I recall a great conversation I had once with someone who was, like me, a very spiritual person but not really a “religious” person. This was a long time ago when I might not yet have considered myself a Christian, but I was seeking to learn more and I met him at a restaurant one night for coffee. Like me, he was very liberal about a lot of issues. He was pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, and a very progressive thinker who had a passion for science, metaphysics, and was very accepting and respectful of religions other than Christianity. He just did not seem, to me, like the other “Christians” I knew who were judgmental and angry and made me feel frightened rather than hopeful at the prospect of being closer to God through a relationship with God through Christ.
At the time, I had not done a lot of Bible reading or studying and was still quite afraid of the thought due to the fear-based, repressive literalistic teachings that had been ingrained in me for quite some time. I did however look back to a time when I was much younger and had attended a rather liberal (for its time) Episcopalian Parochial school, where the emphasis had been about love, compassion and kindness rather than the fire and brimstone legalism of the Southern Baptist churches my parents and family had taken me to (and later made me go to) at times. One thing that I did pick up from that time in my life was that the teachings of Jesus from the New Testament (which were always words printed in red ink in the King James Bibles I had seen) seemed to be all about being a good person to others rather than a long list of laws and rules.
Which leads me to the next part of that conversation, which stuck with me for a long time and was in my mind when I eventually did become a Christian. I asked him, “How can you believe what you do, and not get caught up in the dogma? Don’t they say you have to believe every single word of the entire Bible literally to be a Christian?” He responded, “Well, that’s what some people think. The main words I pay attention to and try to live by are the words in red, because those are the ones Jesus was supposed to have said. And He’s the one I’m following, not other people.”
These words stayed with me, and as I was growing in my own faith and finding the spiritual path that was the correct one for me, I found myself most drawn to the Gospels, particularly the words, teachings and Parables of Jesus Himself-the “words in red.” To be a Christian to me is to do the best I can to follow the teachings of Jesus, which to me are focused on treating others-both our loved ones and even our perceived enemies with compassion, love, respect, kindness and good will and calling on God within us for strength to enable us to do so.
These are definitely interesting times to be an American – even more interesting when you are a radically liberal, Christian, and bisexual American. Whether or not we as individuals desire for God to be a part of politics in this country presently, or even whether or not God wants to be a part of them, God is more involved in them than ever right now. The name of God, Christianity and the cause of “moral values” is frequently invoked constantly in politics and political related news; every day when I watch the morning news on C-SPAN (the only news channel I watch anymore) I seem to hear God’s Name entwined in the politics more and more.
Is this the God I believe in, Love, and am eternally grateful to? Sure. God is the same God, no matter how many various human constructs people may create, or how we as individuals understand God. God, to me, is inherently in, and a part of all things and all people, even those who wish me dead or in hell simply for being who I am, or those with whom I am in strong disagreement. And Jesus’ teachings call me to treat all of those people with the same kindness, even those who would seem to be potential “adversaries” to my inner peace and well being, as well as that of others.
At this time more than any other I can remember in the past ten years, God and Christianity have become very enmeshed in American politics. In the most recent presidential election, with thousands homeless, thousands jobless and with no medical insurance, and conflict overseas involving thousands of our brave military, there were many factors to be considered. What did it come down to? It was said that a large percentage of voters cited their primary issue to be “moral values,” in one study ranking above the conflict in Iraq as their deciding factor in voting. Were these “moral values” involving feeding the hungry, helping the disenfranchised, or seeking social justice? Maybe. But the moral values mentioned most often were concerning issues such as same gender marriage, the entire abortion debate, and bringing “Biblical influence” into the government.
In the words of many of the honest media and journalists, as well as a few political pundits, the big issues were “God, Guns and Gays.” Those who voted for those three causes (which to me can be translated into “the desire to impose one idea about God on everyone else, the right to bear arms and use them if we feel so inclined, and the desire to push the entire LGBT Community deep into the closet or possibly worse”) are often very, VERY harsh and at times extremist in their views about them.
