Tuesday, April 15

A Liberal Critique

I just read an essay by Marilynne Robinson called "Onward, Christian Liberals." While I don't agree with everything she has to say, this particular criticism of the stream of Christianity I'm most comfortable in hit home:

Since these folks claim to be defenders of embattled Christianity (under seige by liberalism, as they would have it), they might be struck by the passage in Matthew 25 in which Jesus says, identifying himself with the poorest, "I was hungry, and ye fed me not". . . It is the teaching of the Bible passim that God has confided us very largely to one another's care, but that in doing so he has in no degree detached himself from us.

I've read Blue Like Jazz, and I'm familiar with the current trend in the Christian subculture toward Donald Miller's "liberal" approach to social issues. There's not much to disagree with in his low-key message, but several years after I read the book I can't say that it had any lasting effect on my actions.

But as I was reading Robinson's essay (an exercise in exposing myself to nonfiction writing, not in any kind of religious or spiritual reading), I felt a much greater sense of accountability than I can recall feeling during Blue Like Jazz. Perhaps the uncushioned critism from the "outside" landed more directly than Miller's enjoyable suggestions.

More likely, I think, is the fact that now I have a Jewish framework in which to pursue the discussion. Tikkun Olam - the restoration of the world - is a constant guiding principle in Jewish thought. I just read the autobiography of a Jewish man, and he is continuously amazed at Christianity's lack of true action on behalf of the poor and needy.

I'm not suggesting that conservative Christians never do anything good and relevant for the poor or that we should jump on board every program of the "liberals." I am saying that we've been too long remiss in adequately addressing a major need that weighs heavily on the heart of God (see all of Scripture for proof of His concern for the poor, widows and fatherless). We're being taken to task by the world and the church. And it's a scolding that we -- and by we I mean I -- deserve.


tom & leah said...

fantastic commentary! now what's the need in merriam?

Anonymous said...

FINALLY!! Great Post! Now what are we going to DO about it, right?

The blog doesn't always have to be this serious (although I enjoy it when it is). Just trying to encourage you to keep posting regularly.


justin & jacklynn said...

ahhh...a post! and a wonderful one i might add! and yes please keep posting!

Aaron 'The Batman' Schwartz said...

That's a fantastic essay. Did you read it in Best American? Did I just admit to liking a non-fiction piece? Argh...