Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The growing voice of the religious left

Two important things regarding Christian liberalism have come through my inbox recently. The first is a study from The Barna Group, which says:

Although most adults affirm the importance of faith in their life, regardless of their sexual orientation, straight adults (72%) were more likely than gay adults (60%) to describe their faith as “very important” in their life. And even though most Americans consider themselves to be Christian, there is a noticeable gap between heterosexuals who self-identify that way (85%) compared to homosexuals (70%). Another gap was then noted among those who say they are Christian: about six out of ten heterosexuals say they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith, compared to about four out of ten among homosexuals.

And even though a majority of adults have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today,” such a relationship was more common among non-gays (75%) than among gay adults (58%). The research also revealed that straight adults were nearly twice as likely as gays to qualify as born again Christians (47% compared to 27%, respectively).
Now, The Barna Group, from what I can tell, is a pretty conservative organization. They have a bias, so they've tried to spin this research to say that the gay community is less religious than the other 97% of the population (which, if this data is to be believed, it is). That said, what I see here still constitutes a majority. A majority of American homosexuals are Christian. A majority of American homosexuals do not identify as "born again", likely due to the fact that those who do are often (not always) closed-minded, partisan bigots. But still, a majority believe in God, and the Bible (to whatever degree they see fit), and Jesus Christ. These people - these 60% of 3% - make up an important part of the religious left. Assuming that gay Christians have mostly found churches that accept and embrace gay Christians means assuming that gay Christians are members of churches that also accept and embrace other important things, like science, birth control, and universalism. This is good news.

The second item is a column from the LSU Daily Reville, which says:
Any student who has taken an Intro to Philosophy course at the University is aware of the logical fallacy of “false dichotomy.” This fallacy arises when an argument is posed in which only two options are made available, when in fact more exist.

In the quest to determine where life comes from, a thinking person is often faced with a false dichotomy. Either they must accept evolution and discard the belief in a creator God, or they must maintain faith in creation and ignore the findings of science.

But there are more than just these two options.

Although it is true to a certain extent that evolutionary theory casts a shadow of doubt on the notion of a world created in six days, the two are by no means completely incompatible. Just because you are a rational, scientific person does not mean you must immediately disqualify your faith.
Yes. Yes yes yes. This is is a key point to the ongoing debate about religion and science. Nearly every branch of Christianity outside of evangelical fundamentalism recognizes the different kinds of truth represented by science and the Scripture. The Christian right, however, have taken on this issue (as they have so many others) and presented it as Jesus vs. Science. The fact that so many Christians believe in evolution is irrelevant to them, because those Christians aren't actually Christian.

But, I do not believe that these people are a majority. And, if they are, it is partially due to the fact the religious moderates and liberals have not made our voices heard with the same veracity. There are liberals in the public square who are also Christian, of course. But they are liberals first, Christians second (which is fine). What we need is to make our presence known not as liberals who are Christian, but as Christians who are liberal. No, not to silence the fundies or convert the atheists, but to show those who are confused and/or uninformed about all their options that the battle between the Christian right and the secular left is a false dichotomy. I'm pretty sure that's WTF Jesus would do.


Self said...

I've had the "evolution does not preclude" the existence of a creator" discussion with a few (creationist) people... and it invariably ends with them saying, "Well, either people who believe in evolution are right and there's no God, or I am right for believing in God".

At which point I just generally say something like, "Okay, we've come as far as we can with this, thanks for the discussion".


I think it's also worth acknowledging that one is less likely to identify with a community that is perceived as being against them - of the homosexual "non-believers", I have to wonder how many are simply as closed to the idea of Christianity as fundamentalist Christians are to homosexuality.

It's honestly a little weird that what started out as a radically inclusive faith is now (in places) overwhelmingly conservative and exclusive.

Hannah said...

This black or white view on who is or isn't a Christian is ridiculous. Most of the views that make me a "liberal" I have because I am a Christian. My belief that a society must take care of its children, elderly, ill and less fortunate; opposition to the death penalty and all kinds of torture; opposition to the 2 never-ending wars we are fighting; opposition to imperialism; respect for the poor...I could go on and on, I learned it all from Christ's teachings. I think Self's last sentence sums it up.

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