Monday, April 6, 2009

What is a liberal Christian?

Since the decision last Friday in Iowa to recognize same-sex marriages (go, Iowa!), something somwhat related has finally become clear to me: many people assume that 'liberal Christian' is not Christian at all.

This actually first started becoming clear to me from a comment on the aforementioned Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog, which is left-leaning. One of the commenters said, "Liberal Christians believe in Christ but not in the literal take on, say, the nativity, even though it's a lovely and poetic story." Here's the thing: aside from my views on sexuality, I am boringly orthodox. I say the Creed every Sunday without a qualm, which makes me wonder about my liberal bona fides sometimes, but there you go.

This TNC entry was responding to a blogger named Rod Dreher, "Crunchy Con," who writes on BeliefNet. On the day of the Iowa decision, he wrote

This morning, I had breakfast with some guys, including a lawyer. We weren't aware of this decision, but we talked about this issue. The lawyer said that as soon as homosexuality receives constitutionally protected status equivalent to race, then "it will be very hard to be a public Christian." By which he meant to voice support, no matter how muted, for traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and marriage.

Here's the thing. We keep on having these conversations trying to explain why we think that homosexuality is not a sin when it seems to me we haven't yet established in other people's minds that we're actually Christian at all. I found it absolutely shocking that this lawyer equated "public Christian" with expressing his particular view of homosexuality and marriage. It laid the division bare to me and made me realize that, no matter how orthodox my beliefs otherwise, my belief that gay people are OK by God means that, to many on the right, I cannot possibly be a Christian.

This is still a hypothesis, but I'm starting to see that maybe the first thing to do in this ongoing wrangle about human sexuality is to get an honest answer to the question, "Do you think I am a Christian?"


it's margaret said...

I trust that you ARE a Christian m'dear. I hope you eat crab, shrimp and pork too--although maybe not all at the same time!

(I remember you from CDSP! Greetings friend.)

Laura Toepfer said...

Hey, Margaret! I remember you, too, of course. And I've seen you around the blogosphere. I hope you're well.

Shrimp? Crab? Wouldn't eat the filthy stuff. Bacon...that's another story.

I'm not (particularly) worried about whether or not I am a Christian; I just think the conversation stops (or isn't a conversation) if other people hold onto the premise that I'm not.