Friday, June 21, 2013

Can a Political Conservative Survive in a Non-Fundamentalist Church?

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Moral Majority was wrong when it declared that you had to vote certain ways if you were a Christian.  I have no patience today for conservatives who declare that the Bible requires a vote for a certain governmental policy, as if the government is what Jesus had in mind as the implementer of His commandments and ideals.

I believe that there is a 21st Century version of the Moral Majority, and it is made up of Progressive Liberal Christians. They publish blogs like this and this that proclaim that there is only one way to be a Christian in your politics. I'm not making this up - some of these blogs say in their very title that you cannot disagree with them and still follow Jesus.

Typically, these bloggers and commentators and preachers declare that we Christians must be in favor of universal health care and a significantly increased federal minimum wage, and we must be against the death penalty, gun rights, and war. Many of them declare that Christianity demands a certain position on governmental recognition of gay marriage, tax policy, "help for the poor" (although they are typically very short on definition or detail), and immigration rights.

Hear me: I have no objection to their taking strong political positions, nor do I have any problem with their basing their position on their (and my) religious convictions. What I object to is their telling me that I "cannot" vote the way I do and still "follow Jesus."

Here is an interesting quote: "They proceed with the certitude that they are right, that their reading of Scripture is the only reading of Scripture, and their application of that reading of Scripture is the only application of Scripture that makes for Christian, and then when they don’t use that word, they use the word 'Godly Christians,' with the implication that other people who don’t agree are ungodly." Any idea of the source? It is Norman Lear, the producer of "All in the Family," "Maude," and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," speaking in 1982 about the Jerry Falwell-led Moral Majority.

How the worm has turned. As Hollywood and the press and much of contemporary Christianity has shouted down (often correctly, I might add) the insufferable self-proclaimed superiority of right-wing Christian absolutists, the vacuum has been filled by left-wing Christian absolutists. I have written about this before, in response to a rant from Stephen Colbert on how followers of Jesus should see the political spectrum.

I think the the Bible is very clear about loving people, taking care of the poor, welcoming the stranger, and turning the other cheek. I do not think, however, the Bible is very clear that loving people requires forcing everyone to pay more involuntary taxes so that some people can receive more unearned aid, that everyone (including the poor) should pay more for goods and services and that many should give up having jobs at all so that wages can be increased for those who are still working, that totalitarianism and brutality should go unchecked on the world stage, or that everyone deserves insurance to pay for contraception and plastic surgery.

Jesus spoke of peace.  Jesus healed.  Jesus fed the hungry.  Jesus did all this under the eyes of the Emporer, his armies, and his governors.  Not once did Jesus take on the government; He was too busy taking on the religious leaders who were telling the local folks the things they had to do based on the only approved view of scripture.  Not once did He set about preaching that Rome should alter its politics to match His gospel.

That did not mean that Jesus did not believe what He said.  I think it means that He was not about having governments using the force of law to force His ideas involuntarily on citizens.

I treat my employees exceptionally well, and I work for a company that doesn't pay anything close to as low as the minimum wage. I do not own a gun. I give way more than I am required by the tax code to multiple causes that help the poor. I am doing my best to follow Jesus. And I vote conservatively. I have an economic view that dictates, for me, what I believe is ultimately the best way to make sure that poverty is dealt with. I have a political view that leads, I believe, to the widest scale good for the most people. I am tired of being called mean and nasty because of my vote, but I am used to it.  What I am not used to is being called names like that by other Christians, and I am certainly not used to having my Christianity questioned - or outright denied - by other Christians because my politics and economics do not align with the politically correct crowd.

Several months ago, I wrote the following. It was meant to be ironic: I admit it; I hate poor people. I have decided it is time to quit pretending. I hate poor people; especially poor sick people. We have been figured out, so we might as well quit pretending. To be a true conservative requires undiluted, unthinking hatred. I hate poor people.And uninsured sick people. And don't forget homeless children - they really get my dander up. Those kids are obviously out to game the system. In fact, the only people I hate more than the poor are Arabs. And of course homosexuals. And Communists - but there just aren't many of them around to hate anymore.And of course, I hate all members of the media, especially Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann. Well, all of them except for Rush and Hannity and Sarah Palin. I love them. I don't really know why, but I do. What I really want is a redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. Because I really love rich people. If I had it my way, rich people would not have to pay any taxes at all, just as a reward for being rich. Life is all about money, right? If you are rich, that means you have won, so the government should get off your back. I also hate people who talk about climate. Who cares about the weather? Those are the same people who close businesses down just to protect some minnow somewhere. What a bunch of losers. I guess my point is this: Why should we keep pretending we care about issues? Why should we try to say that we have ideas that are better ways to help people? Why should we keep insisting that there is actual thought behind conservative economic policy? Why can't we just admit the truth? We hate poor people. There. I've said it. I feel so much better.

I did not publish that at the time, because I was afraid of being misunderstood.   I was afraid my irony would be lost on some. 

In fact,  I really believe that many of my Progressive Christian brothers and sisters believe that the above paragraph actually describes most political and economic conservatives, even Christian conservatives. I do not want to have to join a fundamentalist congregation just to avoid being ostracized and demonized by the Christians around me. I should not have to.

I would ask all Christians, whatever your political beliefs, to look in the mirror when you hear these words:    "They proceed with the certitude that they are right, that their reading of Scripture is the only reading of Scripture, and their application of that reading of Scripture is the only application of Scripture that makes for Christian, and then when they don’t use that word, they use the word 'Godly Christians,' with the implication that other people who don’t agree are ungodly."

For years, it was the liberal Christians who trumpeted the truths of separation of church and state and of independent judgment unfettered by religious fervor in political discourse. Now we have a liberal president who justifies his economic policies with out of context language from the Gospel of Matthew.

Conviction should not be voiced only when it suits you. If you don't want me shoving my view of scripture down your throat at the voting booth, quit shoving your view down mine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I myself am a political conservative who chooses to be Christian, but definitely not the fundamentalist type. I have no problem with someone else believing in a 6000-year-old earth based on a literal interpretation of Creation even though I take a symbolic view and think the earth is much older. But I avoid like the plague those who think only their close-knit type of Christian is going to heaven and expressing their views in arrogant and self-righteous behavior. I find comfort in less conservative Christian circles, whether in person or on blogs, usually only to do d the others expressing their left-wing political views. I know there are more political conservative who hold non-fundamentalist Christian values. Maybe our voice needs to me heard more, and the subject of politics doesn't need to be included.