Tag Archives: conservatives

Pros and Cons

connexions » Blog Archive » Zealots and Corpses

Kim over at “connexions”:http://theconnexion.net has an interesting article that I’d like to expand a bit upon by asking a few simple questions (though the answers may prove to be far from simple):

If you had to choose between associating with liberal or fundamentalist/conservative Christians, which group would you choose and why?

For extra credit:

What do liberal Christians tend to believe? What do fundamentalist Christians tend to believe? And what are the pros and the cons – whether it be behavior, belief, or practice – of each group?

I hear a lot of discussion about liberal versus fundamentalist Christians with very little description of what details actually distinguish the two groups from one another. So I’d like to explore this topic a little bit, get a little bit of a feel for what people’s conceptions are when they think of each group.

Ready. Set. Go!

Progressive

It’s strange – even though I’ve alluded to the fact that most of my views and beliefs tend to fall at (0,0) on the “Cartesian coordinate system”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartesian_coordinate_system, I still tend to think of myself as a full-fledged conservative. Maybe this is because I know for a fact that I am not a liberal and from what I can determine, my philosophies don’t even fit cleanly into the traditional moderate worldview. I just know that whenever I hear someone refer to ‘conservatives’ or ‘religious fundamentalists’ or whatever, I immediately think, “Oh, so-and-so is talking about me,” which is, strictly speaking, not actually true. They _are_ talking about the people with whom I tend to associate, but ideologically speaking, even I tend to fall outside of those same groups.

I think what it really boils down to is that when I hear the word ‘liberal,’ I think of someone who does not believe that absolute truth exists, that truth and reality are both what you make of them for yourself, who believe in evolution and the Big Bang, and who tend to espouse and follow religiously liberal political agendas. Conversely, when I hear the word ‘conservative,’ I think of someone who _does_ believe in absolute truth (and that that truth can actually be known and practiced), that there is a fundamental and unchanging foundation for truth that is external to the human experience, who, at the very least, tend to doubt that evolution is a valid scientific theory and who, instead, see ample evidence for some sort of intelligent design in nature, and who tend to espouse and follow religiously conservative political agendas. When I see these two definitions, the one that seems to fit me best is ‘conservative’, and so it is the way in which I most instinctively think of myself.

Of course, conservative and liberal are two extremes in a somewhat linear system. ((I could actually expand it to a planar system, but a single line keeps things simpler.)) I think Scott Garber stated it best when he said in one issue of his newsletter that we should not be liberal, conservative, or moderate, but rather we should be progressive, striving always to improve our thinking and improve the cultural, social, and religious systems in which we live. My biggest gripe with true liberals, conservatives, and moderates alike is that so often they fail to actually use the grey matter encapsulated within their skulls. Too often I see and hear people spout the standard party line that is typical of whatever ideology they follow, and I wonder if they have ever really thought that ideology through to its logical conclusion. Mind you, I don’t expect that everyone who thinks through an issue will automatically arrive at the same conclusions I have, since everyone starts from a slightly different set of presuppositions. But I _would_ hope that by engaging in “metasystemic thinking”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=444, one would be able to revise and alter those presuppositions and, by association, the accompanying conclusions based from those presuppositions.

I hesitate to start calling myself ‘progessive.’ I’m not one to quickly jump onto a bandwagon and rally to a label or banner. And without providing the appropriate context necessary for understanding, labeling oneself ‘progessive’ could be easily seen as pretentious. Yet, in every area of my life and my thinking, progression is exactly what I seek. I seek to progress toward truth and understanding, toward righteous living, and away from untruth and falsehood and selfish, vain lifestyles.

So I view myself as conservative when in reality I am more progressive in nature, and I wish that more people were like that, willing to actually question their beliefs and examine them. In the end, I think it’s ok if they find that they do still actually believe all those things; it is certainly their right and their freedom to, whether those beliefs are right or wrong. But I do think it’s important that everyone know and understand _why_ they believe and live by the things they do, be able to defend them by arguing for them intelligently and with evidence. Call it a product of postmodern culture, but every year I see fewer and fewer people who are able to do this, who simply take on whatever belief systems _feels_ good to them, never fully understanding or grasping what philosophy it is they live by.

