20 Reasons Why the Christian Right & the Christian Left Won’t Adopt Me

Yesterday I published a post entitled How (Not) to Correct Another Christian. It seems that only a handful of people read it, so the take-away for me is not to post on Sundays. If you missed it, just click the link above. It addresses a real problem among Christians today and I hope it helps.

Now on to today’s subject . . .

Why the Christian Right Won’t Adopt Me

  1. Like F.F. Bruce, I believe words like “plenary” and “inerrant” are unnecessary when speaking about the truthfulness of Scripture.
  2. I don’t believe the Bible clearly addresses the question of the eternal destiny of those who have never heard or understood the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. I don’t believe Scripture answers every question posed to it. And there are many questions, including theological ones, which are shrouded in mystery.
  4. I believe that racism and sexism are serious problems in the USA and shouldn’t be viewed as “lesser” than other moral evils.
  5. I believe that slander, hatred, greed, and fits of rage are just as sinful as fornication and stealing (so did Paul – 1 Corinthians 6:10-11; Galatians 5:19-21).
  6. I don’t know whether to whistle or wind my watch, to laugh or cry at The American Patriot’s Bible.
  7. I believe that God loves the poor and taking care of them should be just as high a priority as other social issues, if not more.
  8. While I don’t believe the theory of evolution with respect to human origins is air-tight, many genuine and devout Christians (past and present) believe it to be fact (“theistic evolution”). And because Christ has received them, so do I.
  9. I believe a narrative approach to the Bible is a far superior way to understand Scripture than a systematical approach.
  10. While I disagree with him on many things, I find some of what Brian McLaren teaches to be valuable.

Why the Christian Left Won’t Adopt Me

  1. I believe the Bible – all of it – is divinely inspired, completely true, fully authoritative, and wholly reliable.
  2. I believe that when Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no man comes to the Father but by Him, He wasn’t lying. Nor was He being narrow minded. (And I believe Jesus of Nazareth actually uttered those words.)
  3. Though I possess neither, I don’t believe it is a sin to own a Cadillac Escalade or a private jet.
  4. I believe that accusing people of racism and sexism when they aren’t racist or sexist is just as wrong as racism and sexism.
  5. I sometimes think that there is too much talk about rights and not enough talk about taking responsibility.
  6. I believe that Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 still hold true today.
  7. Postmodern deconstructionism, while helpful in discounting modernity (whose fundamental tenents challenge Christianity), is inadequate for bringing one to the Truth, who is Christ.
  8. I believe there is a big difference between the world system and the ekklesia, and the former is God’s enemy (1 John 2:15-17).
  9. There are still many first-rate scholars who argue that there are sound historical and scientific reasons for believing that Adam was a real, historical person. And it is wrong to ridicule and scorn them.
  10. While I disagree with him on many things, I find some of what John MacArthur teaches to be valuable.

The Family to Which I Belong

Note that I could easily lengthen the list and expand each point. But this is a blog post, not a book.

Of course, not everyone who aligns themselves with the Christian Right affirms each point I’ve listed above. Yet many do. The same is true for those who align themselves with the Christian Left. Yet many do.

And just for good measure, I don’t believe in making a fetish out of political or theological centrism.

That said, it’s okay if the Christian Left and the Christian Right movements won’t adopt me. You see, I belong to the Family of God, which is made up of all who have the Lord’s life within them. And that includes my sisters and brothers in Christ who are on the left and the right.

It may surprise some that I have close friends and family members who are on the far right on the political and theological spectrum, and they are intensely and passionately involved in the political process.

I also have close friends and family members who are on the far left on the political and theological spectrum, and they are intensely and passionately involved in the political process.

I’m glad that they are following their vision, conscience, and passion as I believe all believers should.

Let me say two things parenthetically at this point:

(1) It’s fascinating to me that people who are part of the Christian Left and the Christian Right routinely accuse one another of accommodating the culture and supporting Caesar and Empire.

