've got a lot of political heroes too. I love Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln [and] Jesus Christ," as reported by The Huffington Post.
Was Jesus a political hero?
Some would say absolutely not, noting in John 6 where Jesus hid from those who sought to make him a king and John 18 where he said, "My kingdom is not of this world."
Many political figures still say that Jesus is their inspiration and role model. So what brand of politics would Jesus espouse?
Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing for Sojourners and author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican or Democrat, said Jesus would defy political lines to help the vulnerable.
"If he (Pawlenty) really does consider Jesus as one of his heroes then he might want to look at Matthew 25," she said.
Matthew 25 exhorts the reader to use their resources wisely and beckons him or her to care for the "the least of these."
In that way, Harper said, Jesus continued the work of God in the Old Testament. When God gave Moses the laws, she explained, He instituted the Sabbath day of rest for the sake of the land, the animals and especially the workers. "We see God supporting the protection of the poor," she said.
Harper also believes Pawlenty should support entitlement policies that distribute food to the poor and ensure health care for those who cannot afford it.
Sojourners, a faith-based organization whose mission is to "articulate the biblical call to social justice," joined Circle of Protection members Wednesday in White House talks with President Barack Obama calling for a budget preserves programs for the poor.
Harper declared that if Pawlenty is truly following "Jesus' way," he would support the Circle of Protection's mission even if means crossing party loyalty lines.
"Allegiance to any party indiscriminately is idolatry," she asserted. "It's best that [politicians] be guided not by a party line, but God's line."
Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, meanwhile, warned of tacking political motivations to Jesus' word.
"One must be a tad careful about ascribing motives to deity," he stated. "I can't imagine Jesus running for office. He's God. It would be very presumptuous to say this is what Jesus would do."
However, Land believes that if Pawlenty plans to follow in Jesus' footsteps, "he would be pro-life. No question about it that from beginning to end the Bible is a pro-life book."
In more general terms, Jesus' brand of politics would espouse truth and be completely honest.
If Pawlenty is following Christ in his politics, Land said, "he would be a truth-teller” and “he would support an honest government that puts the people first before his own well-being."
Pawlenty is a self-professed Christian. He said in his memoir, Courage to Stand, that his faith informs his political career. Similarly, Pawlenty's other political heroes – Churchill, Reagan, and Lincoln – all spoke biblical language and held a Judeo-Christian view, noted Land.
Harper and Land both praised Pawlenty for acknowledging Jesus' influence on his politics.
When asked if other Christian candidates should publicly espouse Christ as their political hero, Land held they should do what is comfortable for them. He stated Jesus' influence "will look different for different Christians."
"None of us can claim a monopoly on Jesus," he noted.