Bible Reading Turns You Liberal

Conservative Christians better be careful about how often they tell their parishioners to read their Bibles if they want to keep them conservative. A new survey has shown that the more you read your Bible, the more likely you are to become liberal. At least on some issues by the definitions of liberal and conservative that they’re using (primarily defined around the American political parties and their respective stances); I’m planning a follow-up post on the problem with those labels. The two key political platforms of American conservative Christians are intact, as Bible reading does increase opposition to both abortion and same-sex marriage. On the latter I would argue that this is because people are reading English translations which, in the very few relavent texts, turn ambiguous Greek into clearly anti-gay English.

But anyway, there are some other fascinating points which Christianity Today thinks are surprising:

  • The more you read your Bible, the more you think that science and faith are compatible
  • The more you read your Bible, the less nationalistic you are, unable to justify things like the Patriot Act.
  • The more you read your Bible, the less likely you are to support the death penalty
  • The more you read your Bible, the more active you are in social justice activity
  • The more you read your Bible, the more likely you are to considering reducing consumption a necessary part of moral living
Cory Booker on Christian Love

Christians who actually read the Bible tend to agree with this statement (even if they don’t necessarily vote Left-Wing in the political sense)

Why?

Let me say this as bluntly as possible: the Bible is far more liberal – or as I would prefer, radical – than most Christians. This should be really obvious but somehow it isn’t. How we relate to those in poverty is the most obvious as the Bible has literally thousands of verses condemning those who sit by comfortably and/or imploring God’s people to help those in need in very practical ways. But I do definitely think that the other things listed in the bullets above are pretty clear in Scripture as well.

I’ll give my own example. As of a few years ago, I did not understand how anybody could possibly accept nonviolence. At the very least, you have to defend your family right? You clearly don’t go out of your way to hurt others but you have to be stronger than the guy that potentially will threaten you, right? It does make complete sense based on the logic of the world we live in. I even had listened to some teachers proclaiming peace theology and it quite frankly made no sense why anybody would subscribe to that. It just seemed so naive, and while I heard them say that they lived that way because of Jesus, I hadn’t seen it.

Then I did something crazy: I actually read the Gospels one summer. That was all it took. There was no way I could justify any kind of violence against others bearing the image of God. Not in the face of the consistent message of Jesus preaching radical enemy-love, a Kingdom of grace and redemption rather than punishment and retribution. Not if I claim to follow the guy who embodied that radical enemy-love to the extent that he died willingly at our hands (and we killed him precisely because we were too conservative and would not accept his teachings).

Those who are able to humbly approach the Bible will often be pleasantly surprised. They find that God is far more loving than their theology has taught them. It isn’t intentional, but even those who are on the more liberal end of the Christian spectrum inevitably put God in a box. If we aren’t continually being surprised by how radical God’s love is, I would dare to suggest you are spending a lot more time staring at the box and trying to put God in it instead of actually encountering God through Scripture (or otherwise) which is largely concerned with blowing up your boxes.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

  • Mac Plunkett

    Devil’s Advocate: If someone was in fact threatening your family (perhaps even your children) how would a pacifist respond?

    • I’d suggest checking out the Inglorious Pastors series that The Meeting House did a few years ago on peace teaching: http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/ There is one specifically on the “But what about…” questions but I’d recommend listening to the whole series if you want to understand the peace position better. John Howard Yoder also wrote a book specifically on that hypothetical question but I haven’t read it myself.

    • Many people confuse pacifist and passive, two completely unrelated words.

      And when it comes to the question of Christians bearing arms in war, this is the straw-man that is always brought forward to obscure the question.

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  • An extra-ordinary reader, here is how it informed Charles Spurgeon: http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/