Conservative Christians need to outgrow binary thinking

Conservative Christians need to outgrow binary thinking December 9, 2020

The universe is complex and full of nuance. A binary approach – right/wrong (i.e. my way/highway) – is just too simplistic.

The conservative program (in which I was a participant for most of my life) is led by (usually) white men who often create viewpoints based on decontextualized, narrowly-interpreted Bible verses. Alternatively, they may operate from a narrow interpretation of the Bill of Rights or other top-down “discernment.” Their words are delivered to us as if incorruptible, and we dutifully repeat them.

It is impossible to have a reasonable conversation with people inside this system. For example:

Me: Abortion is tragic, but so is raising a child in abject poverty and hopelessness.

She: “Thou shalt not kill.”

Me: Abortion is tragic, but conservative lawmakers restrict access to contraceptives.

He: “Thou shalt not kill.”

Me: Abortion is tragic, but”

She: Let me save you some time. “Thou. Shalt. Not. Kill.”

Mind you, I’m not asking anyone to condone abortion – just to think about it with a little nuance. Thinking is apparently not an option.

Which is the greatest commandment? Depends.

The thing is, “thou shalt not kill” doesn’t apply when someone is on death row (and apparently, DT may be bringing the firing squad back??).

“Thou shalt not kill” doesn’t apply to anyone stupid enough to be born in Iran, Palestine, or Yemen.

When it comes to gun control, “thou shalt not kill” is superseded by “the right to bear arms.”

When it comes to asylum-seekers trying to escape death, “thou shalt not kill” is overruled by “follow the rules.”

There is one right answer for every issue (whether it is rational or not), and everything else is wrong and unworthy of consideration. This is a real problem.

History repeats itself

The failure to think outside the my-way-or-the-highway box has gotten Christians into trouble so many times, you’d think by now we’d learn our lesson. We marched into the Crusades because the Pope told us to, we supported slavery because someone told us it was “in the Bible,” we supported Jim Crow because someone told us about the “curse of Ham,” we oppose Black Lives Matter because someone told us it’s Marxist, etc. etc.

Now it’s all about the pandemic and the election. We were told the Covid statistics are not to be trusted, the mask mandates are not to be followed, attending church is “freedom of religion.” We were told the election results are not credible (unless Trump pulls out a win) and Biden is going to destroy our country. We believe and we repeat.

Instead of going to Scripture (especially the life and words of Jesus), instead of thinking critically, instead of pondering the best way to love our neighbors, instead of recognizing that we’ve made an idol of an abhorrent man – we’ve dug in our heels.

We’re clinging to simplistic, black-and-white thinking.

Conservative-splaining

Spike in Covid cases? Either masks don’t really work after all, or health officials are inflating the numbers. Those are the options. It’s not our fault for going to church and having Thanksgiving parties (and resisting the mask mandate months ago). And don’t tell us to stay home for Christmas.

Our candidate didn’t win the election? Voter fraud, ballot fraud, Russia – anything except he didn’t get enough votes.

Vaccines? No thanks, they’re going to inject me with a chip, and they’re going to inject me with an aborted baby – this has nothing to do with public safety. It’s about my personal freedom.

Woman’s right to choose? God told me that I should decide what all women should do with their bodies.

People crossing into my country without express permission? God told me that some parents shouldn’t risk everything to give their kids a better life – they need their kids taken away, permanently.

Gay marriage license? God told me that I should decide whose marriage to validate.

Let us end this simplistic thinking now.

Got nuance? Get some.

Your neighbors need you to do your share to end the pandemic. If you don’t, it hurts them, not you. Think outside the little box you’ve climbed into.

Your candidate lost the election. Somebody else won this time. Deal with it, and submit to authority, as you told me to do 4 years ago. Stop listening to the billionaires who don’t care about you.

If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one. Just don’t tell other people they can’t. Be a Christian person, not a Christian nationalist. (Perhaps read this.)

If you don’t like undocumented residents, reread these verses, reread the life and words of Jesus. Can you really picture Jesus turning away the needy? (Maybe read this.)

If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t participate in one. Just don’t tell other people they can’t. And get to know some gay people. (And read this.)

 

Most of all, think deeply and with nuance. Life contains many shades of grey (at least fifty, I’ve been told). Don’t assume everyone who doesn’t think like you must be wrong. (Also read this.)
And sign up for my free newsletter for more challenges.

FEATURED IMAGE: “think” by regolare is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Browse Our Archives



TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

3 responses to “Conservative Christians need to outgrow binary thinking”

  1. Agree with your article, but I would argue that part of the problem is that people engage in binary thinking because the alternative terrifies them…Accepting a view or belief about God without asking if it is true and parroting what you hear in a sermon is MUCH easier than trying to think for yourself and form your own theological views…I would suggest that the people you are referring to in your article have little appetite for self reflection or introspection because they are afraid to ask themselves difficult questions about God and their own beliefs out of fear that they might lose faith if they don’t get the answers they want…Deconstructing one’s faith is at times a terrifying, confusing, and not always reassuring…It’s not an easy journey and I think most people would rather stay where they are than deal with asking themselves hard questions about what they truly believe bc it might not square up against the theology of the mega church they attend. (Just a thought). Thank you for your article. 🙂

  2. Good article. Sadly you’ve only begun to describe the insane beliefs of the “religious right”.

    I would point out that using Yemen as an example of a killing field was on point, but Iran is significantly less dangerous and “Palestine” even less than Iran. If it’s a lot of mass killing we’re after, look at Syria, the civil wars in central Africa, the actions of drug cartels in Mexico, Guatemala, etc. That’s a lot of blood!

    The cognitive dissonance being experienced by these right-wingers could cause serious explosions. If these all occur at once, it could be a significant national disaster.

  3. Binary thinking has its origin in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Death is the result of binary. God is not binary, but trinary, where the third bit is life. Make choices that embrace life. The option that best embraces life is dependent on other factors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.