Liberal Christianity

carryover from another thread…

Tom - I decided this is important enough to risk starting another thread on. It is so far off of the origin of the other thread that it deserves it, and it deserves discussion.

Here’s where this comes from - Tom’s response to my mention of Bush’s Christianity as being a significant influential factor in my choice to support him in this election:

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Pete, Jesus said to turn the other cheek. Jesus said that we should give away all of our possessions, that we should help the poor and oppressed. Bush may have a deep faith commitment, but it is not to any Jesus I recognize. Do you recognize Jesus in Bush’s actions? Perhaps Bush is trying to hurry along the final days.

Seriously, there is very little compassion in his domestic politics. The extreme right wing of the Republican party seeks two things: more money and more power for themselves. Being against gay marriage, allowing wealth in schools to shift away from impoverishhed, mostly urban schools, cutting social programs, shifting the cost of social programs to those who can least afford it, and adopting generally conservative social values is not the same as acting in a Christian way. Caring about and for those who are less fortunate, “seeing the poor in Christ, and Christ in the poor,” that is Christian. It is an idea at the core of most of the world’s religions, actually, although Jesus demonstrated it particularly well. I’m not trying to start another religious debate, but I have to challenge the idea that merely professing to be a Christian, even having a sincere faith commitment, means that the person acts as a Christian. Bush doesn’t act like one, in spite of the attempt on the part of the extreme Republican right to claim that they have lock on what it means to be a Christian. They don’t, and for the most part they have hijacked the religion for political and unChristian moral purposes.


The problem with ALL government social programs is where the money comes from. Show me in scripture where any entity has the right to forcefully take something from somebody else and give it away in Jesus’ or anybody elses name, please.

No matter HOW well-intentioned it may or may not be, it all starts with a non-choice for me; pay my taxes no matter HOW I feel about how the money is being spent, go to jail, or just don’t work. All these great intentions and wonderful social programs start with extortion. This is the core problem with the collectivist mindset - the ultimate flaw in the foundation.

Christian “communism” is voluntary participation in a community. The ideal is all these things you mention. The minute you put a gun to my head and take what is mine - what I have earned with the time of my life - it is no longer Christian. It is Marxist.

Regarding Bush and his Christianity, I’ve said time and again that his domestic policy is pitiful - but probably for the opposite reasons you feel that way. Our ability to disagree is something that should be honored… right up to the point where YOU take power and have the ability to put that gun to my head and take what is mine to do what you think is right. Bush has invoked the name of the Lord unabashedly. You better believe I have taken note of that, as I would have if Kerry had. He can show up in all the Baptist churches in the world, but until he acknowledges Jesus as his Lord and Savior, it isn’t going to mean much to most Christians.

You claim to believe in natural rights. A natural right is an EXEMPTION from Government power and authority. The left recognizes no such exemptions. The right has paid lip service to it, but doesn’t recognize rights for what they are either. The question for me in this particular election is one of a choice of bad or far, far worse. I’ve spent most of my life arguing against “lesser of two evils” choices, but this election and this time in history is different. We are in an undeclared world war, and those who want to take over advocate the likes of what we have watched CBS do this past week. I’m sorry, but I believe STRONGLY that our national security is in FAR better hands with the present administration.

Yes, I believe it. I didn’t flip a coin to come to that conclusion, and I didn’t make the decision because I come from a long line of Republicans and I’m loyal to them. It is a chance either way, but by every way I can reckon it, Bush is the safer chance. You reckon it differently, and that is fine.

By the way - Bush didn’t exactly volunteer the Christian confession or attach it to his shirtsleeve. This came out in the context of a debate that I hadn’t even caught originally. It was an “expose” by NPR on Bush’s radical Christian extremism where I heard this clip. Thank you, NPR!

Well, Pete, I also think it a very important topic, and one people find hard to address, so I want to say at the outset that I very much appreciate your directness in stating your position, and I am certain that I will benifit working through this with you. :)

I think we might start with an observation: the idea of natural rights post-dates Jesus. Jesus had very little if anything to say about natural rights - would you agree with that?

Jesus had very little if anything to say about natural rights - would you agree with that?

As far as the term itself, indeed. Freedom is at the root of it, though.

Natural rights emerged from the radical notion of a kingless society, remember. The king was the sovereign - and held the only exemptions to power and thus the power itself. The US took the radical notion that sovereignty rests with the people - that you and I are the sovereigns. A government of, by and for the people has to be authorized somewhere!

Jesus spoke a great deal about freedom. The freedom people understood at that time was indeed in a different context than what we know today, but the principles at the root are the same and always have been - the exercise of free will. In Christianity, we recognize God as the sovereign, and resign ourselves to that Lordship in free will. What we do with the commandments from that point forward is a matter of obedience - but the "enslavement," if you will, is voluntary.

