Being Christian and liberal in today’s political landscape.
“You mean, like those Republicans we always make fun of?” my dad worriedly asked, the first time I told him that I considered myself to be a Christian. Unlike most people, my faith was not a tradition passed down to me. My parents held their own beliefs and gave my sisters and me the freedom to do the same. About a year ago, I officially decided to take on the label of “Christian,” and all of the baggage that comes along with it.
If my dad’s reaction to my newly found faith is any indication, being a Christian, in the context of the U.S., extends well beyond religious doctrine. My dad wondered if loving Jesus went hand-in-hand with denouncing immigrants, denying proper birth control to women and advocating for the death penalty. In my mind, those things could not be more opposite. But to my father, and to many Americans, Christianity seems rooted in Republicanism.
In the U.S., religion and politics are two close cousins. Two uncomfortably close cousins. That’s not to say that religion has no place in politics – to separate the two would be to deny the all-encompassing influence that faith has on a believer’s opinions. Rather, what is uncomfortable is the way certain political agendas have been championed under the name of religion.
While I am in no position to delegitimize another’s religious beliefs, I feel inclined to challenge the fervent insistences of conservatives in the GOP Party: that theirs is the side of Jesus Christ.
The Religious Right, or the Christian Right, has taken upon itself to paint Christianity in one terrifyingly broad stroke as conservative Republicanism. But why has Christianity been assigned to a political party?
My father’s assumption that becoming a Christian also meant becoming a Republican spoke volumes to the interconnectedness of Christianity and Republicanism in the U.S. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that that intersectionality, at least to some degree, has been crafted.
According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2014, about 49 percent of Americans who considered themselves “very religious,” also categorized themselves as Republicans. The rest of the “very religious” was divided, with 36 percent identifying as Democrats and 11 percent as Independents.
Notably, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that, in 2014, 71 percent of Americans identified themselves as Christian. Now, consider this: with 47 percent of Americans identifying with the Democratic Party and 41 percent with the Republican Party, one should expect a great variety of political opinions within the Christian majority.
Yet, when you try to find a religiously-minded, but politically-opposed side to the Religious Right, you end up with nowhere to go. Scouring the web, I stumbled upon homemade sites for the “Christian Left” and “Religious Left,” leading me to realize the lack of representation and organization for Christian liberals. While Republicans overemphasize their moral and religious beliefs, injecting “Jesus” and “God” wherever they can, it is increasingly more important to understand that an entire faith cannot be squeezed into a political agenda.
Though I will not deny Ted Cruz the validity of his faith, I also will not tolerate him as the face of what it means to be a political Christian in the U.S. As a liberal Democrat, my love for that bearded, sandal-wearing guy who gave His life on the cross some 2,000 years ago is in no way contentious to my advocacy for stricter gun control laws, a better welfare state or a universal healthcare system. In fact, my Christian beliefs reaffirm my political stances.
When I think of my religion, I consider the example Christ set for humanity. In John 13:35, Jesus tells His disciples that it is their love that will make them identifiable as Christians. Something my fellow Christians on the right seem to have trouble remembering is that being Christian is meant to open your mind and heart. It is meant to be a label that resists the very definition of “label,” because being Christian is about being inclusive, rather than exclusive. When I realize that I am a child of God, it is followed by the realization that everyone is a child of God, and for that reason alone, they deserve your love and respect.
It is these fundamentals of my Christian faith that make me advocate for us to open our prosperous and resourceful arms to the 2 million refugees thrown out of their homes. My faith compels me to want to right the wrongs of the “war on drugs,” the mass incarceration of my brothers and sisters who have been unjustly targeted. My Christian faith is what grounds me in the belief that every life choice is different and to be respected. The government cannot deny women those life choices, especially not by defunding organizations who help women facing the toughest of choices, in often the poorest of conditions. Jesus opened His arms to the underprivileged in society, and as such, we should, too.
Several weeks ago, I stood in a sea of over 15,000 people in the Boston Convention and Exhibit Center. From college students to elderly couples, all adorning the same “Feel the Bern” stickers and pins, we cheered on as a old white man, fearless in his passion, spoke about how our families deserve paid family leave, how our prison-complex system should focus more on rehabilitation than on punishment and how negotiations must be tried and tried again before every resorting to war.
If you ask me, were Jesus to still be walking around in his sandaled feet today, he would have been right there, cheering alongside me.
By: Alicia Abbaspour ’18