“The religious and even secular left commends religion when it suits their earthly agenda but opposes religious instruction when it comes to issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.”
-Cal Thomas Syndicated Columnist
As could be predicted the reaction of the religious right to President Obama’s remarks at the recent National Prayer Breakfast continue to be uniformly critical and even hostile. President Obama was caught with his Social Gospel tendencies hanging plainly out. “It is largely a creation of 20th- century Protestants who believed,” Thomas writes, “in applying “Christian principles” to rectify society’s problems. Deeds quickly supplanted faith, evolving into a “works salvation” theology.”
Thomas also indicated the President went way outside the boundaries of the National Prayer Breakfast by making it a political event. Do you think George Bush made it totally non-political when he appeared and made remarks about his faith? Everything a President says and does has a political dimension to it. And anyone attending the National Prayer Breakfast who is an active citizen of the United States, by Thomas’ logic had no business being there. Do you think conservative so called “Evangelicals” never engage in politics? What were so many of them doing at Iowa’s Republican Caucus?
As for abortion, many of us who proclaim Christ as our Savior and believe firmly in him as the Son of God are perplexed as to whether or not a Zygote is a fully functioning human being. We know it is an early expression of a sacred biological form of human life but can you murder that? We have to confront women who have been brutally assaulted and made pregnant against their will and who mental health professionals tell us suffer from PTSD as a result. We know there are many girls, often children, whose fathers and uncles betray their trust. And even in this age of medical miracles there are times when a woman’s life or long-term health is endangered by a pregnancy. So the abortion question is far from simple. No Christian seeks abortion as an end in itself. We recognize the need to make it something that is a rare occurrence.
In regard to same-sex marriage, it must be noted that Gay and Lesbian persons obtain their sexual orientation as naturally as heterosexual persons do. It is who they are before they have had the chance to make a decision on it. In fact, if heterosexuals are honest with themselves, that orientation was not a decision but a fact of life before it was known. There is no cure for either sexual orientation; no pill we can take to switch that orientation every 24-48 hours or so, and in that light, compassion and mercy for everyone’s sexual orientation must be a starting point. Then too, we must separate sexual orientation from the sex act. And to deny persons of a Gay orientation the chance to experience not just physical love but the emotional and human kind seems somehow rather cruel. Few have gone so far beyond traditional Christian teaching on the left or right to endorse same-sex marriage via their church affiliations. Civil unions in all fifty states and allowing the most responsible same sex couples to adopt children makes compassionate sense in a mutli-cultural, and sadly for Christians even on the left no less concerned with evangelizing, a growingly secular society. Your church’s full endorsement of actual gay marriage itself, within the church, and theologically, is not on athe agenda at all.
And then gosh darn it, not everyone is even a Christian, let alone someone of faith. There is a secular world out there and our Constitution does not require a religious test of any kind to be an American in good standing. In Cal Thomas’ Theology it does. And even religious persons who have the “Social Gospel” built in to their belief in Christ and the joy of their salvation as every other Christian does, remains despised and excluded from the Body of Christ for their trouble.
Struggles for Justice considers every person who believes that Jesus Christ is their savior and accepts his Holy Spirit and who worships him to be a legitimate Christian. How good are we? Only the God that is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, and that transcends mere mortal human existence knows. Not only is it possible for a leftist to be a Christian, it is quite easily accomplished. Jesus showed the ultimate compassion and mercy for all humanity when he died on the cross for our sins. The least we can do in our own modest discipleship as Christians is to show at least a modicum of compassion and mercy for others in our world ourselves. And he reminded his disciples as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25 that whatever we did not do for the least of these was not done for him; for God. And when God judges us he will remember. We all know we all fall short of this and only God’s compassion for us along with our belief or faith saves us. But Jesus clearly wanted disciples to imitate his example and do good works for the poor because it pleases God that we do so. And it enriches us at the same time, but not with worldly treasures that have no ultimate value.
There is no prohibition or exclusionary clause in the Christian faith for believers to demand of their leaders that they rule with justice for the oppressed, the poor, the orphan and the widow. Mr. Thomas is directed to the words of the prophet Isaiah, so connected to the fulfillment of Christ’s appearance among us over two thousand years ago; the blink of an eye if even that, to the Creator. The minds God gave us quickly perceive that what we believers can do privately to meet human need where we find it in our world falls far short of that need. We see that our political leaders, and the wealthy and privileged among us often exert an unusual influence over the just society. While we accept our Earthly lot in life, and we place all of our wealth and riches with God in his heaven, we do seek justice for humanity, God’s creation here and now on this Earth, something he too created. We are stewards of that creation. We are made responsible for how we treat it.
Somehow, conservative Evangelical Christians have become like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Christ’s time, hoarding their Earthly treasures and influence, and spending their entire effort following ancient religious law to the exclusion of compassion, love, and mercy that itself IS God. For it is written that God is love. Christ commanded that we love one another. That command came with no qualifications to it whatsoever. So I have no complaint with Brother Cal Thomas, just this explanation for why I disagree with his view.
So many Social Justice Christians with a left-leaning worldview are not accepted into the faith as we ought to be. We put faith in Christ first in our hearts and our minds Salvation is the generous and ultimate mercy of the grace of God. The exclusionary acts of religious faction and strife damage the Body of Christ on this Earth and the ability of believers to be extensions of God’s love. Jesus told us that God’s Kingdom was already among us. Not only was that reflected in Christ’s ministry on the Earth so long ago, but it is found in our hearts and souls where the Holy Spirit can be found in any believer. Having a moral conscience cuts both ways. We might ask Cal Thomas why his church is so reluctant to champion justice for the poor, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow and demand that from those who lead us.
Conservative Evangelical Christians have a strong sense of mission to the poor and the oppressed. They do so privately. If they too were to stand up to our leaders, no matter their politics and demand justice for the rest of humanity it would be a great thing.
The other day President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast simply shared his faith with the faithful. He endeavored to explain how it informs his acts as President. He was careful to remind the audience that it is not entirely his Christian faith that determines what he does as President. He rules a diverse nation of many faiths, and does not rule alone; the people of the nation hold him accountable to them: democracy. His speech included inclusive language and the open acknowledgement that we do disagree about how the political process and decisions our leaders make achieve what we want in this Republic of ours. Yet in Cal Thomas’ view the President twisted Christian belief and scripture and was espousing Karl Marx instead. At one point the President paraphrased scripture that indeed blended a Marxian quote with that of Luke’s Gospel. But it was faithful to that Gospel. At all other points the President demonstrated his knowledge of the faith and of scripture.
Those of us on the political left whose faith comes first, are perplexed and saddened by the rejection by our Brothers and Sisters in Christ whose politics are informed from the right side of the political spectrum as Conservatives. Christ does not just belong to them. The Holy Spirit might shockingly enter the hearts and minds of political liberals too!