Let’s Talk About Christian Values
If you are a Christian in America — look long and hard at this image. Look long and hard at the leader you (82% of Evangelicals, 58% of mainline Protestants, 52% of Catholics) voted into office. It is a crystalline portrait of the separate perceived realities of our country. For some of us Americans, we see a stoic, if flawed, defender of the Judeo-Christian values this country was built upon. For others among us, we see a bigoted charlatan co-opting an influential religious disposition in our country for the explicit purpose of power. Could we possibly be perceiving the same thing?
If you see the first, or any number of variations on that theme, I have a case I’d like to make — and I ought to say before I begin that I am not a Christian. I once was. I speak your language well. I love and practice much of what you do. I do not think the ‘problem’ lies with Christianity. I think the problem lies in the word itself. You’ll see what I mean.
It is time to elect a President who is not a Christian. What I mean by this is not that those who identify as Christians shouldn’t or oughtn’t be elected to govern, but that we need leaders whose ethical intuitions are not merely grounded and contained by ‘Christian values.’ I will make my case for the hollowness of this term as I move forward. We need someone of the intellectual strength and courage to forgo the religious posturing and live out the robustly secular aspirations of our country, and of democracy in general. If that word ‘secular’ frightens or frustrates you, I do not use it in opposition to Christianity but to contrast a particular ‘Christian worldview.’ For our purposes it means: everything.
I want to make a case that our worldviews are the forces at work long before and after any particular narrative (such as Christianity, or Buddhism, or atheism, or secular humanism) influences us, and that conflating our world with our view of it can do a lot of damage. What I mean by this is basic epistemology — as Richard Rohr likes to say: we don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. We read things as we are. We hear things as we are.
Christianity is not a worldview. It cannot possibly be.
It is the tradition of Jesus but also Paul, of Columbus and Charlemagne, of Meister Eckhart and Marie Antoinette. It’s the tradition of Jefferson Davis and Saint Theresa of Calcutta, of Dr. King and Strom Thurmond. Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren. These people are so disparate in their worldviews that Christianity cannot be conceived of as a common thread to predict belief or behaviour of any kind.
If you disagree with me, as many Christians will, I invite you into conversation.
We humans inherit our worlds. We have no choice where we’re born, to whom, or when. We may be brought up in the tradition of Christianity, but never only that. We are also brought up in the tradition of Alabama football, or of coastal Connecticut, Brazilian jujitsu, womanhood, individualism, or the infinite etcetera. Think of these things, the sum total of the cultures that influence you as your world, the landscape before you and through which you walk.
But a worldview is different, and by necessity. It is the invisible apparatus that receives and interprets your world for you, the thing that sees the landscape. You may call this your ‘senses,’ or your ‘mind,’ or even more precariously, ‘your intellect.’ But we need bigger words than these. Because if you have a telescope, I might have sunglasses. Your friend might be blind in one eye, or have one of those crazy contact lenses implanted right behind their cornea. What’s important is that none of us are seeing exactly the same thing.
Christianity is part of your landscape, not your worldview. It might come to influence your worldview, as you might collect dust in your eye. But existentially speaking, it will always be once removed.
The word in English comes from the German philosophers of life: Weltanschauung, the epistemological mechanics that will determine how an individual and community interprets their life experience and, ultimately, makes any sense of it. It was a word I was given at a very young age, a sort of code for “acceptable interpretation or approach to an idea.” The ‘biblical worldview’ was the way we sifted through the complexities of the outside world, the ‘secular,’ which I was taught to hear as ‘other.’ ‘Wrong.’ In implicit ways, it meant ‘the absence of reliable moral principles.’
The ‘biblical worldview’ was a filter — it allowed us to embrace the diamonds in the rough. The Hollywood films that somehow nailed ‘redemption’ in an appropriately biblical way, while still letting us condescend the various indiscretions it took to arrive there. In our interactions with the ‘secular’ world, we engaged a sort of Stockholm syndrome: fear and distrust until some celebrity or film or musician suggested a religious impulse or cited Jesus in any way, at which moment we’d hail them as resilient missionaries weathering the secular storm.
But the ‘biblical’ worldview actually undermines the idea of Weltanschauung in several ways. The ‘biblical’ worldview either presupposes the inerrancy of the Bible as an authoritative text that is epistemologically antecedent to your own perception of the world, an approach that capsizes any usefulness in the concept of worldview in the first place (i.e. the landscape is the telescope, which is…well…not helpful), or it attempts to salvage from the Bible a particular, coherent approach to understanding the world, an effort that will require intellectual compromises so numerous and fractured that the project will fall apart upon examination.
