For my write-up today on Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America, by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, I’ll talk some about Cal Thomas’ interview with Tony Hall. According to the wikipedia article about him, Hall was a Democratic congressman from Ohio, but he became pro-life during the 1980’s on account of a born-again experience.
In Thomas’ interview with him, Hall narrates that he was criticized by a number of Christian conservatives because—-while he voted according to their views on such issues as abortion, homosexuality, and pornography—-he did not vote according to right-wing standards when it came to issues like the budget, the Department of Education, and taxes. Hall believes that concern for the poor is a biblical imperative, and he criticizes the evangelical right for judging the poor as lazy, when actually “Most of the poor today in the country are the working poor” (Hall’s words on page 233). In response to his critics, Hall said, “You know, I look to and fro for what Jesus said about capital gains and could not find it.” He denies the proposition that those who vote with the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition are the true Christians who deserve Christians’ support, while others are non-Christians, and he notes that he knows of two politicians who voted the vast majority of the time with the Moral Majority, yet they were not exactly moral, according to evangelical standards: one was a homosexual, and another had an affair with a page.
I’d like to clarify something, in case I wasn’t clear in the above paragraph: Hall is not saying that Christian conservatives are non-Christians. Rather, he’s disputing the notion that only those who vote with the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition are the true Christians, while those who deviate from that platform are not. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson distance themselves somewhat from that sort of attitude in Thomas’ interviews with them. But there have been times when Falwell has held that true Christians adopt certain political stances, as when he advertised an article that he wrote entitled “Why True Christian Women Do Not Participate in the Feminist Movement” (see here for interactions with that article).
Also, some of my readers will probably take issue with Hall’s portrayal of homosexuality as immoral. I think, though, that even those who disagree with Hall on this can see some value in what he says. Politics can easily push people to be inauthentic, as people compromise for the sake of power. I wonder if that homosexual politician who voted with the religious right felt any conflict in terms of his votes. How could he support policies that stigmatized homosexuality, when he himself was a homosexual? Was he fighting who he was? Or did he make the political stances that he did out of a desire for power?
I think that one reason that I distanced myself from the religious right was that I desired authenticity in terms of my religion and spirituality. I could vocally defend Christian conservative political stances against liberal detractors and act as if that’s what made me a Christian. Or I could pursue a more substantive approach: follow the path of service and love for God and my fellow human beings. And part of this authenticity, for me, was being concerned about the plight of the poor—-how government policies affect them, whether those policies make their lives harder, etc.
I’d like to now clarify: I’m not saying that the path of Christian conservatism is incompatible with the path of authentic Christianity. There are Christian conservatives who love and serve God and others. They, too, have a concern for the poor. They give to charity, and they feel that left-wing economic policies hurt the poor whereas their own policies help them. I’m just saying that, for me personally, following a Christian conservative path led me in a direction opposite to that of Christian values, such as humility, love, service, wholeness, etc.
That’s not to say that, now that I’m more of a liberal, I lack the character defects that I had back when I was a conservative. I can still find myself hating and demonizing the other side, or putting down people when I’m debating them, or seeking to save face. But, nowadays, I hopefully have something other than a particular political stance to guide my life and my interests. I have a political stance, yes, but I also have spirituality—-or at least I pursue spirituality.