Liberal Christian Converts are Not Our Allies

Liberal Christian Converts are Not Our Allies March 10, 2015

Some of you might recall when Daily Beast journalist Kirsten Powers first announced that she was a Christian. A lot of conservatives were very excited about it, but after reading her testimony, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, obviously I was glad to see a public figure making an open profession of faith. However, the way she did it rubbed me the wrong way, because she insisted on going on about how wonderful it was that she could reconcile most of her liberal politics with her faith (barring abortion). Since then, she has admitted that liberals can be intolerant and biased too, but she has still staked out her position clearly in favor of homosexual unions. I had some choice words for her non-contributions to that particular conversation here.

Well, it looks like yet another liberal Daily Beast contributor has made a profession of faith and is being met with the same overly optimistic reactions. Her name is Ana Marie Cox, and you can read her conversion testimony here. I came across it because I follow Professor Denny Burk’s cultural commentary blog regularly, and he referred enthusiastically to the piece. In it, Cox explains that she has been afraid to “come out” as a Christian not because she was worried about the reaction from atheist friends, but because she worried that her liberal politics wouldn’t be welcomed by other Christians. She has since written a follow-up piece saying how humbled she was by the outpouring of encouragement she received instead. But frankly, given the tone and the stance she adopts in her article, I’m not convinced that other Christians should have been so quick to set her mind at rest.
Cox spends an inexplicably large chunk of her article being strangely defensive about Obama’s Christianity. She complains about the fact that conservatives like Erick Erickson have said Obama isn’t a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. I can’t tell whether she’s being purposefully naive or really doesn’t get it when she suggests this is because Obama doesn’t go to church regularly, or has a shallow knowledge of the Bible. Um, how about the fact that his administration is built on corruption and lies? How about the fact that he has consistently squelched religious liberty for Christians at every turn? How about the fact that he can’t even condemn ISIS without making ignorant and bizarrely anachronistic moral equivalence references to the Crusades? Worst of all, try billions of dollars poured into the murder of unborn children. That alone should be case closed.
But for some strange reason, Cox evades all of these uncomfortable little facts, because they don’t suit her purpose. And her purpose, at least in this piece, is to throw a bit of a self-pity party. Because, you see, she’s a poor, lonely little liberal Democrat in a sea of mean conservative Christians, and she’s worried that somebody might laugh at her liberal Democrat political views and hurt her feelings. Just like President Obama! She babbles, “I know that when conservatives talk about Obama’s faith, they are also talking race, fear, society, and status, as well as winning elections.”
What reaction gif
Moving on…
Here’s the uncomfortable truth: As Christians, we can be so focused on converting people to the bare essentials of faith that we neglect the importance of presenting a holistic Christian worldview. I’m going to bet that the people who converted Anna Marie Cox either were liberal Christians themselves or just didn’t consider it important to explain why you can’t be “an advocate for LGBT rights” and have a worldview consistent with Christianity. I won’t go so far as to say that you can’t be a Christian at all if you’re confused on this issue, but I can definitely say that you suffer from contradictory thinking. I am even more concerned if you still call yourself “pro-choice” and can still throw your breathless support behind the most pro-abortion president in American history. If I’m still expected to embrace you as a fellow Christian in that case, I can only conclude that you are a very foolish one. Sorry if that sounds mean, but that’s why they call it “tough love.” So, how ’bout them Yankees!!
The bottom line is that as long as Anna Marie Cox is still this badly confused on basic moral issues, she needs a lot more time to get her worldview sorted out. As it is, she is merely muddying the waters and confusing younger Christians who may be insecure in their own worldviews. I’m willing to accept that she understands the basic tenets of Christianity and has a sincere desire to follow Christ. But it’s clear that she is not ready to share her faith from this kind of a platform yet, and at the risk of appearing churlish, her fellow Christians need the toughness of mind to tell her that in so many words. This woman doesn’t need soothing reassurances, she needs to be shaken up still further in her beliefs. She needs to hear unborn screams in the night. She needs to understand what the word “marriage” means. Maybe five more years down the line, she will. We can only hope and pray that that will be the case.
Until then, please, fellow conservative Christians, stop telling people like her that everything is okay, because it’s not. Stop enthusiastically pointing to such testimonies as “powerful,” because they’re not. And stop encouraging these new converts to become opinion-makers and lecture the Church on how we’ve been “doing it wrong” when it comes to attracting new believers. We did this with Kirsten Powers, and she promptly started writing pro-homosexual opinion pieces. In this time of culture war, it is necessary to acknowledge that liberal Christian converts are not our allies. They are badly muddled souls in need of careful guidance and counseling. We can still rejoice at their steps toward grace, but we must not rejoice to the extent that we hand a microphone to people who need to be sitting quietly in the pews.

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  • Beth

    Yup, I agree. Am reminded of the warning in I Timothy 3 that a pastor/bishop should not be a novice. It’s a different scenario but I think still a valid principle that people new in the faith need time to mature. Babes don’t lead grownups.

  • Agreed. Liberals are not Christians and Christians are not liberals.

  • Now I didn’t QUITE say that. I still think it’s possible for there to be liberal Christians, but only if they’re either really new or a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Liberal rhetoric is like The Force: It has a strong influence on the weak-minded. (Star Wars reference. Somebody got it.)

  • Kiley

    Hmm. Looks like last time I commented was on your other Kirsten Powers piece a year ago. I guess that means I’m obsessed with her.
    I’m glad you’re stressing it being a liberal worldview, not some isolated strand of liberalism academically; it subtly pervades all dimensions of liberal Christianity. This qualification seems to be lost in the conversation. They may say they support gay marriage and are against, say, adultery, but I have yet to come across any Christian from a liberal worldview (particularly ones who would desperately not acknowledge that they are liberal) who has yet to speak up as loudly against adultery as they do in support of gay marriage. They are against adultery in word, not in voice. Their voice remains curiously silent.
    Some years ago I remember you saying that not all sins are equal. Liberal Christianity, not to be outdone, takes that one step further: not all sins can even hope to become audible. Adultery is merely a silent sin. Nothing more.

  • Jan

    You’ve really stepped in it now. 🙂 I read the Ana Marie Cox article and cringed. I realize believers can have honest disagreements about spiritual things, however are there not some basic tenets of the faith that transcend our opinions? I find it sobering to read some of the “enlightened” views of what the Word of God says and means. The battle lines are being drawn and contending for the faith takes on a very serious meaning. As you have experienced yourself, be prepared to be called some pretty nasty names.

  • Oh, this is really par for the course for me. (You should see some of the things I’ve written on the race issue.) Honestly though, I get so little feedback on this blog that I typically don’t censor comments unless they’re just pure vitriol.
    The thing is, I know Prof. Denny Burk isn’t remotely flaky on any of these issues, but I think a lot of conservatives like him are just too quick to be optimistic when stories like this come out. They want to be welcoming and hope for the best, but I think we have proof that we can’t assume there will be a significant change. Kirsten Powers has had more of an evolution than Cox, but even she remains seriously confused on some key points.