It’s a bit of a challenge to represent Christianity in the public square these days. Numerous public Christians are using the same words I use but the definitions in our vocabulary seem to be quite different.
While some Christians think of themselves as “conservative” and other Christians call themselves “liberal,” truth is we are all mixed.
There is goodness and wisdom in much of our shared religious, social and political traditions that ought to be conserved. There is harm and foolishness in many of our traditions that ought to be changed.
Conservative vs. Liberal is not the problem in either our faith or our politics. Fundamentalism is the problem.
Fundamentalism is arrogant, intransigent and rude. It refuses to compromise, insists on its own truth and seeks to decimate its opponents. Fundamentalism can see nothing wrong with itself and sees only the wrong in others. It is destructive, damaging and divisive. Fundamentalism is destroying our churches, our communities and our nation.
In contrast to Fundamentalism, authentic Conservatism seeks community rather than domination. Even as it holds tenaciously to its truth, Conservatism still treats alternative voices with respect. There is a deep lived wisdom within authentic communities of classic Conservatism.
In both our communities of faith and in our political system, opening ourselves to differing opinions and perspectives makes us wiser and stronger. When we are willing to consider new understandings, new possibilities and new people then we can actually live up to the faith our Founders invested in us – both the founders of our nation and of all our various religions.
It is possible and quite reasonable that openness to change can happen at the same time we remain grounded in eternal values of reverence, compassion and goodness.
As a liberal Christian minister, I value my conservative sisters and brothers. There is much reverence, compassion and goodness within the community of religious, social and political Conservatism. I know you – your generous works, your good intentions, your compassionate hearts. You are my family. You are my friends.
So I call on you Conservative Christians to step up: let your voices of goodness be heard in these troubled times. Speak out. Reclaim the respectful, thoughtful tradition of Classic Conservatism and rescue it from Fundamentalism.
Together we must stand against the ugliness and anger that is hijacking religious faith and the American dream. Voices of reason and compassion need to speak with passion into this current public conversation. Help us drown out the clamor of hatred and intolerance that damages, destroys and divides. Help us reclaim a vocabulary of hope, both for our faith and for our country.
American politics and American Christianity must find the middle way. We can – and we must – find ways to change what needs to be changed all the while grounding ourselves in eternal values of reverence, compassion and goodness.
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She frequently shares her thoughts with Coffee Party USA as a regular volunteer.