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Liberalism and Christianity

Posted by on Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:19 PM
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The Rise of the Christian Left in America
JONATHAN MERRITTJUL 25 2013, 6:00 AM ET



Led by Jerry Falwell (right), the Moral Majority helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980 and began decades of religious conservative dominance in politics. (Associated Press)
In June 1979, a coalition of conservative religious leaders led by a Jewish Howard Phillips, Catholic Paul Weyrich, and evangelical televangelist Jerry Falwell banded together to wage a political "holy war" against the liberal establishment. They called their organization the "Moral Majority" to signify the large number of social conservatives they believed were being ignored across American culture.

Forming a political action committee, the organization registered 4 million voters in 1980 and purchased $10 million in radio and television ads questioning President Carter's patriotism and Christianity. Its message struck a chord with a large swath of Americans, and their efforts are credited with helping to elect Ronald Reagan. More importantly, the birth of the coalition began of a period of political dominance for the religious conservatives that would span at least three decades.

But according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in partnership with the Brookings Institution, the religious balance of power is shifting in ways that could make the religious left the new "Moral Majority," figuratively speaking. If current trends persist, religious progressives will soon outnumber religious conservatives, a group that is shrinking with each successive generation, the data show.

PRRI reports that 23 percent of 18- to 33-year-olds are religious progressives, 17 percent are religious conservatives, and 22 percent are nonreligious. By contrast, only 12 percent of 66- to 88-year-olds are religious progressives, while about half are religious conservatives. The survey used a religious-orientation scale that "combines theological, economic, and social outlooks."

"What you clearly see in the data when you move from the oldest Americans to youngest Americans is a stability among religious moderates and decreased appeal in religious conservatism," says PRRI CEO Robert Jones.



One might assume that the increasing diversity of the population is a driving factor in the shift, but Jones says this is not the case. African-Americans tend to be theologically conservative -- 49 percent, as opposed to 14 percent who are liberals -- but are more progressive on economic and social issues. Hispanic Americans are far more likely to be religiously moderate, and they don't tip the scales one way or the other. "It's mostly age," Jones says. "Younger whites, whose parents were far more conservative, are the ones who look significantly different."

Progressive religious leaders seem predictably pleased. David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and author of The Future of Faith in American Politics who describes his political instincts as center-left, says he is neither surprised nor disturbed by younger generations' progressive tilt.

"I am generally glad, at least in terms of hope for progress on justice and peace issues that I care a whole lot about," Gushee says. "Much of what goes out under the name of Christian conservatism I find odious, so there is not a lot of grief in this office today about the new data."

Gushee believes conservative evangelicals need to come to terms with their fading constituency and with the "impossibility of 'taking back America' for their vision at least as it currently exists."

Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing for Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization, says shifts are due to young people choosing to identify with Jesus and his teachings as opposed to a particular political party. Harper believes the GOP is being pulled to the far right by extremists on issues like abortion, thus forgetting and alienating those whom Jesus affirmed and advocated for: poor people, ethnic minorities, and women.

"I think the focus on the person of Jesus is birthing a younger generation inspired by [Jesus' Sermon on the Mount]," she says. "Their political agenda is shaped by Jesus' call to feed the hungry, make sure the thirsty have clean water, make sure all have access to healthcare, transform America into a welcoming place for immigrants, fix our inequitable penal system, and end abject poverty abroad and in the forgotten corners of our urban and rural communities."

Though Harper might dispute it, many would argue her list sounds like a liberal wish list. It's certainly at variance with the agenda of many conservative Christians, which would include opposing abortion and gay marriage and protecting religious liberty. It is also perhaps emblematic of the way the growing numbers of religious progressives are thinking.

So how can we expect these shifts to affect American public square? Will religious progressives cohere into a political movement like their conservative counterparts did in the late 1970s and 1980s? Will the religious left become the next "Moral Majority"?

Jones says it's too early to tell. A constituency in itself does not a "movement" make. The latter depends on infrastructure, organization, and leadership, elements that American religious progressives have not been able to produce -- despite various attempts -- on the scale that the religious right has.

Religious progressives face three hurdles to morphing into a true movement, Jones says. They are more ethnically diverse than conservatives, so they have fewer natural affinities than their counterparts on the right. They are also more geographically dispersed across America. Conservatives, on the other hand, are heavily concentrated in the South and Midwest, which makes for easier mobilizing. And finally, progressives are more religiously diffuse, which is to say that religion is only one of many influences shaping the way progressives think and behave.

