by Joseph C. Phillips
A reader recently sent me an email admonishing me for not being more supportive of President Obama. For reasons that were not immediately clear, he also raised the issue of my confessed Christianity. The “aha” moment came when he asked, “Do you pray for your leader like you’re instructed in the good book?” I responded that while I have prayed for the president, I do not do so regularly. That, in his mind, was evidence of my Christian hypocrisy.
This is an elementary school argument, but sadly one that is far too commonly made by the religious left and their secular allies. All Christian stumbling is demonstration of falsity; individual failure to practice principles is ipso facto proof of the bankruptcy of those principles. Sophistry of this sort allows the new left to dismiss ideas they disagree with and evidence they find inconvenient with a simple label: “religious right-wing extremist.” That sure beats actually having to make a substantive argument. What remains unclear is why the regular and unabashed support the religious left offers candidates whose policies are incompatible with or in direct contradiction to Christian principles is not more damning evidence of their Christian hypocrisy.
Aside from the fact that the left takes it as a given that they are both smarter and morally superior– one answer might be that the religious left now preaches moral relativism as opposed to the objective truth of God.
Not long ago I asked a black clergyman about his (and so many others) support for candidates that write and support policy inconsistent with the tenants of Christianity. He responded by asking me, “what are Christian beliefs?” His question was neither rhetorical nor was it an invitation for my definition. Sadly it was his serious contention that the “Bible is not a unitary document but a collection of books. Which one you choose to quote and live by is a result of interpretative choice.” Alas, his explanation seems inconsistent with a Christianity that worships a unified father, son and Holy Spirit; that accepts the bible as the inspired and living word of God; that views the individual books as part of a greater whole with a unity of theme and purpose and that believes the risen Christ is the fulfillment of ALL scripture. To hold that there are no true Christian beliefs just individual opinions–and all of those equally valid—leads me to guess he purchased his diploma cheaply and on-line.
Of course this pastor is only one of many claiming to be independent – choosing their candidates on “the basis of intellect, moral compass, life experiences, sensitivity to ethnic diversity and a commitment to expanding the blessings of liberty” and yet somehow always votes for a Democrat.
The excuse is that the hypocritical religious right – those that pray for his happy retirement and not his political success — are too busy talking about family values and not dealing with the broader moral issues of poverty, injustice and more recently healthcare. Significantly, this has led the religious left away from preaching virtue as the way in which God empowers individuals and towards locking arms with secular leftists that preach the administrative state as the anecdote to man’s falling. For the left, redemption is to be had not through personal sacrifice and struggle, but through the redistribution of resources; not through personal discipline but through mandates for equality. It is not enough to save our neighbor we must work to save the planet.
And yet both spiritual redemption and political liberty are secured through individual virtue. The most important thing Christians can do is influence behavior. To be baptized is to recognize both the truth of the example and the veracity of the instruction book. Whether of the right or left if you are not talking about moral behavior — that is to say behavior that is objectively right or wrong — then you are not going to impact social issues like poverty and injustice.
This is where the religious lefts relativism fails them and those they purport to champion. Issues of personal morality are important not because some of us want to limit others fun, but because some behavior – like some ideas – both undermine those institutions that shelter our liberty, and ultimately (and most importantly) move us further away from the Lord.
And here ultimately is the greatest question the religious left must be prepared to answer. Do we walk by faith in the administrative state? Or do we believe in mans capacity to change his life through the grace and mercy of God?