A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

March 3, 2007

Open Thread – Why do so Many Christians hate Progressive Thought?

Why are so many Christians, which has a central message that is arguably the most Progressive  in the world, so opposed to the Progressive movement and all it stands for?  This predates gay marriage, it goes back to resistance even to The Great Society. 

When I see Christianity I see a faith that is based on care for its fellow man, and wants a system, or a government to “rest upon His shoulders”.  I have always interpreted that as a system where people’s needs are met, whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Yet, the marriage of Evangelicals to some of the harsher positions of the Conservative Right at times runs at odds with the tenets of Christianity.  I don’t pass judgement, and I count myself as a Christian, who sometimes has a crisis of conscience.  What do you say?



  1. Because they fear freedom of the mind.

    Comment by Max — March 3, 2007 @ 6:59 am | Reply

  2. Because they fear freedom of the mind..

    Comment by Max — March 3, 2007 @ 6:59 am | Reply

  3. Elaborate.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 3, 2007 @ 6:59 am | Reply

  4. When people fear, they are often held back and believe in norms of society. They will obey you and such, but when they reach that certain freedom, in which they make actions based off of logic and their own morale, they will deter from their religion or group.

    Comment by Max — March 3, 2007 @ 7:08 am | Reply

  5. Idolatry?

    The first commandment is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, but in fact we all like to put other considerations above God, like loyalty to race, class, nation or just “what will the neighbours think?”

    Comment by Steve — March 3, 2007 @ 10:28 am | Reply

  6. Can you give some examples of harsher position of the Conservative Right which run at odd with the tenets of Christianity? I’m not saying there aren’t, I’m just trying to understand your starting point on this question.

    Comment by Dave — March 5, 2007 @ 1:34 am | Reply

  7. Dave…
    Here are a few examples.

    When I refer to the Conservative Right being out of touch at times with the tenets of Christianity, I am referring to “some” of the Evangelicals who I am surprised are not actually attracted to some of the more “Progressive” and liberal views in society.

    Here are some of the examples:
    1. Beyond disapproval for some of the “Gay Rights” issues, there is an undercurrent of hatred by many of the Conservatives, even beyond Ann Coulter’s snarky – at best – remark. I’m not even talking intolerance. If you read some of the right of center blogs so many on the hard right seem they would love to see all of these people dead.
    Now, I am not in favor of some issues of the “gay rights” agenda, but I also believe that a personal choice is just that. I also am not crazy when sexual choices become a political football, from either the left or the right.

    2. The lack of empathy towards some of the issues regarding illegal aliens. Again, I know this is a tough issue, and I would be certainly in favor of the laws being enforced, and feel that too many illegals are in the country. Again, the replies I get the most from are from the Evangelicals of the hard right. While I think the laws need to be enforced I can “understand” why some would emigrate to the US, and on some levels it shows the best part of our nation.

    3. The degree that Evangelicals don’t embrace a more egalitarian mindframe. Particularly since the thrust of the Bible is as much about social change. A predominant theme of Scripture is that you show the love of God by loving your fellow man. However, whenever some Evangelicals have the opportunity to show this love of God by promoting a sense of egalitarianism, they tend to shoot it down. Some Progressive legislation and movements within the country support this theme. They are Unions – which have corruption – but who do they generally protect – the little guy. Another would be as expressed a degree of empathy towards the motivation of most illegal aliens. Another is the regard that some social programs – entitlements – such as Title I and other social policy shifts that came about as a part of “The Great Society”. Among the most vocal objectors many times – and I speak from what I read on the net and in other sources – towards government’s role in levelling the base line of life so all may have equal access to the American goals, are often Evangelicals, whom would seem to want to help those in poverty.
    4. The debate over environmental factors, including the possibility of Global Warming. I am Christian myself, and so I have always felt I should do my part to preserve the planet. I find it interesting that so few Evangelical Christian voices have taken up this mantle. While there may be some overstatement about Global warming, and it has become another political football, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution? Is being a good steward of God’s creation, and being proactive in the planet’s defense a bit more along the guidelines that you respect this world that God made.
    5. The blind support of corporate interests – and this is tied into many of the other points. While corporations aren’t inherently bad, where is the questioning of companies, and the criticism of companies where CEO’s make 400 X the wage of the common worker. In the early labor movement, and in many of the anti-trust movement of the 19th century, church going folk were often at the head of the protest against corporations gone amok. This is not often the case, at least if it is it is not seen.

