Re-Thinking The Question, Part 2

“Dabney refers somewhere to a pathetic kind of conservatism that has no intention of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. But there is also a kind of conservatism that has no intention of running the risk of success. The same kind of timidity underlies both. But biblical faith always swings for the fence…”

Douglas Wilson, Blog and Mablog, Oct. 3, 2010

(Part 2)

That doesn’t negate the responsibility for Christian churches to stop, for God’s sake, the massive building programs that benefit (perhaps “pamper” is a better word) well-off congregations and neglect the poor. The Church has to be faithful in its care for the indigent, aged, young, weak, powerless, sick, and bereft, and only it can offer the Gospel message we dare not entrust with government. But even in the age of the mega-church, the majority of congregations in this country are small, with fewer than 200 people. One health crisis, a handful of sudden or lingering unemployments, and a childcare need can swamp a small church. In a diverse, geographically vast, and taxpaying society, only the government has the critical mass necessary to extend to its citizenry the services the people need — and have paid for in taxes.

Those may be “social safety net” programs, or the infrastructure and institutions all of us depend on, but they cannot effectively be conceived, implemented, and administered by thousands of different churches representing hundreds of different denominations. God hasn’t left us without guidance on this, and we can infer from the Word that governmental bridge-building programs aren’t sinful. But it ought to be cause for profound dismay that so many believers pore over the Word in the hope of finding ways to excuse themselves from helping the poor while rallying to Tea Parties to condemn government for trying to do for “the least of these” not only what the Church can’t, but too often won’t.

That in taxation the rest of us pay for the support of others and may have, in times of need, others paying for ours, is undeniable. That so many Christians on the right object to it is clear, too. Since the 1970s and the rise of the gaseous Moral Majority, the Religious Right has announced its devotion to a theology that is peculiarly bedroom-focused and profoundly hateful both in rhetoric and in its inattention to the concerns of Others Not Like Them. As the American Church’s theological ignorance skyrockets, so does the perception that it is primarily concerned with excoriating — in the name of Jesus — homosexuals, abortion providers, immigrants, and those dreary, unwashed hordes who pick their pockets, with government encouragement, for their support and maintenance. “Charity at gunpoint” may be a catchy way for religious conservatives to describe taxation, but it belies an attitude of hard-heartedness and self-centeredness entirely in opposition to the character of true disciples of Jesus. I think that the Bible gives us an idea of how Christ would treat homosexuals, abortion providers, immigrants, and the poor, and it seems different to me from how Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bauchmann and Haley Barbour would.

That doesn’t mean that the left gets it right all of the time, not even most of the time. But when I examine the policy agendas of the Democrats and the Republicans, I can’t help but see that while both can be described as “imperfect” and “incomplete,” it’s not the Christian-controlled GOP that evinces a social gospel of concern for the poor. Further, the rank hypocrisy of public posturing and private debauchery revealed just in the last decade originated primarily from the right — which, given the warm embrace Christians have offered the GOP and the Tea Party, is particularly tragic. I will grant that liberals tend not to engage in a lot of rhetoric about sexual morality, which, perhaps, gives them more of a cover for any bad behavior they might engage in, but the right’s focus on sexual morality, whenever hateful and at the expense of concern for the poor, wounds the message of Christ and hobbles his people when they do engage in the public square.

I hate the killing of unborn children, I loathe pornography and its effects on women and men, and I lament the coarse, licentious nature of today’s culture. I wish someone — maybe even a Christian — would rise to a position of prominence and address these things in a reasonable, Gospel-mirroring and effective manner. But I believe it’s wrong to deny GLBT people the civil protection I enjoy as a heterosexual woman, and because I’m not a doctor, and you’re likely not one, either, I believe that abortive procedures have to involve complete truth and medical necessity as determined by the doctor and her patient, not by elderly Southern gentlemen still struggling with their discomfort over women’s sexuality and liberation.

But my theology requires that in addressing those things, I also address — and advocate for — the poor around me. I have to not only do my work in feeding the hungry and extending a hand to the outcast, but I have to support my government when it tries to do the same. The Lord Jesus requires that I contend for justice, seek peace, speak truth, and leave no area, no thought, no action, closed to the Holy Spirit. I don’t expect the government to bow publicly to the Spirit, but I know that God works through the institutions he’s established, and I’m bound to honor those who serve. My politics has to mirror a Gospel that in its promise of individual, personal relationship with Jesus also makes it clear that everything’s not all about me, my comfort, and my advancement — nor should it be. That’s just not something I see in the GOP, the Tea Party, the Religious Right, and in evangelicalism in general. And Lord knows that here in Moscow, tremendous effort is made in weaving a theology that excuses the believer, as I said earlier, from coming to the aid of the poor and also ties in ugly threads of blame and shame toward those who should find the Church a place of nurture — not censure.

It should go without saying, but current times require it, that the vitriolic hatred and suspicion of President Obama as a swarthy, shadowy usurper and tyrant comes from the right, most often the Christian right, and ought to be condemned by anybody who utters the name of Christ with even minimal reverence. Liberals criticized our former president because of what he did, things that make him the worst president in memory and probably in history, and that made his Christian commitment seem like a cheap suit. I would publicly applaud any Republican or Tea Party supporter who condemns the dangerous viciousness of the anti-Obama sentiment around us. I would also publicly applaud my son for making me an omelette with fresh morels and bacon. Neither one’s gonna happen, but the consequence of the former could be catastrophic, and every conservative who doesn’t condemn it shares responsibility for any tragedy that results. That includes Moscow’s Doug Wilson, an Obama hater of the first degree.

So I’ve established that I can most often be found, for those who care to look, on the left side of the spectrum when politics is involved. I am conservative, fiercely so, in my theology, and I live a pretty conservative life. And while all of that may be interesting, here’s the one thing I’d want you to know about me: I just want my every idea, word, action, and belief to find themselves seeking the heart of Jesus Christ. If matters of social and economic policy slide to the left for me, may the glory go to God and not the Democratic Party — but may any rebuke implied be heard by the GOP and the Christ-followers who inexplicably dance to its tune.

One Response to “Re-Thinking The Question, Part 2”

  1. Ashwin says:

    I got the impression from our last exchange that I was not to comment here anymore. But from your latest post, it appears not to be the case. I am glad.

    Your “Re-thinking the Question” posts are very good in that it is the first balanced article you have written in a long time. You most wrote like a Marxist reactionary – a couple of really decent post notwithstanding.

    THIS is the sort of writing you should be engaged in.

    God bless you!

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