An Essay About the Perils The Christian Left Community Faces, Past and Present
Mary knew what was about to happen. The Good News was coming and she knew it. She spelled it out in no uncertain terms.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” — (Luke 1: 46-55)
Jesus came into this world at the height of Roman domination. Rome controlled everything in the Western world. Everything. The Holy Spirit created a way for the Good News to get through anyway, and it spread throughout the planet by every unlikely means imaginable. We are able to access the Good News to this day because whenever barriers were thrown up the Holy Spirit created a way to circumvent any and all impediments.
Jesus assumed the human condition as one of the ‘least of these’ he later spoke of in Matthew 25. His mother's contemporaries wanted to execute her when they heard she was pregnant with Jesus. Mary and Joseph had to have a shotgun wedding and Jesus was born in a barn. Soon after his birth they all had to flee to Egypt as political refugees to avoid Jesus being killed.
The Good News Sidelined
For the last 40 years the Christian faith in the US has been dominated by the Christian right. In the late 70’s conservative operatives like Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell managed to conflate the Good News with extreme right-wing ideology and the Republican party. Weyrich was the co-founder the conservative think tanks The Heritage Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He coined the term “moral majority,” which was also the name of the political action group called Moral Majority that he co-founded with Falwell in 1979. Turns out racism was behind the motivation of Weyrich and his cohorts but not many people know that. The above linked article in this paragraph outlines the entire history. It was a highly effective endeavor.
Today 80% of white evangelicals are stanch Republicans, so much so that most believe in order to be a Christian there is no other alternative than to be a Republican as well. The Heritage Foundation and ALEC are more powerful than ever and are currently engaged in an unprecedented effort to write voter suppression bills and distribute them to Republican state legislators nationwide.
When the Christian right assumed power the Good News was quickly sidelined. Now the faith was about who you were voting for and what your stance was on the obscure, strawman issues of abortion and same sex marriage. Two things Jesus never said one word about became the litmus test of being allowed in the fold. The new entanglement of Christendom and right-wing conservatism received the full-throated endorsement of the captains of industry. The Coors family was a major financial backer.
It makes sense that the titans of the economic landscape would be very pleased with the new arrangement. The church became an powerful partner! All of the sudden the political party they favored was God's party too! And God was in favor of unfettered capitalism, just like the Republican party! The only use for government was to have a military force capable of protecting us! Other than that everyone is on their own! What it really amounts to is jungle economics. It's the survival if the fittest. Self-interest reigns superior (Ayn Rand has always been popular with this crowd). 'Let the church take care of the poor, the sick and the oppressed. That's what they're there for. The poor are kind of lazy anyway. We can't be bothered with their well-being. We have nations to conquer and empires to build ...' It is antithetical to everything Jesus ever taught.
We don't get it. We never have. The only way it can be understood is that it was a power grab, and it worked. It tapped in to some deep-seated undercurrents in the American story. It spread like wildfire in the white evangelical church.
The New Normal
A billion dollar messaging empire was set up with books, magazines, radio and television. It remains in place to this day. It succeeded in establishing Christianity in the United States as the religion of empire. Laissez-faire capitalism is an unspoken central tenet of its traditions. The actual teachings of Jesus are rarely, if ever, spoken about. Throughout the years people have been denied the sacraments if they vote the wrong way. If they’ve expressed support for progressive issues or candidates they have been shunned and told they can’t be Christians and liberals. While such retribution may not be a universal phenomenon it is by no means the exception among white evangelicals.
The story linked directly below illustrates perfectly how one US political party cares about the least of these and one doesn't. It's just that simple. We cover this kind of thing every day.
The Democratic plan to smash poverty for seniors and people with disabilities (vox.com)
When a Democratic candidate was elected president after the Christian right arose to dominance, an entire media empire was set up to tar and feather him. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh emerged onto the cultural landscape. The Christian right couldn’t get enough of it and they tuned in by the tens of millions. A lot of people got rich from the popularity of the new conservative media empire, which only fueled its growth. George W. Bush was ushered into power as a result of support from the Christian right.
After 8 years of Bush, so many people were weary of war (and all the lies told to drag us into them) that one Barack Hussein Obama was elected president, a black man. The Christian right and their Republican representatives in the house and senate huddled on the sidelines and vowed to oppose everything he tried to do as president, everything, no matter what it was, even if it was something they had supported in the past. Mitch McConnell turned the filibuster into the ultimate weapon of gridlock. He threw it up every single time president Obama tried to advance legislation.
At the end of his presidency, in an unprecedented move, McConnell flat out refused to even consider the president's supreme court nominee. The Christian right was ecstatic! They had turned the American political landscape into an all-out tribal war. Winning was the singular objective. Retaining power the only thing that mattered. The Good News was relegated to greeting cards. The least of these were classified as lazy freeloaders, undeserving of things like healthcare. The words of Jesus were completely disregarded.
Enter Social Media
One year after the election of Barack Obama we noticed a distinct break in the edifice the Christian right had erected around its messaging empire. Social media had emerged. We viewed it as revolutionary and we seized the opportunity. We secured the domain name of TheChristianLeft.org and set up the related social media pages and channels. We resolved to put the actual words of Jesus front and center, come what may. The Hoy Spirit had created a path for the Good News to get through. The Christian right didn’t like that at all.
We’re not the only ones engaged in this struggle but in the era of social media we were early participants. How do we know the Holy Spirit is behind the opening of our path? We know because the message we carry is centered around the actual words of Jesus, period. We spend each day holding up contemporary issues in culture and politics and evaluating them based on what Jesus actually taught. Others noticed the power of social media as well, namely one Donald J. Trump.
