Copyright © 2012 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.
Liberals should not allow ourselves to be bullied by self-styled conservatives who accuse us of “bad theology.”
“Our sociology is predictably derived from, legitimated by, and reflective of our theology. And if we gather around a static god of order who only guards the interests of the ‘haves,’ oppression cannot be far behind,” Old Testament seminary professor Walter Brueggemann wrote in The Prophetic Imagination.
The frequent mistake of liberals in our politics of justice and compassion, Brueggemann suggests, is that we fail to claim our theological basis in God’s freedom to identify with the “have nots” over against the status quo. So, “Social radicalism has been like a cut flower without nourishment, without any sanctions deeper than human courage and good intentions.”
On the other hand he says, “A case can be made that unprophetic conservatives [do] not take God seriously enough to see that our discernment of God has remarkable sociological implications.”
From Moses through the prophets to Jesus, the biblical witness is of a God who cares about the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the alien, the poor, and the religious outcast. Unless we are caring for “the least of these,” we are not taking the theology of the Bible seriously. And yet those who oppose caring for “the least of these,” from social security to health care to immigration reform, are the most likely to claim our theology is “bad.” (BTW, Jesus said nothing about contraception or homosexuality, the frequent litmus tests of “good” theology, and more than once he affirmed the rights of women.) In preserving the biblical tradition, liberals are the true conservatives.
Religious freedom is not freedom from responsibility to provide for the underserved or underprivileged. It is rather freedom from the gods and the demagogues that prevent us from doing so.