Elephant and Ass: A Rant

21 07 2008

Seems to me the more I hear terms like “Conservative Christians” and “Liberal Christians” the more worthless the terms “liberal” and “conservative” come to be in describing what kind of Christian a Christian is. What exactly makes someone liberal or conservative as a Christian?

I understand the use of these terms in political dialogue, but have a harder time understanding them in inter-Christian dialogue.

Is John Spong a liberal Christian because he is both politically and theologically “liberal”? Because he rejects traditional Christian ideas, I think, doesn’t make him liberal, it makes him heterodox.

One reason I’ve found these terms to be essentially useless is that in my own experience, some of the most theologically articulate, devout and firmly orthodox Christians I’ve had the pleasure of knowing have been called “liberal”; whereas I’ve met plenty of so-called “conservative” Christians who wouldn’t know traditional Christian faith if it fell on their head like a ton of bricks.

I’ve met plenty of “conservative” Evangelicals who certainly fit the mold of stereotypical American Evangelicalism who, in my discussions with them over theology, come across as holding to fairly heterodox positions. A classic case-in-point are “conservative” Evangelicals who are either completely ignorant of, or sometimes even actively hostile to the orthodox, traditional Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead.

In recent years I’ve increasingly been told that I’m among these “liberal” Christians, though I’m not sure how. My faith has always–and no doubt will continue to be–a work in progress. My aim, however continues to be consistent, to follow Christ, to challenge my preconceived ideas, and be willing to study, read, pray and seek the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the counsel of the Christian Church. I’m not content assuming I have everything figured out, but I am ardent about seeking to be faithful.

I don’t consider myself “liberal”, but I have over the years lost interest in identifying myself as “conservative”. Any allegiance I once had to the Theo-Political machine of the American Religious Right has thoroughly vanished, though I hold no ill will toward those who are part of this organism, I do see the ideology and policies of the Religious Right as viral and infectious, and not to mention fatal to the spiritual health of the Christian Church in America.

So exactly what function or purpose do terms like “liberal” or “conservative” have in inter-Christian discussion? What does it even matter? Is faithfulness to Christ circumscribed by fidelity to conservative American politics? When so much about conservative American politics seems to be deeply antagonistic against the ethos and ministry of Jesus, how can this be so? This is not to say that liberal American politics are any better, seems like both sides of the political divide are pretty problematic insofar as what Jesus has to say. Wouldn’t a better, and far more Christian, politic be to take what Jesus has to say, even if Jesus forces us to repent of our most strongly cherished ideas, and work from there?

I’m not advocating Christian politics in the typical sense, but rather a Christian alternative to American politics that is still quite political. Christianity is political. Not because it’s liberal or conservative, but because it’s Christian. Shouldn’t a Christian response to those things happening in our culture be, in fact, Christian? Neither conservative nor liberal, but Christian. Following the Way of Christ, even if that means forsaking the idols of Elephant and Ass.

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2 responses

16 08 2008
dcrowe

I love this post. It describes me very well, albeit I am tired of considering myself “liberal.” I am a recent ex-senior staffer for a member of Congress playing a key role in the presidential race. I left D.C. two months ago because I had become convinced of Jesus’ seriousness regarding nonviolence, and even though the Democrats used anti-war enthusiasm to gain power in Congress, the narrative is not “war or not?” but rather “war: which ones and how? Oh and don’t worry we won’t cut Defense Dept. spending!” I couldn’t write press releases that were at peace with killing people in one country on our behalf versus killing them in others.

17 08 2008
xristocharis

I think there were very legitimate reasons why in antiquity it was even frowned upon for Christians to be in positions of political power. I think this is one of them. How can we be faithful to our calling to be “peace-makers” if we voluntarily place ourselves in a system of violence? The hard thing is I don’t want to come across as a hard ass saying that Christians simply can’t; but on the other hand it seems more difficult to see how one can. In other words, I don’t want to judge anyone, but I just have a difficult time imagining how these things could ever be reconciled without ultimately having to make a choice as to who is one’s master and lord: Caesar or Christ.

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