Monday, October 4, 2010

Living in Darkness

I try not to write about politics too much on this blog, but from what I've written it should be pretty clear that I lean pretty far to the left (at least, by American standards). I am one of the few liberal, evangelical Christians. Indeed we're so rare that most people consider the phrase "liberal evangelical" to be a contradiction in terms.

I am often frustrated by the prominence of the religious right in America, and the affect they have on how Christianity is perceived. When I found out that Barack Obama was going to run for President, I thought it would be a great thing. I knew that he was Christian, and deeply religious. If he were elected, I told myself, more people would see that there are Christians who care about poverty, the environment, healthcare, and other important issues that the religious right neglects.

What I didn't expect is that almost two years into his Presidency, 18% of the country would believe that he is actually a Muslim, and an even larger number would be unsure of the President's beliefs.

I've read several articles that try to understand how so many people could be so thoroughly mistaken about the President's beliefs. I'm sure a lot of people are simply misinformed. Conservative media and the religious right have put a lot of energy into spreading the lie that Obama is a Muslim.

I am convinced that this isn't simply a matter of ignorance and misinformation. I'm sure that most of the people who claim that Obama is a Muslim have heard him talk about his Christian faith. I'm sure that plenty of them remember the controversy over his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. They're not ignorant about Obama's professed beliefs. They believe that he is lying about his religious beliefs in order to deceive the American public.

A year ago I wrote about this exact issue. I wrote that it is wrong to accuse people of lying about their religious beliefs. I stand by my original conviction, although I am worried that I didn't phrase my objection strongly enough.

The Apostle John wrote, "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness." When Christians band together to slander our president, a fellow Christian and a brother in Christ, they are surely living in darkness.

The religious right shouldn't be using these kinds of tactics to smear Obama. They should be able to talk about the problems they have with Obama's policies without bringing his religious views into the picture. The fact that they feel the need to resort to these tactics reveals a lot about how many people within the religious right view their faith.

They don't view Christianity as a religion available to anyone, regardless of their culture, politics, ethnicity or nation of origin. Instead they treat Christianity as an exclusive club, where only people with the right credentials are allowed to join, where people all share the same beliefs and opinions.

This kind of exclusive mentality is dangerous. When we have this attitude toward others, it reveals that we don't understand the power of God's forgiveness. Exclusiveness and hatred of fellow believers is also toxic to the faith. It divides Christians against each other and drives people away from Christianity.

Personally, I would love it if more Christians understood the importance of social justice, and became more liberal as a result, but I understand that not every Christian shares my views. I only ask other believers to extend their liberal brothers and sisters the same courtesy.

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