Meanwhile, it's difficult to interpret the erosion of conservatism among young religious whites as anything but bad news for the latter-day leaders of the religious right like Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins who rely heavily on that demographic. If the data are correct, these leaders' dominant days may be ending sooner than expected.

Not every conservative religious leader is sweating it. Russell Moore, the recently elected president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, says he doesn't put much stock in surveys like PRRI's. He believes that the type of religion that survives and shapes cultures shows up in local congregations.

"Congregationally speaking, Protestant liberalism is deader than Henry VIII. While survey after survey shows a secularizing American population, this hasn't helped the growth of liberal Protestant churches," he says. "Where are the Unitarian mega-churches, the Episcopalian church-planting movements?"

Moore doesn't believe religious conservatives, particularly Christians, are fading. But he does think they will be culturally marginalized in the future.

"We will seem increasingly conservative," he says, "not because we are passing out voter's guides but because we believe in such culturally incredible things as that every life matters, that marriage is a permanent one-flesh union of a man to a woman, and, above all, that Jesus of Nazareth is alive, and Lord."

Moore's predictions may be right, but for now we only have data. And the data indicate that the growth of religious progressives may soon shift a balance of power that has existed for more than a quarter century. The conservative faithful will continue to have a voice in the public square, at least for some time. But now they'll have to learn to sing in harmony, rather than solo.

Copyright © 2013 Atlantic Monthly Group


I want to pose a question: why is it that some feel that liberalism an Christianity do not mesh? I would disagree with this. But, I'm not a Christian.
by on Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:19 PM
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RandRMomma
by Maya on Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Source:

http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/07/will-the-religious-left-become-the-new-moral-majority/278086/

If I weren't mobile, I'd make it clicky.
Luvnlogic
by Silver Member on Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:32 PM
11 moms liked this
It seems the main diff between lib and con religious peeps are that libs aren't pushing to legislate their beliefs and tend to focus on the softer side...forgiveness, redemption, New Testament scripture. Whereas the cons pursue legislation that backs their beliefs and tend to focus on the tougher side...sacrifice, sin, Old Testament scripture.
KreatingMe
by Bronze Member on Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:33 PM
7 moms liked this

 To answer your question, I have no idea. Jesus is the biggest liberal. The conservatives don't know thier bible or they only familiarize themselves with certain self serving versus. I've said this for a long time and it's kind of obvious, to those that actually have read more than a few pages of the bible, todays Christians ARE the pharisees. Today's conservative Christians don't know this because, IMO, again, most of them haven't read much of the bible.

KreatingMe
by Bronze Member on Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:34 PM
3 moms liked this
Quoting Luvnlogic:

It seems the main diff between lib and con religious peeps are that libs aren't pushing to legislate their beliefs and tend to focus on the softer side...forgiveness, redemption, New Testament scripture. Whereas the cons pursue legislation that backs their beliefs and tend to focus on the tougher side...sacrifice, sin, Old Testament scripture.
Good summary, I agree.
RandRMomma
by Maya on Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:43 PM
I definitely agree with you. I was involved in a discussion today where a Christian was obviously unaware of Jesus' teachings about the rich, and how Jesus basically despised it when people had more than what they needed. Jesus is very liberal, and conservatives don't like it when that's pointed out.

Quoting KreatingMe:

 To answer your question, I have no idea. Jesus is the biggest liberal. The conservatives don't know thier bible or they only familiarize themselves with certain self serving versus. I've said this for a long time and it's kind of obvious, to those that actually have read more than a few pages of the bible, todays Christians ARE the pharisees. Today's conservative Christians don't know this because, IMO, again, most of them haven't read much of the bible.

mommy2Kailey
by Member on Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:58 PM
4 moms liked this

 Smart ladies above..I will just say ditto.

KamWorthy
by Silver Member on Aug. 2, 2013 at 12:15 AM
2 moms liked this
Jesus was not a Liberal, like today's Liberal would like to picture Him as. Jesus would not have condoned, and would have boldly opposed the innocent killing of the unborn. He would openly oppose those who are slothful, and who have a mindset of being a receiver and never a giver. The word says "a man who does not work, does not eat", the word is also careful to note...."the righteous are never forsaken, nor are their descents beggers". The Lord requires that we sustain and support the widowed, the orphaned, the ill and the elderly. Jesus abhorred politics, and titles. So though it might give some a false sense of gratification to think of Jesus as a liberal, nothing could be further from the truth.
RandRMomma
by Maya on Aug. 2, 2013 at 12:28 AM
3 moms liked this
How do you know this? According to the Bible, Jesus never took a stance on these issues. As a matter of fact, Jesus never addressed abortion or homosexuality, and the bible doesn't address abortion at all. Really? According to scripture, Jesus abhors the rich, and would much rather prefer that people did of their personal wealth to follow him. As a matter of fact, he asked someone to sell all they had and follow him. That person chose greed and money over Jesus according to scripture.

