Monday, May 23, 2016

Dear Susan

Dear Susan,

Thanks for the essay “Can the Christian Left Be a Real Political Force?”  I was dubious at first because the author was Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife who died in 2007.  However, it turned out that some other Ruth Graham wrote the piece you shared with me.

I’m not certain that liberal Christianity will be much of a force politically any time soon.  For that matter, Christianity in any of its dimensions may not have much influence these days.  The evangelical right-wing Christians have turned out to be just plain right-wingers whose Christian faith is superficial and ignorant.  Liberal Christianity, both evangelical and orthodox, are certainly present with a strong voice, but not many are listening.   Consider the Bernie rallies; they are large, emotionally charged, and largely devoid of anything remotely religious, much less Christian.  In a curious way, they are stimulated by Bernie pushing hot buttons in much the same way Trump pushes the hot buttons of his crowds.  Bernie has more tangible policy proposals than Trump, but the likelihood of support from Congress is very slim, even from those who think they are pretty good ideas.  Not many of them are pragmatically workable, and Bernie is not known for his ability to negotiate from the ideal to the possible. 

Ms. Graham notes that politically active liberal Christians are often involved not through Christianity, but in spite of it, as they do their best to distance themselves from the popular conception of Christians as narrow minded, judgmental, and anti intellectual.  The theologians of the Christian Left, if there is such a thing, have another problem.  They think.  They think deeply.   That doesn’t sell very well in the public market place.  

My final observation is that the left goes from center-left to far left-wing.  I consider myself to be center-left, and I find my far left-wing acquaintances to be naive, unrealistic, and as stubbornly resistant to evidence as are those on the far right.   Liberal Christianity is not a bloc.  Having said all that, fearless proclamation of the gospel, the Good News of God in Christ, which is not the same thing as the bible, but which is communicated to us through the bible, leads in the direction of political engagement as an essential element of the Christian life.  For my part, I take my lead from the Sermon on the Mount.  It pulls me toward the liberal side of the political spectrum, but it does not encourage naïveté about what is workable.

Fr. Steve+



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