A Liberal Christian Manifesto

Here’s a question that came to my Facebook news feed: “Why is everyone on my page that whines, bitches, complains or simply are outright obnoxious about our president a Democrat? I haven’t seen 1 single Republican say or share the things you guys do.” I gave him a brief answer, but then allowed myself a few days to formulate a reply. What I came up with has some interesting and, I think significant, elements to it.

First of all, I want to answer the question with a question: Who posts anything  (beyond pictures of their last meal or kittens) on Facebook? It has to be people who are motivated to say something they think is significant or to share something significant with their friends or the world. In the realm of politics, people who are indifferent (probably the majority of folks) don’t care much and have little motivation to post. Also, people who are happy with what’s happening for them politically may post a “way to go!” or two at some time, but that’s about it. It’s people who are unhappy who have the psychic energy to do something to alleviate their unhappiness who post most often.

Here’s the simplest possible answer to the question that was posed:
these days, in this country, many Republicans (except some Evangelical Christians) are happy and many Democrats are not.

There are political reasons why many Democrats are unhappy. The first is that they’re being systematically locked out of the democratic process. To begin with, compromise, that which enabled our Constitution to be written and adopted, has been all but abandoned by the Republican party since the Reagan years. The Democratic party, on the whole, has not refused to recognize the conservative values and principles on the right: especially fiscal responsibility. The opposite has not been true, to the extent that the Republican party has used every means available to it to ensure that Democratic values and principles are ignored: gerrymandering, voter suppression and disenfranchisement, blocking even the discussion of legislation, etc.

But, there is a much deeper reason why many liberal people (most of whom self-identify as Democrats) are enraged by the current political climate: they are people of faith. Certainly, not all people who espouse liberal values and principles are Christians — they certainly are not. But they all, to some extent, embrace humanistic values and principles. They believe in the welfare principles set forth in the Preamble of the Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

They believe, also, that one of the key functions of any government is to protect the individual from “the tyranny of the majority.”* And there is precisely where the arguments separate between liberal Christianity and conservative (Evangelical) Christianity. Sadly, Evangelical Christianity at this time has a much louder voice. And this voice “whines, bitches, complains or simply are outright obnoxious,” not about the President, but about racial, ethnic, linguistic, and sexual minorities and, in general, anyone who is not “American,” here or abroad.

This split among self-identified Christians is both real and very ancient. Both groups claim that they are the genuine (“orthodox”) Christians. And, both groups lay claim to a Scriptural basis for their positions. In a sense, they are both right. At the same time, Evangelical Christians generally base their beliefs and practice on the letters of St. Paul, while liberal Christians base theirs on the Gospels. These two sources had very different origins and purposes.

The Gospels were written to introduce people (both Jewish and and non-Jewish [“Greeks”]) to the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and to encourage people to transform their thinking and their lives (metanoia) from self-interest to love (care and concern) for others, especially the poor (the disenfranchised) and suffering. Jesus embraced sinners. Jesus reserved condemned only for those he recognized as hypocrites: outwardly self-important and showy but inwardly bitter and resentful.

The Pauline letters were written to Christian communities to encourage uniformity and consistency of belief and practice. The authors were concerned with improper behavior and those who were perverting the message. Keep in mind that Paul himself came out of the Pharisee party, which was concerned with strict obedience to the letter of the Law of Moses and imposing strict punishment on transgressors. It makes sense that his themes include sin, condemnation and redemption.

Those of us liberal Christians who follow the Gospels are truly appalled at the way our government (especially the President) is treating the disenfranchised in our country, aided and abetted by some Evangelicals, and even many in my own church. Look at the way they talk about sexual and religious minorities and the poor! Look at how they support the most draconian, fascist and inhuman means of achieving their ends. Look at their ends: personal and corporate wealth regardless of the consequences to others or the planet! This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. This is the greatest moral issue of our time!

Those of us who see what has happened in this country with the ascendancy of the Republican party are incensed. Countries do not have to continue to exist. They can change, and they can disappear. And, when they do, people suffer and people die senselessly. When we see the identical tactics and strategies at use in our own government that were used to create and rule Nazi Germany, we have a right — no, a duty — to shout the alarm.

* The notion of the tyranny of the majority was popularized by the 19th century political thinkers Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America) and John Stuart Mill (On Liberty). It refers to a situation in which the majority enforces its will on a disadvantaged minority through the democratic process.

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