Faking it? (reblogged)

by Richard on November 26, 2006

I admit it. I almost blew a gasket when I read this over at Locusts & Honey: Learning from the Street Prophets

Steyn observed that Leftist efforts to co-opt the Christian faith seem artificial and pretended, despite the uphill battles that some liberal Christians are fighting to make their political activity a reflection of their sincere Christian faith.* Or to be more blunt: they’re faking it, and we know it. (emphasis mine)

I was about half way through composing the email response when it occurred to me that I was probably mis-reading it, and John wasn’t really suggesting that Richard, Beth and Dean were ‘faking it’. So I calmed down and binned the email. It justs shows that we all need to be careful what we write and not be too hasty in our responses to others. (John later confirmed that I had indeed misread his intention) Every preacher knows that there are often gaps between what is said and what is heard, and this was one such occasion. I hope.

But there are still things that need to be said. The first is about this “uphill battle” that apparently I’m facing. John is quite wrong about this. The battle is not to make my ‘political activity’ a reflection of sincere faith. I have no difficulty whatsoever in reconciling my political commitments to my faith. Quite the reverse. I’d say that my politics flows from my faith and my understanding of the gospel. The uphill battle comes in conversation with those of a more conservative political persuasion, usually but not exclusively citizens of the USA, who continue to deny the validity of the faith of those who differ from them politically. Every time I’ve had this out with one of my US friends they have agreed with me that, of course, it is possible for Christians to be in places on the political spectrum other than the Republican Right. But their agreement has always something of the patronising about it, rather like when I hear Baptists say that there are some genuine Christians within the Roman Catholic Church. And it never stops them continuing to use “liberal” and “Christian” as terms which exist in opposition to one another. That battle is uphill, and quite frankly I’m growing ttired of it.

The fact is that what many American Christians dismiss as “liberal” or, worse still, “socialist” has deep roots within the Christian faith. It is, for example, no coincidence that the local units of some trade unions are called “chapels”. My own father was a shop steward of his union and he was able to remember when his meetings were begun with prayer. The progressive voices of Christians have almost always been opposed by the more conservative, but history is on the side of the progressives. Who would argue for the reintroduction of slavery, racial segregation or limited suffrage?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Mark Byron 11.27.06 at 12:29 am

There are some folks who are liberal in their politics but fairly orthodox in their faith; you’re in that camp. Most areas of economics and foreign policy don’t have a clear chapter-and-verse Biblical answer and people make decisions based on their best guess at what a godly government should be doing. People of good will can come down on different sides of the aisle.

The folks that seem to get Steyn and other conservative’s ire are the folks who are both liberal in their politics and effectively universalist in their theology, having more in common with liberals in other “faith communities” than with fellow Christians whom they disagree with on both theology and politics. It sometimes seems that their “theology” bears little difference from secular liberal thought, disagreeing with orthodoxy where secular thoughts part company with tradition.

I may disagree with some of the political stands you’re taking, but you seem to be striving for what God would have us do. Our different cultural, spiritual and political backgrounds cause us to make different conclusions from time to time.

That means at least one of us is wrong when we disagree; for instance, you proved to be right in Iraq.

2

DH 11.27.06 at 6:25 pm

Mark, Richard was proved right on Iraq? I think that still remains to be seen. No one said the Iraqi situation would take a couple of years. I agree with Mark on this other than that. I still think at times Richard leans a little toward a universalist position for my liking with the Truth being that Grace is received by individuals by our Faith in what Christ is done and Grace is rejected and thus condemned already by those who reject the Grace made available to all people. However, Mark I really liked what you said and agree with your support for Richard.

3

Art 11.27.06 at 7:27 pm

I think it is the height of arrogance for one to tell another he or she is or is not a Christian based on their political views or their denominational affiliation. Then again, what do I know - apparently I’m one of those stinking liberals.

