The last installment before the closing argument in this series called “Love is the Why.”
When Christianity becomes linked with patriotism, ties to politics become inevitable.
Young people are leaving Christianity in part because American Christianity has come to be represented by Conservative views and extreme right-wing propaganda. Being a Christian has come too closely linked with being a Conservative.
It is no coincidence that America is simultaneously becoming more secular and more liberal.
The problem is that while religious love upholds conciliation, politics is fundamentally divisive, particularly in the two-party system present in America.
In religion, when two groups arrive at an impasse, there are three general courses of action they can take. They can choose intolerance which leads to a fight for supremacy, they can disagree to such an extent that they must live in separate spheres and communities, or they can agree to disagree and live together peacefully without letting the issue upset social order. Religion tends to mean having strong convictions, but it should also mean having a strong desire for peace and harmony.
In politics, disagreement almost always leads to a fight. Not necessarily a violent one, but one that is combative in nature. In politics, opposing parties are fighting over the same territory, which means it must be done one way or the other. Issues of great importance demand resolution but resist compromise.
And, because America is a politically interested nation and because there are such large groups of people seeking political or other social influence, well-defined lines in the sand are drawn, most often between Liberals and Conservatives, and all people are tagged with a few quite significant labels.
And, in many communities of American Christians, particularly those who are proud to be ‘Merican, these labels read thusly:
On the surface, mind you, this makes some sense. After all, the Republican party’s stance on a number of issues matches up with the Christian lifestyle. Republicans and Christians both tend to oppose things like gay marriage, abortion, and drug use, both seem interested in safety and consistency, and the Republican party places greater emphasis on religious freedom than the Democratic party. It is no cakewalk balancing Liberal policies with Christian beliefs.
But there is so much more to both major political parties, and for Christians to write off Democratic policies and to harbor prejudices against Democrats is really problematic.
American Christians need to remember that they are Christians first and Americans second. That will make them better Christians and better Americans.
Doing this should prompt Christians to be loving of people before they are loyal to politics.
Liberals tend to show more support for women’s rights, the poor, minorities, and the environment. I think if you read the Bible you will find pretty strong support for those four things. (Okay I know it’s possible to say the Bible is extremely sexist. Let’s agree to disagree I don’t have time to explain that right now). Of course, a Conservative reading this might argue that their views on these issues are truly the supportive ones. And they may have a totally legitimate line of reasoning for believing that.
However, the problem is that politics demand discounting the majority, if not the entirety, of the opposition’s beliefs. This means that entire issues can be tossed to the wayside in an effort to defeat an opposing political party.
Think about just a few examples:
- Feminism is perceived to be overwhelmingly liberal and secular. Why? Because we have images of angry women running around blaming men for everything just waiting for the chance to abort a baby. But shouldn’t everyone want women to have equal rights? And shouldn’t Christians want to seek how to love and serve all women?
- Support for the environment gets written off as a bunch of tree-hugging hippies playing the sympathy card to save animals. But, don’t they have some worthwhile things to say? Don’t we need to be good stewards of God’s earth? Don’t we need to protect endangered species? And, where do you expect to hunt if your insatiable consumerism destroys our environment?
- The Democratic solutions to poverty are said to be unfair to people who actually work hard as they just help lazy people and drug users. People should just work hard and achieve the American Dream. But, shouldn’t our hearts go out to the poor, whether they be lazy and drug addicted or not? Shouldn’t we be earnestly seeking ways to help all people prosper? Shouldn’t we give generously?
- When a Republican was in office, America needed to go to Afghanistan and Iraq and kill our enemies and help people suffering under autocratic leaders. Now, with a Democrat in office, we should just mind our own business. But as soon as that enemy became linked to jihad it became our business again….
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about women’s rights, racism, unemployment, global warming, radical Muslims, or gay marriage, Christians should be seeking ways to show love. And I earnestly believe that the tendency Christians have to be Conservative has hampered their ability to do so. It is remarkably difficult for Christians to be politically active and engaged while still being a loving and compassionate Christian.
I’m not saying which political party Christians should belong to or what their political views should be. What I’m saying is that Christians should consider political issues on a case-by-case basis rather than outright accepting or rejecting a view or school of thought because of party affiliation. It is true that there are some aspects of feminism that are seemingly at odds with Christian teachings, and it is true that feminists tend to be secular and liberal, but that does not mean that Conservatives or Christians should just reject feminism and feminists categorically. Politics should have nothing to do with it.
Of course I have painted with very broad brush strokes. Conservatives are just as caring as Liberals, and there are many many good Christians voting for Democrats. But to deny apparent predispositions and trends would be irresponsible. Sometimes we have to approach things “generally speaking.”
Which makes it ironic I suppose that what I am asking for is a political worldview that rejects party loyalty. You may happen to side one way or the other 90% of the time, but that does not mean that your mind should be made up every time by a donkey or an elephant.
The bottomline is that the political climate is one that is unwelcoming to love and kindness. It is about competition. It is very tough to be seriously involved in this game while still displaying Christian love.
It’s fine to have an opinion, even a strong opinion, on a political issue, but always consider whether or not what you think is loving, kind, and compassionate.
Your inevitable move towards the middle of the political spectrum, from whichever end you find yourself on, will be for the better.
And the secular world will recognize us by our love, not our party.
Soli Deo Gloria