Dear conservative Christian,
You’ve been tricked. Hoodwinked. Bamboozled.
Sold a bag of goods by snake oil salesmen in sheep’s clothing.
I’m sorry you have to find out this way. In a blog post. By a writer you’ve never heard of.
If it’s any consolation, I was once in the same position; conflating my Christianity with my capitalism. Perceiving the big bad government as intrusive to the pursuit of my God-ordained liberty. Assuming that individual merit in both life and the heavenly pursuit were two sides of the same coin.
And I recall the ever-calcifying echo chamber of my conservatism. My fundamentalist thoughts and meanderings, sometimes voiced by others, bouncing around unimpeded until affirmation was achieved.
Thank you, Sean Hannity, for bravely hanging up on those who dared challenge your point! Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for diligently shouting over opposing views! Thank you, Matt Walsh, for your condescending snark and enduring refusal to acknowledge both sides! Thank you, Fox News, for always playing to your audience! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You collectively relieved me of the need to think for myself. Whew!
As you can imagine, my exodus from conservatism and as a staunch Republican has been a quite sobering journey, though I suppose stranger things have happened when one follows Jesus instead of Donald Trump. When actually studying the Bible instead of Breitbart. Or reading the commands of Jesus instead of those issued by Steve Bannon.
The individual reasons you cannot be a Christian and a Republican are various and exhaustive. They wouldn’t all fit onto a blog post, though the premise is quite simple: conservative ideology, as personified by Republicans, is an individualistic pursuit. Christian theology, as personified by Jesus, is precisely the opposite.
Take a minute, and read that again. It has pretty severe and far-reaching implications. Feel free to grab your Bible to follow along.
At this point, you’re either infuriated or concerned. Maybe a little of both. How dare I question your patriotic allegiance to God and Country, amirite? But I hope there’s some daylight, because if you keep reading, perhaps the smallest part of you will become the thorn that provokes some deeper thought.
All it takes is a mustard seed, or so I’ve heard.
Most of your life, you’ve casually referred to yourself as a Christian. You identify as “Pro Life,” and you’re a proud Republican. But those are little more than labels; a collection of words and symbols that you’ve heard repeated from likeminded people in your circles, family and friends, etc., and naturally, applied to yourself.
Because you’ve repeated them over and over again, they’ve stuck.
Let’s address “Pro Life,” since when I ask the hard questions, it’s what most conservative Christians point to. Hell, it’s what I used to point to. But did you know that Roe v. Wade, the (pretty damn recent) 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, was supported by Republican appointees? Or that the only Democrat appointee voted against it?
Republicans are responsible for legalized abortion. There’s no way around it.
Not-So-Fun Fact: Even before the legalization of abortion, many thousands of women received “back alley” abortions. Even if we made it illegal, abortions would likely still occur, with deadly consequences. Plenty of data has suggested that access to contraceptives and education actually lower the abortion rate.
At some point, I realized I’d rather pay more in taxes that support education proven to lower abortion, than lower taxes that leads to more abortion.
All things being equal, “Pro Life” is also a pretty crappy misnomer. Fetuses and life are hardly mutually exclusive. In the aftermath of the war in Iraq, which like you, I supported, tens of thousands of innocent children have died. The media and military casually refer to these dead children as “collateral damage.”
But are they not “life?”
And if you’re “Pro” Life, shouldn’t that extend to them?
Are they not also Children of God?
We don’t need to look a world away, either. I don’t see many “Pro Life” signs being waved near the Flint, Michigan water treatment plant. And the anti-refugee stance held by so many Republican Christians is literally anti-Jesus (Jesus was a refugee. No, seriously. That’s sort of central to the nativity story).
It’s a fair question ask how we’ve arrived at this point in American Christianity. And, certainly, there’s answers to that question that I really, really recommend reading (hint: it’s not because Jesus was a Republican). But for me, it’s more important to look forward, and reshape what it means to be a Christian in America.
What is “Christlike”? Is it to defend someone accused of being a pedophile despite insurmountable evidence, simply because they identify as a Republican?
What does it mean to be your Brother’s Keeper? Is it to accrue as much income as possible while others go hungry or cannot afford their medical bills?
What does it mean to love your neighbor and enemy? Is it to stereotype Muslims, blacks, and glorify the military?
Was Jesus actually serious about his commands about wealth and possessions? Or would he heartily endorse of the accumulation of stuff – the nice car, the walk-in closet, the gold-trimmed everything?
When people are suffering in this country and abroad, do we cast judgment and bombs, or love and inclusion?
And when we’re ultimately confronted with the Creator, will we point to an American flag and our success in life, or to those on the margins that we helped to lift?