I think back to November of 2000. It seems that all of the intense mixing of God and politics began about five years ago following the election that year, and the years since then, the fusion of religion and politics seems to have dramatically increased, and the debate has become more and more heated. I personally was concerned when our then to be president said the words “compassionate conservative.” It sounded to me for all the world like another version of what I feel to be a lie, the old “Love the Sinner, Hate The Sin” cloaked in political spin, and everyone I knew in the LGBT Community at the time was concerned about it as well. At the time, I was rather upset by the election results.
Shortly following the election when all of the “vote counting” ordeal had taken place and the Supreme Court had had their say, I recall being on a message board and seeing a rather hateful post by someone who boldly claimed to be a “true American and true Christian” who said, “Demon-crats were destined to lose and our prayers have been answered per His Will! Now is the time that we will have a Righteous Man in the White House, who will get rid of the depravity in this society and get rid of the sodomites and sick people! Let us Praise God’s Glory!”
Now, normally, I choose not to engage in online political debate. But given my upset that night, especially when it had initially seemed that the candidate I had voted for had won, and being a little touchy, I had to respond: “What if they should have counted the votes? What if something was not right and the other candidate actually did win? If there really were an error of some kind, don’t you think God would want justice to be served?” To which they responded, “We don’t care. This was God’s Will. Even if we had to lie or cheat to make it happen, it is all for the Glory of His Reign.” It went back and forth a little more and then they made a comment about how wonderful it was to have a Christian president (they seemed to have conveniently forgotten that the president for the prior eight years was a Christian as well) and the debate got even more heated. It ended with this “Christian” using a choice phrase towards me that Dick Cheney used not so long ago (two words, first one begins with an “f” and the second is “you”) and that was it. I responded with a, “I’m glad to see what ‘compassionate conservatives’ are like,” and logged off never to return there. I was crushed and hurt that I had allowed myself to get that rattled, and I felt that this was the beginning of some rough years ahead. At least in my opinion, things are not looking much better at this time.
For one thing, I see so much more anger, conflict, and division among people – even outright hatred for those of one political party over the other from both sides-than ever before. Sometimes the phrase, “You are either for us or against us,” comes into play among family, friends, and neighbors; lifelong friendships are severed and family bonds are weakened over political opinions, support of political parties and issues, in many of which religion and the topic of God come into play. Fear seems to haunt nearly every news channel – fear of the rights of Christians being taken from them, fear of people of other religions, fear of same gender marriage “destroying the sanctity of the family.” The media seems to have taken the term “Christian” to be synonymous with “heterosexual, anti-LGBT, pro-life, Biblical literalist, conservative evangelical Republican” for the most part, omitting and blatantly denying the fact that there are many different schools of theological and socially progressive thought in Christianity.
It is merely my opinion, but the current government we have here – especially in the shadow of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 when radical Islamic fundamentalists claiming to be furthering the will of their understanding of God committed an atrocity – is taking a page from the book of dogmatic fundamentalist Christian thought: that of using fear as a tool to manipulate the emotions, feelings, and actions (in this case, those including votes) of others. And one of the events which transpired in this recent election-during which there were actually some churches where preachers told their congregation that a vote for any candidate other than that which they endorsed was a vote for evil – was also the use of “fear of God” to motivate people for political purposes.
It seems to me as if those who adhere to a very legalistic and literal reading and understanding of the Bible are pushing now, more fervently than ever, to have their beliefs taught and imposed by the government in this country. Let’s take a brief look at some of the issues which were of importance to some of the segment of people who cited “moral values” as top priority when voting. After all, many “moral values” voters seem to have voted against their own best economic and related interests-with one primary focus being to “stop same-gender marriage.”
That seemed to be a hot button in the last election, including the outrageous proposal of amending the United States Constitution to nullify same-gender marriages and “define marriage” or “defend the sanctity of marriage” by making it only between one man and one woman. One of the documents on which the country was founded would be altered to add what I feel is blatant discrimination against the LGBT community. This issue was picked up on by those Christians who feel that the Bible is literal when it comes to a few selectively interpreted Bible verses which they use to support personal fears of and prejudices against the LGBT community. Not only that, but I think this was made an issue not just to appeal to anti-LGBT fundamentalists, but to non-Christians who happen to be homophobic as well.
