Monday, August 18, 2008

#22 Being Politically Conservative

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Christian culture members by and large identify themselves as Republicans. The importance of doing this seems to be on par with believing Jesus died on the cross for your sins.

If you are raised in Christian culture or entering it as a "new believer," you are almost invariably taught that the left wing is God's opposition. The Bible doesn't mandate this; Christian culture does. You will infer that the ACLU is bad and Rush Limbaugh is good. Reagan & Bush: yes. Bill Clinton & Jimmy Carter: NO. Hillary Clinton: HELL no! Obama: NOBAMA. Universal health care is ridiculous. Clarence Thomas was telling the truth. Anita Hill was lying. Capitalism is the way God intended. Gay marriage will destroy the institution and the next thing you know animals will be getting married. Ann Coulter is a hero. Richard Dawkins is a threat. And on it goes.


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When you are raised in any school of thought it is extremely difficult to challenge it. Venturing into virgin territory is uncomfortable for anyone. Some people feel they may face estrangement from the Christian community if they question conservatism. Questioning political affiliation may lead into questioning of Christian culture and subsequent discovery that the Bible doesn't condone followers of Jesus isolating themselves and assimilating to each other. Trying to get to the bottom of something and find the truth means you have to open yourself up to the same scrutiny. This may make you feel incredibly free, and it may scare the shit out of you. These emotions will often occur simultaneously.

33 comments:

Magnus said...

It is interesting that that sort of entrenchment, on the Federal level andyway,is not quite so universal in Canada. I would say most Evangelicals ill vote for the New Conservatives, based on some half-baked idea that he would actually try to make abortion illegal and outlaw gay marriages, but not everyone will. More liberal denominations will vote Liberal, NDP or Green - but so will a surprising amount of Evangelicals.

stephy said...

Yeah, the Christians I've known from Canada don't seem to be as keen on conservatism as the American ones. I think it's because of Canada's socialist leanings. Which, by the way, is bad according to Christian culture. Sigh.

Shari said...

So true.
I remember standing in church listening to my dad talk to another member after Clinton had won the 1st election. My dad asked the church member who they had voted for and they replied, "Clinton." My dad's response. . .,"that's a sin you know. Voting for a democrat is a sin."

Colin said...

The church I was raised in would hand out pamphlets informing the congregation about which candidates to vote for (all Republican). But the same church also tried to ban drinking alcohol for all church members. What they lacked in being biblical, they made up for in right-wing conservative zeal.

Simone said...

Voting for a Democrat is a sin? WOWOWOWOWOW.

If you could please go into more depth as to how the culture arrived at these gross misinterpretations of Jesus' teachings, I would love to hear it. I really can't see how capitalism rather than socialism mirrors Jesus' advocacy for the poor and down trodden. Why can't conservative Christians equate Jesus' request of the rich man to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor with a less extreme tax cut?

stephy said...

I wish I could explain why it is considered a sin. I think maybe it has something to do with the devil.

Magnus said...

It comes down, in part, to Karl Marx having written that "Religion is the opiate of the people." Never mind that that there were many other socialists out there at the time not hostile to religion or actual practitioners themselves.
That it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for rich man to enter the gates of Heaven also seems to slip past some people. Perhaps it is because they have no idea just how big a camel really is?

James said...

As a Christian conservative one of the issues with the I have with democrat/liberal philosophy is that it attempts to supplant personal obligation with government programs.

It is also important to note that studies have shown that Christian Conservatives give more money to charity than any other group (there is a book that details this...I just cant remember it). Conservatives tend to believe that if there is a problem, solve it. Don't depend on the government to solve your problems.

The camel-needle analogy was to warn of the pitfalls of money, not that money is evil. The LOVE of money, not money is the root of all evil. Jesus asked the rich man to give away his money to show that it was the money that this man loved, which would have been a hindrance in being a follower of Christ.

stephy said...
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stephy said...

James, you're a perfect example of the school of thought my blog is about. Jesus does not teach "if there is a problem, solve it yourself" like conservatives do.