I’ve said it before, certainly, but I think this is why I devote so much of my time and energy to writing in a public place – to examine my own thinking and philosophies in a critical manner, and to cause others to examine their own in a similar fashion. We’re not mindless robots, people, and it is our personal responsibility to know _what_ we believe and _why_ because someday, we _will_ have to answer for our choices.

What Does It Really Mean To Be ‘Evangelical’?

It occurred to me over this past weekend to wonder what it really means to be ‘evangelical’? I overheard a couple of individuals (who were obviously not Christians) talking about different
kinds of Christians and what they stood for, and they threw the word ‘evangelical’ around like it was a swear word. It made me wonder what the word really meant and whether or not it means the same thing in today’s culture. So, I looked it up on this website, and this is what I found:

evangelical [i:vænʒelɪkəl]
A adjective
1 evangelical
relating
to or being a Christian church believing in personal conversion and the
inerrancy of the Bible especially the 4 Gospels; “evangelical
Christianity”; “an ultraconservative evangelical message”
2 evangelical
of or pertaining to or in keeping with the Christian gospel especially as in the first 4 books of the New Testament
3 evangelical, evangelistic
marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause

As these definitions stand here, I see little trouble in accepting the term ‘evangelical’ as accurate and correct. I would even consider myself an evangelical Christian.

Here is where I think the problem lies. Look at the second example in the first definition: “an ultraconservative evangelical message.” I don’t have a problem with the example itself, per se. However, one word stands out to me as the place where we as Christians have problems in relating to the world around us — conservative. I believe we need to be conservative as far as preserving truth goes. However, in our practices, I think Christians sometimes have swung so far to the extreme as to no longer be conservative. Instead, so many of our churches have become legalistic, even Pharisaical. This is the real rub with those we are trying to win
to Christ. As evangelicals we strive to preach the Gospel, to share the hope that is within us. But as legalists we are harsh and cruel and judgmental. We strive so hard to preserve the
truth, to preserve the facts of our faith that we forget the human element. We forget that we
are also supposed to be compassionate and caring and sensitive. I hear a lot of gossip in our churches, a lot of judgment, and I see a lot of anger and bitterness and strife — with each other! We see the sin and faults of our brothers and sisters (and of the world around us), and we pass judgment on them and distance ourselves from them. And I fear that in this process we have damaged our testimony in such a way that it’s no wonder we find ourselves faced
with so much cynicism from the world.

Of course, I realize this is not the case with all Christians or even all churches. But the trouble is that it is so much easier to see the bad than the good, and so those of us who strive to live like Christ are overshadowed by those who think they are living like Christ but who are, in actuality, living like the very Pharisees whom He condemned. Christ said that we would be hated by the world, that we would be persecuted by it, but I see the Church bringing so much of that condemnation upon itself because of what some are doing that undermines our work. I myself struggle with a cynical attitude toward so many Christians and churches, and I have to wonder, if I struggle with this while I am part of the Body, how much more do those who are without struggle with seeing their need for this Christ whom we so poorly represent?

In our beliefs I believe we should be conservative, preserving the truth of God’s Word. In our practices, I believe we should be progressive, reaching out into the world and moving with it, adjusting accordingly as we seek to meet its needs, to display this God we love, to win them to the Kingdom. Christ came to love sinners. Why can’t we do the same?