I have talked about marriage before and how I feel that the right of same-gender partners to marry is a very important one. As a bisexual actively in honest relationships with both a female partner and a male partner, where does the same-gender marriage debate leave me? In total support. Would I push for marriage between me and my female and male partner to be sanctioned by the government along with same-gender marriage? No. We feel that our relationships are sanctioned and blessed by God and that is all that matters to us. We do not need extra benefits from the government, nor do we need the government to officially recognize our relationships. That is not so much what it is about in my opinion, and I feel that when any marriage takes place, it should be to celebrate a love and a bond before God and others. The right of same-gender couples to marry or to have their marriages valued as equal should in my opinion be without hesitation. This is one issue where I feel everyone should speak and be heard, from liberal Christian LGBT people and their supporters to everyone in the LGBT Community.
Even those LGBT people who do not wish to get married or have their marriage recognized or sanctioned by the state should still in my opinion comprehend the inherent wrongness of the “fight to protect marriage.” It is to me little more than a smear tactic to perpetuate hatred and discrimination, and a cultural sanctioning of discrimination against the LGBT community. And I fear that the proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as a man and a woman only would be merely the beginning. Key individuals in the “Religious Right” have expressed a sincere desire to have the Supreme Court ruling in “Lawrence vs. Texas” (which nullified archaic “sodomy laws”- legislation criminalizing certain private sexual activity between consenting adults as being un-Constitutional) overturned, and are pushing to have judges appointed to the Supreme Court who would rule in favor of their prejudices.
Another key issue for the “moral values voters” was of course, the abortion debate. I won’t get too far into it here, but I am pro-choice slanted towards pro-life. Yes, I do support a woman’s right to choose, but think that adoption and other options, such as preventative measures against unwanted pregnancies, like proper sex education with information about birth control and responsibility should be plentiful as well. I believe the anti-abortion movement is not about “saving the unborn” as much as it is a tactic to push “abstinence only” outside of heterosexual marriage. I have this opinion mostly because many of the same people who will speak of how happy they were when a doctor who had given abortions was gunned down by a “pro-life” radical extremist, or how the same person had no qualms about supporting the death penalty without question. Another factor would be one of the things I was taught in a Southern Baptist fundamentalist church as a teenage youth: any sexual activity before marriage with the opposite sex could possibly lead to abortion which was murder, that was always the message. (Same-sex activity, of course, was alleged to lead to AIDS and death, as they stated, “that was God’s plan.”)
Very often in the “politics of moral values” and among the conservative Christians who make such an issue of “getting God back into the government,” the topic of sex, sexuality and sexual orientation are constantly recurring themes. Which leads me to the following conclusion: These individuals, who quite often accuse LGBT folks (as well as some heterosexuals who think and believe differently than they do) of being “obsessed with sex” and “depraved sinners” in fact seem utterly obsessed with the sexuality and the private lives of others. They seem determined to drag these issues into many political debates as possible. And while I would be the first one to say that I think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a love for and a passion for sexuality in all of its diverse forms (so long as it is among consenting adults who care for and respect each other), it is really not the business of the church or the government to make this kind of an issue of it or to get involved in something that should only be between the people involved and God.
Primitive and irrational fears of sexuality are more often than not the cause of many social and personal problems, and perhaps these fears instilled in them by repressive religious ideas have fostered this obsession. Even those who do not hold an anti-LGBT view based in Biblical literalism are affected by the negative climate created by this point of view infiltrating politics. For one thing, it appeals to the non-religious homophobic, who may not be religious, but who support the anti-LGBT sentiments influencing a political party. Supporting a ban on same gender marriage isn’t so much to them about wanting to stop love or marriage between people of the same gender as an obsession with speculating or thinking about what they do behind closed doors (fueled by intertwined religious and political propaganda), which extends to their being revolted by any sort of public display of affection between people of the same gender.
