I think it’s safe to say that I’m on the left side of things when it comes most issues, both social and religious. I’ve certainly made no bones about that on this blog, most of the articles point to that in one way or another. I spend a lot of time “fighting the good fight” against the forces of judgmentalism, ignorance and fear that I believe permeate fundamentalism that characterizes the religious right in America. Because of that, I should love an article on Addicting Info posted the other day called “The Values Of The Christian Left“. But, I didn’t. In truth, it made me distinctly uncomfortable. Partly because it was as judgmental and accusatory as anything I’ve read from the right and partly because I feel the author took it upon himself to speak for all of us on the left. I’ve done the same thing myself on several occasions and thought nothing of it. Until I saw it from someone else, I didn’t realize how it came off. It’s not good.
I don’t have a problem with the characterization of the values that are enumerated here; it’s the way they’re laid out. Take this quote, for example: “The Christian Left follows the true teachings of Jesus as written in the Bible and believe the Christian Right has their priorities wrong. Jesus consistently advocated for the poor and the helpless over the wealthy, the powerful, and the religious. If the Christian Right actually read the Bible, they would find that it contains over 300 verses on social justice, the poor, and God’s concern for both.” Saying that the Christian Left follows what we believe to be the true teachings of Jesus is one thing, but the way this statement is written it arbitrarily discounts what a lot of good people might believe as false. I know a lot of people who disagree with me on how to handle the problems of the poor and the needy and I can promise you they are nowhere near as callous as this article makes them sound.
That’s not to say that there aren’t big problems with the way Americans (not just the religious right) deals with issues of social and economic justice. We live in a nation that was founded on the principle that everyone is created equal and that everyone has the God-given rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The reality of the situation is that too many people are deprived of those rights due the color of the skin, the circumstance of their birth or who they choose to love. Over the years, the United States has been transformed from a place where even the poorest of the poor could improve their station and live a good life to one where the accumulation of “stuff” reigns supreme. And, yes, there are churches and people of faith who, knowingly and unknowingly, contribute to this situation and that needs to change. Demonizing them doesn’t help.
We on the left are great ones for talking about loving our enemies. We do a pretty good job of it…, as long as that enemy is a radical muslim or someone of that ilk. Let the enemy be someone like Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachman, both avowed, fundamental Christians and things turn nasty. Santorum’s name has been used for a rather disgusting sexual innuendo and Bachman sanity is constantly questioned. You may believe that there is reason for both of these ideas, the fact is there’s damn little grace involved in either. If we on the Left are going to bring about a change in the way Christianity is viewed, both here and in the rest of the world, we’re going to have change our tactics and love all our enemies, not just the trendy ones.