Liberals

Liberals really irritate me sometimes. Of course, there are a fair number of conservatives that have the same effect on me at times. The arguments, debates, and disagreements that ensue between the two extremes are very typically divisive, spiteful, and hateful. It angers me to see this in politics (the current presidential race not withstanding), but it especially angers me when it happens within Christian circles. Both sides become so hard-headed and stiff-necked, completely unwilling to give, so sure that theirs is the right position, and in the process hatred is forged and division created. I suppose that, on the conservative-liberal continuum, I would most likely be classified by others as conservative, though, using that same standard, I would place myself further toward the middle (perhaps a 3.5 on a 10-point scale). Rather, though, I prefer to think of myself as progressive, a position espoused by Scott Garber in a recent edition of his Unconventional Wisdom newsletter. The true progressive is neither conservative nor liberal (though he or she may resemble either at various points in time and on various issues), but rather is someone who continually moves self, and urges others, toward change when change is needed. Part of this mindset (and worldview?) is having the willingness to evaluate one’s own stances on various issues and changing when it is clear that the currently held position is in error, something which, as previously noted, I see few from the extremes willing to do. This is not to put myself up on a pedestal as a monument of “enlightenment” or “self-actualization”, however (for I can be as stiff-necked as the next man). But I do strive for a continual state of self-evaluation and change, ever pursuing and desiring to become more like my Lord (the greatest promoter of change during his earthly ministry).

This frustration with conservatives and liberals has become more and more salient to me again these past few days as I have mulled over a variety of topics currently in debate. I have listened and watched and pondered both sides of all the arguments (for they have been very dichotomous in nature, as they must be, for there can only be two sides, good or evil, right or wrong; the so-called “gray” areas are man-made results of sin, I believe, but that is a matter for another post), and I have seen that neither side is willing to budge. (I do have my own thoughts and ideas and stances on the various issues of what I believe is truly right and good, and I plan to make those more fully known in the coming days and weeks, as I am able. For those of you who actually care enough about what I think to ask my opinion and to read, I ask your continued patience. Taking part in these discussions is very important to me, but they are lower on my priority list right now, at least until I get through a couple more weeks of classes and my summer schedule begins to ease off. I have neither the time nor the energy to devote to much more than my studies and to my wife right now. I appreciate your patience.)

I do not condemn anyone for their stances, for it is not my place to do so. I will, however, disagree when necessary and point out when I think you are wrong. However, I also believe that every man is free to believe as he so desires and will be held accountable to the Lord one day for those beliefs, as well as for those they have led to truth and those they have led into sin and disbelief. Therefore, I take these discussions very seriously, both to seek to better others as well as to hone the rough edges off my own thinking and so, hopefully, to reveal a better and more full view of my Lord (always with the Scriptures open and at my right hand, of course) and bind the fellowship of the Body into a greater unity and further the Kingdom.

Christians and Politics

So, some Christians (I don’t really know how many) think it’s better to not get involved in the political arena because we have a more important work, that being to win souls to Christ. Yet, I have to disagree with the notion of non-involvment. It seems to me that part of our responsibility as stewards is to be involved in every arena as much as possible in order to have the greatest influence possible. Granted, our most important work is that of the Kingdom. The eternal state of man’s soul is of utmost importance, and we should be striving in everything we do to see others added to the Family.

We have a great freedom to move about and worship as we wish in this country, something few other countries can claim. Persecution is rampant across the globe, and there is greater insurgency of persecution arising here in the US, as well. And guess where that persecution originates? Politics! Many of the liberals in power have been trying to pass legislation to limit the religious freedom of Christians. The Ten Commandments dispute in Alabama is a prime example of this. And without strong, moral Christians in politics to take a strong stance against these would-be persecutors, our very freedoms might be stripped from us, freedoms that were hard-won at the foundation of this country, freedoms that were bled on by our men who fought and died for a freedom that they so dearly held to and believed in. We Christians (and conservatives) tend to be way too quiet about things, preferring to hope that the other side will see reason, come to their sense, and change their ways. Well, I have news for you, they haven’t, and they won’t. So, we have to stand strong and fight against them in order to hang on to and win back the freedoms that allow us to worship and speak freely about our faith.

I have a deep respect for the men in Congress and in local government who stand strong against their liberal, intolerant peers, as well as for the talk-show hosts who keep us informed of what we are not being told. Support these men who stand up for what is right, and exercise your voice in the voting booth each and every opportunity you have. It is our right as US citizens, as well as our responsibility as Christians.