(2) As a generality, the Left believes in speaking to “power.” However, when it does, it’s usually in the areas of contra racism, alleviating poverty, protesting against unjust war, etc. In general, the Right also believes in speaking to “power.” However, when it does, it’s usually in the areas of the fight against abortion, pornography, etc.

Very rarely do we see leaders or movements today in the spirit of Joseph Cardinal Bernardine who advocated “the seamless garment,” protesting against abortion as well as the causes which produce poverty and unjust war. To Bernardine, to fight against abortion, war, poverty, and the death penalty was to be consistently pro-life.

Let me add a postscript: Being a liberal Democrat doesn’t make one “cool” any more than being a conservative Republican makes one “moral.” So it seems to me anyway.

End of parenthetical statement.

Again, I’ve always encouraged Christians to follow their vision, conscience, and passion regarding what they believe God’s will is for the world. And I applaud believers who are laboring in the trenches with respect to God’s Kingdom work. As I’ve written and spoken elsewhere, such work is important to me, and it’s something in which I’m actively engaged myself.

For that reason, while I may disagree with my friends and family members on various theological, social, and political points, we love, respect, and support one another. Especially in the work of helping those who are needy and suffering, both on the justice side and on the mercy side.

And our differences have never affected our relationship.

So even if the Right and Left movements won’t adopt me, I happily declare that I am kin to all genuine followers of Jesus, regardless of their political or theological bent. :-)

And they will know we are Christians by our love for one another.

“They drew a circle that shut me out — a heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle that took them in” (Edwin Markham).

Rick Warren and N.T. Wright

In closing, I really appreciate what Rick Warren said recently in an interview with ABC News:

“The coarsening of our culture and the loss of civility in our civilization is one of the things that concerns me most about our nation. We don’t know how to disagree without being disagreeable. The fact is, you can — you can walk hand-in-hand without seeing eye-to-eye.  And what we need in our country is unity, not uniformity. There are major differences, politically, religiously, economically in our nation. We have many different streams in our nation . . . What is solvable is how we treat each other with our differences . . . In fact, the Bible tells me in I Peter, show respect to everyone, even people I totally disagree with. So I’m coming from that viewpoint in that we must return civility to our civilization in order to get on. But the reason I do that is because of the deeper reason, there’s a spiritual root to my reason for civility.”

On a related note, not long after I wrote this post (it’s been in the queue for over a month), I learned that N.T. Wright just wrote a piece that lists how both the “left wing” and the “right wing” (his words) misread the Bible. His approach is beyond evangelical, and it serves as a great companion essay to this post.

See also9 Lies the Media Likes to Tell About Evangelical Christians

About Frank Viola

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  • http://nailtothedoor.com Dan Martin

    Hey Frank,
    Just happened across you from Kurt Willems’ blog. I really appreciate this post. I, too, find myself excluded by both the right and left “wings,” for some of the same reasons you cite, and for some different ones. I wouldn’t make exactly the same list you do, and I doubt we’d fully agree about a couple of the points on your list. If I were to add two to your list, the Right wouldn’t like my thoughts on Biblical economics, and the left definitely doesn’t like where I come out on homosexuality and the church. Plus I strongly affirm your comments about the consistent-life ethic. Thanks!

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  • http://awell-wateredgarden.blogspot.com Annette

    Great post. On most points I’m in agreement with you. I’ve read works from all these writers: N.T. Wright, John MacArthur, Rick Warren and F.F. Bruce. I know some Christians who steer clear of those authors they feel are “not correct in their beliefs.” I prefer to read and decide for myself. I grew up reading William Barclay (my dad’s favorite commentary writer.) I still love Barclay, but their are those who think he’s ghastly because of some of his views.
    Thanks.
    Annette of A Well-Watered Garden

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  • Frank Viola

    Thanks for your comment. You have a point. Though I’m sure Warren isn’t saying that we used to lie to each other and that’s a good thing. To his mind, barring the exceptions you cite, the rhetoric is less civil overall. But since he’s pretty inaccessible these days, we can’t know what specifics he would cite to support his point. (He and I have talked before about other matters, but he’s not interested in this particular conversation as I’ve asked him to discuss it recently.)

