Friday, March 9, 2007

“Liberal Christians”

Over at No God Blog, I was briefly confused for being a liberal Christian. It was very brief.

I don't think a liberal Christians exist. Maybe before MLK took a bullet they existed, but since then it seems they have gone extinct – if they ever were at all. Today, liberal Christians must be lumped in with what, during the Cold War, were referred to as “fellow travelers” - but in league with the forces of fundamentalism. Sure, they might not be fundamentalist conservative Christians but they are part of the soil out of which fundamentalism grows.

This might be too harsh, but I don't think so. Fairly often in discussion, a Christian will go, effectively, “Not all of us are that way. A lot of Christians are good people of conscience who deplore fundamentalists at least as much as you do.” But it makes me wonder, then, why there isn't more of a visible sign of struggle in American Christianity? I'm sure that fundamentalists and liberal Christians will point to things such as the struggles that are convulsing a small number of churches for letting gays in or being authority figures. And, to them, I'm sure that those struggles seem quite epic. From the outside? It doesn't look so good.

From the outside, what I see, and what other non-Christians see, is a whole lot of fundamentalism. We see so much fundamentalism – only fundies seem to make the news and fundamentalism's influence on the schools and politics, how fundamentalists are courted by businesses and leaders, how fundamentalists are fighting back against secularism and liberalism. We don't see liberal Christians standing up against the fundamentalists. Which isn't to say that people who are liberal Christians don't stand up to fundamentalists, but they almost always do so from a secular position – as humanists, or Democrats, or whatever. Except in a very small number of cases (such homosexuality), liberal Christians fail to address the theological grounds that fundamentalists use to attack everything from evolution to the invasion of Iraq. At least, this doesn't happen publicly.

What does happen publicly is fundamentalists attack human rights, science, propose bloody wars, are sexists and racists. They do this loudly, and without shame.

The denunciations of fundamentalist Christians by liberal Christians are all mincing affairs. There are no nationally televised liberal Christian preachers going on about inclusion – but there are a dozen fundie conservative ones! They have their own network.

I don't know why this actually is. My experience is that liberal Christians are, well, to be honest, less committed to their religion than fundamentalists. They don't let it consume their life. They leave room to be things other than a Christian. Which might be healthy for them, excepting its consequences – that they are railroaded by their fundamentalist co-religionists and have totally lost control of Christianity.

Whenever a liberal Christian tries to defend Christians with the “we're not all that way” argument, I ask them, “Then why are you talking to me? Why aren't you saying this in church, to the press, to everyone who can hear you? Why aren't you trying to reform your religion? And if you are, why are you failing?” I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer as to why they'll often express tremendous anger and work hard to sway atheists but won't fight their co-religionists. (The usual answer I get is, “My church isn't that way.” In the Internet age it's easy to check that. In every case I can think of, they lie and their church is very much “that way”.)

I have a simple term for this: cowardice. Rather than face their neighbors with a fight that needs to get fought for the metaphorical soul of Christianity, they find it easier to brace atheists, or just to shut up and . . . what? Hope the fundies go away? That some metaphorical pendulum swing? I don't know. It just strikes me as entirely fucking gutless for liberal Christians, who claim to be the majority of Christians, sit down and take the shit that their fundie siblings in religion are forcing down on them. And the rest of the world.

So I say, liberal Christians are either extinct or nearly so, replaced by cowardly Christians. I guess they don't want to be the next Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Anonymous said...

Chris - look to the north of you the largest protestant church in Canada and the second largest Church after the RC's is the United church of Canada, one of the most liberal churches in North America. I tend to agree in your country liberal Christianity is suffering, but in Canada it is flourishing. I just wish your fundies would stop crossing the border. I am happy with my church that ordains women gays and allows free thought on the nature of Christianity. Don't prove yourself to be as narrow minded as those you seek to criticize by judging the Christians of the world by what you see around you. I've read your blog and really don't wish to debate some of the issues you write on because you tend to be just as much a fringe element as the fundies you hate. you exhibit typical American Bipolar thinking like your fearless leader GWB there is only us and them, Americans and enemies of democracy, in your case Atheists and fundies all others do not exist. For the record I pray your book is a financial disaster. One does not need to crucify ones' opponents as history has shown it only makes martyrs saints and messiahs.

March 12, 2007 9:57 PM  
Chris Bradley said...


I think that you've got some things mixed up.

The name of this blog is "deeply blasphemous". If you're looking for posts that are sensitive to religious folks, uh, you're sorta in the wrong place. Sorry, I largely don't buy that "kinder, gentler" Christian stuff. Your co-religionists are destroying the world and you're yellin' at me? Like I said in my post, that is the problem.

I am on the fringe. But not everyone on the fringe is a kook. Or, at least, all fringes aren't equal. A atheist libertarian consensualist (that's me) isn't in any respect the same as a fundamentalist Christian capitalist (that'd be Bush). And, really, if anything, I'm way further out on the fringe than Bush'll ever be. But I'm not a liberal. I don't vote Democratic (I generally, in California, vote Peace and Justice and in Maine I voted, generally, Green -- but they weren't really radical enough for me). But don't take that to mean that I think that I think people on the fringe are beholden to work with more central people. I don't! I think that going with the lesser of two evils is still going with evil, and I try not to do it.

Alas, the odds are Simon Peter will make a large amount of money. It'll get people into a tizzy and that sells books.

Also, I'm not crucifying anyone. I'm writing a book. Please, contain your hyperbole! ;)

Lastly, yes, I know you don't want to debate me. You want to attack me and then leave, which is honestly part of what I want! Please, tell all your Christian friends to come and read this site about the awful, awful book I'm writing! I would like to hear from each and every one of them.

March 12, 2007 11:47 PM  
Yona said...

Is it wrong that the "One does not need to crucify ones' opponents as history has shown it only makes martyrs saints and messiahs" comment brought a smile to my face? I mean, dude, this guy has been crucified and martyred already.

March 13, 2007 6:04 AM  
Chris Bradley said...


And Jesus did say that blessed are those who suffer on account of him! But Christians haven't bought into that particular blessing for a long time, now, hehe. They want to be Christians without suffering for anyone.

Not that a blog is "suffering", but the principle is the same. Like most people, they want to feel good about themselves and their choices, and anything that challenges those choices makes 'em feel weird.

As an atheist in America, I have scant endurance for Christians who feel that way when, once in a while, they stumble onto someone who treats them like they treat me, even just a little. I can admit this. ;)

March 13, 2007 10:25 AM  

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