Friday, January 28, 2011

Pooping the Party Line

Our apostate of the day, styled “dgm”, brings us a new twist:

One of the main reasons for me was the appropriation of Christianity by the right-wing and Republicans. It got to the point where true Christians were Republicans and conservative and that was it. One could not be even a little liberal/progressive and be a Christian according to most people I knew. Then the whole "it's o.k. to torture because we're in a holy war" thing really disgusted me.

Nick observed that this was emotional reasoning, and that he says this as a staunch conservative. I, too, say it as someone whose political leanings have been rated on the line between conservative and libertarian (and who is much to the left on certain environmental and animal rights issues). But in general, there’s a couple of points to be made on this.

First, briefly, on that line about torture: It’s hard to say what the point is here, since I know of no one who has used such reasoning. Maybe dgm went to some really far out churches in his time – and to that extent, I wouldn’t blame dgm for being confused.

But here’s the main issue. People seem to forget (or be unaware) that it was an appropriation of Christianity by the left-wing that got this all started. The right wing was just reacting to at the left wing was doing. I would hope (in fact, I would suppose) that dgm and others would be consistent and also object when it gets “to the point where true Christians were Democrats and liberal and that was it.” And then of course we have stuff like liberation theology that may say true Christians are Marxist, and so on.

I belong to no political party; none represents what I believe adequately about political values. I also think (rather cynically) that when a politician appropriates a religion, chances are 9 in 10 that it is just a ploy to get easy votes from a known group. That said, because moral issues lie at the heart of both religion and politics, it is inevitable that at some point, goals and purposes will intersect. We have to be realistic and suppose that despite what fantasies Skeptics may engage in legal terms, there will not be a “wall of separation” between the way people think about church and state and how those institutions impact their lives.

To that extent, it can hardly be avoided to suggest that this or that political stance is more or less in line with this or that religious stance. There should be no blanket assessment of Christianity as a “Republican” or “Democratic” arsenal. But it remains inevitable that some issues-stance will be more or less in line with what the Christian faith demands of its followers.

We would be foolish to deny that – and Skeptics would be fools to think they could prevent it.


  1. My comment was too long, so I'll split into two:

    Part 1:

    Well, while I can't imagine why this would be sufficient to topple one's faith, I can somewhat sympathize somewhat with dgm's comments. Certainly its emotional reasoning for this to be enough to make one reject Christianity, but on the other hand it sounds like he or she went to some church where this sort of thing was harped on non-stop. There ARE believers (and whole churches) out there who seem to make the "True" Christian = Conservative Republican equation, and its annoying.

    As annoying as this is, though, when I went through my own crisis of faith, politics was never a factor. It was certainly an annoying side-show at most.

    I think that there is too much left-over fear-of-communism from the cold war era that has morphed into the phenomenon observed by dgm. The reasoning went something like this:

    1. Communists are Atheists
    2. Communists aim to restrict or eliminate religion
    3. Therefore Communists and Atheists are out to get us
    4. "Liberals" are just Communists in disguise
    5. Therefore "Liberals" are a bunch of Atheists and Communists out to get us who must be resisted
    6. "Conservatives" resist "Liberals"
    7. Therefore Conservative=Good, Liberal=Bad or Conservative=Christian, Liberal=Non-Christian

    When presented with counterexamples of people claiming Christianity but espousing something even somewhat left-wing, they are regarded as one of the following:

    1. A clueless newbie who needs to be "educated."
    2. A deceiver who is calling themselves Christian just to gain political advantage--in other words one of "them" or "they" who is complicit in "the conspiracy." (in other words a liar)
    3. A "compromiser" who is just interested in getting people in "the world" to like them for whatever reason(s)

  2. Part 2:

    The problem with this is that it is blinkered, all-black/all-white kind of thinking. There is not enough attention paid to the complexity of political philosophy, various independent issues, etc. It is rigid, lock-step party-line thinking.

    Going along with this is a lot of conspiracy-theory nuttiness and fear of "slippery slope" trajectories. There is fear that if you admit even one proposition defended by "them," you've let the camel get its nose under the tent, and there will be no stopping a descent into the dreaded "Liberalism" (both theological and political). So even the most inane propositions put forth by political "conservatives" must be vigorously defended, even if it means twisting your epistemology and Biblical hermeneutics. Throw a little Dispensationalism in there, accusing "them" of being in league with the "Antichrist," and you've got the makings of some real fun.

    Of course the introduction of things like "liberation theology" makes it all the more confusing, because it completely mixes theology and politics and reinforces some of the above ways thinking.

    Dgm's mistake (besides emotional reasoning) is assuming that all Christians think and behave like this. There are entire communities of Christians who are not like this at all. In fact, there are groups such as the Amish and Mennonites who are anything but left

    After my own crisis, my horizons broadened way beyond the narrow fundamentalism I was raised in, and I discovered that Christianity is a much bigger tent. Rather than rejecting Christianity over politics, I reevaluated my politics (actually my reevaluation of politics had begun even before my "crisis," but it was only confirmed and reinforced after my horizons broadened).

    Although I still agree with much of the political philosophy behind what drives conservatives--free market, individual liberties, representative republican democracy, etc.--I reject some aspects of contemporary "conservatism" such as the elevation of consumerism to near-religious status, and the deep seated suspicion of attempts at environmental responsibility. Modern "conservatism" with its emphasis on "greed is good," sometimes runs completely counter to Biblical teaching and begins to sound more like Ayn Rand-style Objectivism in some cases.

    I now qualify the identification of my political views as "Crunchy Conservative" or "Right-leaning Independent."

    Sorry for the long comment post. This aroused thoughts that have been swirling in my head for a long time, waiting for a chance to come out. There's more where it came from.

    By the way, for anyone looking for an example of someone who is theologically conservative but politically liberal, look no further than Victor Reppert's blog.

  3. Sorry, Just realized I left this paragraph hanging in mid-air:

    "Dgm's mistake... In fact, there are groups such as the Amish and Mennonites who are anything but left"

    What I meant to say is that Amish and Mennonites are anything but left-wing, but hold to things that "conservatives" might associate with the left, such as pacifism.