Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Both Religious Right and Religious Left have much they could learn from one another

After riding high for years, the Religious Right is about to see its sun begin to set on political influence in this country. Meanwhile, the sun is rising for the Religious Left's influence on American political life.

January 20 marks the day. That's when Barack Obama officially takes the oath of office as President of the United States.

The Religious Right opposed Obama, though some in that crowd tried to praise him for breaking the glass ceiling imposed by racial attitudes in this country. The Religious Left supported Obama about as subtly as the Religious Right tried to oppose him.

Already signs of the shift are everywhere.

I keep a watchful eye on this shifting landscape through two very important news sources for me—the Southern Baptist Convention's news agency Baptist Press, and the National Council of Churches' NCC News. Together they represent the ying and the yang of political/religious life in America today. For the naive, the SBC is very much a part of the Religious Right, while the National Council is very much part and parcel of the Religious Left.

One can almost see the teardrops falling in the daily SBC postings and the bright smiles emanating from what is becoming almost daily news releases from the NCC.

Sadly, both groups seem to limit their interests to a few select issues. Reading Baptist Press regularly and exclusively could lead one to believe the Bible is mostly concerned about only two political/social issues: the pro-life movement and the anti-homosexual movement. Reading NCC News regularly and exclusively could lead one to believe the Bible is mostly concerned about those prisoners at Guantanamo and Global Warming.

The truth is the Bible is filled with a lot more than just these four issues. The Bible contains information on just about every moral, ethical, economic, social, and relevant issue today. Name an issue, and the Bible offers up an applicable verse or a teaching that relates to it.

The Bible is also neither a Republican nor a Democratic handbook, though regrettably both the SBC and the NCC seem to have a penchant for skewing biblical teachings toward the party of preference of each.

Both the Religious Right and the Religious Left stand correctly on different issues—sometimes on the opposite side of the same coin. The Religious Right is correct in its strong pro-life stand on behalf of the unborn. But while the Religious Left is wrong on sanctity of human life issues, it does score well in reminding us that once a person is born, medical care, education, and other necessities matter much. I wish the Religious Right was as passionate for children living in poverty without adequate education and medical care and in troubled environments as it is about the unborn. The Bible is clear that both the unborn and the born are precious in God's sight. 

The same could be said for a number of other issues. The Religious Left is more right than wrong on environmental issues; the Religious Right would do well to stop arguing about global warming, reread the book of Genesis about the Creation,  and start emphasizing God's commands to be good stewards of the world He has given us.

I know members of the Religious Right who cannot see a bit of good in Obama's uncoming inauguration. For them the demise of the Religious Right's influence will be a disaster of unfathomable porportions. 

I also know members of the Religious Left who will not for a moment concede that the Religious Right has done anything correct. To them the Religious Right's influence on political life for the past eight years has been a colossal disaster.

Both groups need to take some deep breaths and try to put things in perspective. Each brings to the table perspectives that deserve to be heard. 

And each could learn from the other. In listening to each other and in genuine, above-politics dialogue both the Religious Right and the Religious Left just might learn some important biblical lessons and truths from the other. Neither has a complete lock on the truth.


Darren said...

While I think this makes a good point, I would take issue with the statements concerning "religious right" and "religious left" on medical care and poverty.

I believe conservative Christians are dedicated to helping others with these physical needs, as evidenced through the chritable giving and benovolence of these congregations and individuals to private charities that work toward these very goals. For the right, it is a question of the government's role in forceably extracting funds from one group of people for the benefit of others.

Just as the "conservative" Church has no standing to impose sexual morality upon the public, the "liberal" church should refrain from its attempt to force charity upon the people.

Lance said...

I applauded the early works of Jim Wallis, because I was grieved at how the lines had been blurred in the U. S. between Church and politics. But then I began to realize that he was in danger of doing the same thing, with the other side of the coin.

Interestingly, I see no push in the NT to address cultural issues, apart from the proclamation of the gospel (which when embraced, should lead to compassion and generosity).

While the apostles were under great governmental corruption, they did not try to change laws, for perhaps they knew that heart-change was the real issue.

I fear that both the Dobson's and Wallis's of America may (accidentally) confuse the Church and culture as to the chief calling of the Saints: to proclaim the good news of Christ to a world dying without him.

I hope that this observation does not distort in any way, the value of "true religion--caring for orphans and widows in their distress," as should be the outcome of saving faith.

But there are many good deeds done my unredeemed people, who help the world now, but have no message of hope for the future.

May we do both, but never allow the gospel to sit in the back seat.