It is not just votes which are being influenced by the anti-LGBT sentiments expressed by some Christians. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released its annual report recently on violence against LGBT people. It was said to show a “dramatic rise in anti-LGBT hate incidents in the second half of 2003” that “perhaps even worsened” through 2004. It is my opinion that the current political and religious climate is conducive to this disturbing trend. I have been threatened with violence before, and even had my life threatened for being openly and actively bisexual, so I can relate to the fears that many have.
Obviously, my sexuality, sexual orientation and my relationships as well as the well being and rights of all in the LGBT community are an influence on my displeasure with the current mixing of religious ideas and politics, but there are other issues which concern me deeply as well.
One such issue which created recent political debate in which God’s Name was invoked was the issue of embryonic stem cell research. What was the opinion of these people who want to block it, one of which was for “pro-life” reasons? Noted fundamentalist Christian groups such as “Focus On The Family” (who seem very, very involved with politics these days) oppose the scientific work in which the culling of stem cells kills the embryos, equating that with abortion and seeing it as immoral and against God, even when it could save lives. This issue hits close to home with me, as embryonic stem cell research could help to restore the health of or even save the life of my Mother, also a Christian, who has Multiple Sclerosis. One “concerned Christian” on the topic of stem cell research had the audacity to say that such research equated to murder and “how dare I support killing the unborn?”
During the recent “Justice Sunday,” where political figures met with fundamentalist Christians to support the appointment of Supreme Court judges who would further their religious views on the government, it was said that many speakers at the event “compared the plight of conservative Christians to the civil rights movement.” It seems that people in the Religious Right often speak of “persecution,” while at the same time claiming they are being persecuted by having their “right” to persecute others -LGBT people, people of other religions, backgrounds and cultures, and practically anyone else who does not agree with their worldview and narrow interpretation of the Bible withheld. By not being allowed to sanction outright hate speech and damaging talk against LGBT people, or not being allowed to make laws which prevent LGBT people from living full lives, or by not being allowed to endorse their understanding of Scripture upon all others, they claim that this is “anti-Christian discrimination.” Can anyone say “hypocrisy”?
Finally, there is the issue of bringing religion into public schools (issues such teaching Creation Science as part of the curriculum, or government funding for “abstinence only” sexual education – one proposition I read of seeks for school sexuality curriculums to teach that being LGBT is “unnatural”) and issues such as the Ten Commandments case in Alabama, and the right of courts and schools to post the Ten Commandments in courtrooms.
One thing which perplexes me: Why is there such sparse talk among those who choose to engage in the alchemy of mixing religion and politics of the actual words and teachings of Jesus? Would these same people feel as fervent as they do about posting the Ten Commandments about posting the Beatitudes, The Sermon on the Mount, or the Great Commandment of Jesus? I think it is far easier for them to have set in stone, black and white rules than the way of Christ, to love others the way we would want to be loved. That to me means acting and behaving towards others in a way that will bring them the greatest peace, joy and freedom to be who God made them to be, regardless of how they may treat us. And that requires, at least in my experience, a lot of effort, selflessness, and mercy – which can get challenging sometimes.
What place, if any, does God have in government? In my spiritual thinking, there is nowhere that God is not; God is inherently present in everything, in all people and all things, which would include politics and the people in politics as well. However, when it comes to the matter of legislation, that’s a very sensitive issue. I find it very interesting, and telling that the founder of Americans United For the Separation of Church and State is in fact a minister of the denomination I belong to, the United Church of Christ. I do agree in the separation of Church and State, although I do think that the government need look no further than the teachings of Jesus to find ideas that could be of great benefit to all people – not just some people – in society.
I sometimes think that some mixing of politics and religion is not the problem, but the problems begin when those who have a narrow and limited concept of God, who often hide their prejudices behind so called “Biblical” self-righteousness and who want to exert their beliefs on others, or when people misuse their political power to attempt to become God rather than show Love for God by practicing the teachings of Christ.
