Friday, November 26, 2004

Where is the Christian Left?

So... It is the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm reflecting on how wonderful the last day and a half has been and how much I truly have to be grateful for: I'm recently and happily married; since moving last year, I've found a church and a pastor that feel like home; my mom and my sister are happier than I've ever seen them... There is so much going on in my life that is truly a source of joy for me, but that soft voice is still nagging at me. And no, this isn't just since the election. That didn't help, but this voice has been there for a long time.

I've known since I was very little that I believed in God, and I learned at a young age that Jesus loved me. As a Lutheran, I learned in confirmation classes during high school that Christians are saved by the grace of God alone. We humans are not perfect; we can't be. And because God loves us as much as he does, he sent his one and only Son here to die for us and to stand in our place on Judgment Day. Such love! And our response is to be one of thanksgiving, praise, and -- most importantly -- love!

Yet, when we look at how "Christianity" has manifested itself in politics, it's hard to think of a more oxymoronic image. I remember one evening when my then-fiancé and I were watching Larry King interview the president of Bob Jones University. I don't remember the exact content of what he said anymore, only that I was jaw-dropped at the hatred to which I was listening. What I didn't notice immediately was that my fiancé (who at that time was not a Christian) was turning redder and redder, until finally exploding: "How can you believe in all this hate-mongering vitriol??". I was further stunned...because I didn't, and I never have.

I have never understood why, when people learn that I'm a Liberal, they assume I lack "moral values", that I don't "support our troops", and that I want to undermine their churches. On the other hand, if people first learn that I'm Christian, they assume I think I'm better than they are, that I'm going to rub their noses in any shortcomings I might spot, that I hate gays, that I am in favor of the death and destruction going on in Iraq right now, and so on.

Okay, actually I do understand how people make all of those assumptions about me: it's at least in part because of the current blending of faith and politics in the Republican Right. It is hard to imagine more hate mongering than what we have today from those who present themselves as Christians. And I am still taken aback by all of this: some people really believe that if Jesus walked among us right now that he would support all of hatred, division, and claims to moral superiority coming from the Christian Right.

Well, I for one do not. I have read in the New Testament about a Jesus who reached out to poor and the outcast and who commanded the rich and the haughty to love and give to others until there was nothing else to give. What I see now is a lot of shortsighted, self-interested opportunism. I will get into that in a lot more detail on that later on, but for now, understand this: I do not understand how someone like W gets to be called a man of God. Once, the Pharisees walked around parading their faith in the same way, and Jesus had some pretty harsh words for them.

Please don't think that this is a "pass" for the Dems, either. I will expand on this theme later as well, but the Dems can plan on reminiscing about when they had the White House until they are comfortable with folks like me in their midst. Don't get me wrong -- I personally have never and probably won't ever vote Republican, but I once tried to volunteer for a couple of different Democratic candidates several years ago and gave up on the idea when I felt excluded because of my faith.

So I ask these questions for starters... Do you remember reading about and/or living through the Civil Rights Movement? That movement had a lot of its foundation in the Christian faith... Where is the Christian Left now? What can we do to remind our fellow Christians that we have been called to love one another? And to my fellow Liberals, can we be as tolerant as we claim we to be? Can we accept that faith has a place on our side of the aisle, as well?
I welcome your thoughts, but please keep them civil. I want you to enlighten and challenge me, but I won't engage here in the very hate mongering I have discussed above.