Christian Conservative, Conservative Christian, Christian Right, Religious Right,whatever they want to call themselves it all means the same thing, at least in the United States: Christians (or those who call themselves Christian) and others of faith that support the Republican party.
I do respect the movement in the fact that they are standing up for what they think is right. At heart they are standing for what they believe are Biblical values and are trying to promote those values in the American political system. However, I think that they are foundationally flawed in their platform and therefore are not correct in their political views.
Let me explain.
I am a Christian. I believe in the Bible. It is a recorded history of God's people and the teachings of Christ and therefore the Word of God. However, I do not agree with what many claim the Bible says.
The Christian Right - as I will refer to them for the rest of this post - at least in it's modern incarnation, had it's foundation in the '70s. Jerry Falwell and his followers in the "Moral Majority" began a campaign to involve Christians more pro-actively in the political process. Roughly during the Carter administration the movement began to take shape and though Falwell and others did not take direct aim at Carter, they did promote an image of "... godless, spineless leaders have brought our nation floundering to the brink of death." My own theory is that this lead to Reagan being elected in 1980 and under Reagan's administration the Christian Right found solid roots to become what it is today.
And what is it today? What things characterize the Christian Right?
Pro-life. That is to say, anti-abortion. Abortion is abomination and needs to be stopped, made illegal.
Educational reform. The Bible and Biblical values should be taught in public school. This includes no longer teaching evolution and instead teaching creation or at least intelligent design.
Sex education. The prevailing view is that 'abstinence only' is the best way to teach sex. Others feel that sex education is the responsibility of parents and should not be taught in school.
Sexuality (particularly homosexuality). The prevailing view in the Christian Right is that homosexuality is a choice and a sin and therefore should not be presented in any context as 'normal' and homosexuals should not be allowed to marry or otherwise receive the rights assigned to "traditional marriage". Some even refer to a "homosexual agenda" that must be stopped.
Lately some in the Christian Right have described a "war on Christianity" by the government citing cases where some have sued to have "under God" removed from the pledge of allegiance, the false assertions that prayer is not allowed in public schools, and so on.
There are many other things that form the "platform" of the Christian Right, but these are the things that I have the most problem with and find it difficult - impossible actually - to align myself with them. Let me run them down.
Abortion rights. Since 1973, with the Roe vs. Wade case in the Supreme Court, a woman's right to an abortion has been protected in the United States. In short, she has the right to choose. Since that time many many many attempts have been made to get that decision overturned and all of them have failed.
Here's my take. Abortion is horrible. Abortion is murder. That may be a harsh way to put it but that is my feeling. Abortion stops a beating heart and ends a life.
With maybe a very few exceptions, I don't think any woman who has had an abortion would say that it was an easy decision for them. It's not something women take lightly.
But the decision has already been made. Pandora's box has already been opened. Women have the right to choose. No matter what happens, no matter who is elected, there is no way, absolutely no way that decision by the Supreme Court, is going to be overturned. Many attempts have been made and they have all failed. Even if you claim that a conservative President could do it, we've had Reagan, George HW Bush, and George W Bush. None of them even came close to getting it done.
Abortion as an issue in political elections is a red herring. It's a paper-mache carrot hung in front of the Christian Right to get them to vote. Common sense tells us that it can never, ever be made illegal and ending abortion by legislative means won't happen.
In other words, voting on the right simply to protect unborn children is a waste of your vote. Abortion can't be made illegal. It just can't. The only way to end abortion is to make it unnecessary. I don't feel the Republican party, as influenced by the Christian Right, has a plan in place to do that.
Education Reform. I do feel that our current education system would benefit from the careful application of some Biblical values. I do not feel, however, that our public school system should be teaching The Bible, nor do I feel that the lessons in the Bible should be taught over prevailing scientific theories.
In other words, I think "love thy neighbor" is a great thing to teach. But once you start down the path of teaching The Bible as a guidebook to life you run into a whole SLEW of problems. Which version? Which interpretation? Should we teach what this church teaches or that church? How is this passage to be presented? And so on and so on and so on. If Biblical teaching is so important to parents, then they should take their kids to someone that has been taught the Bible. In other world, the Bible should be taught by those who went to Bible college (and those taught by that person). Those people are found in churches. You can find a church that most matches your view of what the Bible says. Find it and take your kids there if you want them taught the Bible.
