Sunday, April 22, 2012

Liberal vs Conservative

Can I make a confession to you?  I am sick of politics, to the point where I just don't care anymore.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but right now my primary complaint is the focus on political labels.  I am old enough to remember when the discussion of a candidate actually focused on his/her views and ideas rather than simply on which party they belonged to.  Those were the days when things like "liberal" and "conservative" actually meant something.  Now they are just labels, thrown around by opposing sides to stir up their fan base.  Then we add random beliefs and causes to the labels.  For instance, to be a "conservative" now means to be Christian, anti-gay, anti-abortion and patriotic.  If you happen to also be a fiscal conservative- which is where the label came from in the first place- that is just a bonus! (As a side note, the vast majority of our nation's debt over the past 32 years was built while a "fiscal conservative" sat in the White House.  That should give us a clue as to how ridiculous the labels have become!) We jump to the conclusion that anyone who supports a Republican candidate is all of those things, and everyone who supports a Democrat is not.  We then use those labels to separate us and to create division.  It's why political jokes are so easy to make.  Our system has become a cartoon, with each side fighting to be Foghorn Leghorn and blame everything wrong with our world on the Chicken Hawk.  Rational debate and discourse are currently on vacation...

We often do the same thing in the Church.  We label entire denominations and groups as "too conservative" or "too liberal."  And we do this based on our own personal theology. When I moved from the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends to the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends in 1985, I went from being seen as a radical liberal (or to paraphrase George Carlin, "a hippy-commie-pinko-socialist") who had trouble with salvation theology and altar calls to being the most conservative Christian anyone in NEYM had ever encountered.  Heck, I talked about Jesus and actually believed the bible!  I didn't change a bit- but my surroundings and how I was viewed (and labeled) certainly did!   Among Quakers, the group called "Conservative Friends" are consistently the most politically liberal.  Figure that one out.  So much of how you view labels depends on where you are starting from.  I have discovered this to be very true on Twitter.  Because so many people know me as a long time youth pastor and person of faith, it is assumed that I am a patriotic political conservative.  To be honest, I was banned from both of those labels the minute I confessed to be being a pacifist who thinks paying for wars in far off lands while people starve and our schools fail is a bad idea.  I could almost hear the screaming start immediately- LIBERAL!  But the truth is I am a conservative in some ways as well.  Like most people, labels cannot really define me.  I am an individual.  Still we continue to demand that the leaders of our country and of our churches fall into these categories- and stay there.  The fight becomes over which group is seen as right, rather over who may actually have a glimpse into the truth.  Heaven forbid we ever acknowledge that the other side may be partly right.  And so our wheels continue to spin...

If we are truly seeking to be Christ-followers, then labels like liberal, conservative, socialist, republican and patriot have no meaning to us.  We are defined by one thing, and one thing alone- the love of God whose name is Jesus.  Yesterday on my wife's Facebook I saw this quote: 

"I know...that some folks think I'm too liberal.  And I know that some folks think I'm too conservative. I want you to know that I really don't care anymore. I just want to be like Jesus. Sometimes being like Jesus means that some folks will think I'm liberal. Sometimes being like Jesus will mean that some folks will think I'm conservative. The labels just don't matter anymore. The only thing that matters is obedience to Jesus Christ." -Jim Harnish   I borrowed this from Becky Memmelaar who borrowed it from Scott Wagoner.  

And I thought to myself, "Self- you've heard that somewhere before."  It says it right at the top of this blog- It's all about Jesus!  Now that is a label I can live with-  Jesus Freak.  How about you?

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous4/22/2012

    I am blown away by this. Thank you!

  2. As the founder of "Liberals Like Jesus", I'd like to invite you all to check out http://LiberalslikeChrist.Org/


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!