Generally speaking, those with liberal theological views tend to also have liberal political views. Conversely, those with conservative theological views tend to have conservative political views. Not always, but in most cases. So religious liberals can usually be counted on to be political and ideological liberals as well.
There are plenty of examples of this. I have written before about emerging church leader Brian McLaren, and some of his problematic liberal theological positions. Here I wish to discuss a recent piece he wrote primarily on political themes, but which also draws on theological concerns.
On October 22 he sent US President Obama ‘An Open Letter on Afghanistan’. It certainly reflects his leftist political stance, and is worrying for a number of reasons. Indeed, his opening line is enough to raise serious questions: “I am a loyal supporter of your presidency. I worked hard in the campaign and have never been as proud of my country as I was when we elected you.”
Now Christianity is ultimately above any one political position, as I have often said. Christians can and do disagree on a whole range of issues, politics included. So there will always be Christians who prefer the left side of politics.
Having said that, to offer such gushing praise and support for a President who has so many obviously unbiblical and anti-Christian emphases is a real worry. This becomes clear if we simply consider Obama’s appalling stance on two key biblical concerns. I refer to the sanctity of human life, especially the abortion debate, and the God-given institutions of marriage and family.
Perhaps no other president in US history has been as pro-abortion and anti-family as Obama has been. Yet McLaren seems to think he is God’s gift to mankind, and almost Messiah-like in his coming into office. Sorry, but I am less than impressed with the President, as are millions of other Christians worldwide.
And then there is the rest of his open letter. It seems McLaren has now become a bit of a foreign policy and international relations expert, and is offering advice to Obama on how we should proceed in Afghanistan. Let us all hope Obama does not take his advice.
It is typical leftist silliness, reflecting political naivety and theological shallowness. So common among religious leftists is a lack of political realism and moral clarity. It shows up all over this letter.
For example, he says “war is not the answer”. That makes for a great bumper sticker, but it offers nothing in the complex and multifaceted considerations over the operations underway in Afghanistan. Such clichés contribute nothing to the realities of the fight against international terrorism, stability in the Middle East, and American strategic interests in the region.
He also seeks to throw a bit of Christian morality into the discussion: “Violence breeds violence, and as Dr. King said, you can murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. As the apostle Paul said, evil must be overcome with good, which means that violence and hate must be overcome with justice and love, not more of the same.”
Once again, he achieves nothing here. Indeed, he simply confuses basic biblical teachings. Paul, in the second half of Romans 12, does indeed speak about overcoming evil with good, but he is there talking about interpersonal relationships, and the need for the Christian not to seek revenge.
It has nothing at all to do with what Paul has to say about the obligations of the state. It is a pity that McLaren did not keep reading here. For in the very next seven verses (Romans 13:1-7) Paul lays out the God-given mandate for the state, and its punishment of evil-doers.
The sword (the use of force) is given by God to the state to maintain justice and to punish those who do wrong. Thus the personal ethic taught by Jesus in Matthew 5-7, or Paul in Romans 12, needs to be balanced by the social ethic taught by Paul and others in Scripture.
Both types of ethics are taught in the Bible, and both should be acknowledged. But our friends on the religious left want to ignore altogether the social ethics found in the Bible, and simply refer to those passages clearly dealing with how Christians should personally conduct their affairs.
McLaren goes on to tell Obama that instead of military involvement, we should take “the $65 billion we would have spent there in the coming year and turn it into an aid and development fund”. But this is also foolish and reckless, for a number of reasons.
He implies that US funds either go into military efforts, or into relief and community work. But it is not an either/or, but a both/and. US money is going into both at the moment. It is seeking to weed out the militant jihadist insurgency while also helping to rebuild an impoverished nation.
Moreover, McLaren has bought into the leftist fallacy so often heard that somehow terrorism is really all due to poverty and economic privation, and that if we just helped people in these countries economically, they would all of a sudden stop all their suicide bombing missions.
Sorry, but this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Islamists. They hate the US and the West, – not because of privations or want in the Middle East – but because of the very values and ideals which America and the West stand for. They hate our freedoms, our pluralism, our separation of church and state, and our freedom of conscience and religion.
Indeed, we know that most terrorists are themselves not poor at all, but have come from the middle and upper classes of their societies. So wealth and poverty as such is not the issue. The issue is, we have a dedicated group of Islamists who want to destroy Israel, the US, and their allies.
No amount of “aid and development” funding will alter that. Sure, we should be – and we are – helping countries like Afghanistan in all sorts of ways, including the rebuilding of the nation, with social, economic and other types of aid.
But the idea that we can just send the troops home and send in a lot of money, and hope everything will just end up fine and dandy is the stuff of fairy tales, not hard-headed realism. But the religious left has certainly never been guilty of having an abundance of the latter.
The truth is, Obama is already surrounded by plenty of leftists who are soft on terrorism and common sense. Obama has already done far too much by way of appeasing America’s – and Israel’s – enemies, and has been far too cosy with Islam, all the while denigrating Christianity and America. He does not need another religious leader telling him to do more of the same.