The question of Evolution vs. Creation (or Intelligent Design) is at heart a religious - or at least philosophical - question. It has no place in the science classroom. Science teachers teach science. Period. Science is not anti-religion. I don't think religion is really anti-science either, but there are those who disagree. In either case, science needs to be taught. Regardless of one's religious beliefs, science HAS to be taught if we are going to keep America strong. And that means teaching the theory of evolution.
There is a huge misunderstanding and villainization of Charles Darwin and his writings. Darwin did not write something that disproves the Bible, he wrote science. He wasn't out to kill God, he was out to figure things out. That's all science is, figuring things out.
No one will argue that on some level Darwin's theories are true. You can see it. Every farmer, pet breeder, insect exterminator can explain the basics of evolution. Characteristics of parents are passed down to children. Characteristics that are strengthened by the environment are more likely to be passed to the next generation. No one argues that. The problem comes with you extend that line of thinking and draw links between on species and another and start seeing common ancestry and tracing that line of thinking all the way back to a single common ancestor for all life. That's when the Christian Right gets twitchy because "that's not what the Bible says."
My thinking: so what? You want the Bible taught to your kids, take them to an expert in the Bible. You don't agree with the theory of evolution, fine, tell you kids that, BUT THEY STILL NEED TO BE TAUGHT IT. Why? Because it is the prevailing theory in our day and age and so much that has come out of that theory pervades other branches of science as it exists today. In other words, you want your children to be smart, you want America to have the advantage over other countries, then kids have to be taught evolution, agree with it or not.
Now I am a Christian, doesn't that mean that I am hating on God's word by promoting evolution? No. Here's what I believe: The Bible tells us God created the world and the heavens and the earth and everything that is in it in 6 days. Except for Adam and Eve (made from the dust of the ground and Adam's rib respectively) the Bible does not tell us how everything was created.
My own theory, just me and not supported by anything except my own brain, is that it may be something like this:
Think of a guy working in a fireworks factory. He builds those big shells that you see on the 4th of July, the ones that shoot up in the air and then burst into sparks and colors, making shapes and colors that make everyone say "oo" and "aaahh". Everything in that big, bright display is carefully planned. The fireworks artist knows that when he puts in this ingredient that it will make things green, and when he puts in these pellets that they will make whistles, and so on. He knows exactly what each thing he puts in will do and how it will react with other things and exactly how it will look when it goes off.
God made the Universe that way. He put in just the right ingredients so that it will expand and grow and glow in just the way He wants it to. He packed it all in and then BANG - the so called Big Bang. Created in 6 days, then exploding and unfolding for millions of years.
Just my take on it. You can call that intelligent design if you want. But do I feel my theory should be taught in public schools? No. Why? God, the Bible, do no belong in the science classroom. I don't want my preacher teaching science, I don't want my science teacher teaching the Bible. Simple as that.
Ok - on to the next topic.
Sex education. On the one hand, I do feel that the primary responsibility for teaching our kids about sex lies with the parents. However, the environment of the 21st century household may make that teaching difficult. At best parents can speak from their own education and experience. If sex education is taught in public schools it needs to balance what is taught at home with what science and medicine and psychology have to offer. In our modern society venereal disease is a reality and things change so quickly and scarily that parents can't keep up and that's where public educators come in.
On the question of abstinence. I think that's awesome. Preach it. But you need to face the reality that "kids are doing it anyway" and an "abstinence only" stance is not only irresponsible, it's dangerous. Even the most religious, devout teenager can be swept up in peer pressure and hormones. To leave them with only the message "just don't do it" can lead to all sorts of disasters. The message "don't do it" needs to be given along with "but if you do, then you need to be aware of this and this and this.." I put myself in some very dangerous positions when I was in high school. I dodged many bullets, but not all kids are so lucky. If I had been taught the pitfalls of sex I might have acted in much different ways.
That brings us to sexuality. In particular homosexuality. How do we handle this?