Consider for a moment some of the actions and behavior of those who claim to want to return America to its “Christian roots” and contrast those with some of the words of Jesus, the “words in red,” in the Gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 5:3-4, 5,7,9: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the dominion of Heaven; Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; Blessed are the meek; for they will inherit the earth; Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy; Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”
Matthew 5: 43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Among the reasons cited by a great many people who I have encountered who choose to mix religion and politics were that they were in support of the Iraq War, a “pre-emptive strike” to “get them” before they got us. I hear a lot of “Christian” support for “God helping our troops destroy the enemies who attacked us” and defending the dehumanizing torture that happened at Abu Gharib Prison.
I fail to understand how the same people who say that LGBT people are forbidden by the Bible because of a tiny part of Leviticus (that in reality did not even apply to same sex relationships or consensual male/male sexual relations in general, but rather temple prostitution) and a few often misinterpreted verses by Paul that we should strike a country “because of 9/11, we have to ‘get’ them before they strike again” (which I feel is mostly media propaganda to begin with – reports have said that Iraq was not the perpetrator of 9/11, nor did they possess weapons they were planning to attack us with) seem to be directly ignoring this teaching of Jesus.
Some Christians in the political movement I have mentioned I have met seem enthusiastic about war and going to “smite” our enemies. I have heard a few decry those who have protested the war as being “Godless,” simply for the fact that they seek peaceful solutions rather than continued conflict.
Matthew 5: 42: “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you”
(Notice that He does not add, “charge interest” at the end.) I had a conversation with someone who talked a lot about how their politics were influenced by how “Christian” they were (often when it is talked about that much, the behavior paints a different picture, or as I heard stated recently, “If someone has to TELL you that they are a Christian, they might not be”) who I commented to on the fact that there are so many homeless people on the streets here. What I heard from this “good moral Christian” was that “It’s their own fault they can’t hold down a job and be responsible. God helps those who help themselves.” This is a view I have heard from many who claim to be followers of Christ; that if someone is disenfranchised, it is not their responsibility to help that person-they don’t need to, because they “take the Bible as the literal word of God” and that is “all that is required.”
Matthew 6: 1: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.”
Matthew 6:5: “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.”
With the whole “Justice Sunday” incident last week, and with some of the comments and public speaking done by those mixing religion and politics, it seems as if there are more than a few religious and political people of note doing exactly that. With some of those doing so, I know that they really do hold these fearful ideas about God, and feel compelled to impose those views of others. But I also cannot help but wonder, how much is just political grandstanding? It is my firm opinion that a large majority of politicians who claim to “speak for God” are often doing little more than invoking the name of God in vain to increase their own selfish political gain.
Matthew 6:19: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth”
and Matthew 6: 24: “You cannot serve God and wealth”
Many of the conservative Christians who are heavily involved in politics are also heavily involved in big business and even bigger money, and I have heard more than a few talk about the importance of wealth over other things, and seen some impressive displays of opulence. Tens of millions are spent on “mega-churches,” while thousands are homeless and jobless.
Matthew 6:34: “So do not worry about tomorrow”
It seems to me as if many of the people in the political and religious movement are nearly as focused on the book of Revelation and the pending “End Times” as they are the private lives and sexual orientation of others. Add to that the constant messages of fear and worry that seem to be constantly broadcast by those who have both a political and religious agenda, and to me it does not seem to match.
Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”
There are those, as I had spoke of earlier who claim that they are being “persecuted” for their beliefs, as they persecute others for not sharing theirs. This to me is an example of what Jesus was stating with this teaching; judging only creates more judging, while acceptance of differences and mutual respect leads to peace.
Matthew 23: 27-28: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness!”
The Pharisees and scribes were the fundamentalists of their day, and in my understanding were the equivalent of those who would impose their religious views as law-through government-on us today.
Matthew 22:21: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s”
I differ on many with this opinion, but this to me says that there are some things that the government should not be involved in; personal issues such as individual beliefs, private lives, sexual orientation and individual freedoms which are between them and God. The idea of the government legislating very personal aspects of someone’s life seems to me to be contrary to this idea.
