Medill News Service Highlights Religious Left
ABCNews.com today is featuring an article by Lillian Cunningham of Medill News Service about "The Young and the Religious." Cunningham sought to look at how "[s]ome young religious voters shun the religious right, focus instead on social justice." Of course Cunningham ignored how these young voters might not just be liberal in politics but theology.
After all, liberal Christianity is not a surprising new phenomenon. Indeed, liberal and social gospel movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s were met with resistance by conservative, orthodox theologians such as J. Gresham Machen. Machen threw down a theological gauntlet in 1923 with his classic work "Christianity and Liberalism," in which he held that modernist or liberal Christianity "not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions." The Presbyterian theologian and preacher eventually broke away from the left-ward leaning Presbyterian Church to form the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936.
Simply put, the religious left in America is nothing new and its leftist politics often flow from their left-leaning theological twists on Christian Scripture.
For example, Cunningham began her article with divinity student Beau Underwood, who belongs to the Disciples of Christ denomination. Underwood is just one of a "growing number of other young, left-leaning believers [who] are entering the political arena as campaign aides, lobbyists, grass-root activists and engaged voters." But a quick review of the Disciples' Web site shows the denomination is theologically fuzzy, if not downright liberal. "Like most Christians, Disciples Affirm [that] Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God" and "All persons are God's children," according to the denomination's beliefs page. That theological imprecision is hardly the hallmark of theologically conservative Christianity.
On a separate page about the Disciples' concept of salvation, the term "wrath" is nowhere to be found among when discussing that which a Christian is saved from, although wrath and judgment are central themes in the New Testament (see Romans 1:18, 5:9; 13:5; Eph. 5:6; Rev. 14:10-11, among others). This fuzziness and distance from biblical terminology are marks of liberal Christianity.
Shortly after citing Underwood, Cunningham turned to liberal (or as he prefers "progressive") Christian leader Jim Wallis:
"In three decades I've never seen this sort of student-youth involvement," said Jim Wallis, author of the best-seller "The Great Awakening." "I do think there's a major shift under way."
The shift of young faith-based voters both dramatic and complex. "They're leaving the Republican Party in droves, but they're not automatically Democrats," Wallis said. "They're not going to jump in the pocket of the Democratic Party the way they did with the Republican Party."
Of course Wallis is not merely liberal in his politics, his writings on such basic and essential Christian doctrines such as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are laced heavily with vague language about overcoming the "world's false realities and securities" and curiously lacking when it comes to a biblical conception of being saved from God's wrath through the shed blood of Jesus (Col. 1:20; I Cor. 15:1-19; Eph. 1:7).
It's not Cunningham's job to judge theology or fidelity to orthodox Christianity, but it would be helpful if she noticed that liberal politics and liberal theology often walk arm-in-arm, and that far from being a new-found trend, it's been an issue in American Christianity in earnest since the early 1900s.