Thursday, March 02, 2006

Conservative VS. Liberal

In my interactions on the RLP website, I am reminded quite often that I am a minority. This is not surprising since the creator of the blog is, himself, quite liberal and I might be considered conservative. It would make sense to have a majority of your following be in agreement with you and share like-minded ideology. So I expect some ribbing, some discord, and disagreements when I make comments to posts or interact in the chatroom. In these interactions I have made some observations that are intriguing to me and I felt led to write about the issues today.

What most people on that site don't know is that I came from a very liberal-believing background. Every argument presented to me is one that I have once used myself. Every outrage that they feel towards me is one I have felt before. Every question about my Biblical stance is one that I raised when searching for answers. Just as I used to try to convince people of their error when I was more liberal, I started defending the conservative stance once converted. However, I am now finished with such foolishness as it is very counterproductive to argue with fellow Christians. Furthermore, they are not my enemy and continuous discord among the Body does not provide a very good witness to our faith. But lets get on with my observations:

1. Defining the terms
If you look up the two terms in the dictionary, most people (including myself) will like the liberal label better. To be a liberal giver is to give generously. To be a conservative with money is to give some but hold back for a rainy day. A liberal is associated with many endearing terms like open-mindedness, accepting, loving, generous and kind. A conservative is associated with phrases like opposing change, to preserve institutions, and to conserve or be cautious.

2. Definitions are not always accurate
These definitions have some validity but do not encapsulate either side. For instance, I know that conservative Christians are very capable and willing to give generously. I also know that liberal Christians can be very close-minded especially towards conservative ideas.

3. I don't embrace my label...I share it with lunatics
I don't like my label but I have none other to embrace. I don't like it because it's definition does leave lots of room for improvement. I don't like it because we have many in this camp that are horrible examples of our viewpoints and take them to extremes. The President of the United States himself, has caused many liberals and liberal Christians to cringe and bemoan the religious right. And who can blame them when the man cannot construct a sentence as he addresses the masses. The conservative label is also associated with very harsh and mean spirited people. I have talked to many liberal Christians that would likely embrace some of our ideology had they not been completely stomped on and hurt by conservative Christians.

4. The danger of being liberal
Having come from this mind-set I have many reasons for my conversion. However, perhaps the most important one has to do with my belief in Christ himself. I was so loose with my beliefs and so liberal that I belittled Jesus and his importance. I felt much like Peter as the cock crowed for the 3rd time and realized his mistake. I was so open-minded that I did not necessarily believe that one had to know Christ in order to receive salvation. I pushed Jesus aside in attempt to gain acceptance and offer a better view of my faith. That sacrifice just cannot be made and it was one of the biggest reasons I left the UMC. My understanding of Jesus as a liberal required no real belief in His sacrifice, His ministry, or His redemptive power. I was on the border of just calling him a prophet or a good man of God but not the only way to heaven. This is a dangerous road to be on and I am very glad that I was convicted to turn around.

5. What's important?
Now, I have decided that arguments and divisive issues are no longer going to stand in my way. I no longer have a need to prove myself or my position. Nor do I feel the need to convert the liberal minded Christian. I do not care if my liberal friend chooses to make the Bible a loose guideline rather than an inerrant document. I do not care if he believes in Evolution or Intelligent design. I do not care if he embraces Democratic views or Republican. Ultimately, the only thing I care about is your relationship with Christ. If you are a Christian, then you are my brother/sister. I choose not to hang my hat on heated issues. Not because I do not have an opinion...I sincerely do! I don't hang my hat there because it causes division in the Body, it causes hurts, outrage, and anger. All of these dynamics are in absolute opposition to the example of Christ.

6. One more thing about Jesus...
I finished point five by highlighting that Jesus would not want discord among his followers. With that said, I think we as Christians and certainly liberal Christians take Christs loving side to an extreme that is unwarranted. Jesus was not a push-over or a hippie. He did not stand for Political Correctness but rather God's Will. He toppled the tables of those that tried to profit at the temple. He endured the pain and torture of the cross. He was very strong, very determined, very decisive, and had a specific message. In that message (like it or not) there are actual guidelines that He details. He does hold us to some rules and standards whether we want to face that truth or not. So while conservative Christians need to remember His loving, tender nature, I think liberals would do well to remember His tougher exterior as well.

7. In conclusion
So can we accurately call one another truly conservative or truly liberal? I am not sure that we can be that tidy. Furthermore, those two terms have such a political undertone that to understand them in a Christian setting is difficult. There are important issues that are worthy of debate and clarification. But most issues are not important enough to warrant the extremes that we engage in. When that happens, the picture of Christ get lost. I think both sides would agree that this outcome is not desired!