Jesus was liberal in the sense that he was big on "live and let live." The scripture that says "Ye who has no sin cast the first stone" reminds me of this.

Like usual, the point passed you.


Quoting KamWorthy:

Jesus was not a Liberal, like today's Liberal would like to picture Him as. Jesus would not have condoned, and would have boldly opposed the innocent killing of the unborn. He would openly oppose those who are slothful, and who have a mindset of being a receiver and never a giver. The word says "a man who does not work, does not eat", the word is also careful to note...."the righteous are never forsaken, nor are their descents beggers". The Lord requires that we sustain and support the widowed, the orphaned, the ill and the elderly. Jesus abhorred politics, and titles. So though it might give some a false sense of gratification to think of Jesus as a liberal, nothing could be further from the truth.
RandRMomma
by Maya on Aug. 2, 2013 at 12:48 AM
THE BLOG
Jesus the Liberal
Michael ShammasJul 02, 2013
A long time ago there was a remarkable man, a man who said that might does not make right, that the weak have a strength the strong do not have and that what we call "justice" is often really injustice. He was a man who was condemned by traditional conservative society and who died as a result of lawful application of the death penalty. Who was this man? Jesus of Nazareth.

Although I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I have not been very religious throughout my life. As a result, I had long assumed that the sort of Christianity espoused by the Christian Right -- a Christianity that stresses cold justice over mercy and retribution over forgiveness, sometimes seeming more hateful than loving and all the while ignoring the plight of the poor -- was true Christianity. Yet recently I opened up the New Testament and re-read the gospels. Upon finishing, I was pleasantly reminded how different Jesus was from so many of the Christians I know today, including myself. Christianity is not Christ, and no where is this dysfunction between Christianity and Christ so evident as it is in conservative America. For in the Bible Jesus is a revolutionary figure, a rebel who questions conventional morality and societal traditions and who stresses mercy over justice. He could not be more different from conservative Christians like Michele Bachmann who call out for a harsh judicial system and who champion the rich over the poor.

This view is backed up by the text, as examples of Jesus' remarkable counter-societal morality are plentiful. This is the man who, after coming upon a woman about to be stoned for adultery -- a capital offense at the time -- saved her by challenging: "Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone." As Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes, here and elsewhere Jesus is implying that "no one [has] the moral authority to condemn a fellow human to death," for no one is "without sin." When Jesus -- the only person who can rightly judge this woman since he is indeed sinless -- confronts the adulteress, he does not punish, scold or reprimand her. No, he ignores the law (which after all is different from morality) and forgives her. "Go," he says, "and sin no more." If only society had shown the same singular mercy to Jesus himself before executing him!

It is absolutely remarkable how much the story above contrasts with our own punishment-orientated justice system today -- a system that is harshest in the Bible Belt. Humans love to judge one another; we take sick pleasure in pointing out the flaws in others, perhaps because it paints us in a better light. But reading the New Testament reveals that Jesus was rightly wary of human judgment. For this is a judgment that is too often self-righteous and hypocritical, a judgment that ignores one's own faults to single out the perceived faults of others. (Unfortunately, this type of judgement pervades our justice system).

This assertion is backed up by Jesus' words in the text: "Judge not lest you be judged." And, speaking of those who reserve harsh judgment for others: "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Now, I understand why many Christians do not exemplify Christ's teachings: Jesus sets an impossible standard for most humans to follow, including me. We are flawed, vain creatures who are full of bitterness and hatred and pride, who all too often feel a desire for retribution and for harsh judgment. But Jesus' words could not be clearer: Justice is not enough, and indeed what society calls justice is often in fact injustice. Remember, "justice" is what put Jesus on the Cross. A truly good society cherishes mercy as well as justice.

Consider the Sermon on the Plain from Luke: "Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful. Don't judge, and you won't be judged. Don't condemn, and you won't be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free." Surely this is not the Old Testament message of cold justice, of a God who should sometimes be feared, of violence that can be and sometimes is justified. No, this is a liberal message of forgiveness and mercy. This is a message that humans are imperfect, but that this imperfectness is perfectly fine: God loves you anyway. What's more, because humans are all imperfect, we should not judge one another: Leave that to God. Once humans can accept one another as imperfect, for who they are, without judging one another, love can begin to pervade our lives.