Pete,
Although I do not always agree with your positions, I appreciate your well researched, insightful, thought provoking replies.

They are not shoot from the hip, he said-she said, shallow, reactionary responses.

You are an asset to these discussions and I am thankful you choose to participate.

dave

The problem with ALL government social programs is where the money comes from. Show me in scripture where any entity has the right to forcefully take something from somebody else and give it away in Jesus' or anybody elses name, please.
Scripture didn't really cover it either way did it? But it implies that you pay your taxes to Rome didn't it?

By the way - Bush didn't exactly volunteer the Christian confession or attach it to his shirtsleeve. This came out in the context of a debate that I hadn't even caught originally. It was an "expose" by NPR on Bush's radical Christian extremism where I heard this clip. Thank you, NPR!

But Bush has done just that many, many times in public as I recall hearing.

It was I that linked to the PBS article - The Jesus Factor. As I recall, there were several Christians in this forum that thought this article was great & accurate, just as I did.
Scripture didn't really cover it either way did it? But it implies that you pay your taxes to Rome didn't it?


This is a whole different discussion, Mike. Jesus told us to obey our government and respect those in power - including, for slaves, their owners. We are to recognize their authority, but not necessarily condone it. Give unto Caeser, and all that.

That doesn't mean I have to like it, and it doesn't mean that I should work toward the establishment or continuation of a government or authority that I do not agree with. Context here is the U.S. and this particular election, remember. A change is available. What does that change mean from a Christian perspective - and, far more importantly to me, MY Christian perspective? This is, at the root of it, all I can really speak to. My continuum is quite simple - tyranny at one end, and liberty at the other. I don't really care if I even happen to AGREE with EVERY possible use of my tax dollars... anything outside of the realm of infrastructure and defense is outside of the realm of any government I want to support.

Does that mean I need to go vote for the Green Gunslinging Isolationist party? In the past, I thought it did mean that - but the end result is quite obvious. My thinking has changed. It may change again. It may even change as a result of this conversation, but I doubt it.

And I might actually vote for a Republican if I felt that he/she were truly a socially moderate & compassionate. I do actually believe in fiscal conservativism in principle & I wish the Democrats were alittle more receptive to the needs of guys like you - the little business man.

Quote (pete @ Sep. 16 2004,09:45)
Jesus had very little if anything to say about natural rights - would you agree with that?


As far as the term itself, indeed. Freedom is at the root of it, though.

Natural rights emerged from the radical notion of a kingless society, remember. The king was the sovereign - and held the only exemptions to power and thus the power itself. The US took the radical notion that sovereignty rests with the people - that you and I are the sovereigns. A government of, by and for the people has to be authorized somewhere!

Jesus spoke a great deal about freedom. The freedom people understood at that time was indeed in a different context than what we know today, but the principles at the root are the same and always have been - the exercise of free will. In Christianity, we recognize God as the sovereign, and resign ourselves to that Lordship in free will. What we do with the commandments from that point forward is a matter of obedience - but the "enslavement," if you will, is voluntary.
I don't think that it is correct to say that freedom was at the heart of Jesus's message. Jesus talked about the kingdom of God - perhaps better translated as "God's imperial rule." Jesus was playing with the widely understood notion of "the Kingdom of Rome," or "Roman imperial rule," of course. So the underlying political model Jesus was both adopting and subverting (in favor of the poor, against the powerful) was not one in which the main emphasis was on individual freedom, but rule from above. And that is consistent with the moral and political theories that long characterized the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition - as creations of God our being is properly devoted to the ends God has for us (what Aquinas, using Aristotle, called our final telos). We are created for service, not freedom. Sovereignty rests with God, on this view, and we are God's servants.

So I'd say that you have imported modern ideas into a context in antiquity in a way which doesn't work, but I'd be curious to see what passages you have in mind.

Also, I should add that it seems to me that "freedom" and "free will" may be related concepts, but they are not the same. The latter is a claim about what kinds of beings we are. The former, at least in the sense that we link freedom and natural rights, is a political concept. That we have free will is an ontological claim. That we are or ought to be free socially is an ethical or political claim. So I don't think that argument works.

:)

In the end I just don't see Jesus as a natural rights theorist, and I think that natural rights theory sits very uneasily with any of the religions in the J-C-I tradition.