4

BD 11.27.06 at 10:13 pm

I think this is cultural.
I understand that the labelling is real, even to the point of being a perceived eternal issue to many of our US friends.
Many of conservative bent don’t know how to approach ‘others’.
And since faith is so tied in with politics in the US, it is inconceivable to many that Christians elsewhere aren’t US centric, grew up in faith in countries with political flexibility and don’t use the political/faith language US citizens have been weaned on.
Classic example: Culture war. That is a desperately real concept to those that believe they are engaging in it.

Mark is an example of an anomaly, and I’d like to take time to give him a pat on the back.
Example: Mark follows Canadian politics and understands liberal/conservative has different meanings in political, social, religious and economic issues unique to Canada and Canadians.
I’ve never seen him attempt to inflict his language or beliefs on his Canadian friends, nor does he condemn us. Conversation isn’t about winning or evangelizing to him, and I appreciate his approach because dialogue remains open and respectful and the door is open to learning.
Mark understands Canadian Christ followers are involved in all political parties in Canada - and most US evangelicals can’t get their heads around that.

I find myself less annoyed, more discouraged, the annoyance has worn off over the years.
The conservative trend of constant outrage is not healthy for individuals, relationships or the kingdom.
The discouragement comes because I don’t believe it matters how clear those of us perceived as outside ‘conservatism’ are, I don’t think the conversation can change.
The outrage is an addiction.
Connexions has seen lots of examples of that over the years.

When I was in the US I flipped on Fox TV - anchors I saw didn’t bother using Republican/Democrat leading up to the midterm. They just used conservative/liberal, and the meanings were clear.
Dear god, I couldn’t live under that verbal/ideological bombardment all the time.
I have to constantly remember many we engage in conversation online have never lived in anything else.

US religion is at war with itself, and those of us who stumble onto the battlefield have to remember even conversation is about winning to the Right Believers on your blogroll.
When we chose to talk not to ‘win’ and attemp to demonstrate centristism our faith and life experiences have led us to, we are heretics; as per US international policy, as per US evangelical wars, as per US domestic battles.

I think your approach of remaining as none reactive as possible is the wise one Richard, and certainly a difficult one sometimes.

5

DH 11.27.06 at 10:15 pm

Art, I think Mark explained himself on this very well. I don’t think what he said was arrogant. I don’t see too many conservatives who were for “Who would argue for the reintroduction of slavery, racial segregation or limited suffrage?” In fact it is an extreme overgeneralization to suggest that conservatives were for all of these things when the Whigs and Abraham Lincoln (a Republican) were against these things. In fact many of the first minorities in government were Republicans or conservative themselves. This type of “projection and overgeneralization” of the “right” must stop. If you want a balanced response I could also bring up Sen. Byrd from West Virginia who was an ex-KKK member and has forever been a Democrat and from the “left”. The terms “left and right” with regard to slavery, segregation and sufferage” is inappropriate in light of the support and lack of support within the particular groups. The conclusions you portray on the post are inconsistent. Also, Art John explained himself and stated hemisread his intentions. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Richard did to a point. Liberals can be Christian but the views within liberal can be anti-christian. When someone says it is anti-Christian that is not saying the individuals are not Christian but the view agreed to might be anti-Christian. Paul addressed anti-Christian views with Christians in Corinth. I see this as a similarity. Many times people take a statement as personal when it is referring to the view not the person holding a particular view.

6

Richard 11.27.06 at 11:11 pm

I understand the distinction between saying a particular view is anti-Christian and that a particullar individual is not Christian, But as a matter of simple fact, I have been told over and over again in online conversations - on bulletin boards, forums, usenet and (more recently) blogs - that I cannot be a proper Christian holding the views I do. It wears thin after a while.

7

Larry B 11.28.06 at 1:42 am

BD’s response typifies the problem that Richard is attempting to alleviate.

I respect Richards view that his politics flow from his faith, and he seems to agree that the conservative political view might also flow from another persons faith view. So we are going to have disagreements on issues because of our perspectives and we will occasionally find common ground too because we both share the same faith.

BD however doesn’t seem to want to engage the common ground but would rather create separation again, by immediately jumping into labeling again for the sake of justifying no labels? What sense does that make?

