The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #58: The Christian Right and the Christian Left

General Introduction
– NERD ALERT
– The status of the forum
– What’s on the blog?
– We attack Robert Harrison

Christians in American Political History
– Lack of a national church
– The range of framer/father beliefs
– Religion as part of the “scrum”
– Christian abolitionists and Christian slavery apologists

The Social Gospel
– Walter Rauschenbusch
– Deciphering the theology
– What the Social Gospel sought
– Raschenbusch on the atonement
– Christian socialism
– D.L. Moody gets mad
– The dangers of rejection
– Embracing the complaints

The Born-Again President
– Why Evangelicals loved Jimmy Carter
– And why they turned on him
– The silent majority
– Personal and public morality
– Reagan’s rise

The Christian Right
– James Dobson and Focus on the Family
– David’s bonafides
– Public schools
– What have they accomplished?
– Church and State
– Why we need not fear a theocracy
– Daniel, the lion’s den, and civil disobedience

The Christian Left
– Where has it been?
– The Democratic Party at Prayer
– Where are the real leftists?
– Bush and Obama

The Tea Party and the Christian Right
– Who’s screening whom?
– And what is a dominionist, anyway?
– The tone-deafness of journalists
– The Tea Party hydra
– The role of the Internet

Shifting Priorities, Shifting Standards
– Who wants truth and accountability?
– Where principles hold
– Let’s argue about war!

Who’s More Aggravating?
– And what should a Christian attitude toward political parties look like?
– The Kansan concedes critiques of capitalism
– UGA conservatives?
– Gilmour plugs real leftists
– Michial’s overly grandiose pronouncement*

* If any of our listeners were thinking of responding to me on my obvious overstatement—Gilmour and Grubbs have already taken me to task for it. I recognize now, too late, that what I should say is that we should not allow our political parties to define our religion, not that we should avoid them altogether.

9 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #58: The Christian Right and the Christian Left

  1. I would like to take a stab at David Grubbs’ question about the consistency of those who link abortion, capital punishment, and war. I think we tend to conflate two issues, one theological (or moral) and the other political. The moral question is, “Whose death is acceptable?” The political question is, “What is the state’s role in the first question?” The consistent pro-life answer to the first question is “no one’s.” The ideal number of abortions, executions, and war deaths is zero because the sacredness of life is absolute and immutable across the board. The political question is trickier, however, because the role of the state is not the same across the board. In the case of abortion, the state is not doing the killing, a private doctor is (at least in the U.S.). Therefore, will simple prohibition reduce the number of abortions to zero, or as close to zero as possible? Maybe, but the long history of “amateur” abortions — a history documented all the way back to Puritan times — suggests that banning the legal market for abortions most likely will create a dangerous and furtive black market. Probably a more effective solution would be to combine some measure of penalty for having an abortion with generous incentives for not having one, such as social services for babies and the women who have them. Removing social stigmas attached to unwed motherhood also may reduce abortions. In the case of the death penalty and war, the state is doing the killing, so the political answer is more obvious: don’t.

  2. Anthony,

    I appreciate how you tackled the difficult linking of the three.

    The problem I see with conservatives who scream “inconsistent” at liberals for their defense of abortion is that they fare no better in their defense of war and captial punishment.

    Most conservatives hold that mistakes in making war and putting people to death are not as costly as the mistakes in not doing so. In other words, unlawful wars are going to happen; wrongful executions are going to happen. But they see these as errors on the side “caution”; that being a “rightous” nation is the grace that cleanses us of these mistakes.

    Personally, I prefer the company of those who do not accept such mistakes so lightly. But I try to keep the line of communication open with those who do. After all, that is what being “salt” is about.

  3. In response to Dominionists as a small fringe: everything I’ve been reading seems to support this view, and also locates its current popularity largely within the supporters of/subscribers to Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum materials. VF supports a rose-colored vision of the American past, does a lot of costumed re-enacting, and above all, supports a return to “Biblical patriarchy.” If you want to see why I’m suspicious of their goals, look no further than their children’s magazines, Beautiful Girlhood and The All-American Boy’s Adventure Catalog. The active male/passive female division is right in the titles, and the publications themselves connect these gender roles to God’s plan for the world. While “the courageous boy is on a mission from God to take dominion over the earth,” an exemplar of beautiful girlhood “enjoys dressing like a lady and being about the business of women” in preparation for her divinely appointed role of “being a keeper at home” (all quotes taken from the respective magazines’ main webpages). Boys get action-based toys (lots of guns and swords) and girls get dolls and doll estates (not just houses–estates–there’s a major class component in the VF vision as well). My problem with this is that rigid gender roles are seen as divinely ordained. You don’t have options.

    And now, a question: VF is apparently really popular in homeschooling circles. David, did your family have any exposure to Phillips/Vision Forum? If so? What’s your take on the organization?

  4. As I said in the episode, Victoria, I’ve only ever met two Dominionists, both at theology conferences, where one is fairly likely to meet some genuinely mind-blowing fringe ideas. (Yes, I realize that people at the same conferences likely say the same about me. 🙂 )

  5. @ Anthony: Though we disagree on some important points, I think your distinction between the issues is helpful. Whether X is a just action, and whether X is an action the government should undertake, are (as you say) two distinct issues, and the conflation of the two muddles the discussion. Of course, there’s overlap between the two: issue A is theological, but with social/political ramifications; issue B is political, but profits from theological and philosophical clarity. Maybe one day I’ll undertake the rigorous, manifesto-style declaration of all my principles and their theological framework, but that day is not yet: right now I’m content that we’ve made progress understanding how this conversation ought to work!

    @ Victoria: To answer the first question, no, I don’t recall seeing anything by this organization. That said, I’ve seen things like it, and as a boy would have eaten it up with a spoon. (Because of the swords, natch.) These days I still love the swords, but it all seems a bit ham-fisted, sort of the polar opposite of that couple in Britain (?) who recently had a baby and refused to specify its gender so that it could decide later what it wants to be. Dressing all the boys in blue and the girls in pink, then dispensing guns and dolls (in that order), strikes me as silly; so to does the notion that a child should have no parental or social input in its struggle to understand the nuances of its own embodiment. I would be surprised if the former extreme is prompted by the perceived prevalence of the latter extreme, but both miss healthy moderation by similar degrees.

  6. Over time, I have come to feel that I am much more concerned that the government itself act morally than that it compels me to do so. Thus I am deeply concerned by governmental infringements of human life and dignity, like torture, optional war, and, as of yesterday, what appears to be the targeted assassination of an American citizen without due process, but somewhat less concerned about, for instance, passing laws to restrict abortion. It is difficult for governments to enforce those kinds of moral choices without assuming dangerous levels of power and influence in the lives of its citizens. Further, I am always concerned when the church tries to shape society through political action rather than the work of the Spirit. On my reading of scripture, those are mutually incompatible. You can either trust in princes and chariots or trust in the Lord. I’m more or less with David Lipscomb on that issue (a name you probably know, Nathan, given your Restoration Movement connections.)

  7. I do remember Lipscomb from my Restoration Movement History coursework, Kirk. And I’ll admit that U.S. citizens on a presidential “no-trial” hit list bothers me more than a little bit.

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