I called myself a Christian conservative for a really long time. It felt good to have things tidied and squared away in my head, to feel I know what Jesus would have done, which party he'd have belonged to, what he thinks about all this political stuff. But the truth is he is silent on it and that's uncomfortable because they we have to engage people and not be certain about what exactly to do. All of which translates to...relationships with people & others & engaging ways of thinking that are unconventional and therefore scary to us. It's a struggle but it means you are closer to true relationship and more beauty in your life that way.

juls said...

Personal responsibility or "obligation" is not a Christian idea. Jesus commands us to love others. I interpret this as meaning that we are to hold people up not tell them the reason they are poor is because they can't get their act together. I'm tired of Christian conservatives demanding personal responsibility in God's name and NOT helping the poor and down trodden. It's plain stupid.

james said...

Stephy: I also don't think Jesus taught that if there is a problem the government should solve it. In the same way are we to sit by and wait from the manna to fall from heaven? If you have the ability help and do so in Christ like love. That is all I am saying.

Juls: Correct...Jesus Commands us to love one another, thus we are by definition obligated to do so. I don't think any conservative Christian could disagree.

Again there are studies showing that Christian Conservatives give more to charity than any other group for two main reasons:
1. we are commanded to do so.
2. we want less government so if we do not get involved, government will.

juls said...

james,
what is this charity argument? why don't you give your money to the government so charities don't have to run the show. i don't understand why peps get so upset about paying the taxes. i love charities. give money to them, volunteer with them but they are a band aid!

don't believe the hype!

you say: "we want less government so if we do not get involved, government will."

um, i don't believe that. not all christians prescribe to this.

pay your taxes dude. you'll feel the love.

Magnus said...

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” Matthew 22:21

What is it we are told in church that we need to honour our leaders and respect our government. This is particularly true when a person's nation is going to war. questioning is not acceptable, obedience is called for. However, when it comes to taxes all that is out the window. (or a political party that one disagrees with)

punkrockchris said...

Hey Magnus don't tell me you really by into all that respect your government bullshit do you? I mean come on your supposed to question your government and question your leaders especially during wartime because if you don't you could wind up having a situation like Iraq or Vietnam. It's always important to keep people accountable, obedience without questioning is stupid. I'm assuming your joking or something because it's so obvious how full of shit the government really is. Jesus questioned things, and was considered a rebel and an enemy of the status quo back in the day. I don't see why Republican associate themselves with Christianity when the Old Testament has several verses about the poor. Apparently preachers and senators want to ignore all of that. I do agree with you on the taxes, and there really is no reason I can think of why the rich get so many tax cuts. It's so obvious that the Republican Party doesn't give a fuck about the poor it's repulsive.

Magnus said...

I don't buy into obey the government line. (which means especially if it is conservative) Authority needs to be questioned and its actions need to be considered carefully.
My point is that taxation is a government matter. The people who have told me to respect/obey government (particularly a government that is conservative) my whole life have this hang up around taxes and anything that threatens their bank books. If the government asks for taxes, then they should pay them. Hell, Jesus tells them too.
I have friends who are Eastern Orthodox and these issues never seem to come up. It seems to be Protestants who are the most obsessed with this. But given the history behind the movement, it isn't surprising. Issues surrounding Money and Mercantilism were a major factor in many people leaving Catholicism during the Reformation. James pulls out the standard line about how it is the "love" of money that is evil, not money itself. My answer to that is people in our society love and worship money an awful lot - it is the main obsession surrounding the Western Way of Life.
Anyhow PRChrs, if you want to pick this up further, post anywhere on my blog so Stephy can have hers back.

punkrockchris said...

Hey Magnus, are you implying that Stephy doesn't want me making comments on her blog or myspace anymore? I was just wondering.

stephy said...

Yeah, take it outside boys. Thanks.

Magnus said...

Not implying that at all, just so we aren't filling up her blog with our discussion.
Feel free to drop me a line on mine.

Anonymous said...

Stephy, When you have to choose a "party" affiliation, you must look at what each party stands for and endorses. If you as a christian can reconcile your belief in the Bible with abortion the I would have to assume you really don't understand the Bible at all.

JR

stephy said...

Hi JR,
I know, it's tricky. I wish it could be wrapped up into a neat and tidy package. But if someone as a christian can reconcile their belief in the Bible with the war in Iraq and outrageous injustices committed by a Republican president then I would have to assume they really don't understand the Bible at all. That's another side of the struggle with Christians assuming a political affiliation.

punkrockchris said...

