My wife has posted quite capably on the “Formerly Known” series of essays sweeping across the websites and blogs of we the disenchanted with the institutions and traditions that have appropriated the name Christ gave to those dedicated to a life following Him: “The Church.” Her contributions have been posted both here and at her own blog. One thing however, I believe to be missing. Please find that missing element – my meager contribution to this discussion – below.
A Former Footsoldier of the “Christian Right”
I am the one who, at age 13, began writing letters to the editor of his local paper, reminding readers of the need to remember the true meaning of Christmas, the original intent of the Constitution, and the importance of prayer in schools.
I am the one who made repeated calls to Capitol Hill when Congress tried to take away my right to an education as I and my parents saw fit.
I am the one who interned in my Congressman’s district office as a freshman in high school.
I am the one who, too young to vote myself, convinced my parents not to vote for Bob Dole in the Republican Primary of 1996 because he was not conservative enough.
I am the one who, in high school and college, engaged in public debate for pro-life and pro-marriage issues.
I am the one who participated in both the Young Republicans and the Campus Crusade on the grounds of my overwhelmingly liberal California community college.
I am a three-time attendee of the Conservative Political Action Conference
I missed the 2000 inauguration of President Bush only because I was away from my college campus near D.C., participating in a mock court debate over whether or not religious expression should be allowed on public property.
I am a former footsoldier of the Christian Right.
I watched as my parents and the rest of the voting-age population handed Congress to the Republicans in 1994, and I rejoiced. I watched as the Clinton administration was succeeded by President Bush, and I cheered. I believed both of these events to be signs of God working in the government of my country.
Along with my fellow students, fellow church members, and friends, I spoke out against government intervention in personal matters, and in favor of a constitutional ban on homosexual marriage.
Along with these same fellows, I argued against the war in Bosnia because it was a “foreign entanglement,” and in favor of invading Iraq because it was a “national security threat.”
I claimed that it was a crime for President Clinton to lie about sexual relations with an intern, but that President Bush needed the ability to authorize torturing captured prisoners.
I derided the government’s desire to track those who buy guns, while supporting the PATRIOT Act that allows them to track those who borrow books.
I am a recovering hypocrite.
By all appearances, it seems that those who desire to live from a logically consistent worldview tread a lonely path. Everywhere one turns, another church, politician or interest group is touting the right to free speech – while attempting to stifle an opposing point of view. Once upon a time I believed this activity to be strictly on the part of “the liberal left.” Those who saw the same tendency from the other side decried a “vast right wing conspiracy.”
We were both wrong.
Power corrupts, whether one is republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, Christian or athiest. Double-standards do not respect religious or partisan boundaries.
Politicians, pastors, and pundits, Christian school presidents and para-church organization leaders beware. The time in which you can isolate us, manipulate our thought processes and bend us to your will is coming to an end. We are learning that we are not alone.
We are learning, as well, that where once you may have hoped to further the cause of Christ, now you work to further the cause of your own ability to control us.
We are tired of hearing that abortion and homosexuality are “God’s topics,” while poverty and racism are not. We believe that God cares just as much about a family struggling to find its next meal as he does about an unborn baby.
We walk through the woods and see the same pile of strewn trash and abandoned beer cans that you see – but where you lament that people are partaking of alcohol, we grieve that they are despoiling God’s creation and denying us the ability to enjoy the same pristine environment that hosted their celebrations.
We are tired of hearing that it is our God-given duty to open our checkbooks to your building funds or election campaigns. Some of us call ourselves “emergent,” or “missional,” or “outchurched.” I call us “Christian Libertarians.”
We are discovering that we do not need you anymore.
We are learning that God does not tell us which party to vote for. We are learning that Scripture contains no “pastoral role.” We are discovering that you are not necessary to organize, motivate, preside over, or govern us.
We are remembering that Christ urged us to “give to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God the things which are God’s” – and we are realizing that in this equation, you are nowhere to be found.
We are discovering that you are only relevant as long as we allow you to be, and we are beginning to revoke that permission.
We are the former footsoldiers of the so-called “Christian Right”
. . . And we are defecting.