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Monday, June 13, 2005

Liberal Christians

Mrs. Hammer asked me the other day, “How can you be a Christian and be a liberal? Is it even possible?” The answer, of course, is yes.

However, the question she was asking wasn’t if there are liberal Christians, but how one can reconcile Christian principles with things such as abortion, homosexual marriage, soldier bashing, forced redistribution of wealth, and other seeming precepts of the left?

As best I can tell, there are three categories of “Liberal Christians”.

1) The Politically Ignorant.

These are those Christians who are unaware of some of the positions of the political left and/or do not have a clear understanding of the options available.

These Christians are usually those who are especially concerned about issues of social justice: aid to the poor, infirm, and vulnerable, as well as concerned about peace. These Christians often are, or are associated with, those who have spent time in field (mission) work with the impoverished, starving, and/or war-torn. They have seen the results, first-hand (or are friends with those who have) of corrupt governments, gangs, warlords, or religions and want to do what they can to prevent such sad events from occurring.

These good hearted individuals are usually ignorant on two counts. The first is a lack of knowledge of some of the positions of the left. Consider: in the Catholic church, issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage are not even negotiable. It is likely that they are seldom, if ever, discussed by church leaders in a forum which emphasizes the different positions of the political parties on these kinds of issues. Conversely, the needs for social justice are often discussed and emphasized there. Helping those in need is a duty of the Christian – one that is, unfortunately, not emphasized enough in many churches. Because these issues are emphasized, and because one political party paints itself as the “party of the poor”, these good-intentioned Christians reflexively support that party and its liberal agenda.

The other political ignorance is the easiest to understand – these Christians think that the government should be the source of help for the poor. They have never considered that the poor were helped before the New Deal and the Great Society, they have never considered whether it is more helpful to a homeless person to offer them charity with some work required or a hand-out, and they have never examined the brutal honesty that taking money from person A and giving to person B, by force, is theft. Instead, they see and hear the anecdotal and individual successes that come of people doing what they would have done without governmental intervention – working hard to overcome their circumstances – and assume that the only solution is through the government. Hence, they are liberal.

Two more categories to go…they are here and here.


  • I go round and round in my head on this one Hammer. Have have mostly been on the conservative side. I like the way you presented this. I think that we just need to get rid of the political parties all together. I side on issues with both and if you say you are one or the other, you get labeled and not caring about one issue and caring too much about another. Maybe we should have two Presidents and put them together LOL--that is the only solution. I think that we define "conservative" and "liberal" wrongly. Most people that call themselves liberal are not "liberal" on all issues and those who call themselves "conservative" are not always "conservative" on all issues. This is a tough one all around!

    By Blogger Teresa, at 6/14/2005 12:56:00 PM  

  • Very true, Teresa. I also lean conservstive, but am certainly not a devoted follower of Rush!

    Labels are always gross overgeneralizations. I tried to put forth some of the policies that are included in a generalized "liberal" agenda of today.

    As best I can tell, Jesus was thoroughly liberal, in that he was proposing BIG changes in every way. I just don't think he would be called a liberal today, any more than John the Baptist would have been in his day.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/14/2005 02:03:00 PM  

  • Well, one could ask the same question about how one could be a conservative Christian. How can one follow Christ and seek wealth, support wars, place security above justice, demonise the poor and other races, and so on.

    The point is, as you said in your comment, that labels are dangerous. Too few people really look at what following Christ means for their politics. Far easier simply to "baptise" whatever politics one already holds - as the Religious Right in the USA has done.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 6/16/2005 05:57:00 AM  

  • John,
    I may have gotten to your point in the following posts, but basically, the ideas you present as "conservative" simply are not. There is not a large block of politicians or citizens who declare that we must seek wealth, or support all wars, or blame the poor, or demonize any race. On the contrary, we cannot deny that the political left espouses gay marriage, abortion for convenience, legal theft through forced redistribution of wealth, etc.

    The issues you name are what the left says the right believes. The issues I named are what the left says they themselves believe. I hope that made my assertion clearer.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/16/2005 11:40:00 PM  

  • But, again, you are being unfair. Not all of "the left" espouse the positions you condemn. However, even if they don't explicitly say "we must oppress the poor", many on "the right" *do* carry through policies that consistently have this effect. That is, they don't set out to oppress the poor, but neither to they set out to help the poor, preferring instead to help themselves.

    The point is that neither "right" nor "left" is, of itself, a Christian set of beliefs. Both have grasped part of what it means to be human but missed a larger part. As Christians, it is surely our role to keep watch on our own party even more than on the "opposition" because, if we don't, no one can. So, Christians on the left must ensure that "progressive" beliefs don't turn into moral relativism or a belief that new is necessarily better. Similarly, Christians on the right must ensure that "conservative" beliefs don't harm the world for personal gain or forget the basic human rights of *all* people (rich or poor, foreign or domestic).

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 6/17/2005 05:16:00 AM  

  • Lying about stealing . . .

    When a community collectively decides to take a percentage of their individual wealth and distribute it to those in need, it isn't stealing - it's charity. And when a group of people chosen from the community make that decision on behalf of the community, it's not stealing - it's called representative government.
    Taxing for assistance to the poor is no more "stealing" than taxing for bombing Iraqis.
    I don't agree with many ways in which my tax dollars are spent, but I don't therefore cry out that the government is "stealing" from me.
    Our entire current system of government is based on elected representatives making collective decisions for us on how much we shall be taxed and how it shall be spent.
    If you don't like the percentages or the expenditures, petition your government. But don't call it theft - it's the price of democracy and civilization.

    By Blogger PatrickHare, at 3/04/2006 12:38:00 PM  

  • Patrick,
    You confuse legality with morality. Of course it is not illegal for the government to take your taxes and give them to me. After all, they legally pass the required legislation.

    However, because something is legal does not make it moral. Your rationale that I shouldn't call it stealing is intellectually dishonest. It is forcibly taking the property of one and bestowing it upon another. It is no less morally correct than when Robin Hood did it. We like it, because we feel it aids the poor - but that does not eliminate the fact that the rich are still stolen from, which is wrong.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 3/06/2006 09:20:00 AM  

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