Right up front, I’m not a theological scholar, which I know you are, Tom. I am quite frankly out of my league debating at the chapter and verse level with somebody who likely knows the Greek and Hebrew from whence it was translated. I can tell you what I believe and what I know. Yes, this is religion. Having said that…

The gospels have many references to being free and freely giving. He who commits sin is servant of sin, but if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed… you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…(John 8ish…) freely you have received, freely give, the communal society of the apostles in Acts, the concepts of having been bought out of sin and freedom is found in serving Christ… I could start digging out chapter and verse, but then this becomes a theological discussion which I am not equipped to have. Perhaps others here are. What I AM equipped to speak to are my own beliefs and experiences, and what I have found true of others who share these beliefs.

The heart of Christ’s message? The Good News itself is that in Christ we are freed from sin, and that this is a gift for which no repayment is demanded because He paid the price in full, buying us out of slavery as it were. What do we DO with this freedom? In this freedom, how do we choose? Many of us do choose to become involved in charities and other ministries. The gift itself is Freedom! It is release from the judgement I earned in my sin and enslavement to that sin. It is the freedom to commune with God without the need for a mediator. It is life itself.

It is that CHOICE in our freedom that is at the crux of the political question though. Who am I to tell you how you should be serving God? And who am I to be working to support a system controlled by men that denies that freedom that Christ give me to others? No matter how good the cause is, taking from others against their will is clearly not within the realm of my freedom.

Now I need to go back and see if I’ve hit your points or veered horribly off the path…

I think I’ve hit it somewhat. I know this can from here rapidly degrade into a discussion about predestination and questions about whether ANY choice is real - from both theological and quantum physics perspectives - and thus whether any such thing as “freedom” can even really exist. (Outside of time, which is questionable in itself, what is a choice?)

What I do know is that I spent my youth in the Catholic Church and left it in horror in my early teens. After spending years as a proslytizing athiest, I found Jesus Christ and my life changed completely. I know that at the very turning point there I had a choice offered to me, which I was free to make. It was clear that I could continue as I was, or accept The Gift. I was free to choose either way, and in accepting that Gift, I was freed from all I was before then. If I were to use this freedom to curtail yours, would I be honoring or serving God?

Not by my understanding.

Natural Rights are “by birth,” right? Where do they come from but from God? And who is man to usurp them? All we need to do is recognize them. They are not granted, nor are they able to be revoked.

Well, I am very happy to avoid the predestination problem if you are! :) And I’m no Bible scholar, just someone who teaches a bit of religious studies along with philosophy, and my command of languages is atrocious.

I don’t think that the uses of the words “freedom” or “free” you’ve pointed to mean the same thing as the “freedom” we associate with natural rights. One thing you’ve said seems to me to be very important: that taking from another against their will is wrong. Ack. it’s 1:30. I have to go to class…argh, I’ll get back to you…most sorry…

We are in an undeclared world war, and those who want to take over advocate the likes of what we have watched CBS do this past week.
I really don't understand what you are saying here? Are you suggesting that myself & other Democrat's advocate what Dan Rather's reporting?

I'm sorry, but I believe STRONGLY that our national security is in FAR better hands with the present administration.
No need to be sorry but I don't really, really don't see why you think you are in better hands. It's got to be the war in Iraq which would obviously make you feel this way. I honestly, sincerely believe that the war in Iraq has & will make us less safe in the future.

Mike - you spent DAYS advocating Rather’s reporting, and you STILL say he isn’t biased.

Apparently other Democrats aren’t as with you on this as I thought. CBS is now expressing concern that they are being perceived as “anti-Bush,” and that it is hurting their ratings. Killing their ratings, more like. But they say that it is unfair to CBS and to Rather to make such an assumption!!!

By the way… Thank you very much, Dave.

I’m afraid I do shoot from the hip from time to time, and I shouldn’t. Your kind words mean a lot to me and are most encouraging.

Pete…

Mike - you spent DAYS advocating Rather's reporting, and you STILL say he isn't biased
Should I also call you dense - no I won't stoop so low.

I haven't NOT defended his reporting. I've suggested that the "proofs" offered that the doc's were forged were insufficient. And I've suggested that the content of the doc's were accurate, which is WHAT RATHER WAS SAYING IF YOU HAD ACTUALLY LISTENED TO HIM.

Dense, blind and deaf, and all by choice, Mike. A personal attack? You bet.

As usual, you refuse to answer any of my questions posed to you.

Should I also call you dense - no I won't stoop so low.

Yes, by all means, stoop away.

So much for a separate thread for a discussion about Christianity and Liberalism. Silly me. Dense, even, maybe?

That’s the problem Pete I know that you’re not dense.

Hey - I quoted you from this thread. Do you want me to start a separate on your quotes, so as not to pollute this thread :p

The Christian/Liberalism thread is yours & Tom’s. I did find it interesting but it seemed to end naturally (no pun intended). I didn’t see too much I could add to it - it seemed Tom had it covered.

What I WANT you to do, Mike, is wake up. What you CHOOSE to do is your business alone, as always.