- I am theologically moderate
- I am politically conservative
- I am methodologically liberal
Confused yet? Me too! Here’s my train of thought:
I am theologically moderate
Theologically, I am not a fan of any extremes. On moral issues, scripture is not always “black and white.” A lot of times scripture is gray. Where scripture is black and white, I embrace it and do not attempt to make it gray. And where scripture is gray, I do not attempt to make it black and white.
For example, issues like sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, life at conception, drunkenness, racism, lying, stealing…I think scripture is black and white on these issues. These are not gray areas. It takes a ton of theological maneuvering, twisting, and “contextualization” of the scripture to make these issues fit current social norms. A liberal theologian finds a way to make these issues gray. You have to deconstruct foundational christian doctrines regarding sin, the need for a savior, and the inspiration of Scriptures in order to accommodate your feelings on these issues. I know some folks who would love to deconstruct those foundations, and they’d rebuild christianity on the shifting sands of cultural relativism and secular humanism.
There are some gray area issues in the Bible like alcohol consumption, dating, kissing, gambling, smoking, clothing, music, movies, television, birth control, dancing, spending your money, home schooling, etc…the scriptures are gray about these things. It’s unclear if any Biblical author is making black and white statements on these issues, so I refuse to be a conservative who turns these into black and white issues, encroaching on religious legalism and dogma. I won’t make dress codes or “anti-smoking” a Bible thing, I’ll just let those be health things and preference things.
Where the Bible is gray, I let it remain gray. Where the Bible is black and white, I embrace and submit my life to it. There is a difference between spiritual preferences and Biblical principles.
I am politically conservative
While my faith and beliefs DO inform my political perspective, I understand that many social and political issues stretch beyond the Bible. Politics is not a spiritual responsibility, but a civic responsibility. After considering various terms and definitions, I would consider myself to be politically conservative. This is not necessarily because of my religious beliefs, but because I desire to live in a nation where the government has less control and regulation. It has flaws, but I’m a fan of capitalism as an economic system. (And yes, I’ve been poor. I’ve stood in line for cans of peanut butter and slept in homeless shelters. This isn’t a rich kid talking.) I do like a bigger military, I am Pro Life, I believe healthcare, college education, and monetary income is a privilege to work for, not a right to be entitled to. Ultimately, I think government, schools, churches, and especially PARENTS should set and hold Americans accountable to moral standards…because freedom comes with great responsibility, and our constitution only works if the people are decent, good, and moral.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” -John Adams
I am methodologically liberal.
I might have made this up. I have never actually heard of this phase before, so my guess is the Political Science world or the philosophy scene is using this phrase with a different definition. Sorry to hijack the phrase and use it wrongly!
What I mean is my methods, or “the way I do things” (behavior, actions, dress, preach, etc) do not conform to traditions or religious/institutional expectations. I might use language that most preachers won’t, or I might sip on a beverage in public that most preachers will only do behind closed doors. But more specifically, I might go out of my way to show love to someone that doesn’t fit into my theological or political framework. For example, based on my theological views one might assume I’m homophobic. Or based on my political views one might assume I’m rich or snooty. But because of my “methods” and lifestyle, you might be surprised that I love and accept people who don’t fit into the box you’ve already put me in.
The reverse is true, too. I get misjudged and maligned by religious and political conservatives because of my attempts at communicating love, acceptance, or concern for people who are the opposite of what I represent. So this really puts me in a tough spot because the way I do things threatens their beliefs, and they don’t realize that I actually believe the same things as them, I just don’t always think or behave like they do.
Liberals are usually attracted to me as a pastor until they find out that I am theologically and politically aligned with their enemy.
And conservatives like me as a pastor until I preach in a t shirt, talk about alcohol, or tell too many poop jokes.
It may not make sense, and I might change my mind tomorrow, but for now I’m claiming to be theologically moderate, politically conservative, and methodologically liberal.