Another AP story: this one about rifts emerging in the Christian Right over issues such as climate change and AIDS awareness. It's no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I'm a pretty liberal thinker, but I have a serious soft spot in my heart for conservative Christians. Yes, I rant about them from time to time, but only because I understand them from the inside. The majority of my immediate family members and in-laws are all conservative believers, and I love them dearly. They're wonderful people with big, generous hearts. A lot of my freelance work has been with conservative-thinking filmmakers and organizations, and I lecture occasionally at a conservative university.
When my friends and I get into political arguments, there's a good chance I'll land on the slightly more conservative side of things. For instance, I'm undecided on (yet still uncomfortable with) first-term abortions and believe all second and third trimester abortions should be illegal except when the mother's life is threatened. I think school prayer is a free speech issue (though shouldn't be sponsored by schools) and that the Ten Commandments ought to be left in courtrooms out of respect for tradition and the influence that Judeo-Christian values have had on the founding of our laws. I believe faith-based initiatives are a good idea. And though not strictly a Christian value, I think sexual predators ought to have mandatory chemical castrations (but I digress).
If anything bothers me about the Christian Right as a political movement, it is its focus on sexuality. Perhaps more libertarian than liberal, I believe that government should have no role in sexuality. It isn't that I'm for gay marriage, it's that I'm against the state recognizing any marriage, gay or straight. If the state wants to offer certain legal protections and benefits to "civil unions," fine, but I think those unions should be open to anybody and everybody who decides to live together in domestic partnerships, whether gay or straight, couples or siblings, friends, whatever. I see no value or benefit to society in sanctioning a religious ceremony between heterosexual lovers. That's the church's job, not the government's.
For these reasons I'm very encouraged to see more conservative Christians standing up for major Bible-based values such as social justice, environmental responsibility, and medical aid for the diseased. When I read my New Testament, I see a much stronger emphasis on these problems than on issues of sex. Where the Bible discusses sex, I honestly believe the issues are cultural rather than moral. I'm not a Biblical literalist. I believe God's message to humanity has much more to do with dialogue than monologue.
I love the West Wing, and Angelyn recently bought me the complete series on DVD. I watched a wonderful scene the other day between President Bartlett and the First Lady in which they were discussing Ephesians 5:21, "Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ." The point of the Gospel is that I should be subject to those around me. It is my job to be subject to you, to serve you, to serve the other, to serve whomever is in need. It is not my job to force you to be subject to me, to make you answer to my moral imperatives or live by the mandates of my spiritual beliefs.
I believe the majority of Christian conservatives live by this principle. However, their most visible leaders often do not. I wish that more Christian conservatives would recognize their national leaders for what they are: power-hungry manipulators of God's message. I think there's a reason the Christian Left does not have the same prominence in national politics as the Christian Right. There's a certain inherent humility in proclaiming that you're not certain you know the absolute truth. The Bible is a difficult and challenging document, and faith is a dynamic subjective experience.