I am a liberal. That is to say that my political views, for the most part, line up on the side of others that call themselves liberal.
I am pro-choice. I support same-sex marriage. I support the use of government assistance programs, such as SNAP (food stamps), The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and Social Security. I support unions. And generally, overall, I believe that government should solve the common problems of the people they govern.
I am also Christian. I believe in God, that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. That God has revealed himself in the writings of the books of the Bible. (I won't go deeper into theology than that, but if you'd like to talk about it, please ask.)
Some, many in fact, claim that I cannot be both Christian and Liberal. That if I believe in the Bible that I cannot be pro-choice, pro same-sex marriage, and most of all I cannot be pro-"government should help people". Others have written long treatise on what they see as Biblical evidence that a conservative political view is what God wants us to have.
I am not going to argue against a conservative view. And I'm not going to argue for a liberal view. Rather I just want to share how I got to where I am.
When I first became a Christian, about 14 years ago (well, I have always considered myself "Christian" since I was a teen and went to church camp, but I can't say I really became a serious "church going" Christian until relatively recently, but that's another story...) I was convinced that I had to have a conservative view. The biggest issue at the time, at least in the circles I was in, was the pro-life/pro-choice argument. God doesn't want people killing babies. And, like now, the view was either "you're on this side" or "you're wrong". And I didn't want to be wrong. And God is boss, He says "don't kill babies", so therefore I had to support the side that was pro-life. That meant a conservative political view and in the US that meant I vote republican.
I hadn't really been involved in the political process up to that point. But at the same time I became an active Christian I also became an active voter.
Churches aren't allowed to talk about politics, but they are allowed to talk about the issues. During the 2000 election, what we heard about the most was abortion. And how it's just plain wrong for any reason. Many of us believed that Bush was going to end abortion. (This was pre-9/11 and terrorism and war weren't in the headlines yet.) We really honestly believed it. I think Bush even said if a bill banning abortion landed on his desk he would sign it. In my circles, that was really the only issue during that election.
I was naive. I was new to the political process, in spite of being in my 30s. I honestly thought that we could make it happen. It didn't. 4 years later the country was at war. Or at least we were led to believe it was war. The War On Terror. And This Is America! We're not going to let them win! And we heard about how God is on our side and that the war was the most important thing. Any talk of ending the war just wan't in God's will. So Bush won again. And yes I voted for him again.
And this is where I started to see the light. As I started to learn about the government, how it really works, and things like debt and deficit, taxes and spending, the debt ceiling, states' rights vs. federal jurisdiction, and so on, I found that there are things that are way more complicated than I was made to believe.
I will continue to use the pro-life issue as an example. I learned that government can't, and really won't ever, completely do away with the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. And even if they they did, that won't end abortion. The issue is way more complex than "don't kill unborn babies".
What the issue really is about is thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, practices, attitudes, money, fear,etc. It's way more complicated than "you can do this" or "you can't do this".
The opinion of the church I was in at the time, and the continuing view of many churches, is that it was our job to fix the world. And the way we start doing that is to use government and legislation to enforce God's will (or what we saw as God's will) on the world. In other words, to put it bluntly, it was our job to force people to follow God's plan by making laws that would make it illegal not to follow God's plan.
And what I came to realize is that many thought God and his followers were kind of a bunch of assholes (in their opinion). They saw us as a bunch of people that just wanted to force everyone to follow their God and had no respect for their religious positions. We honestly believed that the founding fathers were Christian, that America was supposed to be a Christian nation, and freedom of religion really meant to be whatever Bible believing Christian you wanted, but not anything else.
So I started to ask questions. My first was "I don't think I'm an asshole, why do others?" I read the news. I talked to friends. Facebook wasn't a thing yet, but I had chatroom friends and I talked to them. I talked to people that had an abortion, I asked people why they were pro-life or pro-choice. I talked to doctors.
And the answer I came to is that people saw Christians of my ilk as assholes because they didn't bother to investigate the issues. We saw only black and white, right and wrong. And no issue, especially not abortion, is ever black and white.
This was about the time that the Westboro Baptist folks started getting a lot of attention with their protests at soldiers funerals and their "God hates Fags" signs and so forth. Non-Christians started seeing all Christians as they saw the Westboro Baptist folks.
And you know what? They were right. While many in the church were condemning their methods, many more were agreeing with Westboro's message. Many in the church really did think God hates fags and that dead soldiers were God's punishment to America for killing babies and so on and so on. People had stopped seeing the gospel message of love and hope as a message of love and hope. Now we were a group of people of division, doom, and hate.
And I began to hate me for being part of it. I was part of a system that was not only spreading the wrong message, but in our votes and political actions we were hurting people.
At the time I came to this conclusion, I was managing a Christian bookstore. Almost every book on the shelf supported a conservative world view. Every book I sold propagated a system that I didn't agree with.
And then I learned something else. Christian and conservative were not married. In spite of what many would have me think, faith and political views are not co-dependent.
This changed things. Most of all, it changed my faith. I stopped reading the Bible looking to support my politics and started reading it for what it was. It's not a political manual. The only politics in it is within the history of the Israelite people as it's recorded. There's stories of kings and assassinations and scandal. And there is beautiful poetry, and sad songs of lament and depression. And there are rules for living a life of joy and being with other people. Overall it is a story of love.
And one rule stood out to me, as it should to all who believe in Jesus. "Love your neighbor as yourself".
If there is one thing that, to me, describes the liberal political position more than any other, it is that. Love people. Take care of people.
At that moment, I became fully liberal.
But Allen, how can you reconcile "thou shalt not kill" with the pro-choice view?
Again, I've been using abortion as the example, there are other issues, political and otherwise that led to my political shift, but let's continue.
My view is that abortion cannot and will not end with political action. Don't get me wrong, I fully believe the act of abortion is murder. It stops a beating heart. And when abortion ends I will be leading the parade in celebration. But HOW we end it is where my opinion differs from my conservative friends.
Abortion ends when every pregnancy is wanted and every child has a home. We do that through education, even with very young children. We do that through birth control (something some Christians won't agree with) that is easily available, super effective, and really cheap. We work to eliminate poverty, provide good healthcare, and... and... Am I dreaming? Maybe. Can it happen? I think so. But it takes time, money, a change in attitude.
And that's how it is with every other issue. I and my conservative brothers and sisters want the same end results in most cases. What we don't agree on is government's role in getting us from here to there.
So here I am. I've gone from thinking I had to be extremely conservative, to realizing I can accept my political view and still reconcile it with my faith.
And that's the crux of it. Religion shapes my world view, including my politics. This is true for everyone. But I think it's important for people to really honestly examine what they think they believe and stop listening to the loudest voices around them. If your preacher says "a christian should do this", think about it. Do you agree that you should do that? What does the Bible say about that topic? What proof did your preacher provide for that argument?
The same is true for other faiths. Do you agree with your leaders' teachings? Do your religion's writings support what your leaders say?
In other words, do you really believe what they are telling you to believe? The Bible says "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding". Some take this to mean "follow your leaders" but I don't think so. I think that means seek what the Lord wants. Learn, read, study, pray, work out what the Bible really says, not what some preacher is telling you.
And I greatly admire and respect those of differing faiths that have done that as well. When it comes to faith issues, I think other religions are "wrong" otherwise I wouldn't be a Christian, but I respect that they are following what they have found to be true, so long as they have really investigated it.
The same with the political process. If you have really investigated your point of view and can discuss it realistically and not in terms of what others have said, then I have great respect for that.
And now I'm just devolving into a rant.
I hope that this opens up some discussion. Please feel free to chat me up.