July 23, 2018

The Makings of a Liberal Evangelical

About 3½ years ago, a co-worker of mine invited me into a journey.  Neither of us knew at the time that she was doing that, but she did.  She was, and as far as I know still is, a far left, agnostic, outspoken, liberal.  We were riding in the car together and I mentioned something about being Republican and she asked me, “How does it feel to be associated with such stupid people?”  We were on a week-long business trip and through the rest of that trip, I spent as much time as I could trying to find out what she was talking about.  I quickly realized that we had much more in common than I thought and that she loved people, just like I did…just like Christ did.  This sent me on a journey of questioning politics, questioning my beliefs, but holding onto my core relationship with Christ and my core belief in the Christian beliefs outlined in the Nicene Creed.

Through this process, my belief in Christ hasn’t wavered, but my belief in the people who claim to be His Church…it’s been tried, stretched, and challenged.  I began to evaluate the political claims made by Christians in the name of Christ one by one, and compare them to Scripture, and compare them to the actions of Christ while he was here on earth.  I found that the priorities I had held to so tight, that we had all held to, were backwards.  If you ask many evangelical Christians what guides how they vote, they’d say traditional marriage, pro-life, school prayer, etc.  However, as I looked through Scripture, a different picture of Christ emerged.  I’ve now spent countless hours on Facebook, arguing, debating, being insulted, and unfortunately insulting others as I’ve sought to understand why my liberal friends believed the way they did and why my conservative friends believed the way they did.

As I searched the Scriptures, I found the passage where Jesus says that he will separate the sheep from the goats by whether they took care of “the least of these” when they were poor, hungry, thirsty, needing clothes, in prison, etc (Matt 25:31-46).  I found the passage in James that says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27 NIV).  I looked and look through the New Testament for a single command from Jesus or the Apostles to make any nation into a Theocracy…I couldn’t find it.  The Apostles often ask Jesus about restoring the kingdom to the Jews, but each time he says not now.  Time and time again Jesus said that “my Kingdom is NOT of this world” (John 18:36 – emphasis mine).  So, I began to wonder, as little Christs (the definition of “Christian”), do we look like a “city on a hill” (Matt 5:14), “salty salt” (Matt 5:13), or “the hands and feet of Christ” when we are refusing to allow the government to grant a marriage license to a gay couple, protesting outside an abortion clinic, holding signs telling immigrants (illegal or otherwise) that they aren’t welcome in our nation?  Does that win the lost to Christ?  When we get to Heaven, and see our lives, will Christ applaud us for these things or will those be the parts of our lives that he’s blanked out on the reel because he’s forgiven and forgotten them?

I began to ask these questions and was met with disgust, hatred, and anger.  When I asked if we really should spend our energy and money trying to pass laws about abortion rather than loving the girls who are having them, I was called a “baby killer”.  When I asked whether the issue of gay marriage really should be our top priority for a fight, I was told I was eroding the bedrock of society.  When I asked how we as Christians could support doing horrible things to immigrants who have come here illegally, I was told that this was black and white and that the Bible says to “obey the laws of the land.”  When I asked why we needed so many guns, I was told that that reducing them was the work of Hitler.  When people saw me continue to question these things, they said that I must not be saved, was ill informed, and had anger issues.  These statements came from the Church! From Christians! From people I respected…or thought I respected.

By this time in my life, I had gotten relatively thick skin.  So, sure it doesn’t feel great to be attacked personally, but honestly I wasn’t angry that I was being insulted…that happens.  I was horrified at what these same Bible believing Christians must be saying to unbelievers who shared the beliefs that I was starting to adopt.  I asked myself, and I asked other believers, how could our attacks on people’s belief systems and their identities possibly lead them to Christ?  At that point I was told I needed to have thicker skin and “not be so sensitive.”

I bring all this forward, not to attack the Church, though I’m sure many will perceive it as such, but rather to call us to repentance.  Look how far we’ve fallen.  Civil discourse has been replaced by memes that are designed to be offensive and explosive, and are often flat out factually wrong.  Citing the Bible has been replaced by campaign slogans and the short snippets of Scripture ripped out by politicians.  Seeking ways to care for orphans, widows, and foreigners has been replaced by fundraisers for the ACLJ, Bound4Life, and anti-gay legislation.

When Jesus said he was coming for a spotless bride, I don’t think he was nearly as concerned by whether there might be a few gay people in her midst, an abortionist, or a fornicator, for He said “let the weeds and the wheat grow together” (Matt 13:30).  I think he was much more concerned about whether we would be advocating for and caring for the orphan, widow, outcast, impoverished, refugee, and downtrodden in our midst (regardless of their legal status).  I think he would care less about our particular stance on when a fetus becomes human and more about what we did with and for the young mother in our city, county, state, country, or world who couldn’t find enough money to feed, cloth, and shelter the baby in her arms.  I think he would care less about whether gay couples living together could be “married” and more about whether those gay people knew that Christ loved them and died for them just the way they were.  I think he would care less about whether immigrants followed our complex laws and came in legally and more about whether we loved them, clothed them, fed them, and housed them when they arrived.

In short, I understand the Democratic platform has issues.  I understand that it’s continuing to slip further and further from Christianity as Christians have fled to the GOP.  However, when I look at where the Democratic platform focuses, I see a lot of caring for widows and orphans, rehabilitating prisoners, caring for immigrants, feeding the destitute, and clothing the naked.  I see what Pauls talks about that “when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” (Rom 2:14-15) I see people who may be confused in certain areas, may need their theology adjusted, and certainly need more of Jesus, but people who are attempting to love others as Christ loves us.

When I look at the major areas where the Republican platform focuses, I see more spending on military, reducing spending on all forms of needy people (orphans, widows, people without food, people without housing, immigrants, refugees, etc.), and a high criticality on having the “right moral law”.

I’ve heard many times the argument that the government shouldn’t be providing these things (clothing orphans, feeding widows, taking care of immigrants, etc.), and that’s true, the Church should.  However, the Church isn’t doing it sufficiently, and doesn’t have the funds or will power to get it done.  When the church steps up and takes its role of loving the widow, orphan, refugee, and impoverished, perhaps the Democratic party will no longer be necessary.  Until that time, the government is attempting to make up for the Church’s failure, and I choose to support the party that is making this much of its aim.

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