We are The Christian Left. We’re all around you. We’re among the people. Take a look. We’re part of the Body of Christ. We’re Christians. We’re Leftists. We make no apologies. In fact Jesus ways are “Leftist.” That’s why He was killed. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the conservatives of their time. This is clear.
We’re not ‘New Age.’ We’re not waiting for some earthly leader to come and make everything alright – that man already came. When He comes back, there will be no doubt who HE is. Everyone, without exception, will know. Until then, we are part of the Body of Christ. We’re not ‘Communists’ or ‘Marxists’ either. We reject all such labels. We will not be profiled or pigeonholed and we will not ‘Be Quiet.’ We’re Christians. We’re Leftists. Please get used to it.
See, it wasn’t just Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection that matter. It was his life too! The life he lived is a huge part of the deal, and he asked us to do a few things if you look at his words. Not only is what Jesus said the WORD OF GOD, but what Jesus DID is also the Word of God. Looking at the life of Jesus we see that Jesus made room for those cut off from the rest of society. Jesus put a name and a face on all who had been forgotten or pushed aside, even the dead. Jesus called us to carry our cross daily and follow him. That’s what Social Justice means.
“The Christian Left” — left hate behind; left prejudice; left callous attitudes; and followed Jesus as HE left the 99 in the fold, to go find the ones who were lost, ignored, excluded, overlooked, abandoned, uncared-for — all “the least of these.” We left hard-heartedness in order to be like the Samaritan who stopped to care for those in need.
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 2:15-16 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
WHAT IS CHRISTIAN LEFT ALL ABOUT:
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
The Christian Left describes a spectrum of left-wing Christian political and social movements which largely embraces social justice.
The most common religious viewpoint which might be described as ‘left wing’ is social justice, or care for the poor and the oppressed. Supporters of this might encourage universal health care, welfare provision, subsidized education, foreign aid, and Affirmative Action for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. Stemming from egalitarian values (and what Jesus Himself said), adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their religious duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed.
The Christian Left holds that social justice, renunciation of power, humility, forgiveness, and private observation of prayer (as opposed to publicly mandated prayer), are mandated by the Gospel (Matthew 6:5-6). The Bible contains accounts of Jesus repeatedly advocating for the poor and outcast over the wealthy, powerful, and religious. The Christian Left maintains that such a stance is relevant and important. Adhering to the standard of “turning the other cheek,” which they believe supersedes the Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye,” the Christian Left often hearkens towards pacifism in opposition to policies advancing militarism. Many passages in the Bible illustrate the example set by Jesus regarding violence:
Luke 22: 49-51 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Luke 9:53-56 And the town did not receive him, because he was headed to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elisha did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
While non-religious socialists sometimes find support for socialism in the Gospels (for example Mikhail Gorbachev citing Jesus as “the first socialist”), The Christian Left does not find that socialism alone is an adequate end or means. Christian faith is the core of their belief which in turn demands social justice.
The Christian Left sometimes differs from other Christian political groups on issues including homosexuality. This is often not a matter of different religious ideas, but one of focus — viewing the prohibitions against killing, or the criticism of concentrations of wealth, as far more important than social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to active homosexuality. In this case, similar to philosophies expressed by writers such as C.S. Lewis, these members of the Christian Left believe homosexual sex to be overemphasized when compared with issues relating to social justice, or even matters of sexual morality involving heterosexual sex. Bottom Line: We welcome ALL to their place at God’s table, just as they are. All means ALL. No exceptions. We reject all attempts to define our Faith by the two wedge issues of Gay Marriage and Abortion.
THE HUMAN CONDITION
The Christian Left doesn’t get uptight about the same things as their right-wing brothers and sisters. Lefties tend to accept that we’re all trapped in the human condition, that we all struggle, and that we’re all sinners. They tend to focus on behaviors that Jesus focused on while he was here in body — things like hypocrisy, organized oppression, exorbitant greed, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, selfishness, abuse of power, violence, etc.
Paul defined the human condition well: Romans 7: 14-25 “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Too many Christians espouse a deeply ingrained code of written and unwritten expectations and rules that shame them and drain them of spiritual strength. The Christian Left focuses on a message to help people unmask the lies that keep them on a works/righteousness treadmill; a message to help people discover the liberation of the gospel, the grace in Jesus Christ, and the rest that comes from what Christ has done on the cross. Salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned. But Grace isn’t cheap. After what Jesus has done for us, we offer our best to live up to what he asks from us (to follow his commandments).
Here’s what Jesus had to say regarding his commandments:
Matthew 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Many people accuse us of “Cherry-Picking” the Bible. We reject this silly sentiment. We think Jesus made things about as clear as they can get.
One Christian Lefty, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, put it this way in her article “A Voice from the Christian Left.”
“Many on the Christian Right are fond of posing the question WWJD?– What would Jesus do? I’d like to remind them what Jesus DID do: He cared for the poor. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He prayed alone. He commanded us to love our enemies. He preached peace. He ate, drank, and lived with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ — the lowlifes and outcasts of his day, while reserving his condemnation for the religious leaders who, from a place of privilege, imposed their legalism and literalism on the people they were responsible for leading. He told his disciples not to oppose the healing work of those outside the ranks of his followers. And again and again he reminded us to care for the poor. (That moral issue gets more air time than any other in the gospels: 1 verse in 9.) If Christians concerned about how to respond to the grave global issues facing us all were to reread the Gospels for guidance, I think we’d find some pretty clear indications there about what Jesus would do … and what he wouldn’t. (One of the few bumper stickers I’ve been tempted to affix to my still undecorated car in recent months reads ‘Who would Jesus bomb?’)
