Understanding the Christian Left

Does the Christian Left actually exist, or is it an oxymoron like “wise fool” or “jumbo shrimp”?

The Christian Left surely exists—it is no oxymoron—and today, I’d like to suggest that it’s a matter of Christian priorities.  Understanding the Christian Left benefits the Body of Christ as we embrace a wider theological perspective.

Let’s start with an important distinction: The Christian Left is not the same as the Political Left which frequently doesn’t like Christianity and the Bible a whole lot, in general. 

For the Political Left (often known as Liberals, Progressives, Greens, Lefties, Leftists, Socialists, Communists, etc) there is a priority of political power concerns in a world regardless of any involvement of any god.  They are characterized by their belief in the power of government to make the human condition better.

The Christian Left has some characteristics in common with the Political Left, with one important exception:  The Christian Left, being Christian, believes in Jesus as the Son of God.

In a separate post, I’ll elaborate on the problems we get when we conflate the Christian Left with the Political Left and do the same thing with the Christian Right and the Political Right.  We will also look at how politics and religion are lenses through which we see the world and how the priority and ordering of these lenses makes a significant difference.  Conflating politics and religion is poor policy and brings out the worst in people.  For now, I’d like to bring the discussion through the route of civility.

Let’s consider train tracks as an analogy:

There are two steel rails for most track trains (for our purposes, we won’t consider monorails).  There is a left rail and a right rail, both of which acting in parallel, head toward the same goal.  For the Christian, our Christian roundhouse is God Himself.  He is our goal; His presence is our destination; He owns the tracks; and He maintains the tracks in accordance with His best practices to ensure that no derailments occur.

For the Christian fellowship of believers, the left rail can be labeled “Community.”  The left rail cares deeply about the entire community of believers and those who will become believers.  The left rail is moved with great empathy and compassion for the poor and disenfranchised, desiring to bring them into community and to minister to their needs.  They are drawn to social causes and want to do good to the brotherhood of man.

When Jesus ReturnsIn his book, Five Great Catholic Ideas, Edward Wm. Clark outlines one of the central tenets of the Christian movement, embraced particularly by Roman Catholics (and I would add the Christian Left):

“We are saved in community.”

I say it is a Christian tenet because when Jesus returns, He’s not coming for a bunch of brides, but A Bride: His Church. 

He’s returning to gather a Community and bring us to be with Him forever.  Yes, the community has individuals and we’ll talk about that in another post, but for now, let’s just all agree that He’s not returning for one or many individuals acting in solo effort, but for one community of unified disciples known as the Body of Christ, or alternatively, the Church.

The Christian Left gets this. 

We’re a Community. We will be saved as a Community of followers. 

We should care about Community and about brothers and sisters, no matter where in the world they reside. 

It matters what happens to other people because it’s both our witness and an expression of our love.  The Christian Right needs the Christian Left’s heightened emphasis on community as a great reminder, holding the train on the track as together, we head toward the goal of Christlikeness.

Christian Left and Christian Right–we are one body.  And we are called to peace.


This series included




one body called to peace


Categories Articles, Articles and Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on November 6, 2013

Social Networks: RSS Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us Stumble Upon Digg Reddit

Leave a Reply