The Misconceptions of Spiritual Politics

Left vs. RightBefore reading this article, I would encourage you to take a quick look at the infographic to the right. Click on the image for the full-sized version; it will pop open in a new window or a new tab.

The infographic does a very good job at demonstrating the beliefs, focuses, goals, and views of the left vs. the right. It is fair and non-biased, and though it certainly portrays political stereotypes, it does the best job possible at focusing on the core thoughts and values of both sides. I am sharing all of this because of the apparent lack of knowledge as to what conservative vs. liberal politics actually represent; far too often I find that people are glued to one side or the other not because of their personal beliefs, but instead because of a series of less important outside influences. In the past I have been guilty of this as well, but I’ve since learned how rewarding it is to define your own political stance from your true core beliefs, instead of following the crowd.

Political Pride Yields Ignorance

Political awareness and discovery does not necessarily require you to always keep up on current events, nor always be aware of the laws currently running through congress. A knowledge of these things can often be a big help, but one does not need to know the current state of the system in order to decide for himself or herself what he or she believes to be the right way to approach different political topics. What is mandatory, however, is simply to be able to set your past reservations regarding the political parties aside and instead evaluate them based on their true core views, rather than your upbringing or your surroundings.

I will define political pride as a blind appreciation, following, and upholding of either conservative or liberal politics based on the sense of “belonging” to one of the respective political parties. One cannot gain a true understanding of the core beliefs of either party without being able to set this “political pride” aside. This is harder for some than it might seem, as we are often taught to embed this political pride, ironically, deep into our core beliefs. But one cannot even begin to grasp the personally perceived advantages or disadvantages of either side without a politically open mind.

Call for a Spiritual Awakening

One of the biggest influences on this “political pride” discussed above is the church, most often pushing towards conservatism. This influence sometimes comes from the leaders of the church, but more often comes from the church’s members and the perceived need for them to choose and encourage particular political views, while frowning on others. Somewhere along the line it became popular among church members to lean heavily to the conservative side, perhaps influenced by conservative leaders who claim to be spiritually focused.

The misconception here, though, is that typical spiritual core beliefs (particularly Christian views) fit significantly better with conservatism than liberalism. In fact, there is little to no correlation between conservatism and Christian core beliefs; it often even appears to be the opposite. One of the prime examples is the theme of self-sacrifice that Christ consistently demonstrates in the Bible and that Christianity not only encourages but requires; conservatism preaches a heavy focus on “helping those who help themselves” (a quote from the above referenced infographic), while liberalism leans more towards “helping those who cannot help themselves.” Furthermore, conservatism focuses on exclusivity and nationalism, both of which do not play well with Christ’s humility-based and “least of these” teachings.

The list of conflicts between conservatism and Christianity go on and on, from conservatism’s focus on judgement (which Christ clearly preaches against) to conservatism’s resistance to change (while Christ set forth to change most of the laws of his time). In all of these topics (as well as many additional topics), liberalism, though flawed in respect to Christ’s teachings, comes significantly closer to the concepts that Christ taught than conservatism. In fact, it is easy to argue that liberalism in general follows Christian views significantly better than conservatism does. It is odd, then, that we find that conservatism seems to be more popular within the church than liberalism, which I believe is a sign of mass ignorance on the subject.

I would present some arguments in the opposite direction as well, but it is surprisingly difficult to come up with an honest argument supporting the concept that conservatism is closer to Christianity than liberalism. The topics that seem to consistently come up are Christians’ views on abortion and homosexuality, which, traditionally conservatism does support better than liberalism. These matches, however, are almost certainly outweighed by conservatism’s traditional views on capital punishment and war, neither of which fit with Christ’s core teachings.

Neither Perfect Nor Evil

Obviously, neither party is likely to ever perfectly represent our personal views. In fact, if we find that our views align perfectly with either party, perhaps we should step back and observe the situation to see if our views are simply the result of belonging to a political party, or if they’re truly a core belief that we’ve come to ourselves. At the same time, neither party is inherently evil, as often seems to be argued both inside and outside of the church. Both parties will have positive and negative qualities to the educated mind (though clearly one party will be more prevalent than the other). It is important to be able to see past the blind hatred that we often have for the opposite political party, simply so that we are able to improve ourselves and our beliefs.

There are most definitely absolute truths in this world, but to package a random set of believed truths and values into a box for people to adopt, believe, and be proud of is at least a little bit disconcerting. Perhaps even more disconcerting, however, is that many people will take this package, accept it as truth, preach it, and refuse to believe anything else for their entire lives, without examining it and truly grasping any of the concepts as their own. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding politics, but if one chooses to argue political concepts, it is important for them to have examined their political stances deeper than to examine a particular political party. I believe that our current political parties, as well as many adopters, often push for this blind style of following, which is more damaging both to our country and to individuals themselves than is immediately prevalent.