Whatever Jesus would do, given what he did do, and has promised he will do, I don’t think it looks much like what the insulated, self-congratulatory Fox News fans on the ‘Christian Right’ are doing.”
IT’S ABOUT LOVE
Based on the Word, The Christian Left believes it’s obvious that the primary message of Jesus was love — Love for God, and love for our fellow men and women.
Matthew 22:37-40 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Matthew 7:12 Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward in heaven will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
Mark 10:43-45 Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
John 13:14-15 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
Love God and love people.Forgive people over and over again, as you have been forgiven by God over and over again. Show mercy, as you have been shown mercy by God. Help the weak, the sick, the depressed, the poor, the jailed, the oppressed, the marginalized, the outcast — for one day you could be weak, sick, depressed, poor, jailed, oppressed, marginalized, outcast. It is also the only reasonable response to God’s overwhelming grace – sharing the same grace with the world.
IT’S NOT AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB
The Christian Left rejects exclusivity. We believe that John the Baptist wasn’t kidding when he proclaimed the coming of Jesus saying, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” We firmly believe that all means ALL. The exclusionary gospel of the Christian Right is foreign to us. We do not recognize it. Jesus came to set the captives free and announce the arrival of the peaceable kingdom of God where ALL are welcomed. One of our favorite words in the Bible is “whosoever.”
The exclusionary tactics and demonization that is so frequently practiced by the Christian Right is not of the Jesus we follow. John the Baptist said, “every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” The tree that is the Christian Right all too frequently bears fruit of anger, hate and judgment. It produces some strange fruit. “The same strange fruit that white supremacists hung from the trees in the South. The same strange fruit that the Nazis baked in the ovens of Auschwitz. The same strange fruit that was diced and sliced with machetes in Rwanda. The same strange fruit that is left to rot to death in Africa because the cost of a cure may undercut someone’s bottom line. The same strange fruit that is pounded to death daily with rocks and bombs in the Middle East. The same strange fruit that are depressed to death because of homophobic bullying. Trees that bear these fruits, systems that bear these fruits are to be cut down and thrown into the fires – they are the chaff that God wills to burn in an “unquenchable fire,” where they will bear the fruit of domination no longer.”
Unfortunately in this country today, we have a sort of spiritual revival of the Pharisees –people who don’t want to practice love, grace, or compassion, but would rather try to bury people under legalistic demands that they themselves aren’t capable of keeping. Culturally crusading right-wing Christians have substituted the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a Gospel of Morality. They’ve made it more about following rules than loving God (having a relationship with Christ) and loving their fellow brothers and sisters. This is unacceptable. It’s exactly what Jesus spoke out against. People are stuck in the Gospel of Morality. They are drained by the shame it produces. Far too many are repulsed by this false religious system they can’t live up to. This insanity must stop. When we walk with Jesus, he refines us as he sees fit, by his Spirit. Proponents of the Gospel of Morality don’t get that on some level. Jesus didn’t say “Get refined then follow me.” He said “Follow Me … and get refined, the way only I can refine.” Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:2; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 8:28; Matthew 4:19
CHARITY ISN’T ENOUGH
Many folks stop by and tell us to keep up the great work in the name of Christian Charity. Charity is only part of the message. The danger here is allowing it to become about charity only, rather than social justice as well. Charity tries to fix up people so that the system will work better. Justice tries to fix up the system so that people will work better. We agree that a charitable attitude is important … but it does not address the root of the problem, a system that sets up obstacles and barriers that make it nearly impossible for people to break the cycle of poverty, or the cycle of victimization, or marginalization, or the cycle of …; Again, Jesus came to set the captives free. Colloquially charity clearly means to help someone with their immediate needs. Justice suggests that something deeper happens. Charity allows the cycle to repeat, justice readdresses that system that causes the cycle. Charity is as much about the giver as the one receiving. Justice is solely about the one receiving. Give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime. The System will never be perfect here on Earth, so Charity will always be required, but that’s no excuse to not advocate for The System to be just for all. When it is, the need for Charity decreases. The two are inextricably enmeshed.
WHY WE DO THIS
So why are we here and why are we making these statements? Because there should be tension, risk and discomfort while doing ministry work, especially when we challenge deep-seated, right-wing, fundamentalist theology. It’s ugly, messy and dangerous. Oh, but worth every minute! If you are not attracting the same people that Jesus attracted, your message needs to be fixed. If the way you live the Good News (advocating Justice as restoration, universal inclusion, preaching a God of love and grace, feeding, quenching, clothing, healing, welcoming, visiting) does not place your life under a constant threat, you might want to question how fully you are living the Good News. It is time for The Christian Left to decry publicly the lies the right are telling about the Bible, and the fact that their interpretation of Scripture is slanted toward their fears and alleged concerns.
“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic, 1928
“No rabbi [or other minister] can be called a real rabbi, if his congregation doesn’t want to run him out of town at least once in a while!” (attributed to Rabbi Hillel, 1st century BCE)
IT’S ALL MEANINGLESS WITHOUT JESUS
Our Mission Statement would be meaningless and incomplete if we didn’t point out Christ’s finished work on the cross. His birth, life, death and resurrection mean everything to us. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Finally, The Christian Left doesn’t tend to march in lockstep. All of the above statements may not speak for all members of this group. The Christian Left is a spectrum, just as The Christian Right is one.
“It’s easier to bow down and shout constant hallelujahs than to get our own hands dirty by following him [Jesus] out into the world of brokenness and mess.” — Mark Townsend
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” – Anonymous
From The Christian Left