Tracy Nelson has written an essay that is percolating about the internet. It’s written from the position of a liberal Christian upset at the fanatics because the fanatics give the liberal Christians a bad name.
To an extent, I’m inclined to agree with her. Not every Christian votes against their interests and displays a Repulicanesque indifference to the suffering of others. Even I, one of the most vehemently anti-religion people on the block, must happily concede that point.
However, this line about how the fanatics get religion wrong while the liberal believers get it right is just silly. The liberal Christians use faith to claim god supports their position just the same as fundamentalist Christians, just the same as Muslims, etc. It makes no sense to say that the fundamentalists are wrong while simultaneously saying that faith is a reliable means to truth.
Therein lies the problem with liberal Christians. They are no more likely to be right about god’s existence or about his will because they’re using the same mechanism to get there as the fundamentalists. They try to use “our beliefs are different and more kind” as a segue to “our beliefs are right” and it doesn’t work that way. Most fundamentalists aren’t cruel because they lack empathy (otherwise, why would they even bother to say they love the sinner?). They’re cruel because they believe god has commanded it, and that their cruel behavior will make for a better world. Their sin is that they’re wrong. But how can the faith of the liberal be used to correct them?
Faith can be used to defend any position from “god wants us to build houses” to “god wants us to kill people.” Sure, I’m glad the liberals align with the former rather than the latter, but they’ve done nothing to establish that god truly backs them. By citing faith, they keep alive the machinery of faith that sustains the beliefs of the fundamentalists. The liberals cannot relinquish faith though, because then their beliefs about god would also crumble, leaving only their compassion motivating them to build houses (which, frankly, was what motivated them in the first place).
The only real way to effectively separate the liberal Christian from the fundamentalist in terms of credibility (after all, while the liberals are more compassionate they could be wholly wrong about god’s will) is to resort to facts and reasons. Once those are examined honestly, it becomes overtly clear that nobody rose from the dead 2,000 years ago and that compassion naturally makes for a better world to live in, and only faith or ignorance could convince anyone otherwise.