Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Christian Left?

Tony Jones wonders if there is a Christian Left in America.
This is a question that interests me, in part because I'm now commonly placed in the "liberal" camp, not only by self-proclaimed conservatives, but also by emergent movement leaders who wish that the theological provocations of McLaren, Pagitt, and Jones would just go away. I've been invited to a summit of leftward theologians in March who have a Ford Foundation grant to "rekindle theological education" among progressives.
Tony goes on to say,
I tend to think that the bipolarities of "liberal v. conservative" are a holdover from Enlightenment epistemology and, as such, are less and less helpful. I thought of this again as I heard Pat Buchanan proclaim on Morning Joe this morning that Obama's cabinet picks thus far are "center-right."
Good question, and good point.

I would probably fit more into the Jones brand of liberal Christianity than into Dreher's more conservative vision (though I love the earthy aspects of Dreher's philosophy, and the simplicity of it all). For one, I think conservative Christians and evangelicals focus far too much on dogma and far too little on the point, and yet still fall far short of the radicalism preached by Jesus. As Freddie notes,
One of the greater tragedies of the Christian evolution in America, concurrent with the terrible policy positions it has led to, is the gradual watering down of the teachings of a genuine radical into bland pablum. Jesus does not merely advocate charity. He advocates charity at almost any cost. Some people say give 'til it hurts, Jesus says that hurting is no excuse to stop giving. Turning the other cheek does not just mean don't fight back. It means present your other cheek for your attacker to hit you again, to extend the bonds of charity to such an extent that it involves helping someone who wants to hurt you to hurt you.
I would say that the Christian community, right and left, fall far short of this standard, which is okay. To live in the mold Jesus put forth is nearly impossible. And that's the point. You have to cut and paste to some degree in matters of faith, any faith. This is why fundamentalism is so absurd.

I find myself on the left on social issues, and yet I think I could justifiably call myself a social conservative in that I believe in the importance of faith, family, and other old institutions in building and maintaining a strong culture. I'm in favor of limited government, and lately classify my foreign policy in the owl/realist/occasional hawk mold, though I'm against nation building.

We're all a little more complicated than our ideologies would allow. Quite frankly, I can't come to a personal consensus on the bailout. Economics appears too complicated for even the economists these days. I don't think there's much evidence for the efficacy of supply-side economics. I think there is evidence that low taxes can help the economy, but they have to be accompanied by low spending, and that ain't happening any time soon...

So I say out with this question of Right and Left altogether. Aren't we all becoming a little tired of being boxed in? Conservatism, after all, isn't so much an ideology as a disposition, correct? Is Liberalism any different? Pragmatism? Realism?

5 comments:

Janus said...

Alot (if not most) of the political parties in Europe are actually Christian socialist parties. Many Christians (and especially Catholics) believe that looking out for the poor is a Christian value that the government is obliged to assist with.

Janus said...

Correction: "Alot (if not most) of the [leftist] political parties in Europe"

... of course most parties in Europe are not Christian socialists.

E.D. Kain said...

Well, Jesus certainly seemed to think so...

Hey just added you to my blogroll/reading list thingy, Janus. Would you mind a reciprocal at Secular?

Thanks!

Janus said...

My pleasure.

Anonymous said...

it's not charity when it's extracted via the barrel of a gun