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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Liberal Christians III

3) Liberals, not Christians

The last group requires the least amount of explanation. They are only a subset of what we find in any church – non-Christians. They may be faithful attendees, participants, choir members, ushers, volunteers, deacons, or even pastors. They have liberal political views, and their political views trump anything that may oppose it in Christian doctrine. Why? They are not Christians, because they have not surrendered their lives to Christ and his commands. Hence, it has no impact on their politics.

Taken as a group, there are three types of liberals in our churches – mature Christians, immature Christians, and non-Christians. Obviously, the same categories of conservatives are present. Conservatives are just as likely to be politically ignorant, theologically ignorant, or secularists.

So then, why have I not described the problems of conservative Christians? Simply put – I have difficulty deigning a conservative political policy that is not Christian. I don’t mean extremists – Neo-Nazi’s don’t even try to look like Christians, just like radical Communists do not. The issues that Christian liberals argue over with conservatives – social welfare, environmental, immigration, and taxation policy – are either independent of faith or are disagreements about methods, not results. Conservatives do not declare that it is OK to destroy the environment, that the poor should be starved, that anyone should be legally required to worship our God, or that innocent civilians should be killed in wars.

The left, in contrast, clearly elucidates its support for pre-birth infanticide, universal acceptance of homosexual conduct, legal theft in the form of redistribution of wealth, and elimination of public displays of faith by anyone remotely construed to be some kind of representative of government (such as the threatening, oppressive high school student saying a prayer on the PA system at a football game).

I invite any liberal Christian readers to respond. I neither claim to have a monopoly on truth nor even to be objective (though I try to be). I will honestly consider both attacks on conservative principles or objectives and defenses of liberal ones.


  • On balance, I agree with most of what you wrote in all three posts.

    As a ‘libertarian Christian’, as well as one whose theology is criticized by the Left and Right, I’m not sure where I fit in to the mix. Politically, I lean more right than left. Theologically, I might be described as a ‘strict constructionist’, in that I think modern doctrines (4th Century and later) have wandered away from Scripture in a cultural evolution of sorts.

    Now, on to the disagreement—

    I think that the public arena ought to be neutral and secular because…A.) the First Amendment mandate and B.) such precludes other religious constructs that you or I may not like (e.g. Wicca and Satanism) from defiling public space.

    Abortion and homosexuality are similar in one respect—they are activities that involve consent and the US Supreme Court has ruled that no harm is incurred to a third party. The issue of embryonic or fetal ‘personhood’ is debatable in certain contexts, but our secular state may not consider theological questions. The same is true for same sex relations. The issue is one of individual liberty, which is a cornerstone of this nation’s founding.

    Finally, religious institutions have special privileges in the Constitution—tax exemption, protection from legislation to prohibit free exercise and the right to discriminate among its membership/leadership. My position is one that draws a distinction between personal opposition to non-violent consensual sin and criminalizing such behavior.

    By Blogger Robert, at 6/14/2005 08:29:00 PM  

  • You are holding up an unfair picture if "liberals" (which I'm not one of, BTW!) and comparing it with a very favourable picture of "conservatives". Beware of seeing only the good in your own position and only the bad in the positions of others.

    As for your "clearly unChristian" liberal policies, some are actually the "real" Christian positions (as far as we can define that). For example, the redistribution of wealth is clearly taught in the Gospels, Acts, Paul's letters and the other pastoral letters. It was also very strongly the position of the early church, who "held all things in common" for several centuries - basically, until the church became caught up in the state. As for "public displays of faith", that is not in the slightest a Christian debate - it's pure politics, and is only an issue in the USA because of the way your Constitution was written. In most other Western countries, it's so far from being an issue that we can't even understand why Americans get so vexed about it. So, non-US conservatives and liberals don't see this difference at all.

    Also, your method of excluding all objectionable conservative positions on the basis that they're about "methods not results", you're in grave danger of falling into "the ends justify the means". Conservative politics, if unconstrained, do lead to environmental degredation, oppression of the poor and so on. Thus, Christians must oppose conservative politics where they contravene Christian beliefs (the bias towards the poor, for example), just as we must opposed liberal politics where they contravene Christian beliefs.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 6/16/2005 06:20:00 AM  

  • John,
    Great comment! You caught me in some slips of assumption, which I hope to correct here.

    Christ is for the redistribution of wealth - by people, choosing to help. He doesn't endorse legal theft. He DOES endorse legal taxation for the purpose of governmental services (security, infrastructure, etc), as Rome did not take from others to give to the poor. I think you touched on the problem with the assimiliation of the church into state issues. Simply put, Christ commands we help the poor, but does not command we take from thers to do it. That's HIS job!

