Respected Friends,

Colossians 2:8 instructs us to “be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty and deceptive philosophy, according to human tradition, according to the elementary principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” I was brought up believing that to love Jesus is to be conservative, but as I have grown closer to God, I have begun to see that much of the conservative Christian ideology I was indoctrinated with is only “Christian” on the basis of tradition, not of scripture.

It is an appeal to tradition that is the core of conservatismConservatism clings to a toxic nostalgia, longing for the “good old days.” The modern movement is working toward the restoration of a “great” past that never truly existed, failing to realize that our past as a nation is something that must be reconciled, not restored. 

Our savior was born into a culture of tradition and was quick to point out many of these traditions were not based on the word of God. Christ was slow to anger, but when anger rose, it was righteous and directed at hypocrisy and injustice. Let us not, as many Christians have, use the indictment of the Pharisees to excuse the evils of antisemitism, but rather as an inspiration to examine our own religious orders, as Christ did his. 

You have no doubt heard the parable of the good Samaritan in which it was the traveler’s own religious leaders who left him to die. He was saved by a Samaritan — the religious and ethnic enemy of the Jews. It is the Samaritan who is his neighbor, illustrating an important point to us: While people of other beliefs may not be our brothers and sisters in Christ, they are our neighbors. As Christians, it is our duty to to protect their lives and their liberties as we would our own, to treat them as we want to be treated.

But we have often shown disregard for our neighbors, refusing refuge to those living in fear, both in the past and in the present. In putting “America first,” we are putting the interests of ourselves above our neighbors and disobeying the word of God. When we reject others for the “safety” of our own, we do so knowing that Christ will one day say to us, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45

It is comfortable for white Christians to ignore the injustices that do not affect us. It is also sinful and shameful. The innocent black bodies slain in American streets are the bodies of our brothers and sisters. The families who are denied asylum, the trans people who are murdered, the immigrants who are detained, the children who are trafficked, the women who are silenced and the veterans who are ignored are all our neighbors. We are called to love these people in the same way Christ loved us.

Standing against systems of injustice is radical and dangerous. Radical American Christians such as Angelina Grimké and Martin Luther King, Jr. followed the command of God to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. They faced criticism, hostility, and in King’s case, death, yet they knew that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Grimké and King did what was difficult. It is always easier to “let go of the commands of God for the traditions of man.” Human institutions, no matter their stated dedication to the word of God, are all corruptible. Neither the great Sanhedrin nor the Tyron Evergreen Baptist Association is infallible. Neither Pope Francis nor James Dobson is divine. We must allow their influence, as well as our own deeply held beliefs to be challenged. 

To my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask nothing of you but that you ask God to search your heart and break it. Look into scripture and into history with an open mind, searching for the truth. I will do the same. Our prayer, together, will be that of Psalm 51:17: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

Your sympathizing friend,

Elise Hester

5 COMMENTS

  1. You may believe yourself to be a good and truly proper Christian but, even if this is so, you make it quite clear that you are no sort of American and don’t belong walking free within the borders of our country, which you despise. Your sort are abominations and abhorrent to the American people…and should be treated as such in a manner “nostalgic” of and for the Law Verses.

  2. This has the face of a “nice sermon,” but it sends mixed messages. You ask conservative brothers and sisters in Christ to self-reflect, yet the title of your article and many of the references therein tell me what I should “discern:” that I should reject my conservatism for being incompatible with Christ. After all, wouldn’t *real* Christians support BLM activists, socialized healthcare, and open borders? Wouldn’t *real* Christians reject Donald Trump and vote for Hillary Clinton? Wouldn’t *real* Christians be Democrats?

    The sentiment cuts both ways. *Real* Christians recognize the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of the constitution and strive to change it slowly and cautiously.*Real* Christians care less about the sins of their neighbors and more about their own shortcomings (Matt. 7:5). *Real* Christians trust in God and show deference to the State (Luke 20:25), not trusting a powerful State to do God’s work. *Real* Christians speak for the unborn and oppose abortion, an institution of murder. *Real* Christians must be Republicans, right? One could just as easily ACCEPT Conservatism in Christ.

    More broadly, do we accept ANY political philosophies in Christ? Or do we try our best to hear the voice of God through all the noise?

    Are you willing to accept that another Christian could humbly seek God’s wisdom, study the world just as you have, and come to a different conclusion?

    • Hi, this is the author! Thanks for the feedback.
      I never advocate for liberalism. I don’t mention the word “liberal” on purpose. I don’t know if I even would call myself liberal. However it is clear that many of my view are more, umm, progressive.