Any ‘biblical’ or ‘Christian’ worldview is actually a separate worldview with its own distinct epistemology and phenomenology that has utilised the Bible or the Judeo-Christian tradition as its primary illustrative tool. Another way to say this is that ‘Christianity’ can be any food that is flavored ‘Christian.’ Any Christian who has tried to explain away Donald Trump or, for that matter, the Crusades, or slavery, has encountered this dilemma.
So: if it leads to so many complications, why even use the word?
Well — there are a lot of good things about Christianity as a tradition and set of beliefs. Jesus was a cool dude; one might even say revolutionary. But too often it is actually a veiled defense of the status quo — which means that you are not really defending Christianity so much as the operative worldview that is cloaked in Christian language. This might be an attempt to steal credibility for what at its heart is an insidious perspective, or it might be the downstream effect of someone doing that in the past. Remember, any idea that has ever been articulated in human words (therefore any theology) was articulated by a human.
Because it is not explicit, this sublingual subterfuge can infect both those who benefit from the hidden worldview and those who don’t. If it makes you feel safe, or protected, or even just plain right, you will only look for the half of the story that makes this worldview function. You will reject any counterpoint or evidence to the contrary as a lie no matter how compelling it is (unrelated, this is also how conspiracy theories work), and off we spin towards dogma. This is not unique to American Christianity, but it is there on clear display.
It is there in the dangerous and arrogant position that asserts doctrines like these: first, that the United States is the greatest nation to have ever existed; second, that the reason for this greatness is the product of our Bible-believing founders, and third, that our common moral ground (and therefore the ‘greatness’ of our country) will simply collapse as American Christianity fades from prominence. The first premise is a stretch by many metrics and the second is the worst kind of lie: a half-truth. The third — well, I’m glad you’re here.
I recently visited the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which is, sometimes with subtlety and sometimes not, a modern shrine to this American mythology of a “Christian nation.” As a presentation of the ways the Biblical tradition has inspired social progress, humanitarianism, and civil rights, it is very helpful. But it entirely omits the other devastating half of the story.
A 200-foot walk through the history of Christianity in America relegates the catastrophic damage that white Christian supremacy did to Native Americans, enslaved Africans, and immigrant groups to a few vague non-answers like: missionaries to the Native Americans accidentally causing some harm by way of “disease” and the infamous Scopes “Monkey” trial “raising” the debate between Biblical literalism and scientific methodology. These descriptions, in a museum, are generous to the point of perjury — not half a mile from the most impressive scientific and anthropological exhibits in America at the Smithsonian Museums.
There is overwhelming evidence that white American Christians used Biblical reasoning and racist Christian theology to justify slavery, and then segregation, and now use it to deny the existence of systemic racism (I’ll reference some of this evidence, but also include a list of resources at the end). Does this mean that Christianity is inherently racist or every interpretation of the tradition is dangerous? Of course not, but let’s explore why.
The filmmaker Albert Maysles once said that “tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance.” This definition is useful in examining how Christianity, like other narratives, can be co-opted by regressive and revisionist worldviews. Let me use Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of how this plays out:
I have heard Dr. King in the mouths of conservative Christians more often than from anyone on the left. I have been chided to “judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of the skin” enough times by folks who refuse to believe that systemic racism exists that I wonder whether the phrase has achieved an incantatory and self-deluding effect. I’ve heard Ben Shapiro quote Dr. King and then smugly remind his audience that King was a Republican — which is A) highly misleading (a classic ‘removal of nuance’) and B) besides the point. This is a classic sophistical trick of this charading ‘conservatism:’ the assumption that because a word doesn’t change its form it doesn’t change its meaning (after all, Abe Lincoln was a Republican, and Jesus was a Jew).
This is why I bring up Dr. King — not to parade liberal platitudes but to exhibit how our worldview can shape and distort our ability to understand history (and humans) with nuance. The assumption of these rhetoricians is that because King was a Christian minister, Christians across America can claim that their religion is a motivating principle that compelled the civil rights movement. But although they share imagery and narrative, the worldviews are profoundly different.
Anti-racist Quakers and Mennonites were routinely denounced as heretics just as progressive Christian groups who affirm the LGBTQ+ community and defend women’s reproductive rights are often called ‘nominal’ Christians (a term rich with irony) today. Similarly, Dr. King was considered a renegade theologian by many of his white Christian contemporaries. I believe there was another political radical who was literally murdered by the religious authorities, though I forget his name.