Matthew 22:39: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”
This to me is one of the cornerstones to His teachings, and I feel that the first part of this Commandment (You shall Love God with all your heart, soul and mind) is fulfilled by the second half. I try to show others the love I would want to be shown. For example, for me to impose my beliefs, which may not be right for the next person, on them to me would be unloving. For me to attempt to pass a law that would deliberately discriminate against someone for being who they are, even if they are doing harm to no one, would be unloving. For me to spend large sums of money for my own financial or political benefit or gain or to further my own agendas, while my neighbor was homeless, starving and sick would be unloving.
These are just a few examples I thought of; there are others; Jesus spoke against anger at others, spoke out against greed and judgment of others in several other places, and warned of false prophets who would claim to speak for God, yet whose teachings would yield bad fruit. But re reading the Gospels again, and observing the current political climate, a thought came to mind. If Jesus Himself were to run for president, teaching all of these same teachings the way he had, what would happen? My guess is that given the way the current political climate seems to me, I fear that he would be labeled a “bleeding heart liberal” and perhaps they’d try to have the “Galilean Fishermen For Truth” discredit Him when he spoke of turning the other cheek, making peace instead of waging war, acceptance of diversity, inclusiveness for outcasts, and love and compassion for all people!
Kidding aside, I honestly feel that what the media and the current government touts as “Christianity,” and the “Christian agenda” that is being avidly discussed in political circles here currently is anything but of Jesus. I feel it is instead a selfish use of His Name to promote their political agendas of prejudices, greed, and the desire for power, most of which are motivated by fear. And fear seems to be a motivating factor in our culture presently, so it is little wonder that the movement seems to be succeeding so well.
Those who are exploiting fears of both Christians and those of other faiths and some of no faith, and who are making an attempt and lobbying to “put God back into the government” and making America a “Christian Nation” (translated: only THEIR type of Christian) often cite the “Founding Fathers” as having dictated this. Just as Jesus’ words seem to be conveniently and frequently avoided, so do those of Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson believed very strongly in the ethical teachings of Jesus and greatly admired His life and teachings. Jefferson (himself a Deist, a believer in God but of no defined religious faith beyond that), created a tome that has come to be called “The Jefferson Bible.” In it, he sought to separate the ethical teachings of Jesus from religious dogma and the supernatural elements in the account provided by the four Gospels. He presented Jesus’ teachings, and essential events of the life of Jesus, in one continuous narrative. The Virgin Birth and Resurrection, the miracles – those were cut out.
It is my experience that those in politics who claim to speak in the name of Jesus and who boldly proclaim that “God is on their side” and wave their Bibles right along with the flag seem to have done something similar to what Jefferson did and omitted some parts of their Bibles as well; only in their case, it is tragically many of the words in red, the real teachings of Christ; perhaps they are acknowledged, but they are not always followed and seem most times to be avoided in favor of the parts of the Old Testament that support certain social and political views and seem tailored to fit the political agenda of those utilizing them for these means. (So much for the accusing of picking and choosing verses from the Bible which liberal Christians are often accused of!) And it is no surprise to me that most often, the verses and books quoted center on fear and the reasons for which they are quoted are to perpetuate the culture of fear that enables those in power to retain a hold over a large majority of people. Fear breeds fear.
I’m about as far from a Biblical literalist as one can get, yet I sometimes feel as if some of the prophecies in the book of Revelation are playing themselves out in real time. We have the “false Christ,” in this case the legalistic interpretation of Christianity that is often touted as the “real” Christianity. The “beast” becomes the fear and the division and the conflict. And the only way to get through it is to be “caught up in the Spirit” of God’s Love and hold on. But then I catch myself, and realize that God calls us all to do our part to move through challenging times. I feel that Jesus calls us to actually be God’s voice and God’s help in this world to make it a better place and the Heaven on Earth that was intended. It is our choice to allow God’s Love to flow through us to others or not, to play the role of angels in human clothing to others in need and be vessels of God’s Love.
