I have had an interesting debate with an old friend on Facebook this week. It started with me posting a “like” on my profile for a group called “The Christian Left”. When I did this, one of the first comments was from this old friend that said, “Do you align yourself with socialist, communist, etc?” I responded by saying, “No, just followers of Christ and the diversity it represents; Christ taught love and acceptance... not hatred, fear and name calling...” I also let my friend know that I did not appreciate his “labeling” and what I perceived as name calling. I think though it was all just his way of inviting me into a debate about politics and religion… which is okay, those kinds of debates are good to do as long as it does not get nasty and personal.
My friend went on to say, “Just asking, I read a little and see they don't believe that far left which is good. I agree with your statement above, a view can be expressed without the name calling and personal attacks which I am against.”
I then responded with, “Sorry I misinterpreted your question, but it did come across as a ‘dig’... I do consider myself progressive and we probably would not agree in our political views; which is okay... I just believe that we need to be Christ-like in our comments to one another no matter how far left, or right one might be in their views... For me, following Jesus is about love, compassion and helping those that do not have the means to help themselves... if you consider that ‘socialist’ and ‘communist’...then I guess I do align with that...”
My friend then responded with, “No, I agree we should help those as directed by the Holy Spirit. I cannot help everyone. I know the government cannot help everyone either. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. Jesus did a finished work on the cross and that includes providing for everyone if they will only believe on Him. Problem is when we put our belief in something else it comes up short, including the government.”
My next response was, “And I would add this: something Jesus actually said to his believers ("those that believe on him")... "just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me..." Very true that the poor will always be with us, but it is not an excuse to ignore and turn our backs on poverty. I would not agree that Jesus "did a finished work on the cross"; the story ends (or rather begins) with resurrection and life. This is a lively debate and I will write more later... You have inspired me to write more, which I am going to use in my blog...”
As read back over this, I wondered if we were debating the same issues or not. I know that my friend, based on his Facebook posts, most likely aligns himself with “conservative” values and political views. I would guess, but don’t know for sure, that he considered himself part of the “Tea Party” movement. Politically, I would consider myself having the opposite view. I consider myself a progressive and I am a follower of Christ or “Christian” as he is as well.
It is tempting for me to launch into a discourse about why I think I am correct in my views and he is wrong, but I think that would ultimately bring more division and definitely go against what I believe Christ taught, love, compassion and acceptance. My friend would most likely hold to the idea that the Bible is the infallible word of God and should be taken literally and at face value. I would not. I see the Bible as the inspired word of God, written by man and open for interpretation and discernment. But what I think we both would agree on is that the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation and contains eternal truth. I think that we would both agree that following Christ can transform people’s lives and should be the basis for how we live our lives.
In the end, the progressive (or liberal) vs. conservative debate is really based in fear. In my progressive way of seeing things, trickle-down economics just does not work. It only breeds greed and corporations focused on profit rather than people; it has happened already. I think government has to be an advocate for the people by limiting corporations from becoming too big and too greedy. My conservative friends take the opposite view. They feel that government should stay out of the loop and that the free enterprise system will work just fine if left to its own devices. The conservative view is that we need to promote an unobstructed free enterprise system to create jobs. Nonetheless, both progressives and conservatives are concerned about the economy, human rights and personal freedoms. We just do not agree on how we go about addressing those things.
It seems to me that if we as a nation could start focusing on the things we agree on rather than always focusing on “left wing” or “right wing” agendas, everyone would get at least some of what they want. Just like in communities of faith, our common lives together absolutely depends on each other. The same is true for our nation. The threat of terrorists, the Taliban, emigrants or any other entity outside our borders is nothing compared to the damage we are doing to ourselves from within. Hatred, suspicion, greed and fear feeds on itself. Those are the things that will bring our nation down quicker than anything else. When we can learn to treat each other with dignity, compassion and love, is when our nation will be on course and be a true leader in the world.