Focus on the Family explicitly details how their own faith view flows into their politics. Many people don’t like it. If you don’t like it turn it off, don’t send them any money and don’t worry about it - but respect those people who do and engage them on a level other than labeling and dismissing them as nutjobs. They study and practice the same faith you do. You treat them like you perceive they treat you and that makes two mistakes and no progress.

8

BD 11.28.06 at 9:40 am

I took it down Larry. I figured this would be what would be said.

Yeah, that makes me the problem doesn’t it?

I have to have sinister motives, why else would I tell you not to google Sun Myung Moon and his relationship with FotF?

Yeah, that makes me a problem, doesn’t it?

FofF sends David Prentice of FRC off to see Jaerock Lee, through the front group The World Christian Doctors Network.

Yeah, I’m the problem.

James Dobson, Larry King Live, Thanksgiving 2006 -

“Those again on the liberal end of the spectrum are those who have no value system, or at least they say there is no moral and immoral. There’s no right or wrong. . . . But when a religious leader, or especially an evangelical, falls, guess who is the most judgmental of him and calling him a hypocrite? . . . Those that said there is no right and wrong in the first place. The truth of the matter is there is right and wrong. And we all within our midst have failures, and they do occur.”

Yeah, that makes me the problem.

Dobson says in his 4 thousand radio shows, ‘only a handful have been devoted to the homosexual agenda.’ Forget the fact that on his websites there are over 11, 299 references to Fighting the Homosexual Agenda.

Yeah, I’m the problem.

Forget that there is not one known legitimate social scientist on the payroll.

Yeah, I’m the problem.

And I shouldn’t mention Dobson has 25.6 million listeners every week in the US, five million a day, 17 languages through 4 thousand radio facilities in 122 nations. After all, his political bedfellows aside, their faith flows into their politics.

Yeah, I’m the problem.

FotF Canada files with Rev Can, and stumbles around when the Montreal Gazette points out 1.6 million dollars was given by the US operation in services but hey, it wasn’t cash.

Yeah, I’m the problem.

Do I think Dobson’s political front groups in 40 states make him a ‘nutjob?’

I never said that, never will. He is an intelligent dangerous man peddling theonomy under sincerely held beliefs. He has people working for him with sincerely held beliefs that don’t have a clue what his corporate network is about.

He is an enforcer - and sincerely believes his reckless rhetoric does no harm, spreads no hate, does not wound, divide, threaten, punish. He genuinely believes his fundamentalist dominionist spins, lies, threats and attack. Sincere yes. Smart yes. Political yes. Ignorant. Yes.

Study and practice the same faith I do?

I don’t believe Sun Myung Moon is the Messiah, I don’t associate with beliefs of Christian Identity groups, I don’t believe that Rock who claims to be a Christ follower:

“received revelation just like the Apostle John. He claims his body has sinless blood (due to a blood transfusion in 1992). He meets with the prophets, apostles and patriarchs. His spirit is at the left side of God’s throne. He will be the judge on the last day and all the angels submit to him.’

Yeah, I’m the problem.

Let’s just forget I typify the problem shall we? Donate away, staff are happy to take you money, about 75 thousand dollars a day goes to the FotF zip code when Dobson is particularly eloquent and outraged about our family values.

And link to a UK site asking FotF to stop the hate? That would be me typifing the problem that Richard is attempting to alleviate.

Yeah, I’m the problem.

9

John 11.28.06 at 12:40 pm

Before anyone starts screaming at me again for this post, please READ it.

That anyone might think from the clearly stated text in my post that I mean that all liberals are faking their faith comes only through poor reading comprehension.

10

Richard 11.28.06 at 3:19 pm

I’d encourage everyone to read it too, John. You’ll have noticed that on the reblogged version I did indicate that I had misread what you meant to say. Whether that is entirely down to poor reading comprehension, I couldn’t say. ;)

And whatever you may have meant, I’m afraid that it is an ongoing source of irritation to me that ‘liberal’ and ‘christian’ are routinely used as though they are opposites. That’s what prompted the re-blog. I certainly wasn’t looking to pick a fight.

