by Gary Vance
Liberalism has been under assault for years now. The battering of this grand political philosophy has altered the contemporary definition of liberal to the point that Conservatives use it as a profane word. They use it to paint a political opponent as anti-God and anti-American. It has gotten to the point that moderate and liberal Christians are afraid to be open about their political leanings. Sadly, it even affects their conscience and choices as they enter the voting booth. This is particularly troubling to me as a Christian evangelical minister who loves America.
Liberalism as defined by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary: a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for tolerance and freedom for the individual from arbitrary authority in all spheres of life.
I am not sure why anyone would feel threatened by Liberalism as defined by the dictionary. They are apparently unaware or simply refuse to acknowledge the long history of liberals who have labored for the betterment of society and the furthering of God’s Kingdom.
The labor movement of the early twentieth century was aided significantly when major Christian denominations got behind it. No average American would have a fair wage today if it weren’t for liberal Christians and labor activists. Liberal Christians and civil rights activists fought and still fight against conservative America for racial equality. Child labor laws were enacted because liberals fought for them. Medicare and Social Security exist today because of Liberalism. “Bleeding heart liberals” have long advocated for the homeless, the hungry, the less fortunate, and the disenfranchised. The women of America owe liberals a big thank you for their almost equal rights. “Tree hugging liberals” fight for clean air and water standards instead of favoring industrial polluters and short term profiteering that destroy God’s green earth.
Liberals believe in affordable health care for all U.S. citizens. They also believe in higher taxes for the rich and lower taxes for the middle class and the poor. Liberals love their spouses and children. Liberals faithfully attend their churches to worship God. Liberals love America and hate terrorism and have proved it by fighting in every war for this country. Liberals come in all shapes, sizes, and color. They are found in the ranks of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, agnostics, and atheists.
Conservative Republican policies generally favor the wealthy and ignore the needs of the poor. Their policies are so often greed-driven, with no concern for the environmental or societal consequences for their exploitive actions. Jesus plainly taught that the love of money is the root of all evil. So, Christians can go after the various “fruit” of sin in our society, but they won’t see the real change for the better until the axe is laid to the root. Christians should oppose greed-driven policies as a primary point of political concern.
I am sick of reading letters to the editor and editorials that paint Democrats and liberals as anti-God and anti-American and that portray conservative Republicans as the only true Christian patriots. We know that many Democrats are pro-choice and many support gay issues and this troubles most evangelicals. Democrats also support causes that should be of Christian concern that go untouched by Republicans. I have listed some in the above paragraphs. True prophetic vision sees that there is great need for repentance on the left and the right. The effects of powerful lobbyists, special interest groups, greed and corruption abound on both sides of the aisles of Congress. God sees it all and so should Christians. Christian voters need to see that God’s heart breaks over more than just a few political and moral issues. It is time to take off our blinders and mourn for the sorry state of affairs that is American politics.
Jesus was the ultimate liberal progressive revolutionary of all history. The conservative religious and social structure that He defied hated and crucified Him. They examined His life and did not like what they saw. He aligned Himself with the poor and the oppressed. He challenged the religious orthodoxy of His day. He advocated pacifism and loving our enemies. He liberated women and minorities from oppression. He healed on the Sabbath and forgave adulterers and prostitutes. He associated with drunks and other social outcasts. He rebuked the religious right of His day because they embraced the letter of the law instead of the Spirit. He loved sinners and called them to Himself. Jesus was the original Liberal. He was a progressive, and He was judged and hated for it. It was the self-righteous religionists that He rebuked and He called them hypocrites.
The primary issues of Christian Liberalism were birthed when Jesus spoke the profoundly prophetic words found in Matthew 25: 31-46. These scriptures reveal God’s heart for the poor, the sick and other neglected people through out history. Christians should read this text and judge for themselves which of the two groups mentioned there more accurately reflect the political parties of today. His Liberalism lives on today and the issues have not changed much.
I am glad that conservative Republican candidates advocate for the family and a few Christian issues, but we must quit pretending that they are the only ones that Christians should consider voting for. People should not call themselves pro-life if they are only anti-abortion and yet feel no twinge of conscience over the unfair application of capital punishment or wars fought for dubious motives. A true pro-life position cares just as passionately for living beings and views war as a last resort when all other options are exhausted.
Christians should look for candidates that will work for issues that are of importance to Christ and that can be tackled legislatively. Sadly, most of those causes have historically been opposed, ignored, and minimized by conservative Republican policy makers. They seem to dangle the moral issues carrot around election time. Then, even with a Republican controlled White House and Congress, prove themselves powerless to do anything about those issues when they convene to legislate. Issues such as eliminating poverty and homelessness in America, true equal rights for all citizens, environmental protection, a fair minimum wage, affordable health care, and lowering our infant mortality rate all go unattended. That’s just to name a few.
I have some questions for the Christian Right. Why have you not held our current elected majority officials accountable for their failure to address the full spectrum of Christian issues? Why would you vote for them again?
It is time for Christians of conscience to stand up to religious and political hypocrisy. Christians should proudly proclaim progressive values today and should advocate for the Christian Liberalism that is our heritage and our legacy.
Editorial Note: We wish Rev. Vance would have addressed LGBT rights a bit more in this article but it was written in 2004, well before most preachers were unafraid to speak up about such things. He does refer to "true equal rights for all citizens," a matter he appears to be ahead of his time on.
Gary Vance (Lezlo2025@wmconnect.com) lives in Loretto, Tennessee.
