Conservative Christianity

by Neil Rickert

I’m taking a break from my more usual topic. So this is something of a filler.

I was a Christian from around age 11 to around age 23. I’m inclined to say that I was a liberal Christian in a conservative church. I perhaps should add that this was in Australia.

Conservative Christianity never made sense to me. I was a liberal Christian, because that made sense. My pastor encouraged me to read the Bible, so I did. I read the OT and the NT in parallel. When I got to the Adam & Eve story, my reaction was “Surely I am not expected to believe that this is true history!” It seemed so obvious that it had the genre of a fable, that I didn’t even bother to ask my pastor about that. And, of course, I had a similar reaction to the story of Noah and the flood, the story of the Tower of Babel, the story of Jonah. I guess I was already well on my way toward becoming a liberal Christian.

The Gospels

In my reading of the NT, I particularly (but not exclusively) concentrated on the gospels. After all, the religion was supposed to be about Jesus and his teachings. And I thought those teachings were pretty good. I read where Jesus taught that we should love our neighbor (Luke 10:27). And this was followed by the parable of the good Samaritan, which I took to be a lesson that we should care about all humans, even those from different ethnic backgrounds. This idea was reaffirmed in Matt. 25 — the parable of the sheep and the goats.

I guess this is what people mean by “The Social Gospel”. But the conservative churches, particularly so in America, reject that social gospel.

To me, based on what I learned during my period as a Christian, the conservative version of Christianity seems distinctly unchristian to me.

Form vs. content

From time to time, I hear people talking about “the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law.” And while it was safest to adhere to both, where possible, it always seemed to me that the spirit of the law was the important part.

This is where I see conservative Christianity as going wrong. They emphasis the form — the ritual practices — rather than the meaning or content (the “love thy neighbor” part). When I think about it, perhaps that’s a conservative thing. In politics, conservatives are often more concerned with form than with content.

Trumpism

Conservative Christianity seems to be losing support. Young people seem to be turning away. It never made sense to me that conservative Christians would support Trump in the 2016 election and since. But they did. To me, this seem very unchristian. This might be part of why they are losing support.

A final note

I left Christianity because I came to doubt some of the central theology, particularly the resurrection and the divinity of Christ. If I had been part of a liberal congregation that emphasized the social gospel, that might not have mattered. After all, those theologies are just the form and not the real content of what I thought Christianity to be. However, I was still attending a conservative church, and I saw those doubts as fatal to any attempt to continue there.

12 Comments to “Conservative Christianity”

  1. The Conservative Christians here in the U.S. have become less vocal with the defeat of Trump. They’re waiting perhaps for God (who is of course, Republican) to work his mysterious way and put Donald back into the White House or send Jesus down or maybe the Rapture! But the fact is, they are running out of time and youth.

    You are exactly right regarding the dwindling numbers of young American Christians. Membership is falling and has been for several decades. Institutional Christianity is experiencing its own “end of times.” They know the church is losing its grip on power and that knowledge increases their desperation and fuels their destructive nature.

    If you watch footage of the Jan 6 insurrection, you will see countless religious images and symbols, i.e., cross, praying, Jesus signs, and so forth. It’s scary. I have a friend. He’s a decent and caring human being, but he firmly believes the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. So, what would it take to transform that man into a vicious, murderous, warrior of God? Probably nothing more than a Trumped up Billy Graham preacher.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Collusion between religion and political power is as old as both institutions. The church always makes its way to the feet of the head of the state. It is at home with kings, tyrants, and dictators. It lent its support to presidents and slave owners.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I think I got to learn of liberal theology when I had left the church

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I find the while idea of liberal Christianity as bizarre as die hard conservative Christianity.

    As there is no evidence for the core tenet of the Christian faith there seems no point to being a member of either version.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I understand Neil Rikert’s liberal Christianity. Probably most of us who have left the church held a similar view. Everything under the banner of Christ should be ‘Christian.’ When we grow up enough to start examining the rest of the body, we become aware of the fact it is all based on men’s imagination, calculations, and innovations. We see the behavior of other Christians and we have to realize there is no way to reconcile that with the biblical Christian. That was true for my own Christianity, too.

    Robert M. Persig:
    “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”

    “Ignorant men always imagine that he who speaks to them of things which they do not understand is a very wise and learned man. This is the true principle of the credulity of nations, and of the authority of those who pretend to guide them.”
    baron d’ Paul Henri Thiry Holbach. Superstition In All Ages (1732) / Common Sense (Kindle Locations 1450-1451).

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jesus’ teachings, if you can separate them from later revisions of the text, seem too have inherent value. Treat other people as you want them to treat you. Help the needy, strangers and children. What religion as done to these teachings is an abomination.

    On a lighter note, Las Vegas offers the United Church of Bacon. No kidding. This is a real organization.
    https://unitedchurchofbacon.org/about/

    Like

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