God as I know God, and the God that I know through Jesus has nothing to do with fear, but rather Love. Fear to me is the root of all evil and unloving actions, and as I like to quote the late theologian Emmet Fox, “To be afraid is to have more faith in evil than in God.” I think that the level of fear and division in our country right now is far more dangerous than any devil or hell even the most imaginative fire and brimstone preacher could ever dream up.
So what can we do, without further increasing the concern about mixing God and politics but at the same time, doing what we can to alleviate fear, and try to make not just this country, but the entire world a better and more peaceful, love based rather than fear based environment to live in? From a liberal Christian viewpoint I can think of a few things.
Regarding “Moral Values” – no one has a monopoly on morality. The term can mean many things. Even though I am bisexual and in an unconventional relationship(s), and am radically liberal in thought with some unconventional views, I feel I still have a strong sense of morals and ethics and rather than try to verbally define my morals to people I meet, I have found it is better to show them in the way I treat them. Show kindness, whenever possible and sometimes when it seems as if it is not. Do the “right thing” even if it means not doing the easy thing. Emphasize the importance of honesty. Point out injustices, and do what you can to help those in need, for all matter to God. If someone has labeled you as “immoral” because of your sexual orientation or sexuality, cease allowing them to do so by embracing the fact that God Created you and Loves you as you are, and live your truth in a way which is respectful of others trying to do the same. If you have passed this stage, then pass on that Love to others in need of acceptance, love and support. To live in the irrational fear that you are unworthy of God’s Love is to foster a sense of low self esteem. Discrimination against others, legislation which would deny a person basic equal human rights, or denying a person their humanity is immoral to me; and I think when we see it occur, it does not hurt to express that opinion. I also feel that the real “family values” that I think we need to see emphasized by those in politics, and especially those who speak of religion, are honesty, kindness, respect for others and respect for diversity, compassion, and peace.
Getting more involved in social/political causes is a good way as well. I really feel that the “Christian Left” needs to be politically active and to be heard more so now than at any other time. Those of us who are liberal, radical, LGBT Christians need to let it be known that we too are Christians more than at any other time. Find a church which is open and affirming or welcoming to LGBT folks that is right for you and get involved in standing up to injustices. Let others in the LGBT Community who might be skeptical from past experience know that “Christian” is not a word to be afraid of, and not all Christians are anti-LGBT. Let others know that some have tried to remake God in an image of their fears, a legalistic God of oppression, and that Jesus’ teachings told a different story. Most of all, let others who claim that the term Christian is only defined by one political party or interpretation know that that is not the case. It can be applied to any follower of the teachings of Jesus.
Respond to opposition with love, but remain devoted to justice. Many people seem to carry their religious fundamentalist zeal and either/or, black and white thinking right over to politics, and sometimes reason does not work well on either topic; but with a little prayer, there might be a place where people can “agree to disagree” and live in harmony when it comes to potentially divisive issues. It can be as simple as the common ground starting with, “as Christians, we agree that we Love and believe in God.”
Try wherever possible to find common ground and bridge the divides. Regardless of what some would have you think, God has no political party. The God that Jesus taught about was and still is inclusive. God does not think as some people do, in black and white, either/or, for us or against us, elephants and donkeys, red states or blue states, Democrats or Republicans but sees us as all precious children with a reason, a purpose and potential for great things and accomplishments. Why else would we be here if not to express that? It is we who have allowed politics and differences to divide us, not God.
While I feel that the Bible was written by men seeking to understand the Infinite nature of God and influenced by opinion and political climate of their day, I also feel that the very keys to a better world and a society where there might be no need for “Justice Sundays” and filibusters and proposed amendments and recounts are in there, in the words in red, the teachings of Jesus. If only more people would honestly read and try to practice rather than preach them or pay them lip service, I think we would be off to a great start towards a society where there were no red states or blue states, but only the state of feeling a sense of Oneness with each other, despite our differences – which would make us all feel even closer to God, Who loves us all with an unconditional Love -regardless of what political party we belong to.
John Campbell is a native of Alabama.