A Liberal Confession...

I have fought the "liberal" tag for several years now. Since 2002, my view of Christianity has rapidly evolved from a fundamentalist, evangelical worldview. Emergent and "emerging" faith conversations have given me room to question, deconstruct, grow (heal) and begin reconstructing a faith in which I could freely love Christ and love the world and find hope for the future. They still do offer that freedom.

But in some ways, I've still been hiding in the closet. Maybe it's time to come out...

I'm liberal.

That doesn't mean I want to throw the Bible out. Or give a thumbs-up to rampant, thoughtless abortion. Or be a communist (though it is tempting). Or cut out and dispose of all of the Scriptures that conflict with my personal, arrogant, elitist sense of morality. It doesn't mean I'm a Bishop Spong cookie cutter.

It does mean that I think I have a responsibility to take care of my neighbors. So do you. Obama's coined, "I am my brother's keeper." Amen. I'm willing to pay more taxes to feed the poor, take care of widows and orphans, and offer affordable healthcare. Even if that generosity is, at times, abused. Isn't all generosity abused, and don't I then identify with Christ in such abuse? How in the world did low taxes get convoluted with the Gospel? Even conservative Christianity. Ever read the Beatitudes?! How did we sell ourselves to this? Some kind of anti-tax, Zacchaeus-conviction?

It also means I can't justify war through my Christianity. That doesn't mean I can't comprehend just-war reasoning. It doesn't mean I would have laid down and let Nazism run across North America (or Europe, for that matter). But it means just-war doesn't always need Jesus to "work it out." Human justice isn't required to co-mingle with the Way of Christ. Only be informed and ignited by the Way. Perhaps we wound the Holy Spirit in trying to "justify violent justice," baptising it under God...

In particular: the treatment of women is a central reason I am a liberal. My favorite bumper sticker reads, "Feminism: the radical idea that women are people." My wife and I were at George Fox last night and saw a poster for a women's conference: Warrior Brides. That kind of language and rhetoric is b.s. It's like telling a field slave to be satisfied with becoming a "house slave." Awful becoming better isn't redemption. It's patronizing. Some second-class wives are treated more lovingly and respectfully than other second-class wives. But none of them are equals.

I'm a liberal because in the beginning God created humankind in his image... "male and female he created them."

I'm liberal because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I'm liberal because "he who fears has not been made perfect in love." And I'm liberal because the "least of these" and "the meek" are blessed.

I love Jesus Christ, and am saved by grace and by love. I know that my true citizenship is in heaven. But as long as women and men are enslaved under falsified perversions of the Word of God, then we cannot rest in the blessings, freedom, glory and joy of the Spirit. We must push through the darkness...

Today, I saw a dozen Republican buttons featuring photos of McCain and Palin. They read: "The AMERICAN Ticket." American? In contrast to what? The terrorist ticket? The Secret-Muslim ticket? I don't want to be a part of an America that creates good-and-evil distinctions based on political party. I don't want to be a part of Christianity if it cannot believe in the faith of its brothers and sisters. Something is very wrong.

That's why I am a liberal.


Kim said...

Great post!! I'm a recent "outted" liberal Christian (i.e., a liberal who is also a Christian) and you said perfectly what I've been trying to say to friends and family.

There was one part of your post I didn't quite understand:

My wife and I were at George Fox last night and saw a poster for a women's conference: Warrior Brides. That kind of language and rhetoric is b.s. It's like telling a field slave to be satisfied with becoming a "house slave." Awful becoming better isn't redemption. It's patronizing. Some second-class wives are treated more lovingly and respectfully than other second-class wives. But none of them are equals.

Could you try to explain?


Peter said...

Kim, that's a good question, and looking back at it I realize I left some ambiguities - as well as making some comments that sounded more hostile than intended.

What I wanted to say is that a lot of churches have programs "for women." Many of them even use empowering language like "rise up" or (as mentioned) "Warrior Brides!"

The problem is, my wife and I have found most of the underlying messages from such rhetoric and/or ministries to be narrowly focused on "empowering" women to stay in their existing traditional roles. We (I should speak for myself now - I) completely believe that women can be empowered feminists and still completely healthy and happy in "traditional" femine roles: like stay-at-home-mom, homemaker, etc...