11

DH 11.28.06 at 9:08 pm

BD, you are the problem because FOTF doesn’t project hate. For you to say otherwise is totally judgemental in light of 1 Cor. 6 and Romans 1. FOTF isn’t being judgemental but accurately presenting what these Scriptures say directly with these issues. At thesame time there are many groups helping homosexuals like Ruth Graham who are trying to help people which FOTF supports. So they aren’t just lookingat it from a political standpoint but truly trying to help people as opposed to leaving people “dead in their trasspassof sin”.

12

Bene D 11.28.06 at 9:12 pm

Okay, I’ve read it twice.
I’d better go get tested, my reading comprehension is slipping.:^)

Larry.
FotF - merely an example of another extreme, (playing off John’s hyperbole) and not worth fighting over.
My point is simple, there are ends of the spectrum and lots of labels and names to throw at others from both ends.

13

Bene D 11.28.06 at 9:40 pm

DH: I’m pretty up front with my concerns about FotF, from faith, political, sociological and economic perspectives.

And I know my interest in group aberrations really bothers you.

I’m not going to change my mind - as I watch the reckless ratcheting up of rhetoric I will speak out about the damage.
I’m clear about why.
I see this organization as one of the symptoms of something deeper going on in evangelicalism that wilfully targets 15% of the US population.

And I don’t think FotF is much more than a mirror and exploiter of those difficulties. And ruthlessly effective I might add.

I have given FotF a pat on the back when they’ve produced something useful. That is happening with less regularity as their perceived stakes get higher.

How did homosexuality get into the conversation?
Hmmm?
I rest my case, and make no apology.

14

John 11.29.06 at 12:32 pm

My point in the post is that the American Left is largely hostile to Christianity and that many recent attempts by the American Left to embrace religion were fake. I provided evidence to this point. Feel free to refute my argument.

15

DH 11.29.06 at 5:13 pm

John is right on on this one. BD it got put into the conversation because you quoted it from a source in your response. If you wouldn’t have put that in there I wouldn’t have used it as an anaology. I feel you do need to apologize because just because someone disagree strongly with the promotion of homosexual issues doesn’t mean they are wrong in light of Romans 1 and 1 Cor 6 which I have not in the past nor do I expect your understanding of these Scriptures that clearly defines the bahvior as sin. Do we need to love and accept homosexuals? absolutly but that is different from accepting the behavior. Do some Evangelicals are overly hostile to homosexuals? absolutely but that doesn’t change that homosexual activity is wrong and sin just like any other sin I failed to mention in this response.

16

Joel 11.29.06 at 11:24 pm

Ronald Reagan had a fath, knew some theology, quoted Scripture, didn’t attend church much while he was president, mostly ignored and was indifferent to his children as they grew up, had mostly an inability to connect to minorities unless they were celebrities. So, he was a mixed bag like many others. Yet no one accuses him of faking it.

George McGovern, a devout Christian, invoked Scripture on the campaign trail and was largely derided by the right as being naive for doing so.

Bobby Kennedy, flawed as he might have been, was a devout Catholic and invoked God and Scripture in speeches. He expressed compassion for the poor and disenfranchised, but was written off as a radical who didn’t read the part of the Bible that says “the poor you shall always have with you.”

Jimmy Carter, a devout Christian, invoked his faith on the campaign trail but was accused of “wearing religion on his sleeve.”

Even before he was elected President, George Bush as governor of Texas was known to mock fundamentalist Christians as kooks. Several today say he continues in private to ridicule much of the Christian right. I don’t think Bush is faking his faith, but rather is simply not as theologically conservative as the White House would like us to believe. However, any questions about how Bush presents the faith seem to require a pass. It is hard for me to believe that people such as Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, and Tom Delay are doing anything other than “faking it,” although I would be quick to add that I am incompetent to make a final determination on faith and salvation.

Nancy Pelosi has both a strong faith and longtime involvement with the church. It is legitimate to question whether or not her faith views are correct. Anyone suggesting that she is faking her Catholic faith is simply being ungracious.

