Tuesday, December 22, 2009

christian liberals

In Defense of the Christian Liberal
October 12, 2002
By Frank Lovato

Traits I have observed in the behavior of many political conservatives that irritate me is their absolute confidence that they are "right" about anything and everything, and their misuse of the Christian religion to justify the inhumanity of many of their words and actions.

I remember a line in the movie "Inherit the Wind" in which the William Jennings Bryan character asks the Clarence Darrow character "Does right have no meaning to you?" to which he responds, "No! Right has no meaning to me, but truth does."

Conservatives tend to act as if "right" were revealed to them by a higher power and that everything they say is so because they believe it is "right." "Truth" they are willing to subvert, and in many cases violate, to further their perception of "right."

As a case in point, W scares me. He is quoted as saying, "I believe that what I believe is right." His own ignorance and stupidity are an asset to him because study and the knowledge gained from study might undermine his being "right." These attributes make him currently popular with some of the American public because they mistake ignorance for directness and stupidity for single-mindedness.

Willingness to examine one's position and to realistically appraise it is the hallmark of a mature and educated person, and it seems most conservatives never reexamine their positions because it might lead to the terrible prospect of being wrong.

In stark contrast, we liberals seem to always be questioning and rethinking our convictions and the reasons for those convictions. Maybe that is one of our political weaknesses; we think too much to always present a solid united front. But yet again, maybe that is one of our greatest personal assets.

The second thing that irritates me is the misuse of the Christian religion by many conservatives to justify their position in a political situation. It seems to be a planned conservative strategy to couch themselves as "godly" and "religious," as opposed to liberals who are "ungodly" or "non-religious." The Clinton impeachment debacle is a case in point.

Under his leadership the country was running great, but his abilities were completely overshadowed by his "sins." Conservative congressmen and senators went after him as if his sexual transgressions were the most terrible of all crimes. But when their own conservative leadership was found out to also be guilty of the same things, it was passed off as no harm, no foul.

It was all right for them to sin because they were "godly" people who made a small mistake, but even as Bill publicly confessed and asked for forgiveness, the conservatives pronounced that he was not truly repentant, and because he was "ungodly" he must be punished for his sins. Even the FBI was so busy trying to get him to lie to them that they completely forgot the possibility that terrorists could be planning something much more devastating than a little hanky-panky in the White House.

A very personal reason why this use of Christianity by the conservatives annoys me so much is that I consider myself a Christian, and I am also very politically liberal. I firmly believe a person who really tries to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ would be much more likely to be a political liberal rather than a conservative.

Despite all the religious trappings that conservatives are so prone to flaunt, most look down on their fellow man, especially if he is poor or non-Christian, and more so if he makes any demands upon their wealth or time. I like to call these people "Old Testament" Christians because they like to quote the Old Testament and never the words of Jesus Christ as related in the New Testament. I can very well see why they do this, because the Old Testament is absolutely full of death and revenge while Christ taught only life and peace. The various parables of Christ as related in the New Testament teach love and forgiveness and never revenge or war or judgment.

Christ taught us not to judge our fellow man, but the Pharisees (the conservatives of their time) ignored him because they thought they had every right to judge others because they were perfect, since they kept all the Jewish laws and the "sinners" did not. These present-day Pharisees are not much different from the old ones, and in their "righteousness" they quote the Old Testament because it justifies their lack of love or concern for their fellow man.

When asked by one of the Pharisees which was the most important of the commandments, Christ answered the most important was the first commandment concerning the love of God, but then he likened it to the second about the love of fellow man. Why did he do that? Because Christ knew it is impossible for a person to love God and at the same time not love his fellow man. Conservatives camouflage this lack of love by insisting that their overriding concern is for having people take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Noble-sounding, but it also lets them off the hook for providing for the needs of others. In a word, conservatives tend to be just plain cheap.

Looking after the poor and needy effectively is costly and generally means the use of tax money, and to conservatives those are fighting words. Help to the poor and needy can also be provided through charity, and conservatives are now introduced a new wrinkle. They are now willing to provide government funding for aid to the poor and needy through "faith based" charities. Why are they now so willing to provide funds to the poor and needy through charity and not through direct government support?

