I grew up a love-child of the Religious Right and Rush Limbaugh, but as a man in my 40’s, I now find myself in a much different place. I have no doubt those of my youth must feel I have rejected everything I was ever taught, and have abandoned the Christian faith. However, the reality is that I am more sure of my Christian faith than ever.
The ultimate irony is that I didn’t walk away because I rejected the core principles I was taught– the relationship ended because they rejected the core principles they had long taught me.
In reflection, here are 10 reasons I dumped the Religious Right and moved to the Christian Left– not because I rejected what they taught me, but because I still believe it:
I reject the Religious Right’s Scripture twisting and bizarre use of the Bible.
The Religious Right taught me that as Christians, we ought support policies and political leaders that reflect a commitment to biblical principles and values. In due time however, I discovered they just meant being anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality– even though neither issue is directly and explicitly addressed in the Bible the way some would like them to be.
The minute I began asking about issues the Bible actually does explicitly address, the truth of what they really believe became more evident– and they quickly engage the type of Scripture gymnastics they always warned me about:
- “But didn’t Jesus speak out against the use of violence, and tell us to love our enemies?” Well, I don’t think that’s really what he meant. Plus, the Old Testament clearly sanctions the use of violence, and we have to believe the whole Bible.
- “But doesn’t the Old Testament command the government to tax citizens in order to support those in poverty and immigrants? And doesn’t it command us to welcome immigrants?” Well, yes, but that was the Old Testament you see, so not all of that applies today.
- “But didn’t you just say it all still applies?” <silence>
- “And doesn’t the New Testament command us to care for the poor and welcome immigrants?” Yes, it does– but we should do that individually as we’re able. God tells us how we should act but that doesn’t mean the government has the right to force us to act that way. Jesus never told the government how to do its job.
- “But didn’t you just start out by saying when it comes to gay marriage and abortion the government should make us behave in certain ways?” Listen, son, it’s clear you’re just trying to be a trouble maker and play games with the Bible- I’m not engaging with you until you repent.
Today’s Religious Right embraces moral relativism, but I still believe in right and wrong.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but I remember the days when we believed that core moral principles don’t just change with the times. But as TRUMPianity has taken over American Christianity, somehow morality is a far more flexible item than once realized.
As a kid I was repeatedly warned that those who engage in immoral talk, sexual immorality, lovers of money and liars, etc., were destined for the fires of hell. Interesting that when picks for the Supreme Court are on the line one can go from ‘Get that man a preacher, if anyone is hellbound it’s definitely him!” to “Praise God! For he has sent us a savior!”
I refuse to accept that– I believe that right is right and wrong is wrong and that those things don’t change just because your guy is in power.
I believe in the importance of compassion– and couldn’t find the “compassion” in today’s conservatism.
When we read the story of Jesus in the Gospels we find a single line frequently repeated: “And he saw them and was filled with compassion.” If anyone wants to be like Jesus, being filled with compassion when witnessing the suffering of others is one of the requirements.
When I was a conservative, we believed in being “compassionate conservatives,” and while I’m not convinced we ever were, what is undoubtedly true today is that there is no compassion in today’s conservatism.
Anyone who supports having kids locked in cages; anyone who could see such a sight and not be flooded with compassion and want to instantly free them from their oppressors, is not only lacking in compassion– but such a person has no right to associate themselves with Jesus in any way, shape, or form.
Now more than ever, I still believe that “Character Counts.”
The Religious Right may have forgotten the 90’s, but I haven’t. We shouted “character counts” from the rooftops, and insisted that the moral character of our political leaders was critically important– because individual morality impacts individual leadership.
Fast forward to present time, the Religious Right has inexplicably become the people leading the way in arguing that we must ignore personal character and morality when selecting our leaders– enter stage left, Donald Trump.
I categorically reject that– character does count. Character has always counted, and character still counts.
I believe Christians are called to be people who who look after the needs of others.
I don’t care what party you belong to, what flavor of Christian you are, or how you approach reading the Bible– if you’ve actually read the Bible and missed the constant theme from start to finish of God’s people being called to be those who care for the needs of others, you need to try again.
Today’s Religious Right? Well, it certainly isn’t the group who demonstrates they believe the Apostle Paul when he tells us we should not only look after the needs of others, but that we ought humble ourselves enough to see others as being more important than ourselves.
But who still believes it? I do.
I am pro-family and believe the government has a responsibility to protect families and children.
The Religious Right has literally built an entire movement on the supposed belief that the government must protect innocent children, and that as Christians we need to protect the family unit since it is the “foundation of society.”
But once those kids go from un-born to just-born? All of a sudden government involvement is overreach, taxation is theft, and ‘rugged individualism’ is the argument that wins the day.
And once those families turn out to be brown-skinned immigrants? All of a sudden the family unit doesn’t matter, breaking them up is of no concern, and permanently traumatizing children is justified, because after all– “we’re a nation of laws.”
I believe in the sanctity of human life and that all people have sacred value and worth to God.
The term “sanctity of life” was drilled into my head over and over as a member of the Religious Right, and sorry folks– I know you don’t believe it anymore, but with me, the whole concept stuck.
Whether it is children getting shot at school while the government continues to be bought and paid for by the NRA, the life of a person on Death Row, or a starving refugee on our border, I believe that all life is sacred and worth protecting.
The Religious Right, on the other hand, has never supported consistent policies that uphold the belief all life is sacred– it’s one of the beliefs I now realize they never believed in the first place.
Because I believe that clothing the poor, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, remembering those in prison, and welcoming immigrants, are “heaven or hell” issues.
You were the ones who taught me that some issues are lines in the sand when it comes to God– that some things that were nonnegotiable, and that which side you choose can land you in God’s grace, or God’s wrath.
Funny thing is: I read my Bible, and while it’s true there are some issues that are heaven or hell issues, strangely they weren’t the issues of dancing and listening to secular music.
What were those few issues Jesus laid out as heaven or hell issues? Somehow they ended up being the very things the Religious Right and today’s conservatives fight against.
Because Jesus was a brown-skinned child refugee who grew up to be a homeless transient, and who ultimately died an unarmed person of color killed by police forces.
And if the policies and people we support don’t protect those who are just like Jesus, your views might be “religious”, but they’re definitely not “Christian.”
The Religious Right were the people who told me I needed to keep Jesus out of my politics– and I won’t do that.
Religious Right of my youth?
“As Christians we can’t separate religion and politics.”
Religious Right today?
“I don’t look to Jesus to inform my politics.”
Sorry, folks– but Jesus always has, and always will inform my political views– and that’s precisely why I dumped the Religious Right, and moved to the Christian Left.
Because the Christian Left? Instead of telling me to keep Jesus out of politics, they were the ones who insisted we put him at the center of all of it.