Potentially another coming out story, of sorts. I previously wrote (with some fear and trembling about what my many Christian friends would think) of my journey away from evangelicalism. Now here I am again, possibly coming out of yet another closet, with an opportunity to alienate a whole different group of friends.
For much of my life I was a closeted liberal. While a part of the conservative Christian church, I kept discovering that many of my personal convictions didn’t seem to line up with the party line. While immersed in the institution founded by the “they will know we are Christians by our love” itinerant first century preacher, I kept discovering that my own convictions seemed more compassionate, more justice-focused, more humane than those of my own religion. I know that sounds arrogant – and I hate that it sounds that way. I am certainly not saying that I myself am more loving than my Christians friends. Far from it. I can be kind of an asshole when I’m not careful, and I have so many Christian friends who are the most loving, kindhearted people I know. (The church I attended was also a very loving place.) But my actual convictions – my positions on social issues – just seemed to me to be more compassionate than those of the evangelism movement, and this was confusing to me for many years. I would want to collect money to support hungry kids in Africa, and I’d have Christians tell me they wouldn’t help out because we weren’t handing out Bibles or preaching at them. I would want to help low-income people who are being evicted from their trailer park, and some Christians would refuse to donate for fear of “enabling these people’s dependent lifestyles.” I would develop a close friendship with someone who was gay, and a Christian would warn me about not appearing to condone sin.
Eventually, of course, I embraced my inner-liberal, and have been a happy camper ever since. But lately I’ve been experiencing some strange thoughts and urges that confuse me. Last week I noticed myself cringing when I discovered the Facebook communities called “Republicans are morons,” “The Republican party makes me sick’” and “Liberals who hate conservatives.” Then I noticed feelings of empathy when I read about sincere, Christian employers who were put into a moral and ethical no-win situation when the government required them to pay for their employees’ “morning after pills,” essentially forcing them to fund what they believe to be murder. And I’m suddenly uncomfortable with the black and white, reactive responses to nuanced issues that I sometimes see on liberal websites and publications – the same kinds of responses they regularly denounce conservatives for.
What is happening to me?
Is it possible that I’m bi-political??? God, what will my friends say when they find out?
Ok, here’s what I’m going to do…right now, as I write this article. I’m going to creative a self-administered political inventory to help me figure out where I really stand. I’m going to choose several issues in which liberals and conservatives tend to disagree (see graph on the left), then assign positions along a spectrum (see below) ranging from a negative five (totally liberal) to a positive five (totally conservative), with zero representing a “middle of the road” approach, as in “I see equal validity and truth on both sides.”
Again – I’m doing this in real-time. You are going to see the result of my self-administered survey just a few minutes after I do. Here we go!
I’m starting out with a tough one. (And this is one of the reasons I started to suspect I was bi.) Weirdly enough, I am against murder (as I kind of hope you are). So the question does seem to come down to when a “fetus” becomes a “human,” and thus a being that can be “murdered.” I have to be honest – I have trouble with the whole “a trip through the birth canal magically makes you a human being” argument. So then the question becomes…well, when? When does the baby become less an extension of the woman’s body and more an actual person? And this isn’t a religious question for me: If anything (for what it’s worth) I think the Bible supports non-personhood for the fetus, as in Exodus 21:22 where killing a woman is a capital offense, but causing a miscarriage leads to only a monetary fine. For me it’s a matter of the “slippery slope.” Is it morally justifiable to kill a baby one second after birth? I think not. Well, what about one second before birth? See what I mean? I feel stuck on this one. But I also think it’s ridiculous to extend “personhood” back to conception or the zygote. But on the other hand, what about abortions for preferred sexual orientation, gender, and other physical preferences? That makes me sort of sick. But on the other hand (how many hands am I up to here?), I have a real hard time with the government mandating what is right for women in terms of their own bodies and their own health care. It seems like this needs to be the woman’s decision…not congress’s. And I definitely feel anger toward conservatives who call themselves “pro-life,” but really only care about the life of a fetus, and don’t seem to give a shit (policy-wise) about what happens to the life of the child after it’s born. And don’t even get me started on the war on birth control. I give myself a +1 on this one.