To be honest, this one is hard for me. Many point to verses in Leviticus and other places in the Old Testament to show homosexuality is wrong. That doesn't line up with me because those same sections teach about restrictions on what to eat, what to wear, and so on and if we're going to follow the rules about homosexuality, then we have to follow the others as well. There are places in the New Testament that mention it. Those are harder to wrap my brains around.
But regardless of what I think or believe, it doesn't change that this is an issue in our society. Many will tell you that homosexuality is a choice. I don't think so. I honestly haven't had a lot of contact with gay people but those I have talked to, to a one, do not describe 'being gay' as something they chose. Every one of them said they 'always knew' and 'since they were a kid' they had just 'been that way'.
Now, I do think that there are cases among young people, because of how they are treated by their peers, or something that happened at home, or some other thing, where they are having trouble defining their identity and personality and someone will say or do something that makes them take a path on a sexual lifestyle that does not really line up with who they are. That works both ways, gay kids trying to live straight and straight kids trying to live gay, because they are confused. In that respect there are cases where it might seem that someone is "cured" of being gay or someone is "recruited" into being gay when in actuality they are either dealing with that confusion or overcoming that confusion and living their true identity.
All that being said, here's what I think: No matter what I believe or the church believes or others believe, individual people, just themselves, are responsible for being true to themselves. It's not my job or anyone else's to tell someone what to believe, how to act, or who to be. If they are interested in finding out more about what I believe, great! I'll bring them to church. But other than that, I do no think it's anyone else's job to tell others what to do in their own morality.
And gay marriage? Why not? They'd have to pay for marriage licenses, that adds to the public coffers. The marriage ceremonies will lead to a stimulation of the local economy - gifts and so forth. And public recognition of that relationship makes it easier for loved ones to take care of each other. Many speak of the "sanctity of marriage" and "traditional marriage". The sanctity of MY marriage is not threatened by the marriage or non marriage of someone else, only I and my wife have anything to do with that. And "traditional marriage"... traditions change.
"Gay marriage" is inevitable. You might vote to try to stop it, and your candidate, if elected, might be able to hold it off for a while, but it is inevitable. It will become a reality in every state in the United States. If that is the only reason you are casting your vote, then you are wasting your vote.
And that brings me to my final talking point. The "War on Religion".
I only have one thing to say on that. Until our government starts raiding churches, carrying away preachers that are never seen or heard from again, until armed forces crash though our neighborhoods, destroying the homes and businesses of those who believe a certain way, until someone pins an emblem to your clothing marking you as belonging to a certain religious group, then don't talk to me about a war on Religion.
You are still free to go to your church. You are still free to read your Bible. You are still free to watch religious programming that is still allowed to come into your home. Until any of those above things happen, it is INSULTING to say that your religion is under attack. It insults those in other countries, China for example, where the Christian church really is under attack. It's insulting to those missionaries that have laid down their lives trying to share the love of Christ with others. It's insulting to 6 million Jewish men women and children that died at the hands of the Nazis in the 30s and 40s.
And to claim that one party or another is out to expunge religion from America... insulting. Yes, times have changed. The attitudes of people regarding religion in public places, schools for example, have changed since the 50s. That doesn't mean that those times were "better" religiously speaking, it just means people had a different attitude. My kids can still say "under God" during the pledge of allegiance (if their classroom does it at all). They can still pray in their classroom so long as they don't jump up and disrupt things to lead a public prayer. Prayer is a personal thing anyway and I feel it's better for them to do it quietly, privately. (As long as there are math tests, there will always be prayer in school.)
The only war on religion in the United States is a war by the Christian Right insisting that 'their' religion is right and the choices of others is wrong.
So, Mr. Author of this Blog who calls himself Christian - why don't you tell us what you really think.
I am part of a small but growing group, not really organized more than just sharing common beliefs, that calls ourselves The Christian Left. Now I am not saying that by calling myself that that I am fully aligned with the far left and "liberals". For me, in my political life, my Christians beliefs have led me to a place that is "not on the right", and by that definition, I am on the left.
But what does that mean?
I means that I have read the Bible. Many times and am reading it again now. I have found that what the Bible says is not what the Christian Right would have you believe. To represent the true love of Christ we should support a government that takes care of all people in the country and not tell people what they can't do with their own life and body.
That's that. No complicated theology. Theology has no place in politics.
Thanks for letting me rant some more.