Why Our Christian Faith Should Come Before Our Political Identity

by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry 

Many liberals have long suggested that it’s impossible to be a Christian and a conservative, because the love of the poor preached by Jesus Christ is incompatible with the economic and social policies promoted by conservatives. Christian conservatives, obviously, disagree. They would say that, at least on economic and social policy, Christian liberals and Christian conservatives agree about the ends — policy that promotes the common good with a preferential option for the poor — but disagree about the means. Jesus told us to love the poor. That is not at all the same thing as voting for programs that take money from one group of people to give it to another, whatever the merits.

As a Christian and a conservative, obviously I think that’s true.

But that’s not where the story ends. It’s where it starts.

To most non-Christians — and to many Christians — Christianity is primarily a set of doctrines. But for 2,000 years, Christianity has understood itself to be fundamentally an encounter with a specific person: Jesus Christ. And Christians accept as authoritative the Gospel account of Jesus Christ’s self-description as “the Truth.” Jesus didn’t say that his doctrine was the Truth. He said that he was the Truth.

Why is this important?

Because if you believe that the person of Jesus Christ is “the Truth,” then the corollary that logically follows is that everything that is not Jesus Christ is not “the Truth.”

To put it more practically: To be a Christian is to believe that all political ideologies are suspect. And wrong. It doesn’t mean that Christians should retreat from all political ideologies — as that would also be a political ideology, and also wrong. By all means, be a Christian liberal. Be a Christian conservative. But if you are a Christian liberal, if you are a Christian conservative, then by definition there will be tensions between your Christianity and your political ideology. It’s axiomatic. And if you are a Christian first and an ideologue second, you should confront those tensions instead of papering over them.

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SOURCE: The Week

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