    Your note on the public displays was even better. What I should have said is that a Christian would not oppose some high school student saying a prayer at the football game, or the pledge of allegiance, or In God We Trust on our money. We would, however, oppose laws forcing others to claim to be Christians, I believe. I think that the freedom to choose Christ or not is a Christian principle which we must support.

    On the other hand, I think the issue of the Ten Commandments in the courtroom is not a Christian issue,but a consitutional one.

    You are justly implying the truth, that the Word of Christ is truly not inhibited by governmnetal restrictions. In fact, the blood of the martyrs makes the fires of the Spirit burn hotter, as I see it. Still, that is not a reason for me to support the forced removal of Christianity from the public square.

    I must disagree with your last post. What I mean by "beliefs, not methods" is that there are no conservative or liberal methods. Methodology is apolitical. Hyperbole, deceitful language of laws, backroom deals and favoring of certain groups cross party lines, and are wrong no matter who does them, just as ethnic cleansings and persecution have been employed by tyrants of the right and the left.

    A policy that makes the poor worse off - in reality, not in rhetoric - is not a conservative policy, nor is it a liberal one. It is a wrong one, and you are right to say we should oppose it.

    Thanks for all of your comments! Come back anytime!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/16/2005 11:56:00 PM  

  • Robert,
    We disagree less than you put forth. There is only one area I opose the position in your post, and that is this:

    The personhood of the fetus is no more a theological issue than the personhood of a one day old. What are we using to determine its non-personhood? Location? Viability? Opinion of a relative? None of those impacts a one-day old, why must it impact an about to be one-day old?

    Do you ever intend to do a post or series about the evolution of doctrine (since Origen, Constantine and Augustine I would guess)? I would really like to see that.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/17/2005 12:01:00 AM  

  • Hammer,
    Thanks for the courteous reply! There's just one point I'd like to continue with, which is your continued assertion of "legalised theft". Quite apart from the fact that that is an oxymoron (if it's legal, it's not theft - although it might be immoral), I'm curious to hear what, exactly, you object to. Is it that you don't think your tax dollars should pay for the poor of America (welfare, healthcare etc.)? Or that you object to your tax dollars going abroad?

    As for differentiating between redistribution "by people" and by the government, I fail to see the distinction, I'm afraid. The government *are* people, and ideally represent the will of the people (in a democracy). So, if the elected government decide to tax everyone to aid the poor, how does that differ from any other governmental policy (such as taxing everyone to build roads that non-drivers can't use, or to fund a military that pacifists disagree with, or to pay themselves vast salaries, or to safeguard the environment)?

    I know that "small government" is a big issue in the USA but it's not a Christian position specifically - one could defend everything from anarchy to state communism from Christian principles. The thing it's hard to defend on Christian principles is unfettered capitalism...
    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 6/17/2005 05:26:00 AM  

  • John said:
    one could defend everything from anarchy to state communism from Christian principles. The thing it's hard to defend on Christian principles is unfettered capitalism...

    Actually this is by far the easiest of things to defend from Scripture.. with a couple of caveats. It would not take a very difficult look at the Old Testament laws concerning the regulation of the Jewish economy to see what kinds of economics it recommends. Capitalism is limited in land ownership, and slave ownership (both being limited by sabbatical limitations) but other than that no real limits are placed on ownership, and theivery is greatly discouraged (the foundation of capitalism is a respect for property).
    You rather miss the point when it comes to democracy/taxation/and theft.
    If we are on an island together with 'Sam' (of Dr Seuss fame) and you and I vote that Sam has to give us half his coconuts... that is theft, not democracy. Sure, we have the votes, but we have 'singled him out'.
    Similarly, if the middle class and lower class (who make up the vast majority) pass a law that says that anyone that makes over $100,000 has to pay more taxes... that is theft. It is a law that does not apply to us. We single 'them' out.
    The essence of the rule of law is that all laws must apply to everyone equally. A law that says everyone must pay a $200 tax is a 'democratic' law. One that says that only redheaded males must pay it is... tyrany.

    By Blogger von, at 9/09/2006 01:06:00 AM  

  • In fact, John, I am so sure of my facts re. Scripture that I am willing to host a debate, either her or on my blog, where I lay out the Biblical governmental/economic model (which is, as I say, a modified version of capitalism) and you can defend either of the two alternatives you propose are more easily defended by Scripture (ie anarchism or state communism). My ground rule would be that we both actually defend/define our views using what Scripture actually says instead of multi-string interpretations (IE: the Bible says to 'love our neighbor', anarchism is the best way to do that, therefore Scripture supports anarchism).

    By Blogger von, at 9/09/2006 11:22:00 AM  

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