[This post was originally published on June 24, 2010. The content has been edited, updated, and expanded.]
I write this coming off a hard week of Facebook exchanges with a conservative Christian. Good guy, from what I can tell, with a good heart. Just very conservative. So I now have this picture of myself as a scary, ultra-liberal. I don’t think that’s who I am (and he never used those words), but here, for the benefit of all, I will “come clean” about my views (both political and theological).
1. I believe Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God and that salvation comes through him alone. I also happen to believe that if he is in fact God, then he will unite people with God who do not fit the formula the church has established. People get upset with me for thinking this, but why? Can I not leave it to God to do what God will do?
2. I am pro-life. God cares as much about the already-born as he does about the unborn, so I believe social justice is critical as well.
3. I am pro free-market. However, because so many people lack internal constraints based on well-grounded moral principles, the market must be regulated to keep individual self-interest from shipwrecking the country (if it hasn’t already).
4. I believe in “Just War” theory. I am not a pacifist, but lean strongly in that direction.
5. I believe that not only are individuals responsible before God, but so are countries and societies.
6. I believe that people who do not believe as I do should have the basic right to live the way they want to live. God grants this right to his children, why should governments not grant it to their citizens?
7. I believe that private citizens and institutions should shoulder the burden for caring for the country’s poor. However, for various reasons they are often unwilling to do so. Until they are willing, the government must continue to do this in some basic way.
8. I believe the lives most of us enjoy today are possible because some scary, ultra-liberal people in the past thought a 40 hour workweek, restricting child labor, and letting women and black people vote were all good ideas. Our lives and our society are better because of those ideas, and some of the ideas conservatives fear today will make life better for us twenty years from now.
9. I believe that point-by-point “give me the scripture references that back up your views” arguments between Christ-followers are usually counterproductive, and are more deeply part of “what’s wrong with the church” than whatever is being argued about in the first place. There are times and places it is appropriate, but not as a general mode of communicating.
10. I believe neither the Republican nor Democratic platforms embody Christian principles and ideas completely.
11. I believe that you will find spiritually searching people as often (perhaps more often) in bars than in churches.
12. I believe that Christians do more harm than good when they stand constantly prepared to blast people for having different views than they do. [Listening to them justify their anger and paranoia is fascinating.]
13. I believe that on many things, the mystics (the Desert Fathers and Mothers) got it right and the evangelicals got it wrong. They did a better job understanding how both intellect and emotions fit into human life and the spiritual journey. Evangelicals are too influenced by Enlightenment-era ways of thinking and therefore are often too comfortable with “faith” that exists almost completely in their heads.
14. I believe that the super-conservative politics of many Christians allow them to live day to day in ways that lack much of the compassion Jesus modeled for us, and that many excuse this with political arguments. Just because vast portions of the church have adopted a certain politic does not mean that that politic represents God or God’s views. The scariest assumption made in politics is, “God is on our side.” Start down that path and there is no end to the horrors you are capable of. That is the lesson from history.
15. Christianity that is not strongly based in deep, inner, transformation will be ineffective in bringing about the peace Jesus promised. (We lack peace because we are incapable of receiving it.) In the absence of transformation, we will either try hard to fake it, approaching faith as merely a set of behaviors, or we will give up altogether the notion that transformation is possible, approaching faith as a list of abstract ideas. From either of those perspectives, it will be tempting to expect more from politics than it can deliver.
16. I believe in science. Our current understanding of the science tells us, among other things, that 1) the earth is getting warmer and mankind has something to do with it; 2) a thing called The Big Bang is what got the universe started. Science is not an enemy of faith, regardless of what dogmatists on both sides believe. If the evidence changes, the science will eventually change with it, but I have no problem accepting what science tells us about things.
17. In the classroom (I teach graduate school), we must agree on what constitutes knowledge. What constitutes knowledge is, and must be, that body of information that has come to be accepted, by and large, by the scientific and academic communities. I am open to people’s opinions in class, but not to conspiracy theories. Anyone who strongly disagrees with any current body of knowledge can launch their own study and see what results they get. There is no such thing as Christian truth and secular truth. Something is either true or it isn’t. (By the way, we should agree on what constitutes knowledge in the church, too, and it shouldn’t be that different from what constitutes knowledge in the classroom. Knowledge is knowledge.)
There. That’s my list of scary, ultra-liberal ideas. Obviously to me they are neither scary, nor ultra-liberal, nor are they theologically flimsy and watered down. I will not spend large amounts of time arguing my positions on this blog or this post, but I thank you sincerely in advance for your thoughts and comments.