By Jonathan David Faulkner,
AUTHORS NOTE: This is a think piece, purely opinion, please take with a grain of salt. If you wish to debate me at the gate, I am sure we can find one somewhere.
Upon receiving the update to his retirement benefits a conservative Presbyterian Pastor in the PCUSA noted that the board of pensions had changed the word from husband or wife to Covenant Partner. I am sure I do not need to go into the Liberalization of the Presbyterian Church USA, it has been well-documented by our site and many others. I myself am a PCUSA orphan, feeling very out of place pastoring a Baptist Church where mentioning infant Baptism can get you tarred and feathered.
Speaking of which, I have never been in a room with a more hurt group of pastors then when our denomination made its official announcement about Oberfell V. Hodges which legalized Gay Marriage last summer. Our region, a very conservative one (one of the few), was in no way represented by the statement itself, but we had to accept it because we were told that was our denominations official stance.
Step back from the church and consider the media’s narrative. If you disagreed with Oberfell v. Hodges you were lumped in with Westboro Baptist. Those of us who stood in the middle ground and made an effort to be civilized, understanding that Christian Morality should not be pushed on those whom it makes no sense to (because Christ is foolishness to the unbeliever). Or consider the current crisis between the police and BLM and the way that narrative has been portrayed. You would think there was an all-out war going on, and maybe there is. Or hat all conservatives are racists who hate anyone who is not white. If you listen to the presidential candidates it gets even stranger.
Consider also the Transgender debate, a debate that has become so ridiculous that even criticism of the arguments involved are considered to be a form of oppression, even when they are the subject of satire pieces. Or the Social Justice Warriors who can find injustice living under a rock in the middle of the Sahara.
This is not limited to Liberal groups, there are many conservative groups that employ the same tactics but the Liberal agenda is unarguably the stronger voice in the media. It seems to give them the right belittle and tear down the other side, to use descriptors like “Racists, Xenophobes or Homophobes” to silence their opposition. Of course we see this playing out in the election as Hilary has recently called Trump supporters “Deplorable” (which is not a good way to win voters, and not really nice). I mean, I have no love for the Donald, and I will not be voting for him in the election, but to call his supporters racists just because they are voting for someone is ridiculous.
But you must accept their agenda, and that brings us to the point of this article. Liberals are Legalists. They will never admit it, but just try to disagree with them on a subject. They demand that we conform to their interpretation of events. Often requiring us to accept a revisionist view of history or ignore history altogether. Yes, it is true that Blacks and LGBTQ people have been treated horribly in this country and it is true that Christians have contributed to that, either by direct violence or total denial of the problem. But there are black scholars who strongly disagree with the narrative that things are as bad as they were fifty years ago. In fact, they argue that institutional racism has long been abandoned though personal racism is still a huge problem. We do have a problem today, but the current narrative, according to historians, has caused us to go backward instead of forward. Which presents a problem for the progressive liberals who are by their own definition…progressive…moving forward.
I remember when a close friend of mine said, in earnest, maybe Christianity can change. Hilary herself suggested that Conservative Thinkers will need to change their thinking and thus abandon that which makes them conservative. In the Liberal mind there is only room for one right viewpoint and it is their own and you had better accept it or you are wrong and therefore a Climate Change Denier.
Legalism, by definition is a list of things that one must be, do or think to be truly saved. In the context of the Liberal Theologian it manifests itself as requiring the believer to think the way of the progressives. If you do not think their way you are therefore intolerant and bigoted. Of course, there is a nasty brand of Conservative Christian Legalism that actually is bigoted and intolerant, but that is a small minority compared to the vast number of people who are not actually bigoted or intolerant but can think through the arguments being presented to them and compare them with scripture. Balancing a God honoring Doctrinal Stance with humane treatment of everyone regardless of whether they agree with them or not.
Ironic the Liberal does not think himself a Legalist, in fact he claims to be opened minded, but being open minded, by definition, does not allow you to dismiss another viewpoint as intrinsically wrong and it is a form of intolerance to look at a person who thinks differently than you and instantly reject them for thinking differently than you. This of course has been the problem at Harvard, just south of us, where students have refused to take a class because someone they disagreed with was in that class.
This of course brings me to the greatest evidence of legalism, censorship. The very idea that one cannot hear another viewpoint is extremely legalistic. Like Conservative Fundamentalists that refuse to listen to any idea that they view as in opposition to their own. Who go out and picket funerals of soldiers and yell obscenities at LGBTQ people (I’m looking at you Westboro). Legalism is censorship because it requires you to reject and deny anything that does not agree with what you think is right. That is why I cannot stand the “Political Correct” crowd, because it requires us to censor ourselves and as soon as someone says they are offended we automatically are in the wrong.
There’s nothing wrong with being offended, there are things that should offend us and there is a huge difference between someone bringing malicious offense and someone “being offended by truth” (Brad Stine). If one is offended by truth that is their problem, not the offenders.
Now, I want to say that no all liberals are legalists, I do know and am friends with, a number of liberals who are in no way legalists and can think through the issues. They are smart people that I enjoy a multitude of interesting conversations where they push back at me and I push back at them. Understanding that good and healthy argument is an attack of the ideas and not of the person presenting them.
I think the Ancient Greeks and Romans would balk at American Society, certainly the Ancient Jew would, after gathering at the gates of the city to argue doctrine or meeting at the synagogue to do the same. Always leaving on the best of terms (for the most part). That’s why it ii said that “when two Jews get together there are three opinions represented.”
But for that to happen both sides need to drop this ridiculous idea that we should automatically accept the opinions or argumentations of another as solid fact and consider all the alternatives and facts involved in coming to a conclusion so that we can better understand the others viewpoint and show genuine care and love for one another.
And that is something I have yet to see groups like the Progressive Presby’s even try to do.