Originally published on Tuesday, October 19, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
By Cris Fiore, for The Christian Left
After my son Anthony died from Heroin, God used me as his Malachi, his messenger, and used Anthony’s tragic death to save a young woman I had never met.
On June 8, 2014, the day after Anthony’s funeral, I posted the eulogy I delivered, hoping it might strike a chord that hadn’t yet been struck with some addict somewhere. Many of you shared it. Thank you. Some of your friends shared it, and some of their friends. Etc., etc., etc. Somehow, it reached “Abby.”
On June 12th I received the following private Facebook message: “Your son died on my birthday. I just turned 23 and I have been addicted to heroin since I was 17. I don't want to ruin my mother’s life by dying. But I can't stop.”
We messaged back and forth. She gave me her phone number and we talked. Eventually she agreed to join “The Left Behind” – a private Facebook group I created for addicts and their families -- where she has shared her story and received a lot of support. Abby has been clean for nearly a month now. Detoxing was rough. Because of some previous bad experiences, she refused to go to a clinic, choosing instead to detox on her own with the help of her best friend. She relapsed a number of times. But each time, she got back up and went right back to the hard work of regaining her sobriety. She knows she is not “cured.” She knows she has to work to stay clean every single day, but she is determined to do it and I believe she will.
Recently Abby told me that reading Anthony’s eulogy was her “breaking point.” But she would never have seen it from my Facebook page. We weren’t friends. Somebody had to share it -- probably several some bodies -- before it reached her. I don’t know how many degrees of separation there were between Abby and me, but it was more than one. So whatever role my eulogy played in helping Abby decide to get clean, everyone who helped move it along the electronic highway to her played just as big a role.
And we can do it again. There are other Abbys out there. I know there are. Obviously, not every addict who reads my eulogy, or sees the YouTube video will make a life changing decision as a result. But Abby did. And if it reached her, maybe it will reach others. And that is why I am asking you, even if you have done it before, please share, re-post, e-mail, text, message, and urge your friends to do the same. Do whatever you can to get my eulogy out where it might do some good. Together, we just might keep another Abby from becoming the next Anthony. Thank you.
EULOGY FOR A SON
A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.
Today, again, Warrington is Ramah, and we are all Rachel. Another child is no more.
I loved Anthony, something that was not always easy to do. Anthony loved Eminem and 50 cent and Lil Wayne. Whenever any of them were about to come out with a new CD, Anthony always knew about it when the news first broke and he had to get the CD the day it came out. He loved movies and had recently developed a fondness for chick flicks. I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me. When he was a baby, his favorite video was “The Little Mermaid.” He devoured each and every Harry Potter novel the week it was published, proudly reporting how many pages he’d read each day. And as each book was made into a movie, he and I would see them, and if it wasn’t the day they were released Anthony was sorely disappointed.
He loved candy.
He loved his car.
He loved his brother.
He loved his mother.
He loved the Lord.
And he loved heroin.
Lord how he loved heroin. And because he loved heroin so much and because he thought it loved him back, he’ll never get to take his brother to the Eminem & Rihanna concert this August. He’ll never get to enjoy the case of Sour Patch Kids candy he ordered and that was delivered two days after he died. He won’t get to train Caesar, the Boxer puppy he bought from a breeder in Oklahoma just two weeks ago. And for the first time in years, there’s plenty of recording capacity on the DVR.
His death is a shock, but it’s not a surprise. He had been slow dancing with death for more than five years. He overdosed and almost died. His friend overdosed and almost died in front of his eyes. He was arrested. He overdosed again. He was arrested again. He spent a week on the street and a month in prison.
And each and every time we said, “Anthony, please, take this as a sign. It’s a warning. Take it to heart. You need to change your behavior.” And each and every time he said he knew and he would. But at some point, each of those warnings was forgotten. And all that remained was the mantra of the young. “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want. I’m only hurting myself.”
“It’s my life.”
Every time another young person says, “It’s my life,” Satan smiles.
“It’s my life and I’ll do what I want.” Yes, of course you will. But your actions have consequences and sometimes your mistakes are irreversible.
“I’m only hurting myself.” Really? I wish I had words strong enough and true enough to convince you of the staggering selfishness of that remark. And how wrong it is.
Almost exactly one week ago my lips were pressed against Anthony’s cold, pale lips, trying desperately to breathe air into lungs too full of fluid to receive it. For the last week his mother has carried one of Anthony’s unwashed shirts around with her, holding it to her face so she can smell him. She sleeps in his bed with his shirt and a framed photograph of Anthony. Everywhere she turns something else reminds her of Anthony. The leftovers from the last food he bought – food was a very big thing with Anthony. The stale remnants of the last soda he ever drank. She wants to die, so she can see her first born again.
Nick, who is one of the best people I know, has spent much of the last week with his arm around his mother. Nick, who was already an old soul, has aged 10 years in the last week. I don’t know if he will ever smile again.
But, hey, It’s your life. Do what you want. But before you ever again dare say, “I’m only hurting myself,” look at your mother, look up the word ‘inconsolable’ and remember Anthony’s mother.
Anthony kept a small scrap of paper with a verse he had copied from scripture pinned above his desk, right in front of his laptop, where he could look at it every day. The prophet Isaiah speaking to God:
“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.”
An assurance from the Lord, that gave Anthony comfort. Later in that same verse there are words of comfort for those of us Anthony left behind when he went home:
“But your dead will live, Lord;
their bodies will rise--
let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy--
your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.”
Goodbye my son.
About TCL Blog
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is the founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit. Guest bloggers featured often.