I’ve written extensively about this elsewhere on this blog, and I’m pretty solid in my position. While I don’t view the second amendment as granting a right to individuals to own guns (the whole “well regulated militia” thing), I do think it’s unnecessary and even tyrannical for the government to outlaw guns completely. But (pay attention, here, right-wingers) no one is trying to do that! People do have basic rights to own things, including guns (although not necessarily constitutionally granted), but I also have a basic right not to be shot by you. I believe that what Obama is proposing is right on target (pardon the pun). Ban certain assault weapons (whose actual purpose is to kill as many people as possible in the quickest way possible), beef up regulations around background checks, provide better mental health services, deal with early prevention, and more.
So, where do I fall on my scale? My gut tells me to get as far away from the NRA nuts as possible…but that’s not actually difficult, since they are at probably a positive 7 on my scale. I give myself a -3
3. Gay rights/gay marriage
I don’t care who people have sex with, or who they marry. However, this one took me awhile to get here. My traditional way of thinking kept me back for many years – and I have to admit, I still have a little nostalgia for the old “man and wife” idea. But the bottom line for me is human rights. Being gay is not a choice – our sexuality is an ingrained, integrated, deeply personal and even sacred part of who we are, and to deny someone even one commonly enjoyed privilege due to this aspect of their personhood to me seems immoral. I’m a -4. (I’m only not a -5 because I’m still “letting go” of my old sense of propriety and my years of Biblical moralism.) (Writing my “truth” articles helped me a lot with this, by the way.)
4. Religion in the public sphere
The separation of church and state is an essential component of our constitution and our system of government. The framers were very specific about this. The bill currently being considered in Arizona requiring high school students to take a loyalty pledge ‘in God’s name’ in order to receive their diploma is just the latest symptom of the slow erosion of Jefferson’s “wall of separation,” and I applaud the ACLU’s watchdog work in this area. This country is not a theocracy, thank the gods. Your religious beliefs are personal, and no matter how important they are to you, you do not have the right to impose them on me through government action.
That being said, I have to be honest – I get really cranky when liberals go all spastic about public nativity scenes and crosses and such. Give it a rest, guys. Live and let live. I’m giving myself a -3.
(One more note: FOX news’ “war on Christmas” is a freak show. Has anyone told them that the word “holiday” – as in “happy holidays” – is from an ancient word meaning “holy?” Back off, FOX, and maybe try to find some actual news to report.)
5. Legislating morality
I’m a mess on this one. As stated previously, I don’t care who people have sex with. I also don’t care what people smoke. I do care, however, how you treat people. Liberals want the government to stay out of their bedrooms, but they demand that the government punish people who say mean things, as in “hate speech.” I’m pretty torn on this one. I hate racism, I despise the Ku Klux Klan, I’m passionate about stopping bullying…but I also believe in freedom of speech and think the liberal “thought police” sometimes go a little too far. So…where do I fall on my numerical scale? Stay out of my bedroom…I’m a -5. Stand against racism and hate speech…I’m also a -5. But how we stand against such speech…maybe I’m a zero, because I’m still struggling with the whole freedom of speech thing. I’m going to give myself a -3. (Readers, feel free to educate me on this.)
6. Economic philosophy
I’m a liberal here, no doubt. Our country has never done better economically than under Roosevelt, then again under JFK, then under Clinton. The Democrats have this nailed. I don’t for a moment buy into the crap on the internet (and FOX news) about Obama’s free-spending, reckless, America-killing ways. Under Clinton we actually had no deficit! He left Bush a surplus, which was quickly squandered on wars and tax cuts. Our country is still suffering (although in recovery) from years of bad economic policies. And guess what? Cuts in spending have never brought our country out of financial crisis. Just look at what the austerity measures have done to the European countries. It’s the Democrats that have consistently brought us prosperity. Why is the media not reporting this?
