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Austin Cline

Religious Right vs. Religious Left

By August 18, 2004

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Usually when we think of religion getting involved with politics, the Christian Right usually comes to mind first. But what about liberal Christians? They aren't apolitical, but is there any fundamental difference between how they deal with politics and how conservatives do it?

Chuck Currie writes:

If there a difference between the political aims of the religious rights and the progressive left? Yes, and it is pretty basic. The Southern Baptists, for example, maintain close ties with Republican political candidates, like George W. Bush, and work to elect them. Their efforts often cross the line between separation of church and state and even violate IRS rules governing churches.
Progressive religious people tend to be tied more to causes (homelessness, poverty, civil rights, health care, etc.) than to individual candidates and almost never claim to speak for God on partisan political issues. Claiming to speak for God is a hallmark of the religious right.

Does Chuck Currie live in the same world as the rest of us? True, Southern Baptists maintain close ties with Republican political candidates, but since when did religious liberals distance themselves from political liberals? Do they really not work together for causes they consider important? Of course not. Youíve heard of Al Sharpton, Iím sure.

Is it true that religious liberals tend to be tied more to causes than the Christian Right? Thatís even more absurd. I can refute that in two words: gay marriage. Too complicated? Well, I can refute that in one word: abortion. Members of the Christian Right are not only deeply tied to particular issues, it is arguable that such causes have been a driving factor in the growth of the Christian Right in America. Would the Christian Right really be where it is today without the cause of abortion to incite and excite members?

Do religious liberals really not try to claim to speak for God? Of course they do. Every time a religious liberal talks about what they think God would want, they are doing the same thing that conservative Christians do.

Does that mean there are no differences between the religious right and the religious left? No, itís just that Currieís attempt to explain the differences doesnít help us.

One difference is, obviously, different political goals. Liberals are inclined to support abortion choice, conservatives are inclined to support abortion criminalization. Liberals are inclined to support gay marriage (or at least some equivalent), conservatives are inclined to not only criminalize gay marriage, but also sodomy, sex toys, etc.

But doesnít the religious right seek to impose their religious values on everyone else through the law? Yes, they do, and they arenít bashful about admitting that ó but that doesnít differentiate them from the religious left. Most, if not all, of the policies decisions religious liberals make stem from their religious values as well. Theyíre religious, remember?

There is, however, an important difference to be found there: whereas the Christian Right usually stops once they find a religious justification for some decision (secular justifications are superfluous at best), religious liberals donít. A religious liberal may defend abortion choice based upon certain religious values, but thereís a good chance that they have secular reasons to support choice as well.

Whereas the Christian Right always comes back to God or the Bible, religious liberals will come back to God and the Constitution, the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. Like Martin Luther King using both his religion and Americaís political traditions to attack segregation, religious liberals tend to be comfortable reaching into both religious and secular traditions to explain or defend their positions.

Thatís not a superficial difference, like supporting causes over candidates, thatís a fundamental difference in basic attitudes and approaches. This is what keeps religious liberals from crossing the line separating church from state ó they may have religious reasons for a position, but the existence of strong secular reasons as well means that the proposal is more likely to be constitutional.

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September 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm
(1) RevLarry says:

it seems that most people do not know what separation of church and state really means and the government surely does not , because they have made numerous laws aabout religion and churches , the IRS ,specifically. have broken the laws set forth by our Constitution, the separation was so that the government could NOT make laws concerning any speech in churches ,. now they condemn a church but because Obama is a traitor to our countrys laws they do not say any thing about islamic temples. Which teaches the overthrow of our type of government , If you think not , read a real Quran. Right now Obama has given aid and comfort to our enemies that congregate in a mosque, by going to and worshiping in and with them. that is called treason!

September 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm
(2) Lisa says:

You are called uneducated. The first amendment means the government can’t get involved in ANY religion, not just yours. Please show where actually supporting laws and citizens is treason.

September 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm
(3) JTL says:

@RevLarry: Wow! Boy, do you need to go to school or what? Anyone with ANY university History under their belt knows that Thomas Jefferson et al did not want the USA to end up like Europe. The USA has all types of people. For our laws to be fair to everyone, our government cannot favor one religion over another, or any religion over no religion, etc. This is the reason the Constitution says what it does. Your god was SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN OUT of the final arbiter of the rule of law in the United States of America which is the Constitution. I am so sick and tired of today’s right-wing Republican idiots creating their own warped reality. Just because all neo-cons and conservatives think alike doesn’t make it real. By the way, I use the word, “think” loosely when referring to Republicans.

September 28, 2012 at 4:19 pm
(4) David says:

RevLarry , you realy need to seek help…mental.

September 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm
(5) dave y. says:

Wow Rev, could you get it any more lame in your arguement?
do you think thats why they used the TERM ” HOUSE OF WOPRSHIP” instead of church or possibly JEWISH TEMPLE?

Racist morons really need to stop trying to use the Constitution to explain their stupidity, it doesn’t work with those that have the ABILITY TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES!!!

September 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm
(6) dave y. says:

Wow Rev, could your comment be more foolish?
I don’t think so!

Could this be why the Framers used the TERM ” House Of Worship” instead of the word CHURCH?

Stupidity is as much disease as your Racism Rev!

Get help!

September 30, 2012 at 6:24 am
(7) Grandpa In The East says:

Larry, my boy,

Breaking the law does not make one a traitor, even if he is your President.

By the way, all western religion, because it is totalitarian in nature, opposes democracy. And is therefore treasonous.

In my opinion, YOU are a traitor to democracy. Why? Because you do not bother to understand it.


October 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm
(8) R.B. Somers says:

Grossly misinformed, ignorant

May 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm
(9) My name is unimportant says:

It seems I’m a bit late to the conversation, though I feel I should at least have input on this page for the occasional passerby.

For starters, I’m sorry you had to read the extreme display of ignorance from both sides as posted above. It happens, you know?
As the proverb says, “Five fingers are not the same.”
Look, just make sure you don’t get as stuck in your possibly ignorant ways as these people have and I’ll work on the same.

Just saying.

A note to the author:
Change your picture on here if you’d ever like to be taken seriously. Image – like it or not – is distinctly linked to key first impressions.
You look like a complete and utter tool who thinks way too highly of yourself. Just trying to help out.

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