Tuesday, June 2, 2015

ILLIBERAL LIBERALS

Anyone who reads this blog will recognize that I have been and continue to be, a critic of the Religious Right.  As a follower of Jesus who considers himself an Evangelical Christian, I have felt that I have the right and responsibility to let it be known that not all of us are such as we are represented by so many of these persons and that they present a caricature of Christianity.  I feel that their equating of Christianity with right wing politics and super "patriotism" does a disservice to the Gospel.

Because of these views I have often been labeled a Liberal and I do not reject the label.  I feel that the word describes first of all a way of thinking and only secondly a set of political views.  (See:  THE REPUBLICAN BRAIN and WHY DO I THINK THE WAY I DO?.)

I disagree with many areas of Religious Right ethics because I find them contrary to New Testament teaching.  And I feel that the bigotry, intolerance, lying and just plain meanness that is employed by many of them is contrary to the way of Jesus.

However, having said all this, I must say that there are many areas where we do agree.  And it is in these areas that I find myself siding with them as they themselves have become the objects of bigotry, intolerance, lying and just plain meanness from the left.  While I feel that those on the Religious Right should know better because of their professed regard for the Scripture, I also feel that those on the Left - whether Religious or secular - should know better because of their professed liberal thinking.

Liberal thinking, by definition, is supposed to be broad-minded, not bound by authoritarianism, nuanced and tolerant.  Conservative thinking is supposed to be authoritarian, less open to new thinking, less tolerant.  So why lately have liberals become so "conservative" in their thinking, speech and actions?

Most persons, including myself, who accept the authority of the Scripture, are convinced that it clearly teaches that homosexual sex is sin.  We refuse to revise that conviction because we feel it is biblical.  To hold to this conviction does not make us "homophobes," nor does it mean we are "on the wrong side of history" (whatever that means).  While it is possible to act on this conviction in a way that contradicts the Law of Love - "Love your neighbor as yourself" - it is also possible and imperative that we let the Law of Love guide all our actions, even and especially in this area.

And so, I believe gay marriage is and should be tolerated by the follower of Jesus as granting the protection of law to those with whom I am in disagreement.  Yet this apparently is not enough for many on the left; tolerance is not enough; we are expected to endorse it.  And if not we are considered "homophobic."

Because of my convictions in this matter, I as a minister would have to refuse to perform a gay wedding.  Does that make me a bigot?  Or is it possible that those who would condemn me for acting on my convictions are the real bigots?  (By the way, there are a few "straight" weddings that I have refused to perform.)

And I, along with most of those on the right are convinced that abortion is the taking of a human life and thus a terrible evil, though as all evils, a forgivable one.  To automatically label those who desire to limit abortion as being sexist and antifeminist is another act of bigotry.

I also, as do most followers of Jesus Christ, believe that Islam is a false religion.  I believe that not only is its denial of the deity of Jesus erroneous, but that there is an inherent violence and sexism at its very core.  This does not necessarily make us deserving of the label "Islamophobe."

As an Evangelical Christian and as a liberal thinker I would love to see each side stop and listen to the other.  If we really consider ourselves followers of Jesus and believers in the authority of Scripture, then we must let the Law of Love control our thinking, our speech and our actions.  And if we consider ourselves liberal thinkers, then we must recognize that there are others who think differently than we do, and grant them the liberty to do so.

And we who follow Christ must recognize that all - not just some particular group - are sinners and that all can find forgiveness in Christ.

4 comments:

Jay said...

Bill,

I find myself in agreement with you on almost all of what you said here. As you may know, I consider myself a political "libertarian" since it's the only label that comes close under the modern understanding of such terms. (I do not, necessarily, endorse the Libertarian party).

In the past few years, I have had my own version of "cognitive dissonance" wherein my political free-will liberty mindedness ran smack into the Calvinist notions of total depravity.

Still, though I believe I have no ability to choose to accept God's grace on my own, I do still live in the world, I still take shots at both our major political parties, while believing strongly that most mainstream denominations and their "liberal" theological base have basically supplanted their own good works with a render-unto-Caesar attitude.

At any rate, I try to keep my politics and theology distinct from one another, but not necessarily separate. As we discussed before, our beliefs should inform our politics, and as always we should be mindful of the notion of "in all things, charity".

geeksandtech said...

Hi Bill,

I got your email and read your post. :)

You said: "I disagree with many areas of Religious Right ethics because I find them contrary to New Testament teaching."

They may well be but do you think they're in line with OT teaching?

After all, it is all one book. Not just the NT applies.

You said: "To hold to this conviction does not make us "homophobes," nor does it mean we are "on the wrong side of history" (whatever that means)."

It means that just as those who supported wrong-headed values such as slavery ware regarded as being on the wrong side of history, so to will those supporting bigotry against homosexuals.

You said: Because of my convictions in this matter, I as a minister would have to refuse to perform a gay wedding. Does that make me a bigot?

Speaking for myself, I'm fine with how you'd handled it. I do not think Pastors or churches should be forced to perform gay marriages. I think churches that don't will eventually die out but they shouldn't be forced.

I also don't think just because you would refuse that makes you a bigot. Sometimes things are not black and white and I don't get the feeling that you hate people who are in same-sex relationships. I do, however, think if more people got their head out of that ancient book of rules, more people would be able to discern what is ethical and not ethical more easily. But of course, that is a personal view.

You said: To automatically label those who desire to limit abortion as being sexist and antifeminist is another act of bigotry.

Yes. I think you would have to have a longer conversation to determine whether someone is anti-feminist etc. I can honestly see why some people are against abortion and I see why others are for free choice. I'm on the side of free choice myself, but even if you're not religious in the least, you can make a case for limiting or doing away with abortion. I think it's a weaker case than allowing it though.

You said "I also, as do most followers of Jesus Christ, believe that Islam is a false religion. I believe that not only is its denial of the deity of Jesus erroneous, but that there is an inherent violence and sexism at its very core. This does not necessarily make us deserving of the label "Islamophobe."

Many of them regard you in the same way. Thus the danger with authoritarian religions.

And no, Islamophobe is a made up word meant to shame people who disagree with their religion. It's a ridiculous word.

Good blog post Bill. I enjoyed it. I always like reading peoples thoughts, especially when they have the courage to speak about topics not considered politically correct. Great job!

Bill Ball said...

Thanks for the comments.
Mike it's good to hear from you again. I've not felt my posts are complete since you stopped commenting.
I always appreciate your comments even when we disagree and I won't get into our differences except for one matter:
Though the Bible is one book as you said, the follower of Christ is not under the Old Covenant that was made with Israel. We are under the New Covenant inaugurated by Christ. Our ethics, though informed by the Law of Moses, are derived from the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament epistles. I believe that much confusion stems from a failure to recognize this distinction.

Erin Newman said...

I feel the same Bill! I use to consider myself a "conservative liberal" but then realized I hate labels in the first place, so why do I necessarily NEED to label my political self? I often cringe at the Religious Right...yet I feel uncomfortable saying I'm a Liberal due to issues like abortion. I just want to focus on Jesus' teachings to guide my compass politically and I find that people do not like that. They want me to label.

Thank you for your words.