But I believe some of these ministries subversively try to use empowering language without actually empowering. They affirm and excite women into... well... submission. And if every woman at the seminar is excited, and the female seminar leader is excited, well, "I should be excited too!"

So we're telling women to have a "warrior's heart" (already patriarchal language) but do it in the confines of your existing role, which we have deemed "acceptable."

When women are constantly affirmed for being "prayer warriors," it's often probably true. But it's often true because prayer is the only place we've allowed women free expression. Especially if they're not allowed to teach over men (children's Sunday school is ok).

Does that make sense?

Thanks for pressing me on that, Kim, and welcome to the conversation. I'm going to repost this...

Kimberly said...


That makes perfect sense. Thank you for taking the time to explain. For quite some time now, I've been struggling with the role the church "allows" or encourages me to find myself in. Even the fact that the women's bible studies at my church meet on Tuesday mornings seems to underlie the basic assumption that good Christian women are not actively pursuing a career.

I appreciate the way you articulate some tough issues. Thanks for this blog. You've got another committed reader.


Sabio Lantz said...

Hey Peter,

Thanks to your link to your previous post on your "Liberalism".
After reading that post (11/14/2008), I am thoroughly confused and wanted to write you to before you finished your new "much-expanded treatise" on your "move overtly liberal[ism]". Please do tell us how you changed since your 2008 post and why.

For in your 2008 post, though hinting at some liberal leanings, you seem to miserably fail your own definition. But that was Nov. 2008 -- have you changed, has George Fox and friends altered you? Is the stress of the economy taking its toll on you?

Though you may want to consider yourself "liberal", you fail by your own words. Here are your 5 characterizations of Liberals:

1. No absolute Truth
2. Pluralism
3. Errancy
4. Non-Virginity
5. No Resurrection

Next you admit that you don't adhere.

"I don't necessarily adhere to there liberal statements."

You may want to play both sides by saying "don't necessarily", but the truth is, you ABSOLUTELY don't adhere to liberal theological positions, as I illustrate each below:

(1) Failed: You believe in Absolute Truth:

"I believe that God, through Jesus Christ, is Absolute Truth."

Whatever the heck that means? Sounds beautiful (to a Christian), but bizarre to nonbelievers. Here, imagine someone saying, "I believe that Shiva, through Ganesh, is Absolute Truth" Doesn't that seem a bit nonsensical, unless you have been raised with the myths of Shiva and Ganesh?

Sure, you understand the subjectivity of knowledge but you desire an anchor, but gee, what a bizarre anchor.

(2) Failed: Looks I guess you are an inclusivist, not a pluralist.

(3) Failed: Seems you hold a "Well, sure, there may SEEM to be problems but God will clear that all up if we pray. Meanwhile, lets just realize the Bible is "precious" [arghhhh !]

(4) Failed: I want my cake and eat it too. OK, the virgin-birth does not make sense, but I won't reject it. [Read: I still want to stay buddy-buddy with all you who buy this stuff and keep my bible "precious".]

(5) Failed: You believe !

Unfortunately you fail miserably at being a Liberal Christian. (yes, my bias is that I prefer true liberal Christians), You may want to sound liberal and talk cool and make friends with us non-believing type, but you still sing from the same Hymnbook, it seems. Or am I missing something.

Sure, your 10/31/2008 post explains that all you mean by liberal is:
a) some abortions are OK
b) women can have a role in the church
c) war should not be justified by religion
d) it is OK for Christians to be Democrats

Yeah, to conservative fundamentalists, these 4 apples may be gateway beliefs to full blown liberalism. To me you sound like a conservative democrat Christian who wants to flirt with the word "liberal" in a rebellious adolescent way but doesn't really mean it accept in the political sense. But then I guess you confess that you are politically liberal but theologically liberal.

So, I thought my pagan insights might assist in organizing your new treatise on the new Peter Walker.

You are a fun writer, btw, and I think George Fox is luck to have you. But I wonder, it must be hard, with all the peer pressure, not to collapse into conservatism. After all, the cognitive dissonance would be too painful otherwise. Also, how could you get a job after all that schooling if you did not swallow the right color pill?

I was in a playful writing mood, nothing meant offensive -- instead, I write knowing your strong confidence and flexibility and look forward to your reply.


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