There’s a shallow, mean-spirited, hypocritical, nauseating, attitude on the part of many on the Christian right that proclaims their superiority in the faith, but they themselves talk of almost nothing but abortion, homosexuality, guns, states’ rights, prayer in school and such, things that win elections but are questionable for their ability to truly transform lives and communities. It is as if they have cut out the heart of the Gospel.

On faith, liberals are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

17

John 11.30.06 at 6:56 pm

If the American Left isn’t deeply hostile to Christianity, then please explain the language of “reality-based” and “Jesusland”. And if there is any anti-Christian scorn comparable on the Right, let us know.

18

Jonathan Marlowe 11.30.06 at 7:07 pm

One example of anti-Christian scorn from the right can be found in some people’s attitudes towards Christian Peacemaker Teams.

19

Joel 11.30.06 at 10:02 pm

John,

There are many means of hostility to Christianity. Much of the Republican leadership is hostile to Christianity because they exploit it for narrow political gain without demonstrating that they themselves have much of a faith. To exploit Christianity is to be hostile to it.

A good segment of the “Christian” right is little more than proponents of patriotism, civil religion, and xenophobia. To me, that makes them hostile to Christianity. One example: D. James Kennedy. His ministry is nothing but civil religion from what I can tell.

By your own definition, I’m a heretic. And, in fact, if one follows the logic you place on your blog, I’m not a Chistian at all. That is, if I have correctly followed your logic over the past couple of years, then heresy is sin, and unrepentant sinners go to hell. Feel free to correct me if I have mischaracterized your views, but that is the way I have come to understand them. That seems rather hostile to me because it is not only a label applied to a supposed fellow Christian, it is the advancement of an attack against an important segment of Christianity.

What many on the left are doing is making fun of a certain segment of Christianity, just as many on the right are making fun of a different segment.

20

John 12.01.06 at 1:57 am

Jonathan wrote:

One example of anti-Christian scorn from the right can be found in some people’s attitudes towards Christian Peacemaker Teams.

This would be true if the criticism was leveled at them as Christians instead of at their political beliefs and activities. Can you find any written attacks on them as stupid or evil because they are Christians themselves instead of how they interpret the gospel?

Joel wrote:

There are many means of hostility to Christianity. Much of the Republican leadership is hostile to Christianity because they exploit it for narrow political gain without demonstrating that they themselves have much of a faith. To exploit Christianity is to be hostile to it.

A good segment of the “Christian” right is little more than proponents of patriotism, civil religion, and xenophobia. To me, that makes them hostile to Christianity. One example: D. James Kennedy. His ministry is nothing but civil religion from what I can tell.

None of these people are blasting Christianity in and of itself. Unlike the Leftist sources to which I linked.

By your own definition, I’m a heretic. And, in fact, if one follows the logic you place on your blog, I’m not a Chistian at all. That is, if I have correctly followed your logic over the past couple of years, then heresy is sin, and unrepentant sinners go to hell. Feel free to correct me if I have mischaracterized your views, but that is the way I have come to understand them. That seems rather hostile to me because it is not only a label applied to a supposed fellow Christian, it is the advancement of an attack against an important segment of Christianity.

Really? Have I called you a heretic? Kindly identify where. I do not think that you are a heretic. I disagree with your political views, but I have never concluded that they result in heresy.

What many on the left are doing is making fun of a certain segment of Christianity, just as many on the right are making fun of a different segment.

The commentors at the Kos thread and those who speak of a “reality-based” community separated from the stupidity of ‘faith’, as well as the lable of Jesusland not against conservative Christians, but on those who believe in Jesus suggest otherwise.

Am I questioning whether or not you, Richard, Beth, Jonathan etc are Christians because of your political beliefs? Certainly not. I’m saying that much of the American Left is strongly hostile to Christianity. Ya’ll are a minority within the Left that is decidedly not, but nonetheless a minority.

And it’s okay to be a faithful Christian believer within a political ideology whose compatriots are hostile. As a libertarian, I experience the same thing. Many of my colleagues are avowed atheists. That doesn’t make their religious views correct or their political views wrong. The two are not (except in extreme cases) connected.

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