  • http://www.onpoptheology.com Benjamin Howard

    Frank, I appreciate your post and I like your reasoning for why you don’t feel a part of either “the right” or “the left”. I did, however, have a problem with your use of the Rick Warren quote at the bottom of the post. I think Mr. Warren fundamentally misrepresents history when he argues that we need a “return to civility”. This assumes that our political discourse has ever truly been civil.

    I think we forget that in our nations history a former Vice-President, Aaron Burr, shot and killed a former Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, in a duel over political disagreements. We also live in a country where in 1856 Senator Charles Sumner was nearly beat to death by Congressman Preston Brooks on the floor of the Senate. Then we fought a war over political and ideological divisions. In the 1960s John F. Kennedy was widely and publicly denounced because of his Catholic faith. If anything, the political rhetoric of actual politicians has calmed down in recent times. This belief that we used to be civil is really just an argument that we used to lie to each other better. I don’t think that’s actual civility. I think we’re doing much better.

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  • Frank Viola

    Just read any Genesis commentary by a non-evangelical scholar and the opposing view is taken. Though I believe he gives the other view in his book and then responds to it. Contrary to popular opinion, I wasn’t present during Adam’s day so I can’t give you any first-hand evidence. ;-)

  • Frank Viola

    Well, he doesn’t get around enough or his audiences are either uninformed or too timed to answer. I’ve never heard him speak myself nor have I ever shared the platform with him. There are plenty of people who are filling those shoes. But there should be more.

  • Summer Smith

    I’ll look into it, but I’d like to hear the other side.

  • http://aparchedsoul.com Grayson Pope

    I was restating, not very clearly as I read back through my comment, what Mr. Guinness mentioned in his speech. He was saying something to the degree that when he travels on speaking engagements he asks the audience who fits the bill of standing above the fray, etc., and to this day he has never received one person’s name.

  • Frank Viola

    I don’t discuss this in any detail as it’s outside my burden. But if you click the link on that particular statement, you’ll find a book written by an OT scholar which argues that Adam was a real, historic person. He goes into the controversy and articulates his position.

  • Summer Smith

    Ok. I’ve always been a literal bible reader, but recently have considered the idea that maybe some scriptures are metaphors…. However, its a brand new thought to me and quite frankly makes me really nervous to even consider. So, I’ve notices a few hints here and there that some Characters in the bible might not be historic people who actually walked the Earth. I would normally just outright disagree, but I really want to understand this view…
    ” 9.There are still many first-rate scholars who argue that there are sound historical and scientific reasons for believing that Adam was a real, historical person. And it is wrong to ridicule and scorn them.”
    Is this explained in any of your books? A quick read in a blog perhaps?
    Thanks Frank. I’m looking forward to gaining some understanding here.

  • Frank Viola

    Thx. for the comment. Good thoughts, though I don’t think it’s accurate to say “NO ONE is standing above the fray, resisting the urge to bicker, etc.” I think it’s more accurate to say that there needs to be more who are setting this standard and example.

  • http://aparchedsoul.com Grayson Pope

    I feel more and more that this idea of a loss of civility is an imperative one to understand. We are living in an age of crisis, both inside and outside the church. The fact that no one can agree to disagree agreeably only agitates the issue.

    Os Guinness recently spoke at Socrates in the City, an event put on by Eric Metaxas, about this very thing. One of his points was the fact that we have a vacuum in the area of leadership. No one is standing above the fray, resisting the urge to bicker and rediscovering the word “compromise.”

    Until we see leaders doing this and people holding them accountable for doing it, we will continue the march to polarization.

  • Frank Viola

    Typo noted and fixed. I thought the UM is incredibly diverse.

  • http://www.banditsnomore.com Richard H

    I understand the problem of non-adoption quite well. Being an evangelical United Methodist pushes me into that corner.


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