    6. Pacifism. Now, again, I am a Christian and I was in the military. Furthermore, I support the mission and the troops being in Iraq. HOwever, there is room for debate on war in general from a Christian point of view, and their is a dearth of this from the Evangelical segment of the population. While I in a way am saying – Why don’t you disagree with me on this point, I worry when many perspectives are not in the public forum. Particularly when it is within a religious context where so much is left to interpretation.

    The lack of voices from socially progressive and at least centrist positions from the Evangelical wing of the GOP is a bit troubling. Again, many of my admittedly Centrist/Progressive stances are directly drawn from my faith.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 5, 2007 @ 2:36 am | Reply

  8. Max,
    I’m not sure that having a sense of religion or adherence to cultural norms is a lack of freedom. I can see your point to a degree, but many times cultural norms exist due to the “Wisdom of Crowds”.

    Thanks for your input though, as you are correct that “Much madness is divinest sense to the discerning eye”

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 5, 2007 @ 3:57 am | Reply

  9. Dave
    I had a really long well thought out reply and it went poof, so here is take two.
    I see a few areas where “Evangelical Christians” not having a voice outside of that of the harder elements of the right. They are:

    1- Issues concerning homosexuals. I can fully understand why many Evangelicals have a sense of antipathy towards homosexuals as there are many sections of the Bible where it is viewed in dim terms – to understate. However, I think there is a degree of rancor that is demonstrated that goes beyond mere disagreement. I’ve always taken the mindset that I may not like something, and may even see it is sinful, but I leave that in the Almighty’s capable hands. If you read some of the more Conservative blogs, Polipundit comes to mind, you will find there a degree of vitriole towards anyone who may even suggest a civil discourse about “gay issues”. I know, I’ve been slammed there many times – with all the epithets, and many times from a religious base. My point has always been, homosexuals make up a certain percentage of the population, and whether you like their lifestyle or not, as members of the community they are at the very least entitled to civility.

    2. Illegal Immigration. This is another area where racial slurs and vicious demagoguery takes place if you offer up a moderated view. At the present time Latinos make up about 12% of the general population – about 39 million. When illegal immigration is discussed it is almost always Latinos being talked about. While some have entered illegally, many have assimilated quite easily, and I can understand their desire to want what America has to offer. I also don’t buy that they steal jobs etc. Now of course there are many social problems that result from illegal immigration, and this issue needs to be addressed, however, the lack of empathy as to “why” these people come and live in conditions that I know I wouldn’t tolerate so they can better their lives, has a large amount of nobility, and I am surprised that many in the Evangelical community haven’t had the same moderating factors given to their view.

    3. Societal issues. I have always felt that Social Justice and Christianity go hand in glove. Throughout the US’ history the “Christian” Ethos has brought about much public good, and without entangling religion unduly in secular areas. Today, many Evangelicals are deeply opposed to policies adopted under “The Great Society” legislation, which have impacted upon poverty and other social ills. Are these programs such as Title I and Title VII and VIII the full answer, no, but they do tend to have a levelling effect of the social playing field, which promotes equality.

    4- Lack of care about the little guy. Unions were often founded on principals not foreign to Christian ethos. The idea that a man is worth the effort of his labor. Unions at the heart have that concept in mind. This isn’t to say that there isn’t any corruption in them, but they tend to counter the lack of ethics taken by corporate ventures. Do we really want to live in the pre-union days? Well, some people do. Why has the social ladder taken a downward cycle for the working and middle class, while the CEO’s of industry have seen pay and benefits rise – when compared to inflation 350% in the last 40 years? Why is it acceptable when in 1969 a CEO made about 40 times the amount of a worker, and considering the risk that is understandable, but today they typically make 200 to 500 times the amount of the average worker? Doesn’t this unbridled greed, and the exploitation of those by whose labor the owner benefits line itself against the Christian sense of ethics? The Evangelical movements silence on the slipping place of the little guy in the American landscape, and the way a population treats its citizenry is a “Christian” issue.

