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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Liberal and Christian? Get Real!

Well, Democrats have gotten the message, right? Barak Obama told us that blue states worship a mighty God and Hillary Clinton is attending prayer breakfasts and saying that we need to respect anti-abortion extremists and work to eliminate abortion, though maintain its legality. The would-be bastion of liberal-ness, Air America Radio, has even interviewed Jim Wallis – a liberal Evangelical Christian and author – on several programs. Any second now the stampede of Christians will overwhelm the secular left.
I’m not holding my breath for that. I have no doubt that Obama and Clinton are both being sincere in their remarks. I’m very sure that Jim Wallis means what he says. However, if talking to Christians means giving up what it means to be liberal, there will be no more converts than there have been through the years when being liberal meant giving up what it means to be Christian. In other words, until one can safely be Christian and liberal, there will be no Great Uniting of the left.
It’s probably wrong to look to political leaders to start a dialogue with liberal Christians. At least, it’s the wrong way to look if you are a liberal Christian looking for a political voice. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t wait until Lyndon Johnson saw the wisdom of equal rights before he began to speak. The Quakers of the 1860s didn’t wait for Lincoln to condemn slavery before they helped create the Underground Railroad. John Wesley didn’t wait for the Crown to call the Anglican Church back to basics. Jesus didn’t wait for the Romans to grant voting rights to the Jews before he delivered his message.
No, for a truly liberal theology of Christianity to find a voice, it must find its voice from the body of believers. Once that voice is found, and honed, and resonates with voters, then the politicians will be pay attention to it. Denouncing politicians for not hearing a whisper in the crowd is a bit like getting mad at a dog for scratching fleas. It’s just the nature of the animal. Politicians tend to gravitate to, and from, vocally significant influences. So liberal Christians, like myself, have no one to blame but themselves for being ignored.
This is partly why I am working on this blog. I don’t believe I am anywhere close to the caliber of leader that will be required to advance this cause, but I do believe it is a just cause. I believe I can help shape the discussion and, by giving voice to my concerns, I can give hope to others like myself who feel their light is hidden under a basket. Christians are called to be the salt of the earth, but salt on the shelf does not add any taste to the pot. Maybe my feeble efforts can push a few like-minded individuals into the soup, so to speak.
If so, then my voice can become one of a chorus. It can be a simple chorus where the idea of a liberal Christian is not a rude joke, but a loving reality. It can be a chorus where reality is addressed bravely, without cowardly retreat to hollow ideology or immoral sanctioning of anything that feels good at the moment. Perhaps it is a chorus that can make America once again a shining nation on the hill that reaches out to those below us with humility and honest affection rather than arrogance and a bullying nationalism.
There is no shortage of topics that cry out for justice under a liberal theology of Christianity. Poverty abounds and the forces of superstition have forced retreat upon the defenders of the Enlightenment. Honest people are left behind in the headlong crush of free trade and tax reform. People die of preventable diseases and malnutrition, are locked out in the street, and struggle just to be seen as human beings. This is right here in America!
I call on every believer to earnestly search their hearts, their Bibles, and their beliefs for reasons not to address these concerns. We should not let the five percent that we disagree upon prevent us from solving the ninety-five percent of problems we agree upon. We should embrace our brothers and sisters, even when they fall. No – especially when they fall. Ours should be the first hand reaching down and the last to let go.
This is, after all, what it means to be a Christian.

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