Thursday, August 11, 2011

I have faith

and therefore must be a liberal.

Back in my seminary days, at what is now called Palmer Theological Seminary - which was then a pretty centrist American Baptist seminary, one of my profs said that it is not possible to be both Christian and a Republican. In part, he may have been trying to get a rise out of some of the students, but he did believe what he was saying. He was saying that the political stances of the conservative movement and the platform stances of the Republican Party were antithetical to Christian ethics. I have continuing connections with that professor and he would say that this is more true now than it was back in the 70's.

I read an article today in the Scientific American that says foundational that I think makes my profs statement even more true. The article shows that positive images carry more weight with liberals than conservatives or, to phrase it another way, that conservatives have a "bad is stronger than good bias." It is no wonder then, that the article quotes William F. Buckley who said that conservatism "stands athwart history, yelling "Stop." For conservatives, change is always for the worse and the future is only dark. For them, our role is to hang onto the past as tenaciously as we can because things are clearly falling apart.

This strikes me as the opposite of faith. If I truly trust in the power of a loving God, then how can I but see the future as positive? As a child, I had a plaque on my wall with a quote from the early missionary Adoniram Judson, "The future is as bright as the promises of God." If I believe that, how can I envision anything but a future of beauty and wonder and progress? Now, I know that many conservatives would respond that I cannot ignore the power of sin. Fine, I'll give them that. I have experienced the powers of sin and each day I read about it in the newspaper and see it on television and online. Sin is very, very real... and it is bigger than many of them would acknowledge as it wields power both in and through individuals and in and through larger societal systems. But, sin is not the final word. I also believe in the good news of Easter when the powers of sin and death are overcome by the power of God's love. I believe Paul when in Roman's he speaks of God's love which overcomes all negative powers in the universe. I believe the prophet Isaiah when he speaks for God, "look, I'm doing something new."

Standing astride history yelling "stop!" by definition means standing against the movement of God to a better future. Living with a basic orientation of "no" is a position of no faith rather than one of faith. So, again, I have faith... therefore I am a liberal.

8 comments:

Michael Mahoney said...

If scripture teaches us anything, it's that faith and folly are not the same things. If I see you standing on the train tracks with a train coming, should I pray about it, or should I push you out of the way?

If I see Democrat politicians continually funding programs we cannot afford, expanding government services without an ounce of concern for how we pay for them, or supporting the labor unions that are bleeding our economy dry, does that represent to me an example of biblical stewardship?

I see it more in people like Chris Christie or Scott Walker, who (rightly) say "We just can't afford this." If I go to the store and I have five dollars in my pocket, I cannot buy ten dollars worth of milk, no matter how badly I need it. (Unless I'm a democrat, apparently.)

I won't even (yes I will) go down the path of support for abortion

roy said...

First, Michael, the post and the article are about a way of thinking rather than specific policies... but it does have policy implications. So...

I wouldn't blame the Dems for over-spending. That goes back to the Reagan days and the Republican two Santa Clauses strategy which is aimed at political ends - re-election and consolidation of power - rather than making the country a stronger/better place. Had Bush not gotten us into two unnecessary wars AND cut taxes, our budget would be in a very different place. True, Bush did have support from the Dems although I don't know how that would have differed had his administration been honest or more competent. And, Obama did continue both the wars and the tax cuts. I'm no fanboy of his either.

Also, I would not call the vast majority of the current Dems liberal by any stretch of the imagination. I would argue that they, with a few exceptions, are solidly conservative.

So, let's get to where we are... when you go into the store with $5 dollars, you don't spend $10, but you do make decisions regarding where to spend the $5. I would argue that the choices being made are not the ones Jesus would make.

And that doesn't begin to raise revenue questions.

Chad Zaucha said...

Boy, Roy. This one is a doozy.

1. You paint with some broad strokes. To say that only liberals exercise faith and all conservatives are about saying "no" is wrong and offensive.

2. In an earlier post you questioned who gets to define certain terms, especially the term "Christian." Isn't this exactly what you are doing?

3. You seem to be saying that the only true Christians are liberals. Really?

4. I have always heard that liberals are about tolerance, diversity, and acceptance--except in the case of conservatives I guess.

5. Why the need to continually label and generalize people? That seems very "unliberal".

Thanks for getting the blood flowing on a Friday afternoon.

Chad

roy said...

Hey Chad,

it's been a while. I hope things are going well for you.

1. I didn't say it, the study and William F. Buckley did.

2. yes... at least to a degree

3. no, I'm saying that conservatism and faith are antithetical

4. how was this post intolerant?

5. labels are important even if they are never 100% accurate. Again, the primary motivator for the post was a sociological study that looked at the way conservatives vs. liberals see and experience the world... and they found a difference.

6. I certainly stand by what I wrote... it is up there forever and ever. However, I wish I could always write in pencil so there would be an awareness that I might change my mind at any given time. And I wish that almost everything I write (and say) had an asterisk next to it to remind readers and listener that anything written in 4 paragraphs is by definition oversimplified.

CaliDane said...

Roy, I too was attempting to write recently about how my beliefs and values lead me to certain political stances. And along the way I discovered that I am acutely angry right now.

http://calidane.blogspot.com/2011/08/on-government-and-deficits.html

Chad Zaucha said...

"...it is not possible to be both Christian and a Republican."

"He was saying that the political stances of the conservative movement and the platform stances of the Republican Party were antithetical to Christian ethics. I have continuing connections with that professor and he would say that this is more true now than it was back in the 70's."

That is what I find offensive. The attempt by either political party to claim Christianity as their own and to completely vilify the other is wrong and ultimately harmful to the cause of Christ. Neither party gets it completely right. Nor can we point at the other as being completely wrong.

My hope is not in attempting to bring societal change through government (obviously not working) but in the God who changes hearts. That is a true cause for hope.

roy said...

I understand Lars :-(

Chad, In large degree, I do not disagree with you. Here's what I would add... one's faith stands should and do impact their evaluation of political stances made by either party. The prof I cited clearly felt that the Republican Party platform is out of sync with his understanding of Christian values.
Government does bring societal change, the only question is what societal change. The migration of resources away from the middle class and towards the very wealthy is a clear result of government policies, especially tax policies. Reversing that trend can only happen by the work of government. Unfortunately, our current crop of leaders - both democrats and republicans - have no stomach to stand up against powerful folk who want to keep the status quo, regardless of what that means for the country as a whole.

CaliDane said...

Labels are so dangerous because they are often misleading. We have diminished the information content of the words we use when talking about important issues to the point where they often seem useless.
Take a word like "liberal". In this country, it has come to be associated with whatever the policies of the Democratic party are at the moment. Or as a milder word for "socialist". But it used to mean "someone who is in favor of increased freedom" of any kind. In Europe, it currently is used about center-right parties, whiuch are in favor of free trade and an easier regulatory environment for businesses. For that reason, I try to avoid it whever possible, preferring to say "progressive" which is generally agreed to denote mildly socialist leanings. I would like to see liberal regain the original meaning, which would mean that is would be best applied to Libertarians.
In the same way, the word "conservative" has come to mean "against socialism", where it used to mean "someone who wants to preserve the old ways", which would include conservationists. In my eyes, the "TEA Party" is not "conserving old values", it is a radical right-wing movement.
Finally, I have seen so many different value systems described as "Christian values", that I do not know what that means. Certainly, the early Christians lived in a socialist commune (see Acts 2:41-47, Acts 4:32-35, Acts 5:1-10).