Who the hell is JR? Why am I getting responses to JR's comments on my emails? What's going on here? Something's not right. Anyway hey Stephy you should come out with a book, alot of people would buy it. See you later, bye.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog.

Seth said...

It should be noted that NEO-conservatives like Bush and Cheney are not for less government.

What disturbs me is how many Christians consider the conservative ideology Christian, and anything part of so-called liberal ideology automatically wrong. Personally, I think both ideologies are unbiblical. I'm forced to agree sometimes with conservatives, sometimes with liberals, and sometimes with neither.

Nice blog by the way.

stephy said...

Thanks Seth! Yeah, I think Jesus might say to the political parties "a pox on both your houses."

SolaKirsten said...

GREAT blog, Stephanie. I find myself in the messy middle of all of it. I am registered Independent because I don't give allegiance to either party. They both have planks that, I believe, correspond to the Gospel's call on our lives. And they both fail the Gospel. So I try to keep straight the purpose of the Gospel and the purpose of politics and not mix them. Obviously, there is much more that I could type, but this is a start!

Mikey said...

"NOBAMA"? That's cute.
Speaking of presidents, have you stopped and asked Christian America's black population how they felt towards the previous administration? Whatdya think our answer will be? C'mon, take a guess!
Hell, mind you we can't exactly hear Rush Limbaugh's name mentioned without tasting bile, yknow.

Sarah & Patrick said...

I really like what Colin said, "What they lacked in being biblical, they made up for in right-wing conservative zeal." I'm glad there are churches that are now realizing that religion is the enemy of the gospel. Politics and political ideology are just a form of religion, and a very divisive form at that. Sadly, there are still too many idealogues whose politics inform their faith and not the other way around (though they usually argue that they vote "the way Jesus would"). Garbage.

Jenan said...

This is so true. I was a lifelong liberal until I converted to Christianity at 18. I gave conservatism an honest try.

I am not a Christian anymore.

C said...

It's too bad that conservatism and religiousness are the same thing in America. There are lots of liberal religions (United Church of Christ, Unitarianism, the non-crazy Lutheran sects), but most are so turned off by the folks on TV that they don't go to church. That's too bad.

It wasn't always that way. Before the 60's, the GOP had liberals and the Democrats had conservatives. A politician like William Jennings Brian could never happen today, and that's why guys like Jim Wallis aren't leading huge movements. It's all too bad, but that's just how it is right now.

Robin Marie said...

What people like James do not understand is that our lives are not merely products of our own efforts. All of us, whether we are rich or poor, black or white, are born into certain advantages and/or disadvantages that are outside of our control.

The idea that people should take responsibility for their lives is a good one; but the idea that everything that happens (or doesn't happen) to you is in your control is a lie Americans, and especially conservatives, love to tell themselves.

It is frankly, ahistorical. It ignores the impact and legacy of race. It ignores the impact and legacy of class. It ignores how wealth is passed on and the benefit of growing up in a stable family with a good school and people who support you. How affluent, middle-class whites can rail against affirmative action as being not "merit based" and then not ask themselves how advantages they had, that they never earned, assisted their ability to be where they are today, always floors me.

But of course, in Christian culture there is that old Calvinist suspicion that wealth comes as a product of holiness. And hell, if God knows all, he would have the holy born into the rich suburbs, wouldn't he? So of course it is evil to give money to the government which just might try to help all of those not born into privilege.

Sorry, the simple mindedness of the "take personality responsibility" argument just strikes me as obscenely self-satisfying and reality-denying. I blog about it here:

http://lifeinmontage.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/and-it-all-looked-so-good-on-paper/

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm coming to this discussion a bit late, but did you guys know that in the 60's some Republican campaign tacticians systematically and cynically set out to create the impression that Republicanism = Christianity? The Moral Majority concept formed just in time to get Reagan into power. Before that (during the Depression, for example) churches were either politically agnostic or on the more liberal end. We have such short memories.

Grace said...

Oh my gosh, yes, that is exactly how I feel whenever I enter a baptist church, I'll say I agree with abortion and gay marriage, and I'm instantly labeled as the enemy.