The trolling was relentless for the first 8 years. It never let up. Every single day people would show up and tell us, “There is no such thing as The Christian Left,” “The Christian Left is an oxymoron,” “You can’t be a Christian and a liberal,” “Shame on you! Take this down! It’s blasphemy!” “How dare you call yourself Christians and support marriage equality and a woman’s autonomy over her own medical decisions?!” “Who are you anyway?” “You’re NOT Christians!” “We’re going to report you to Facebook!” “Are you a nonprofit? We’re going to report you to the IRS right now!” Fortunately for us we received wise counsel early on not to set up as a nonprofit for this very reason. We didn’t want to be muzzled in any way in terms of speaking truth to power.
It hasn’t been unheard of over the years for members of our admin team to get death threats or have our families threatened. That’s one of the reasons we haven’t put ourselves front and center in this ministry. We don’t hide who we are, but we don’t parade ourselves around either. It’s never been about us anyway. The Good News is the point.
On another front, even though we’ve grown to almost 400,000 in number we are completely ignored by the media at large. Never once has a single media outlet come knocking on our door to profile who we are. Tucker Carlson mentioned us one time. We remember it distinctly. It was just after president Obama had delivered a speech where he quoted scripture. He was expounding on immigration and he quoted Exodus 22:21, “You yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” The conservative press and the Christian right flipped out. Someone pointed us to a YouTube video where Tucker Carlson said something like, “That’s ‘The Christian Left.’ They’re a really small group that no one pays any attention to, but God they are annoying!” He was in a panel discussion following the speech and they were discussing Obama’s use of scripture. We wish we could find that video. We’ve looked for it and haven’t had any luck.
In May of this year a book was published called, “The Christian Left.” It came with the endorsement of Mike Huckabee, Kevin Sorbo, Stephen Baldwin and many other prominent figures of the Christian right. The symbol of the communist hammer and sickle is featured in the title. The subtitle reads, “How Liberal Thought Has Hijacked the Church.” We haven’t been able to bring ourselves to read the book yet. As far as we know it doesn’t mention us specifically. A review of the first chapter has already exposed a lot of rambling from our perspective. We shall see. One of these days we’ll get around to reading the whole thing. The message is clear though. The author, a pastor and a film producer, is saying we’re communists, and therefore we can’t be Christians.
In 2020 there were only 4 companies valued at $1 trillion or more. All four are technology companies, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet (parent company of Google). Two weeks ago, in late June of 2021, Facebook joined the trillion dollar club. That’s a lot of capital and along with it comes a lot of power. We are feeling the squeeze, like our message may not be so welcome on their platform any longer.
We’ve said it from day one. We love Facebook. We find it to be nothing less than a revolutionary form of human communication. That it is now valued as one a handful of trillion dollar companies speaks to that fact. That said we have to bring up another salient point. We feel like they are losing their way in some key areas.
The language we use to describe the oppression of ‘the least of these’ isn’t always pretty, in fact it can be somewhat jarring at times. In the last half of our 12-year run Facebook has started to discourage such language. We’re being sanctioned with greater and greater frequency. We’ve been in and out of Facebook jail numerous times with various operational capabilities being stripped. It always involves our ability to reach the 400 thousand member community we’ve spent 12 years building. We’re pretty sure we’ve being slowly frozen out. Sometimes it’s likely algorithms that trigger a sanction but we always appeal. Our appeals are always rejected. We’re never given any specific reason and despite having spent thousands of dollars over the years to ‘boost’ posts we have never been assigned an account executive or advertising representative.
In the later years ‘boosting’ posts has been the only way to reach any significant portion of our community with a targeted message. Without boosting any single post is buried by the content that follows it. It disappears off the radar of the community only having reached a small number of people.
In January a Zoom sermon posted by one of our pastoral staff was taken down and his privileges to ‘go live’ were disabled for 6 weeks. The reason we were given was that the post contained ‘hate speech.’ We don’t need to tell you how absurd that is, but it’s a fact. That’s the way it went down, and similar kinds of sanctions are occurring with increasing frequency. We’re starting to see words used like, ‘a pattern’ of violating community standards and advertising guidelines. Boosting posts is considered advertising.
We’re always advised to ‘read the community standards and advertising policies’ when we’re sanctioned, which we have done so many times we practically have them memorized. The folks we’re able to chat with at Facebook never have any decision making power. They are intermediaries. They pass messages along between us and decision makers. In 12 years we have never been able to speak wit anyone at Facebook with any authority. We want nothing more than to be able to follow their standards and guidelines. Again, we are never given any specifics related to our apparent violations.
All of this paints a less than rosy picture about our future. It would appear that barriers to the Good News are once again being erected. We are hoping to somehow get in touch with the powers that be at Facebook. We’d like a chance to explain what this ministry means to a great number of people. We know that to be the case because we’re told every day how much it means. There is a hunger for the Good News in our nation that has gone ignored for a long time. We stand ready, willing and able to keep proclaiming it daily.
That brings us to our final appeal for today. We need you help. You are the only supporters we have. You are the reason we’ve been able to keep coming back every day since 2009. We have no corporate sponsors or wealthy backers. There's no official church body behind our mission. We exist because we’re user supported.
Our future is uncertain as it relates to social media. We need to expand our operations and capabilities beyond social media. The larger and more diverse our network is, the less likely we’ll be incapable of carrying the Good News forward. Please make a contribution today. Be the change you ant to see in the world. Walk through the wilderness with us. Any amount helps. Make it as large or as small as you feel led to contribute. Sign up to make it monthly. We think our being able to carry on is a worthwhile investment. We know many of you do as well. After all, the Good News is the point of all we do.
Here’s how to make a secure contribution (click or tap here).
The Words Of Jesus, Matthew 25: 31-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
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.