Friday, September 29, 2006

The Political Liberalization of Evangelicalism

In the Baylor survey that I referenced a couple of weeks back, the questionnaire asked respondents about their political beliefs and thoughts on the war on terror and war in Iraq and then juxtaposed them with the respondents church-going habits. The results, you might guess, were very interesting.

When asked whether the Iraq war was justified, 54.8% of people who attend church weekly agreed. Only 30.5 of those who never attend church agreed. 48.5% of weekly attenders believe that Saddam Hussein was involved with 9/11. Only 24.4% of non attenders agreed. (This idea has been debunked by the Bush administration in previous weeks, btw)

Now interestingly, when asked if God favors a political party only 4% of the entire population agreed, but twice that number (8.1%) of evangelical protestants thought that was true. Interestingly, 8.6% of Republicans believe that God favors a political party, but only 0.4% of Democrats believe this.

Here's where this is going. While Christians and evangelicals in particular have classified themselves with the conservative wing of politics, I've noticed in the last couple of years a leaning of some evangelicals (primarily younger, but not necessarily [said the 35 year old]) toward issues that in recent history would have been classified as some pretty liberal ideas: concern for the poor, opposition to the war, environmentalism, tendency toward pacifism/nonviolent resistance. Now, I don't know if this is because some people are reading the Bible differently, as in paying attention to Amos and Jesus' teachings on the poor, or if it's one of those cyclical things that tend to happen within the political life of a country or movement.

The honest truth is that I've felt these leanings myself. I'm trying to wonder if it's because I watch Jon Stewart now and that's influenced me or reading Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis. It doesn't seem right to exploit the land and the air that will probably bequeath to our children and their children, simply to live an easier life. It doesn't seem right to torture detainees for information, making us no better than those we are fighting against.

The thing is that I don't really believe that switching from conservative to liberal solves anything. It just gives a whole new bunch of baggage. And while I appreciate the attempts that Democrats and political liberals are doing to try and bring some of these issues to the forefront as well as giving another side of the public life of religion in our nation, there are potholes with that. And frankly, Mr. Wallis, I'm not sure the designation Red-Letter Christians is any less divisive than what the conservatives have done. The inherent comparison in calling oneself a "Red-Letter Christian" is to say that someone else isn't. I appreciate the idea behind Red-Letter Christians, but the name does give me pause.

However, I think what I'm starting to believe is that these ideas are not liberal or conservative ideas. America is a country of polarizations: you're either for the war or not; you're for homosexual marriage or not; you're for unregulated immigration or you hate illegals. The truth is that things usually lie somewhere in the middle. Jesus found middle ground or a third way. Jesus' way was love. What has to happen is that that those concerned for issues of justice, not retributive justice but Godly restorative justice, have to raise these issues above the language of conservative or liberal politics. Concern for the oppressed has to be an issue that is taken on by people committed to loving and serving them. These are not conservative or liberal issues. They're issues about the dignity of people and us valuing them as sons and daughters of God and our brothers and sisters.


Justin said...

how true that is phil. It reminds me how Mclaren talks about how jesus didn't go to a certain point on the line, he went above the line.

I am increasingly frustrated with both parties because, I think, by aligning yourself with a party that you think represents your christian beliefs, you are saying that those that don't hold those beliefs aren't being good christians. If you don't believe the government should be involved in poverty relief, because they don't do a good job of relationship building, which some believe is key to justice, you are viewed as heartless and not following jesus. on the other side if you believe that the war is wrong or that the government should spent more on poverty relief, you are viewed as a communist pinko lib.

I say neither party can bring the kingdom of god. When we involved ourselves in politics, it is way to easy for politics to become idolotry. Its why I'm renouncing politics (even though i believe there could be a best situation for us to relieve poverty and help people).

Thomas+ said...

Uhm, Phil, I don't think you fully understand. There are issues in America, and each issue has two sides: a red side and a blue side. You have to choose a side based on YOUR color.

So, for instance, on abortion. You either want it "safe and legal" (blue side) or you want it illegal (red side). There is no other possibility. Futher, your choice is determined by your over all color. So, if you are a blue person, then you want it "safe and legal," and vice versa.

Is this too hard? Let me make it easy:

Check One:
I am a red (conservative)
I am a blue (liberal)

Now watch a "news" channel. They will tell you what you believe based on your choice of the above. Ain't America great?

Oh, and no switching. It confuses the pollsters.

jj said...
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