There’s a story in today’s New York Times, interviewing historians about 20th century mainline Protestantism, which the reporter (wrongly) equates with the Christian Left.
I think she’s wrong that Methodists, Episcopalians, Disciples, Presbyterians and UCC/Congregationalists always or even mostly have a leftward tilt, and that the Christian Left doesn’t also include, say, the Baptist Jimmy Carter and most U.S. Catholic nuns. But disputing the article is not my point; the piece is fine as far as it goes. The questions it raises for people of faith are more important than what she chose to include or leave out.
Namely, where are we today as progressive Christians? What more should we be doing to assert our Christian values into the public dialogue?
This morning, dailyoffice.org ran this photo and caption:
The demonstration, and the photo of it I was able to obtain, are well-timed; the House of Representatives is taking up immigration reform today. Most people don’t really expect it to pass without another avalanche of draconian punishments for “illegal aliens,” but we’ll see.
What bothers me about the debate around this issue is that a Christian interpretation of it is completely lacking. The so-called “illegals” are “strangers and sojourners” in Old Testament parlance, and “neighbors” in Jesus-speak – as in “Love thy neighbor.”
They are also scapegoats, just as Christ was, for the real problems of the nation – financial collapse, unemployment, and the replacement of democracy with oligarchy.
Scapegoats are not allowed, Christians; you know that. There can be no question that the racism and prejudice against Latinos must stop at once.
And while there are plenty of U.S. Christians saying these very things, we get consistently drowned out by shock jocks and their imitators in Congress.
I suppose if we were equally shocking we’d get on the teevee too. But there has to be another way.
What about a political action committee that’s specifically organized by and for the Christian Left?
There are many vehicles for the Secular Left and they all do good work. But so much of the vitriolic right-wing opposition claims Christ that I think we should take him back again and set him free from his fundamentalist captors.
The basic reason fundamentalist Christianity exists is to promote racism, sexism, homophobia and war. The Southern Baptist Convention is the proof of this in its very existence; it was founded to defend slavery.
As I look around the Episcopal Church, I see several manifestations of firm belief in Christ and in God’s liberating mission to save humanity. For heaven’s sake he parted the Red Sea a long time ago, to free the Jews from slavery.
That act is still God’s template. So is the Crucifixion, which set us free from sin.
At 62 I don’t feel like I’m the person to organize the Christian Left PAC (nor that that’s necessarily the best name for it; we’re talking mainstream Christianity here). It’s something younger activists ought to do.
But they’re not, so I keep thinking about it.
What do you think? Do you not find, faithful ones, that nearly every public policy question on the American agenda is spoken of in the Bible?
Republicans in the House want to end Food Stamps, while Christ told Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
We cannot let this impasse go on, because people suffer horribly from our inaction.
I do know this: we have to take on Christian fundamentalism full in the face. That’s something we’ve never been willing to do before, which I think is probably mainstream Christianity’s biggest mistake in the last 100 years.
But from 9/11 to the shooting of Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl who advocates for universal education, we’ve seen what fundamentalist violence is like. We’ve seen it when so-called Christians bomb abortion clinics, assassinate doctors, bomb Gay bars in Atlanta, send Orthodox priests to beat up Gay people in Russia; we see it in Israel, in Hasidic communities in New York. We’re even seeing it lately among Buddhists in Myanmar!
Slavery. Scapegoats. Patriarchy. Homophobia. Attacking the poor. Trayvon Martin. The Military-Industrial-Religious Complex, in case you’ve forgotten George W. Bush and the “Left Behind” series. None of the enemies of Christ are going away anytime soon, there’s too much money and power in sin.
We’ve lacked nerve; we’ve been unwilling to endure persecution. So we kind of nibble around the edges of theology and politics, not wanting to mix them up too much, even though half of what Jesus said was directly “political” as we understand it today.
“Feed my sheep,” don’t cut Food Stamps.
Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior, *
in your pride and in your majesty.
Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth *
and for the sake of justice.
— Psalm 45
I know we’re lovers, not fighters – but we’re fighters too.++