    Now, many would say, as have some of my immediate family, I would better belong in the Democratic Party. I think I inherited a lot of my Grandfather’s political views. However, I am a moderate/progressive on Social issues, but am a Hawk. There is no place, nor has there been a place in the Democratic Party for the most part for any person with a bit of sense with regard to foreign policy and defense issues since Vietnam. Also, I am “Pro-Life” in the sense that I feel there are usually better options than abortion, and unless you are blindly “Pro-choice” there has been little room for you in the Democratic Party since about that same time.

    I feel the values that I possess are in no small part due to my sense of the themes I find in Scripture, and I am often at a loss for words that so few of Evangelical positions and rhetoric reflect the “Progressive” nature of the New Testament.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 5, 2007 @ 4:20 am | Reply

  10. It would have been helpful to have more concrete examples, but I’ll take a shot at this. When I hear the word “progressive” in Christian circles it usually relates to postmodern thinking (which is antithetical to the Christian worldview) and thinly disguised liberal politics.

    For example, Jim Wallis and his group make a big show about the verses in the Bible saying we should help the poor. I agree with his verse count but not the application. The progressives / liberals come to the conclusion that these verses mean more government and redistribution of wealth. I read those verses to say that I should be giving MY money to help the poor. And I do.

    Voting to give take someone else’s money by government fiat is not what the Bible had in mind when it spoke of giving.

    Comment by Neil — March 5, 2007 @ 1:23 pm | Reply

  11. Neil,
    I’m not sure that I agree with the term postmodern being antithetical to a Christian ethos. I would argue that reformers such as Owen and later duplicated by the reformers fueled by the works of Jacob Riis, were postmodern and were often based on principals they derived from a Christian ethic. I also believe that society as a whole has an ethical responsibility to “promote the general welfare” and that a certain base line of social services for those in the most desparate of circumstances is among the most positive inputs of the Christian ethic into secular life.

    While personal charity is vital to the success of ventures, there are instances where the State’s interventions – such as free and reduced lunches for children of poverty in a public school – are often resisted by Christians. The perception that gives is a small hearted Christianity. I have no problem with paying a higher tax rate than those who are in poverty because I reap the benefits that the society’s framework offered more than those in poverty. I also use more fuel – to commute to work – travel the roads – subsidized by government – and have public services which are in most cases better staffed, serviced and more accessible than those who are in a poor economic state. Since I benefit so greatly from the outputs of society, it is only equittable that I offer more inputs.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 5, 2007 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

  12. I guess I didn’t post my original comment, but recovered it, so at the risk of redundancy, both are up there now.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 6, 2007 @ 4:27 am | Reply

  13. Historically, private charity tends to diminish in proportion to government wealth redistribution programs (people think “ah, government well help ’em”), and since government tends to be less efficient than private ventures, the net result is actually less help for the unfortunate. It could be that small hearted Christianity is reflected more in these so-called “progressive” programs.

    Christians also see a heavy emphasis in scripture regarding respect for autonomy; God goes to great lengths to preserve the autonomy of His creatures, even allowing freedom for evil choices. Wealth redistribution programs obviously don’t respect autonomy, and in effect are an example of “legislating morality”, ironically something the right is commonly charged with doing.

    Comment by poppies — March 8, 2007 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  14. Poppies – Food for thought.

    I know many Christians speak to the scriptures silence on this issue, and I think there are a few reasons or replies.

    1- An argument can be field that the scriptures, particularly the Old Testament speak a great deal to the plight of those suffering, and that a good deal of the messages were for the leadership to do more to address the masses.

    2 – In the NT Christianity was a culture without standing politically. Why would any of the apostles write to these early churches, typically scattered and often under the radar due to the sharp persecution by local authority, about dispensing of government funds. The Church was in no position able to make an impact in this area, so why bother addressing it.

    I will also agree with the positions supported by many that government distribution of wealth is a bad idea, when the same people oppose the tax shelters, government bail outs and other “incentives” which are afforded to corporations.

    I actually feel in some cases the latter are justified, but I have much less wrestlings with conscience when I know that a kid got a meal during the school day on the government dime, than a company with a CEO who has a paycheck 400X that of the working stiff that is employed in that company got a few billion, and that’s million with a B in payouts.

    There is a difference between capitalism and corporitism.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 8, 2007 @ 1:44 am | Reply

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