A few facts: (check out Bob Deitrick and Lew Godlfarb’s great, easy to read book; “Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box”)
- Disposable income has grown nearly 6 times more under Democratic presidents
- Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown 7 times more under Democratic presidents
- Corporate profits have grown over 16% more per year under Democratic presidents (they actually declined under Republicans by an average of 4.53%/year)
- Average annual compound return on the stock market has been 18 times greater under Democratic presidents (If you invested $100k for 40 years of Republican administrations you had $126k at the end, if you invested $100k for 40 years of Democrat administrations you had $3.9M at the end)
- Republican presidents added 2.5 times more to the national debt than Democratic presidents
- The two times the economy steered into the ditch (Great Depression and Great Recession) were during Republican, laissez faire administrations
I’m a -4
(Ok, I’m already starting to suspect that I’m not as “middle of the road” as I was afraid of…so far there have been a lot of negative 3 to negative 5 ratings.)
7. The government’s role in providing for the poor
Cardinal Roger Mahony recently stated (1998):
“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members ; the last, the least, the littlest.”
This article is getting too long, and there is much I want to say about this…I’ll save it for another article. I do believe there are plenty of “welfare queens.” I do think that the system is abused and must be made more efficient, fair and less prone to fraud. But I also believe that institutional racism and classism exist and that we will never be able to cut the poor loose and “leave it up to the churches” to care for them. I have a friend who constantly claims to have “lifted himself up by his bootstraps,” and he complains about people who “soak the system.” His grandparents left him a house and a car and some money. There were no bootstraps. He has no idea what it’s like to experience misfortune and have no safety nets, no emergency “go to” people, no resources. Read Barbara Ehreneich’s Nickeled and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America – she goes “undercover” as a minimum wage earning single mom just to see how possible it is to make it without help. Great book! I give myself a -3
8. Health care
Socialized health care policies in America? Hell, yes. And soon. I’m a -5 on this one.
In the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health care systems, based on a series of performance indicators, the United States comes in at number 37, behind such countries as Oman, Greece, Costa Rica, Cyprus, and Morocco. AND our health care system is the number one most expensive in the world! I want socialized medicine, and I want it now. People are dying.
If I had a magic wand, I’d make it impossible to get into this country illegally. And I would give everyone who is already here amnesty, and get them into the tax-paying workforce as soon possible. And three cheers for the Dream Act! I’m a -1.
10. Intervention in other countries
Yes – intervene for humanitarian reasons (genocide, chemical weapons used against citizens) or when American lives are at risk. Use force, if necessary, but always start with efforts toward diplomacy. No – let’s never again use force to protect American financial interests. We’ve done a lot of damage in the world in the last 100 years (Guatemala, Iran, South America, Iraq) by trying to shape the world in our own image. We’ve acted immorally many times. I give myself a -2
- Corporations are people? Hell no. The Supreme’s 2010 Citizens United decision is one of the court’s lowest moments ever, almost as bad as the day they handed the presidency to Bush. (See – I’m still a Liberal!) Thankfully, however, it didn’t actually end up swaying the 2012 election. -5
- Collective bargaining. Yes! -4
- Union involvement on the job? +4 (As an organizational development consultant I’ve come to dislike unions and the sense of entitlement they bring to the workforce. I have spent 17 years helping management learn to create high-moral, positive workplaces, and whenever I’ve dealt with union shops, it seems that no good deed on the part of management goes unpunished.) My final score for this item: -2
12. The environment
98% of scientists believe in global warming. Climate change really is a thing. Rep Jim Sensenbrenner, who sits on the congressional science committee, is a renowned climate change skeptic who has alternately decried “scientific fascism” and described research on climate change as an “international conspiracy.” He’s not alone – it seems that science-denial in general, and denying this particular scientific fact in particular, is a hallmark of conservatism. Why? Is it because you have objectively examined the science and for some inexplicable reason find it wanting? Or is it because it’s so damn inconvenient – because you and your causes are funded by big business, including oil, and without them you wouldn’t have enough money to fuel your campaigns? If that’s the case, then shame on you. The truth is we’re in trouble, by our own making, and it’s up to us to do something about it. -5
So, I’m a -2.8. Apparently I’m on the high end of “moderately liberal.” Am I too liberal for my conservative friends? Too anti- religious for my Christian friends? Too conservative for my liberal friends? Too spiritual for my atheist friends? Am I the only one in my camp? And do I even care anymore?
Well – I guess I’m not bi. I’m only bi-curious.