I chanced upon a headline in the New York Times Magazine this afternoon at Starbucks. Now, that statement might intimate that my political loyalties lie with the Left. However, except for a fling with the NDP, in disgust with the conservative and liberal parties’ evident selectivity in the upholding of civil rights in the War Measures Act of 1970; I could not vote for any party, whose unstated policy of laïcité would preclude Christian/religious values and principles from contending in the public square. Indeed, I belong to that great and deep chasm between conservative moralism and liberal intellectual intellectualist arrogance called True Christianity.
The Trap of Loyalty
Syria’s Alawites are caught between for their own increasingly brutal leaders and a rebellion that may want to wipe them off the map.1
I cannot help but think about the snare that conservative Christians (and to lesser extent, progressive Christians) have fallen into, as I wait for my Cappuccino. The lamentable thing is that neither Christian ‘faction’ seems sufficiently aware of their self-inflicted conundrum.
The report articles the many Alawite Muslims, targeted by the rebels, for being of the same Islamic sect as the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad. They have given that dynasty a tribalistic level of support. Some had even participated in massacres against various adversarial groups in decades prior.
Therefore, regardless of personal culpability or concurrence with the atrocities, committed by the regime, these Alawites are painted with the same brush. Were they to withdraw political allegiance due to horror at the atrocities, Bashar al-Assad might very well withdraw his protection. And they would be gunned down unprotected, without discernment or distinction because of past animosities and associations. They are stuck in their loyalty with whatever angel or devil represents the regime.
Tribal loyalties are understandable. Christian commitment to one secular sociopolitical faction or the other is declaimed by Christian Scriptures (“unequally yoked”) and imprudent.
Certainly, many of these political Christians are spiritual weeds; as Christian as the “German Christians” of the 1930s; ignorant of Scriptures; certainly ignorant of the principles, ethic, ethos and Gospel of Christ. And perhaps, it is time to call a tare a tare.
Having cast their lot with the Republican Party, conservative Christianity unnecessarily alienates the other half of America on matters of secondary consequence; on issues which have little to do with Christianity, on issues which are contrary to Christianity. Indeed, in this pact with the devil, one painfully observes conservative Christianity conscript and construe (and misconstrue) Scriptural verses to give spiritual imprimatur to matters which are ethically dubious (i.e. the political issue is too complex to pontificate moral / spiritual blessing). More so, the reputation of Christianity becomes beholden to the conduct and attitudes of their political allies and protectors.
There is a statistically significant dip in Southern Baptist membership growth in 2003, the year of the Iraq War; which shocking to me, the SBC actually gave official sanction. There membership has been on a slow wane ever since. And the SBC is wondering why it is losing its youth; not to alternative denominations; but to agnosticism and even hostility.
And considering that the current political polarization in the U.S. will likely only worsen, only become nastier, only bring on further extremist measures on both factions; the reputation of Christianity suffers for the friends with whom conservative Christianity associates with. “God’s name is blasphemed among the nations because of you.”2
The spiritual problem is not about the sociopolitical issues themselves. The issue is about having the independence of choosing, which issues of the Republican (or Democratic) arsenal are morally clear cut. The issue is about being neutral on sociopolitical issues in which neutrality is spiritually prudent or morally complex and doubtful. The issue is about retaining autonomous independence and moral authority in speaking truth to power, regardless of whoever attains the Commanding Heights of society. The issue is about having a purifying and distinct Evangelical voice. The issue is about being free to give other sociopolitical factions credit and support in those issues in which they may be closer to the right; however rare that might appear to be. The issue is about not permitting unregenerate people to enlist Christianity in non-Christian and dubious, even corrupt, causes. The issue is about being able to retain a clarity of mind, not besmirched by the flak of worldly and unchristian thought and attitude.
The issue is about moral credibility and the reputation of God.
And in alienating the other sociopolitical faction, that other sociopolitical faction will have greater and justified cause to depredate the cause of Christ. Indeed, fear of the liberal secularist onslaught that depredates Christianity, which gave genesis to Evangelical prostitution with conservatism in the first place, will only bind Evangelicalism ever closer to their secular johns.
The taste of Christianity, emanating out of current Evangelicalism, has become painfully worldly, idolatrous, moralist and lacking in grace, mean-spirited and hateful, jingoistic, compromised and without spiritual vitality. It is social and capitalist conservatism sprinkled with God words.
1. Robert F. Worth, “The Trap of Loyalty”, The New York Times Magazine (Print Edition), June 23, 2013.
2. Romans 2:24 NIV. I have replaced Gentiles with nations (Greek – ethnesin) in this quote. It is equally valid; speaking objectively and generically, rather than in relationship to the Jews.