When “Liberal Talking Points” Are the Gospel
Two gospels are now engaged in a battle for the heart of Christianity: the gospel of the evangelical world and the gospel of progressive Christianity. Russell Moore, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today says, “Multiple pastors tell me, essentially, the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount, in their preaching — ‘turn the other cheek’ — church members will ask, ‘Where did you get those liberal talking points?'” Moore revealed. “And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ,’ the response would be, ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak.'”
When the Gospel can be interpreted as “liberal talking points” there’s trouble brewing. Conservative Christians struggle with a new public understanding that traditional Christian views on human sexuality and race are now considered unchristian and immoral. The former masters of shame are now being shamed and they don’t like it. What they called immoral, degrading, and an abomination turn out to be human love. What evangelicals deride as “liberal talking points” turn out to the Gospel of Jesus.
Conservative Christians have been the unchallenged masters of their space for longer than they can remember – white bodies, male bodies, straight bodies, rich bodies, religious bodies. They have shamefully used shame to hurt, demean, and confuse so many people. Now they are being confronted by a developing ethical consciousness, a public morality, with demands that they admit that they have been the immoral ones. They have produced violence against other bodies that haunts the comforts and superior position of righteousness they have long enjoyed. They have felt natural and comfortable when they used the most injurious language to demean, degrade, and humiliate gays. Now, they face the increasing pressure of a different point of view. There’s a sense in which secular people who are not part of the church are acting in ways that are more Christian than the Christians. Out loud and straight out I’m telling you not to be shamed by the fundamentalist gospel.
I read a Facebook post where the writer asked, “What would happen in mainline churches took down all those signs about being diverse, welcoming, embracing, affirming, radically hospitable, etc (a form of bragging) and said we were a bunch of sinners who have been found by a Savior?” This pastor belongs to one of the new denominations formed in opposition to gays.
I refuse to give up the gospel to embrace a worn-out gospel of exclusion. I’m sticking with Hebrews 13:1 – 2: “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Among the angels the church entertains are “gays” who have previously been shamed by the other gospel.
The former masters of “right and wrong” are now told, in no uncertain terms, that they were wrong to oppose gay marriage, women’s rights, and civil rights. This massive shift in the public understanding of what counts as morality, has caused a severe reaction from conservatives. In nervous, but determined ways, they have pushed back against what they consider the liberal takeover and destruction of the American way of life.
Now, these same Christians must face that what they sneer at as “liberal talking points” are actually the gospel.
One of the central commands of the gospel claims our attention: Forgive one another. Jesus commands us to forgive one another. “How often should I forgive?” This is not a question that our culture asks. “How do I get even?” That’s our question. Peter, the stumbling block, understands the implications of what Jesus requires. He asks, “If another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?
“As many as seven times?” Did Peter think that he was indicating an understanding of Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. After all, forgiveness is contrary to common sense. We cannot help but be sympathetic with Peter’s question, because it simply seems contrary to good sense to offer unlimited forgiveness.
We are members of a community based on the understanding that forgiveness is always to be offered. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week – the forgiveness place.
Unlimited forgiveness. That’s what Jesus insists. Flip through the gospels and count how many times Jeus forgives Peter for being a stumbling block, for lacking faith, for being impulsive, for being harsh and judgmental, and denying Jesus three times. And still Jesus stands ready to forgive Peter. Peter’s question presupposes that he is the one who has been sinned against. He assumes that he is in the position of power against the one who has wronged him. But Jesus’s reply reminds Peter that he is to learn to be the forgiven.
There is no limit to the forgiveness offered by the Father through the Son. If there were a limit to the Father’s forgiveness, then Peter would no longer be a disciple. Here’s an alternative to the politics based on envy, hatred, and revenge. This is what Jesus taught when teaching us to pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” The new age has begun unleashing into the world a new people, a new politics called church determined by the forgiveness wrought in this man Jesus.
Some Christians have been caught out in the open, in the view of the public, fighting against the purposes of God – the reconciliation of all humanity in one new humanity. They have mistaken the gospel for “liberal talking points.” This is a ghastly, embarrassing mistake.
- Forgiveness is not a liberal talking point; it’s the gospel. Revenge is not the gospel.
- Nonviolence is not a liberal talking point; it’s the gospel. Dealing with violence with more violence is not the gospel.
- Mercy is not a liberal talking point; it’s the gospel. Dealing with injustice by perpetuating and denying injustice is not the gospel.
- Homophobia is not the gospel. Dealing with human sexuality in ways that dehumanize and demean others for being different is not the gospel.
- Trust is not a liberal talking point. Mistrust is not the gospel.
- Acceptance, dignity, mutual respect, understanding are not liberal talking points. Trampling on the dignity of others is not the gospel.
- The Bible’s teaching on inclusion is not a liberal talking point. Using the Bible as a weapon to condemn gays, feminists, immigrants, and all others who are different is not the gospel.
- Loving enemies is not a liberal talking point. Refusing to love your enemies is not the gospel. If you refuse to forgive your enemies, you are a cross-remover.
- Reconciliation is not a liberal talking point. Resentment is not the gospel.
We have the gospel of reconciliation, forgiveness. Tell everybody.