If a person is beholden to charity, he has no say in how assistance is administered or what that assistance entails. Being a recipient of alms, he can only keep his mouth shut and be grateful. If, on the other hand, the government were the source of the aid, the recipient, by the fact of being a citizen, would have a voice in the kind and administration of the aid. That in a word is entitlement, and that word causes shivers to run down the spine of any true conservative. Government assistance to the poor and needy through "faith based" charities is just another way of disenfranchising them.

Liberals, whether or not they are Christians, are often more Christian-acting than the more vocal conservatives, because they are truly concerned about the well being of people and do not rush to judge the righteousness of their fellow man. The Bible has a passage that states "Judge not least you be judged." A very good idea, but in any and every social controversy conservatives are there to judge who is right and who is wrong and believe they have every right to do so.

Conservatives are also very quick to shed tears over the death of innocent babies killed in abortions but not one for the killer on death row. I am firmly against abortion, but I am also firmly against the death penalty. In my opinion, it would seem that a true Christian society would be willing, if not eager, to provide a means by which a killer could save his soul and not prematurely end his life before he has had every opportunity to repent of his sins. If he repents, there will be great celebration in Heaven, and if he does not the responsibility is all his. Christian teaching holds that the innocent unborn child and the hardened killer are both precious to God, and not one more than the other. But the conservative is the first to defend the death penalty and cry out for revenge.

But as far as the abortion question goes, conservatives preach about how every unborn child is precious and how each one should be provided the maximum protection under the law. I agree, but just ask them if the government should provide funds to care for these children after they are born and for their mothers who would provide them care. They immediately fall back on the old line that it is their fault and they should take responsibility for their actions. This is a win-win argument in that conservatives can sound holy and still not have their holiness cost them anything.

Sometimes I get the feeling that the thought of sinners writhing in hell makes these folks really feel good. I read recently about a minister picketing a theater performance of a play about the homosexual young man that was killed in Wyoming. He seemed almost elated to announce with absolute certainty that the young man had already been in hell for two years. That doesn't sound very Christian to me. What do you think Jesus would say?

All these traits I mentioned are irritating, but the most dangerous to our American democracy is the conservative's use of government to forward their religious and philosophical views. They try to pack the courts with themselves, try to pass legislation that aids them in gaining control of government, and take every opportunity to label the opposition as traitors or at best unpatriotic. And they are ruthless in their attacks. Again, remember the Clinton impeachment.

They use government policy to further their own strange interpretation of scripture. They believe the United States should support Israel--not because of any affection for the Israelis, but because they believe the establishment of a Jewish state will speed or assist their concept of the second coming of Christ and, ironically, the conversion or elimination of the Jewish people.

They ridicule natural resource conservation because they believe the imminent second coming of Christ makes conservation of the environment unnecessary and even silly.

They espouse causes such as the anti-abortion movement because it gains them the support of Catholic voters while still avowing that the Catholic Church is the "whore of Babylon" and that the Pope is the "anti-Christ". They cite their extremely literal interpretation of the Bible as if it were fact and justify their vile and often untruthful attacks on others as being a service to God.

They ridicule Islam for its insistence that the words of the Prophet Mohamed are the only truth, while doing exactly the same thing with what they profess are Christian beliefs.

I hope, and yes, even pray, that this is just a passing phase in the political history of our country, and that soon we will wonder how a country supposedly based on the concept of freedom and fair play can have drifted so far from this concept. The mere suspicion of hostile intent and the possible possession of weapons of mass destruction by another country (this time Ira--who knows who will be next?) are grounds to make war against that country and encourage its citizens to overthrow their government.

Conservatives are turning our country, that historically has been a believer in the rule of law, into an international bullyboy who throws its weight around merely because he can. For a time, we liberals have got to adopt one the traits of the conservatives by standing united in our opposition to these terrible policies that threaten the safety and virtue of our beautiful country.


dudleysharp said...

I hope you find this of interest.

"Death Penalty Support: Modern Catholic Scholars"

Clementine Moonflower said...

Thank you very much--I'll check it out.
However, I'm not against the death penalty. I just found this article to be an overall good description of my feelings on the subject of religious views lately, particularly relating to Jesus and his teachings of compassion and forgiveness. I'm always searching for meaning and I redefine my views on life as my experience dictates. Life is fluid and ever-changing, that's why I feel it necessary to keep reassessing my beliefs and keep an open mind. It is my quest to be a better person.

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