Friday, March 5, 2010

Loving Liberally

I'm a pretty conservative Christian. And I've lived most of my life in pretty conservative Christian circles. My Facebook addiction, however, has connected me again with some good old friends who are pretty liberal Christians. Well . . . "pretty" liberal? A couple I can safely call radically liberal. And they would wear the title with pride.

Hearing their point of view on things is always valuable for me, because sometimes they're right. (Of course, just because they're right, it doesn't necessarily follow that I'm wrong . . . ! ) There are a few issues that we have marked, profound disagreement on. But on probably the majority of spiritual questions that come up, we agree more than we disagree -- and our disagreement usually has more to do with a question of emphasis.

For example, "social justice" seems to be a hot-button topic in most of the liberal Christian world I've been exposed to. Helping the oppressed, standing in solidarity with victims of injustice. And I don't know anyone in my camp who would argue against that idea. But my liberal friends just give it more emphasis -- probably in reaction to the seeming apathy they've seen in other Christians. And rightfully so. While liberals certainly don't have the corner on compassion, they do seem more willing to show it whole-heartedly, with no "spiritual agenda" attached.

Interesting isn't it that the Church has a long history of lifting up the oppressed, the needy, the forgotten, the unwanted (think hospitals, orphanages, etc. etc.) -- while at the same time, it has a long history of intolerance and oppression toward those it disagrees with (think Crusades, witch hunts, etc. etc.). How can the Christian Church be such a schizophrenic organism? Because it is made up of fallen, imperfect Christians.

And because the task we are given -- to be the hands, feet, and face of God on earth -- is a formidable and complex one. We are to love perfectly, as God loves us all. We are called to be holy, as God is holy. And to do them both at the same time requires an indwelling God doing it through us. We simply aren't capable.

I admire liberal Christians I know for their commitment to the downtrodden. They see this as a command from Christ that is not meant just to be obeyed in our free time, as it is convenient for us, but as one which requires personal sacrifice and a willingness to enter into someone else's suffering. I have much to learn from them.

I wonder what they would have to learn from me.


Robin Shreeves said...

I am one of those Christians who has moved from conservative to liberal in the past few years. It has a whole lot to do with the social justice issue.

I saw a t-shirt online years ago that I've looked for time and again and can't find it now but it said something like, "Jesus said feed the poor, help your fellow man, do unto others,(and a whole bunch of other kind to others stuff). And you think Jesus would have been a Republican?"

I was very disturbed when I saw some Christians (on Facebook by the way), spewing out Rush Limbaugh's advice after the earthquake in Haiti. "I've already given to Haiti. It's called taxes." Really?

It just seems that political conservatism latches on to two "religious" ideas - prolife and anti-homosexuality - and in both cases instead of standing against the action of abortion or against the practice of homosexuality - it stands against the people who have abortions or practice homosexuality. They've (and who they are is vague) picked two things and have decided it's okay to not only be against the actions but to hate and condemn the people who do them.

Liberals on the other hand, while not being willing to call a sin a sin, often love the people no matter what they are doing. They (and again, a vague they) want to help others. But there's an exception. They are unwilling to love the in-perfect political conservatives. In fact, someone on facebook today, a very liberal person, just wrote about how nothing makes him happier than when a values based conservative gets caught with his pants down (apparently some conservative politician was caught leaving a gay bar with another man). He was delighted by this person's hypocrasy. I find that as upsetting as those who didn't see a need to help Haiti.

I know we are all flawed and there will never be perfection in political ideals. I find myself unable to identify with either of our political parties any more. In fact, in my Facebook profile under political views it reads "frustrated."

One good thing about my inability to connect with a party is that it makes me delve more into individual politicians when it comes to elections. I no longer just vote a party line.

GJK said...

I agree with everything you've said here, Robin (except that I know a plethora of Republicans who feed the poor, help their fellow man, etc.). I'm very frustrated with the whole political system and process right now. But in this post, I was actually referring to being conservative or liberal theologically, not politically. Although what I said may apply in both cases . . . :)

Vianelli and Eastin said...


Ona Marae said...

Loving liberally...sorry i missed this one and am so late in commenting. What i see as the major theological difference between the existing paradigm (conservative church) of Christianity and the emerging paradigm (progressive/liberal whatever you want to call it) is the view of what faith is about. In the existing paradigm, faith (while covering things like feeding the poor, etc)is primarily about an afterlife and even, in it's least attractive forms, can be reduced to a checklist of things i have to do to get into heaven. And Robin was right, when it's not worried about getting into heaven it latches onto prolife and antihomosexuality stances and gets pretty intense about them. SOME of those Christians, not all, can be downright spiritually abusive in cases and I know this as an out Lesbian from personal experience. I've never met an agnostic or atheist who hated me based on what I was instead of who I was, but I've met lots of Christians who do.

As far as the emerging paradigm, the "theme" for it is not focused on an afterlife but on bringing the Kingdom of God into existance right here and now. (The now and the not yet, you might call it.) Christ began his public teaching with a reading from Isaiah about proclaiming the acceptable day of the Lord, which has to do with the the litany of freeing the captives, liberating the oppressed, feeding the hungry, you know the list. What happens after death,frankly, is far less important to me than what happens before death. Am I living faithfully to the call of Jesus to bring about the Kingdom? I don't even know if Heaven exists and I don't care much. That will take care of itself if I am living faithful to the call.

So that's how I see the theological differences. And of course, it's oversimplified for clarity's sake...there is more overlap than I portrayed. But I know that is the struggle in my church between the two groups of Christians and we are called to build a bridge between the two camps.

I'll be quiet now.

Rick Scharping said...

The majority of wrongs done in the name of Christianity were in the distant past. The majority of charity work done in the world today is done by conservative Christians through their churches.

Although conservatives don't wear their hearts on their sleeves for all to see doesn't mean they care any less than a liberal. Action, not feelings is responsible for making changes in this world.
Conservative christians (myself included) are continuously involved in charity work locally and globally.