      Either way, I’ll respond to your comments good sir or ma’am.

      “Real Christians recognize the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of the constitution and strive to change it slowly and cautiously.” America is as much built on good ideas as it is built on its denial of those ideals. “All men are created equal” was written by a man whose very children were created and treated with no regard to equality. His children born through legal rape lived as slaves, while the two surviving children born to his wife, given legitimacy of heirs, but even these children, both daughters, still lived lives subservient to men. I believe that we must work towards a place where we as a nation, truly live up to this creed.

      But a second point, why must we strive to change our nation slowly and cautiously? Let the words of our late brother in Christ, Dr. King speak: “For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied….There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.” Please, read the whole speech if you have time. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-word-wait-rings-in-the-ear-of-every-negro-with-piercing-familiarity-50-years-on-martin-luther-8581225.html

      “Real Christians care less about the sins of their neighbors and more about their own shortcomings (Matt. 7:5)” I agree that we should first consider our own sins. I even link to this same verse in this very article. Personal sin is important to deal with, as is relational sin. Systemic sin is equally important. Systemic injustice, systemic racism are not about judging our neighbors. It is about realizing that I benefit from systems of injustice and am called to destroy these systems, so in this way I am not judging my neighbor for sins, but calling us out systems of destruction.

      “Real Christians trust in God and show deference to the State (Luke 20:25), not trusting a powerful State to do God’s work.” I’ve heard this often referred to health care. It’s silly. The church won’t do it. The church should provide for the orphan and widow, but they don’t. And often they do so without a choice. In the Old Testament it was written in the law that the poor were provided for. This was as much about state as it was religion. Were to say, “we should not advocate for abolition, for God will free the slaves,” and forget that many Christians held fellow humans in bondage?

      “Real Christians speak for the unborn and oppose abortion, an institution of murder.” Oh, but why should we trust a powerful State to do God’s work? Abortion is legal, at least in the eyes of the Supreme Court and if you believe it is murder, it is surely to be advocated against! But not at the abandonment of all other forms of justice!! Do not mock advocates for gun reform saying that the lives of high school children must be ignored until the lives of unborn are saved first. It saddens me that Christians are often more concerned with the children who are unborn than those who are born. Is is moral to want government involvement in requiring that these children be spared, but then see it as unfit for the government to provide assistance so that the lives of the children you so value can be given the same value as the children born to mothers with means to support them? If you are pro-life but also anti-birth control are you trying to prevent the murder of innocent children or are you in part attempting to impose your ideas of morality onto others? Abortion is not an excuse to abandon other causes because most of its followers are pro-choice.

      “Real Christians must be Republicans, right?” On the contrary, my brother or sister, I believe real Christians should not be loyal to any political party. Neither is righteous.

      “One could just as easily ACCEPT Conservatism in Christ.” One could of course, but it doesn’t mean it’s right.

      You hit on the head. I find it foolish to “accept ANY political philosophies in Christ?” We must as you say, “try our best to hear the voice of God through all the noise,” but I must also show that we cannot ignore the word of God. Another Christian surely can reach different conclusions than me, and I’m sure many do, but there are some issues on which I do not understand how one could not seek justice. I am not Angelina Grimke, but if you read her article which is linked in the very first and second to last lines in this very article and again on her name, you will see a bulletproof, well researched, and scriptural argument for a certain policy (in this case the abolition of human slavery) on which I believe no Christian can disagree.

      It is interesting to examine the different views held by the black church and the white church. It is our black brothers and sisters that have stood for justice because these issues effected them directly. We must not wait for something to hurt us to speak out. We should be broken where God is broken hearted. I will not assume you to be white, but I am, and as a white American, I should lament over the systemic racism that benefits me every single day.

      I only ask that you be unafraid to be broken. I don’t know everything. I don’t know much. I am neither a student of politics or theology. I am your simple sister. If you are so torn, make a list. What would you lose if you were to change your position on certain issues? Then ask if you are concerned about following God or if you are worried about losing things and relationships you have acquired on this earth? Make your decisions with a broken heart, not in a place of certainty.

      I still struggle with many issues and how to best live out my faith, but I am unafraid to answer my calling to advocate for others, just as Christ continually advocates to the father on my behalf.

      Your respectful sister,
      Elise Hester

      • also I said the MLK quote was from a speech. It was from the Letter from Birmingham Jail, written to his fellow clergy. My mistake. I had linked to this also in this piece, but had forgotten.

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