Call To Action

I would like to propose that we step back and re-evaluate our political stances not based on our currently affiliated political party, but rather based on our core beliefs. Truly, they cannot be completely separated, but we may find that our current political beliefs and/or the politics that we support do not match our internal core views. We may also find that we are judging a particular political party for the wrong reasons, or we might find that we are unnecessarily passionate or impartial to a particular political subject, simply because of our surroundings. We must always keep an open mind to the other side, and refrain from eliminating a possibly intelligent perspective simply because of the label that comes with it.

Further Discussion

I am very interested in your responses both to support or oppose arguments for similarities and/or conflicts between Christianity and liberalism and/or conservatism, and your observations as to how the public interprets, applies, and argues politics both inside and outside of the church. I see this as a crucial discussion, because typically it seems people are either too scared to bring it up or tend to address it in a judgmental or condescending light. Please let me know your thoughts.

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15 Responses to The Misconceptions of Spiritual Politics

  1. Amber Carr says:

    I wish there was a popular party right in the middle of the two… It’s too bad we have to stick with the two major ones and can’t bring in a third because it wouldn’t get enough votes.

  2. Jason Carr says:

    And what views would this popular party represent?

  3. Karrie says:

    Hi Jason! 

    I thought the graphic was briliant and clearly outlined the different perspectives of right and left.  Also believing this to be an unbiased tool I forwarded the graphic to the person with whom I was “debating”.  The person dismissed it out of hand saying, “So you couldn’t support your argument. It’s as I expected. ”  My efforts to engage, enlighten, and educate went for naught.  It also consumed a lot of my time, so I guess I now have to refocus on other matters at hand.

    This whole effort casued me to think of how the early apostles were directed to go to the cities and towns to talk with others about the new ideas and life in Christ.  They were instructed to go and share, being polite, presenting their case.  If they were met with immobile resistance or the town was not ready, the apostles were told to leave respectfully but to knock the dust off their feet as they left.  I’m knocking the dust off, but not giving up hope that there might yet be some good to come.

    What I sincerely hope is that there may be some seeds planted, some kind of fruit that may yet come of this.  It is in God’s hands now, so to speak.  He can soften the hardest heart.

    The bigger issue of concern is the debate in which I was engaged with this individual only reproduces in microcosm the debate that rages in the country at large.  We are seemeing stuck at an impasse waiting for people to realize the precipitous point on which we are now perched as a nation and a broader Western society.  Obviously those things that had dominated our culture, economy, and media in the previous political administration have been proven ineffective, unsustainable, or stood in as ‘false idols’.  Redirecting the cultural perspective to be more inclusive and effective in our stewardship is going to take a lot of perseverance and courage.

    I may have given up on this individual but I gave him over to God.  In hope.

  4. Karrie says:

    An addendum:  we were watching Keith Olbermann last night.  He featured a story in which the Conservatives led by Dick Armey are withdrawing support from other Republicans to push their agenda!  If this continues to spread it will cannibalize the party and throw even more races to the Democrats!

    Does make you wonder!

  5. Dad says:

    I find nothing to debate in this post.  The only minor issue I have with it is that you put the whole church in the same category.  You are clearly talking about fundamental/conservative churches, which is not the entire church. There are churches that would suggest that Jesus was a liberal.  The problem is that they are just as pridefully blind as the conservatives.
    You have crafted a well thought out argument.  Perhaps we should abolish political parties altogether.  Then everyone would have to come to conclusions on each topic based on their core beliefs rather than follow a party line.

  6. Jason Carr says:

    Karrie, it is so frustrating to put forth so much effort in trying to witness or share the truth only to be shot down by a blind ego (and yet, it’s so unbelievably common).  Still, yes, we can praise the Lord in that we can shake the dust off of our feet and move on knowing that we are not responsible for the actions of others around us, and praise God once more that we know the truth.

    It’s still tough to swallow all of the damage that a misinformed Christian (or non-Christian for that matter) can cause…

    I need to have more hope that my words can actually be used to convince someone of the truth.  I’ve been shot down so much that I’ve almost given up on the approach; I’m almost convinced that the only way to share the truth is through love and actions, and that words are entirely useless.  Still, I know that I have planted seeds where I didn’t receive immediate gratification, and I’ll never know the affects that I’ve had.

    It continues to boggle my mind how a party based off of such destructive principles is the more accepted “Christian” party, and how it can blind so many, many people.  I doubt it, but perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of the cracking open of some of the lies…

  7. Jason Carr says:

    Dad, that’s a good point that the problem exists on the other end of the spectrum as well (particularly regarding homosexuality), though I have to believe it’s slightly less damaging in that direction since the overall attitude is one of acceptance instead of one of exclusivity.  Still, prideful extremes and the inability to accept anything but entire liberalism or entire conservatism is certainly a large part of the problem here.

