Tonight I had a fantastic conversation with a good friend! In fact, it was so good that we concluded it outside the restaurant where it began in 27°F weather!
What topic could induce such lively debate, you ask?
It started by my proposing a hypothetical question. I confess that it was a bit dubious as I intended it to be a trick question, but I don’t think he took it as such. Here was the question:
If Christ were alive today, would he be more conservative or liberal?
Without missing a beat, he answered conservative. I rebutted with the concepts of grace and the gospel, pointing to a more liberal leaning. He didn’t see them as such. He felt that the more modern connotations of liberalism (veiled socialists and the like) and conservatism (capitalist ideology like “honest work, just reward” as Javert was wont to say) swayed his answer. I argued for the lost meanings of both words.
I explained that (in my view) the true beauty of Christ’s new gospel was in its acceptance of the dichotomies, whether they be conservative/liberal, socialist/free-market, Republican/Democrat. In preaching grace — an undeserved favor — Christ threatened the establishment of his day. No longer were his followers totally under the law code of Judaism. Even prostitutes, drunkards, and the diseased could eat with this Master. How many staunch Republicans would risk their reputation to personally talk to a whore (sorry, “sex trade worker”) about her medical needs?
But at the same time, Christ said that he wasn’t there to supplant the law at all. His message had fulfilled its very essence. When asked by the contemporary legalists which were the two greatest commandments (in itself a trick question!), Christ answered that there were only two: love God, and love your neighbor. Simple as that. That is a very liberating message. No longer do you have to concern yourself with what constitutes physical labor on the Sabbath, or any other obscure stricture of the law. Now, you just have two things to do.
And yet in this simplicity is a certain profundity. You see, if you are truly able to obey those two basic commandments of Christ, you will have attained a christ-consciousness, an impossibility if there ever was one. In short, it is an ideal for us to strive for. Even further, you will have unwittingly followed all of the Law in so doing. Pretty nifty, huh?
Basically, my point was this: Christ was all about pointing out that we keep missing the point. We over-emphasize dogmatism and extremes. We love black and white literal definitions. I believe (as was my original intent to play the neutral party in the discussion) that there are equal parts liberalism and conservatism to Christ’s message of Good News. His truth was a very liberating enlightenment to a people oppressed by the Law. Yet his truth was also shocking and scandalous, threatening to everyone at one point or another. The extremist religious leaders saw him as a threat to their authority, the Romans desired peace in the provinces and had to deal with the situation, and even the people that had accepted him at one point eventually wanted him dead too. Truth hurts.
In this way, I feel that Christ was the ideal conserving Liberator, or liberating Conservationist, depending on your perspective! Thank goodness Christ doesn’t compartmentalize like we do! There is no Christian “right” or “left” political platform as far as Christ is concerned. There is only two ideals that we ought to bother with, and the rest are distracting details.
- Love God
- Love one another
Pretty simple, isn’t it?