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).
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.
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.