    I do believe that a party-less system would be a significantly improved approach to politics, even if it makes it slightly more difficult to determine the views of the candidates.  It would be interesting to see, however, how much the blind following of political parties would instead be transferred over to the blind following of political candidates (though at least one would have to put forth an effort to learn what that candidate was about).  I wonder what it would take for such a system to be implemented here…

  8. Amber Carr says:

    The belief section other than the society part, I agree with the right side… but there are exceptions. I can go into detail if you want to talk to me in person. I’m right in the middle on Family and rearing children. I believe both are necessary. Good to be progressive, but not forgetting the past and not making the same mistakes. I don’t know if I like the idea of the government interfering with society and society’s lives too much… wouldn’t want it to take away our freedom and have total control. Less taxes would be nice, but I do understand why we need them… It would be nice if the “people” could decide how the government spends the taxes. And so much more that I don’t really feel like going into… cuz.. I’m lazy! haha!
    I can tell you that I’m pretty sure a conservative would have worded the right side a little differently and you should get some feedback from someone who sides more with the conservatives.

  9. Jason Carr says:

    We’ll have to discuss some of the political perspectives in person, honey.  Obviously, we don’t and never have seen entirely eye-to-eye in our political views.  I do appreciate the fact that you approach these things from a fairly open perspective.

    I will say though, that though it seems that the right side details are fairly brutal, the left side details are brutal as well.  There’s more than one thing that makes me a little bit uneasy, but after pondering them for a short while, I’ve found them to be true of typical liberal views.  And as far as rewording things on the conservative side, you can soften the words behind the facts, but you can’t remove their truths.

  10. Barry Cain says:

    Good article Jason. your use of the graphic is top notch.  I did want to state an opinion here that will probably ruffle some feathers out there.
    I think your worried about something that these days exists in theory only.  True democrats the strong left wing,  And true  Republicans the strong right wing, no longer exists.
    You got kids out there “Rocking the vote” And who do these fresh out of high school uneducated voters follow????  They certainly don’t care what the views on the family values are.  Or what a party supports on an ethical level. Or even basic economic stands.  Sorry to break it to you brother but they vote for who their favorite DJ tells them to,  Or who has the best clothing, or the one who’s kids are coolest.  They cast their votes based on what their parents say around the house.  And they bundle it all in a neat package that they call free thinking and place a bow on top of and say they are independents.
    And most adults are just as bad they are so middle of the road and PC they can’t make an educated decision on what brand of toilet paper to use, never less pick a government official or vote on an issue with any real thought or guidance from a party affiliation.   Left and right do not exist in the USA anymore except for maybe a handful of peeps.
    But its not just politics, religion has gone the same way.  We have preachers out there afraid to teach the word of God without softening it down so people won’t get scared.  They wont take a stand on sin for fear of offending people.  And taking a middle of the road stance.  People need to know that hell is real, They need to know that your going to burn forever.  They need to know about the maggots and the screaming. And if it scares em then good.  People need to know that God, for lack of a better term ,has a nasty temper when you anger him.  They need to know both sides of the coin the good and the bad.   I get sick to death of hearing different preachers out there only preaching about the love and goodness.  People have lost their fear of God, and the reverence and awe of his mighty power and wrath.  WOW I wonder if there is a correlation between the two?
    Before people will be able to vote based on core values, they will have to get some.

  11. Jason Carr says:

    Barry, in a lot of ways, I think we’re actually arguing much the same point, just from a slightly different perspective.  My argument is simply that I’m surrounded by people who are politically stupid, and yet seem passionate about their political party association, for no other reason than it’s the party that they “belong to.”

    Lately, it’s come to the point where I cannot attend a series of Bible studies without hearing an Obama bash or a comment on how terrible the Dems are at running the country.  And, of course, it’s all based on the lies, propaganda, and hatred spread by the Republican party.

    The passion I’m seeing is not based on any kind of intelligent thought; it’s simply people trying to be cool and fit in by finding an easy target.  Either that or it’s some kind of superiority complex with people who are too misinformed or stupid to be able to separate Christianity from the Republican party.

    Either way, agreed, people seem to be dumber than ever when it comes to their political views, and perhaps even their core values.  Thanks very much for your comments, Barry.  You can “ruffle my feathers” any time. ;)

  12. Amber Carr says:

    I wonder what Reese thinks about all this… :)

  13. Jason Carr says:

    Kids tend to prefer a less strict environment, so I would expect he’s probably a Democrat at this point… ;)

  14. Barry Cain says:

    Who are you trying to kid Reese like most kids runs his own dictatorship lol

  15. Jason Carr says:

    Hahaha lol…oh yes; how could I forget?

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