In one fundamental sense, I see little difference between the religious right and the religious left.
Both groups want to use government to impose morality on others.
The Christian left often chides the Christian right for seeking to impose sexual morality, drug prohibition and abortion laws on Americans. They call the religious right “intolerant” and “uncompassionate.” They say it’s not the governments place to “impose morality.”
And yet, the religious left trips over itself to impose its sense of morality on America. They have no problem using government coercion to force others into acts of justice and charity.
Consider this recent Huffington Post article by Derek Penwell.
But what if Christians didn’t try to be the boss? What if we gave up the pretense that our primary responsibility involves guarding against the depredations of a cultural ‘war on Christmas’ or policing everyone’s bedroom, and took as our guiding principle Jesus’ command to love everyone — including our enemies and those whom other folks consider unlovable?
So far, so good. As Christians, we SHOULD love everyone.
Penwell goes on.
Poverty, hunger, homelessness, racism, systemic injustice are, for some segments of Christianity, issues largely unrelated to personal salvation.
But what if they are related? What if salvation has everything to do with how we respond to poverty, homelessness, racism, and systemic injustice?…
What if salvation has everything to do with politics?
Jesus seemed to think so (Matthew 25:40), and he’s the one I’m trying to follow. So, of course I’m political.
In one sense, Penwell nails the truth on the head. How we treat those whom Jesus described as the “least of these” matters immensely in God’s economy. But notice how our writer advances a convoluted argument. Penwell intertwines our personal responsibility (and our corporate responsibility as the Church) to care for the poor, the sick and the marginalized, with political activism and government intervention designed to achieve those ends.
Jesus calls Christians individually and corporately to care for the needy. But nowhere does Christ direct us to point a gun at our neighbor’s head and force him to care for the poor too. And that is essentially what government programs do. Government uses coercive force to take from one group of people and give to others. Think I am engaging in hyperbole when I use the term coercive force? Try not paying your taxes.
Many Christians, even those not associated with the religious left, cheerlead these efforts. But how is compelling your neighbor to act charitably any different from forcing her to adhere to your definition of sexual morality?
Simply put, the religious left justifies its moral coercion because it approves of the results. It is fundamentally no different than culture warriors justifying coercive force in the bedroom because they approve of the results.
An even more insidious seed lies germinating in the soil of most Christian political activism. It absolves the individual of responsibility. Instead of getting my hands dirty caring for the poor, or visiting the sick or giving my own resources, I can simply vote for the approved candidate and then self-righteously throw stones at those who disagree with my politics. I care. I support the right guy because he believes in *insert my moral cause of choice here.* God approves of me and scorns you because you oppose *insert favorite government program here.*
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. How can you claim to love your neighbor and then use coercive force to make her feed the poor and shelter the homeless? Force is force – even when applied to an end you deem “good.”
I’m not saying Christians should withdraw from the political sphere. Far from it. We do have a responsibility to work to minimize the violence and force in the system. But empowering the government to compel others to do our job only increases the violence and coercion.
No. The Christian left is no different that the Christian right. They just direct their coercion to different ends.
It’s time for a revolution of liberty in the Church.