Indeed, contrary to extremist organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church or right-wing Christians like Michele Bachmann, Jesus exhorts us to be absolutely full of love -- to love everyone, even those who persecute us, even those who have done no good for us and who can never do any good for us. "Love your enemies, and do good and lend expecting nothing back," he says. And: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much."

I am not a theologian, and I know full well that many on the Christian Right might say that I am missing the message, that judgment is in fact important, that human retribution is justified. But casual reader though I may be, I still cannot escape the impression that many Christians are just not listening to the message of the Bible as it was espoused by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Why not? I don't know. The only explanation I can think of is that they are stressing the Old Testament over the New, even though Jesus himself spoke out against certain practices in the Old Testament.

When our country is attacked, many people (including me) cry out for vengeance. And yet Jesus sets this impossible standard: "If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also." When someone is robbed, many people (including me) cry out for retribution or prosecution. Yet Jesus says: "If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them also."

Too many Christians, myself among them, are self-righteous. Perhaps some think that because they are Christian, because they are (at least on the outside) moral, surely they are better than those who have stolen, who have polluted themselves with illicit substances, who have committed sexual sins and so on. Yet Jesus says: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

I am imperfect. God knows, I have sinned countless times throughout my short life. But the worst in me is not the best in me; I am not defined by my worst actions, and you are not either. None of us are.

Jesus tells us that it is okay to be imperfect -- that because we are all imperfect, we should reserve judgment. If I had to sum up Jesus' message in the Sermon on the Mount in two words, it would be these: Be kind. This is a message that our modern society desperately needs. And importantly, the message is not qualified. Jesus' words are not "Be kind, except to certain people." No, his message is simple: Be kind.

This great message -- straight from Jesus' mouth -- is one that is not heard often enough in American churches.

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3486908
KamWorthy
by Silver Member on Aug. 2, 2013 at 12:49 AM
1 mom liked this
This person you are referring to was the young rich fellow in Matthew. Jesus knew the young man’s heart. He knew that he was looking for a way to earn his salvation on his own terms. He may have thought that Jesus would give him a specific task or good deed to perform that would win eternal life, one that wouldn’t require him to humble himself and unconditionally set his life under the authority of Christ. Instead, Jesus set up a requirement that clearly illustrated the issue at hand, the rich young man’s desire to retain control of his life. Even if the rich young ruler would have given away his riches and followed Christ, he wouldn’t have earned his salvation. However, if he had done so, he would have surrendered his desire for autonomy and acknowledged God’s authority to do what He wanted with his life. Its a heart matter, not a monitary matter. Regarding sbortion, the strongest argument against abortion from Scripture is the fact that the same punishment is applicable to someone who kills or injures an unborn child as for one who kills or injures an adult. Though this is in the OT, Exodus 21:22-23, it is from the Spirit of God, Jesus and God are one in the same. Exodus strongly indicates that the Mosaic Law viewed the unborn as persons worthy of the same protection and rights as adults. When Jesus came in the scene, it's important to not view His teachings as changing the law, but actually enforcing the law, just with a different approach...LOVE. See, if people truly love themselves, and one another, they will not harm themselves or one another. If they love God they will not do anything to displease Him. Here's the problem, people don't love themselves, or others or God.
Quoting RandRMomma:

How do you know this? According to the Bible, Jesus never took a stance on these issues. As a matter of fact, Jesus never addressed abortion or homosexuality, and the bible doesn't address abortion at all. Really? According to scripture, Jesus abhors the rich, and would much rather prefer that people did of their personal wealth to follow him. As a matter of fact, he asked someone to sell all they had and follow him. That person chose greed and money over Jesus according to scripture.

Jesus was liberal in the sense that he was big on "live and let live." The scripture that says "Ye who has no sin cast the first stone" reminds me of this.

Like usual, the point passed you.


Quoting KamWorthy:

Jesus was not a Liberal, like today's Liberal would like to picture Him as. Jesus would not have condoned, and would have boldly opposed the innocent killing of the unborn. He would openly oppose those who are slothful, and who have a mindset of being a receiver and never a giver. The word says "a man who does not work, does not eat", the word is also careful to note...."the righteous are never forsaken, nor are their descents beggers". The Lord requires that we sustain and support the widowed, the orphaned, the ill and the elderly. Jesus abhorred politics, and titles. So though it might give some a false sense of gratification to think of Jesus as a liberal, nothing could be further from the truth.
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