What business does a Christian have being a Conservative?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  (Romans 12:1-3)

I say, what business does a Christian have being a Conservative?  Yet what I really mean moves beyond that.  What business does a Christian have being a (big C) Conservative or a (big L) Liberal?  What business does a Christian have being a Republican or Democrat?  What business does a Christian have becoming embroiled in any political argument that involves taking sides and casting stones at the opposition?

This has been on my mind a lot lately.  There was a time, on this blog, where the tag line read something like, “YES!  I am a gay-affirming tree-hugging liberal Christian bleeding-heart left-wing-loony environmentalist nutjob!”  That was back in the day when both this blog, and I, were much younger.  I took on all of those titles as my own because they were initially cast at me as insults in comments on my post, and rather than being offended I just said, “yes!  I’m all of those things!  And I don’t care what judgment you make of me as a result, I’m proud to have earned your insults.”

Yet I was being naive, and if I could go back and do it all over my approach may have been different.  After all, those accusations said more about the person commenting than they did about me, and my response was in it’s own way a judgment.  Why throw up my hands and behave as if there was nothing I could do or say but simply agree, “yes, I’m a liberal nutjob.  So what?”

All of those labels refer to things of this world.  They refer to political stances and loyalties that come out of our government and political debate.  They have nothing to do with faith or adherence to God.  By allowing myself to be labeled, or labeling myself, I ceased to be speaking just as a Christian and instead became just another voice in the gay-affirming tree-hugging liberal Christian bleeding-heart left-wing-loony environmentalist nutjob crowd.  Even with “Christian” thrown in there, the label of Christian didn’t really reflect my own identity in God, it reflected a series of assumptions about who I must be that the world cast on my and I continuously fought against.  There were times where I found myself fighting against my self-assigned tags.

I know Christians who espouse some liberal views, but those views are rooted in their faith.  I know some Christians who espouse some conservatives values, and those values are rooted in their faith.  I know some Christians who espouse some liberal and some conservative views simultaneously and don’t feel that there is any conflict between the views.  I also know Christians who identify as (big C) Conservatives and (big L) Liberals, and this is where things get sticky.  The Conservative crowd and the Liberal crowd out there in the world do not reflect the intent of God.  They have a platform and a list of loyalties that are at their very core worldly.  By fighting to defend Liberalism or Conservatism you inevitably end up in a position where it becomes about weakening and demoralizing the other side.  I cringe in my very bones every time I see a Christian saying something like “liberals just want more government handouts” or “conservatives will take away your rights.”

Excuse me?

When you say something like that, you just took off your Christianity.  You are not speaking words of love or redemption.  Your mind isn’t renewed.  You are in the world, speaking of the things of this world, and your loyalty in those words is not to the Creator who wishes the redemption of all creation but to a political party.

The conservative platform, while in parts reflective of God’s nature, does not contain the entirety of God’s will.  How could it?  It is of the world.  The same is true of the liberal platform.  In fact, both of those platforms (as well as the Republican and Democratic) eventually come to the point where what they ask you to adhere to is antithetical to adhering to God’s word.  Not only that, but to take on the label at some point there must be an assumption that one group is right and the other is wrong.  Such haughtiness contradicts the kind of attitude a Christian is supposed to have, one of ‘not thinking better of one’s self’ and seeking God’s mind above our own.

If our minds are renewed, we ought to transcend such petty labels and the arguments they birth.  While our lives as Christians may at times demand our involvement in political debates, we cannot forget who we are.  Our loyalty to God and each other must, at all times, be first and foremost.  When two people who claim allegiance to the same creator start tearing into each other as Republicans and Democrats, the faith is shamed.

It’s something to think about.

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Act out the Gospel, not a Battle.

“I have come into the world as a light,  so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.  If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”  (John 12: 46-47)

I once heard someone say that anyone who lives in the United States and does not follow Christ’s teaching has chosen a life of sin over God’s love with no excuse, because no one who lives in this fair country could possibly have missed hearing the Gospel.  I wonder at that kind of attitude.  For one, the Bible is clear that it is nobody’s business judging those outside of the church, they are subject only to the laws of man and should not be judged by God’s law.  Second, the simple fact that they live in this country does not mean they ever experienced God’s extravagant love at the hands of one of His children.  The “gospel” that they’ve been exposed to is likely the sort of contemptful attitude that birthed the judgment now being heaped over them.  No thank you, ma’am!  If that were my primary knowledge of God I’d be an atheist, too.  Third, do you think that God has ever stopped loving them and desiring to express His love to them?  Do you think that God Himself has judged them as unworthy?  Do you think God takes their rejection of the consumerist, judgmental, and self-involved face of American Christianity personally?  Honestly, most of the time when I speak with people who have rejected the American church I hear their words not as an offense against God but as a pretty righteous condemnation of all of the behaviors which the Bible itself warns against.  Should we have church leaders with private jets while there aren’t enough shelters to take in the homeless?  Should we be picketing gay rights?  Should we be judgmental of single mothers, of the poor?  Should we be glossing over the pain that humanity experiences with hyperbolic praise songs?  Should the music we put out in God’s name be so homogenized, bland, and stripped of multi-cultural influences?  Should we be so uninterested in protecting our planet, which we claim God gave to us as a good gift?  And on, and on.

As Christians, we should hear the argument against the church not as an attack by enemy combatants who need to be neutralized immediately by any means necessary, but as an opportunity to learn and grow.  Too often we label anyone who reacts with skepticism as an “enemy of the faith”, sometimes going as far as to name them as an agent of Satan.  Who benefits from this?  The Bible does not command us to destroy our enemies with words, but instead:

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  (2 Timothy 2:25-26)

Even if you do believe that anyone who speaks against your beliefs is an agent of the devil, the Bible still doesn’t justify the kind of hateful rhetoric that colors Christian debates.  (Especially debates with non-Christians.)  We are commanded to gentleness and love, and prayerful consideration.  Always.  We are to lead people to a place where God grants them repentance, not to hammer it into their faces with the Bible.

I am frankly appalled at the tone of some of the discussions going on in the church.  Gay people, poor people, and people of different ethnicities are metaphorically strung up as if they were terrorists who need to be tortured into submission before a metaphorical bomb explodes and destroys our society.  What is the defense for this?  Are they not also Gods children?  Are they not also people who are capable of recieving God’s conviction?  Are they not also desired and loved?  This is the Gospel, not warfare.

It is to be spread through love, not with fists.