I’m an atheist, but I believe that the teachings of Christ coincide very closely to my own when it comes to helping the poor; the sick; the most vulnerable in society. I have been saying that the left should point out the contradictions promulgated by the right regarding their “Christian” beliefs, and that we on the left have many natural allies of faith. Perhaps you have empathy as a matter of principle and believe that spreading the wealth to improve the lives of many is your personal or political ideology–does it matter if someone else shares these concerns, but as a matter of religious belief and faith? At the end of the day, they’re shared beliefs. Make that person your ally, not your enemy, simply because you have very different ways of arriving to the same destination.
Alternet supports my view it in a post today with six reasons why the religious are natural allies of the left:
A community of like-minded people, bound by similar beliefs that bridges many divides
1. There’s nothing like it if you want to bond a bunch of very diverse people into a tight community of shared meaning and value. A religious congregation brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, educational levels, professional rank, and life circumstances, and melds them into an enduring tribe that’s centered around a shared commitment to mutual trust and care…
Helping the most vulnerable in society and focusing on love, building peace, and acceptance of those who are different–these were tenets of Jesus Christ’s teaching, and they are beliefs held by the progressive left and many Christians in this country. With shared beliefs as a solid foundation, and we can build communities of like-minded people, atheists, agnostics, Christians all, to work together toward a country that shares these views, too.
Religious narratives are important
2. Religious narratives center people in the long arc of history, telling them where they came from, who they are, what they are capable of, and what kind of future is possible. History does this, too; but religion does it at a deeper, mythic level that gives these stories extra emotional and cognitive resonance.
A sense of shared destiny and building our future–together–makes sense, and in including the religious can only help. To digress a bit, I admit that I used to poke fun at God believers and their lack of syllogistic reasoning, but I think this is mainly because the far right hijacked their narrative. A Christian friend of mine said recently, “I think a lot of Christians are appalled by what’s happened to their religious beliefs and how they’ve been taken over by the republican party. However, I think a lot of them are afraid to speak out against extremists who say that they speak for them.” We need to draw on our shared interests and help Christians find their voice–at the ballot box.
Inculcating values into our young
3. Over the course of American history, liberal religious faiths have been the primary promoter of progressive values throughout the culture — and also the leading institution when it came time to inculcate our progressive sensibilities into the next generation.
I’ve said many times that if he were alive today, the teachings of Christ would be considered socialistic and anti-American in the eyes of the so-called faithful of the far right. This schism–and hypocrisy–must be pointed out to the young people in this country who are disaffected by all parties. Policy is important, and the policies of those who believe in Paul Ryan’s budget cuts for programs to the poor and Mitt “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that” Romney promises need to know that these are not things “that Jesus Would Do.”
There is no market machinery for doing good when faith guides your humanity
4. Progressive religion has always been America’s most credible and aggressive front-line defender of non-market-based values against the onslaught of capitalism and greed. In recent years, as the “free-market” fetishists took over (and gulled American Evangelicals into shilling for their hellish utilitarianism), our liberal faith communities — mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics, Jews and Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and the rising wave of reformist Muslims — are the strongest remaining cultural forces left with the moral authority to insist that we have a duty to the poor…
This is absolutely critical: the republicans have evolved into some sort of libertarian hybrid–republitarians, if you will–in which they have “stolen” christianity as their own, while adhering increasingly–and bizarrely–to the tenets of the atheistic, anti-charity, and hyper-selfish views of Ayn Rand. Truly an unholy breed of republican that repulses many lefty and moderate christians. But people who are passionate about their faith–and/or ideology–an who can make a big difference are stymying the efforts of the radical right. There are people doing it today. Ever heard of Nuns on the Bus – activist nuns who traveled the country to protest the Paul Ryan budget against that targets the poor? How about The Christian Left on Facebook, with over 80,000 followers? No? You should. They’re fighting the same fight most of you are…
The vast majority of the people in the United States believe in God
5. In a nation where over 90% of everybody has some kind of God-belief – and the overwhelming majority of them ground their political decisions in that belief — abandoning the entire landscape of faith to the right wing amounts to political malpractice.
If we’re truly a representative democracy, we need to align and coordinate with the majority, not just those who “think like us.” We must also point out, early and often, how Jesus’ views actually aligned with the views of those on the left–not with the views of this latest, most virulently selfish form of conservatism that just happened to blossom once a center-left black man entered the white house.
Inherent community building
6. progressive faiths, across the board, promote the essential belief that human communities are, in themselves, inherently and intrinsically sacred.
This is also key for the left, which is currently balkanized and splintered–many of whom care less about policy details than about having been “deceived” by some of Obama’s foreign and defense-related policies. But it’s more than Obama–it’s the state houses in the United States, and it’s the US Congress. We need to come together, see where our common interests are, and remember that no party and no president is perfect. But if we don’t act together and work toward a common goal, women’s rights, gay rights, healthcare, programs for the poor, immigration policy, and separation of church and state, are all going to be under attack by Romney’s handlers. That’s their plan: Grove Norquist stated it incredibly bluntly: “We don’t need someone to think…we need someone who knows how to hold a pen.” Ironically, it might just take alliances with the left and moderate Christians of this country to ensure that a virulent and rabid breed that twists the faith to its own ends doesn’t come to power, as they have done in many state governments throughout the US.
I have religious friends. I have agnostic friends. I have atheistic friends. One thing we all have in common? An interest in improving the lives of the most vulnerable in society. Kind of what that carpenter dude from Nazareth was about. What are your thoughts? Do you know of any Christian progressive organizations on Facebook or elsewhere? Please share in the comments. Thanks for reading.