In various writings throughout his life, Dr. King raised questions about the Virgin birth (”. . . the evidence for the tenability of this doctrine is too shallow to convince any objective thinker”) and literal resurrection of Christ (”. . . the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting”), and called “doctrines such as a supernatural plan of salvation, the Trinity, the substitutionary theory of the atonement, and the second coming of Christ” characteristic of ‘fundamentalist’ Christians. “Amid change all around,” he said, they are “willing to preserve certain ancient ideas even though they are contrary to science.”
So let me ask you this: would your pastor consider Dr. King a Christian? According to the doctrine of thousands of denominations in America, he would be considered (to use the word from a fundamentalist website I stumbled upon) a ‘pagan.’
Yet he wasn’t. He was a Christian. Are you beginning to see the problem? The word “Christian,” if taken at face value, begins to lose it’s utility as a descriptor of worldview. And any term that becomes too bloated with definitions becomes ripe for exploitation. Ask a Marxist.
If I may quote the prophet Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie: beware “the danger of a single story.”
Speaking of ‘single stories,’ let’s talk about the Bible.
If you grew up in church in America, you likely heard of the danger of ‘cherry-picking’ the Bible. The classic example your pastor probably gave is how Thomas Jefferson (what a complicated soul) cut pages from his Bible — bad Thomas! But the truth is, if you’re looking for a ‘single story,’ a cohesive narrative with a coherent worldview, the Bible is not the book for you.
In fact, it’s not really a book at all. It’s a raucous and riveting, compelling and circuitous compendium of a cultural tradition wrestling with the big questions. That doesn’t make it irrelevant. Far from it. But there is no one ‘reading’ of the Bible that will not require some theological limbo. The theological diversity of the American church alone should suggest that.
These literal thousands of Christian denominations across the United States are evidence of our national predisposition for literality. This is unsurprising for a country founded in part (bring it on, Ben) upon pseudoscience and racist theologies to justify a constructed caste system that built ‘white’ wealth on the backs and on the land of everyone else. We needed an ontology of absolutes. Fundamentalism is fundamental to the American story.
A revealing quirk of the English language is the etymological connection between ‘literal,’ meaning ‘taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory,’ and ‘literature,’ meaning ‘written works.’ A brief foray into, well, almost any academic discipline will quickly show you that language actually works by something known as ‘asymptotic fidelity.’ The asymptotic fidelity of language means that as we humans try to describe things we perceive with greater and greater detail, we can invent more and more precise language to do so — but the complexity of the thing in all its various qualities will forever evade perfect description.
The benefit of this is that because philosophers invented the word ‘phenomenology,’ I can use that instead of repeatedly saying “the subjective study of the phenomena, or sensory data, that populate our field of consciousness.” That would probably get old. And you still might not know what I mean!
We all implicitly understand that we reinvent language constantly, which is hella lit. Biblical scholars, linguists, and translators certainly know this — far better than I do — but the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy still suggests that when you get to the heart of it, in the original language and with ‘original intent’ (a slippery, slippery phrase), that written word can house an absolute truth.
With enough qualification, there are many Christians who can work their way around this doctrine, like a dead bug on your sunglasses, to maintain a fairly empirical worldview, albeit a mystical one. But when your average church-goer in the United States reads in 2 Peter that “that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” or in Timothy that “all Scripture is God-breathed” and then is repeatedly told by their pastor that the Bible “is without error or fault in all its teaching” or that it at least never openly contradicts such an idea (after all, if it can’t be proven wrong it’s a solid hypothesis — right, Mr. Occam?), it will inevitably incline someone towards literalist dogma and a dualistic ontology.
In other words: if you believe the Bible is the ‘word of God’ prior to it being ‘the word of humans about God,’ it will cause some serious worldview problems downstream. A common example: if the Bible is the ‘word of God’ because it says it is, what do you do with another text like the Q’uran that unequivocally says the same thing? This quickly becomes murky.
This approach to the Bible and the theology that follows will actually prevent someone from experiencing the Biblical writings and tradition in all their colour and predispose someone toward static interpretations of reality, maintaining the status quo, and a binary, brittle worldview.
American Christians are particularly susceptible. For example, abortion did not used to be an issue split by party. But it was co-opted by the Christian political strategists of the Moral Majority, swept up into an increasing toxic and lumbering worldview and divided into yet another binary of ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice,’ which made it harder to argue either position because you were increasingly required to accept the various political allegiances that came with it. Think about it: the debate over abortion happens because everyone cares about other humans. It should be a rich conversation full of challenge and compassion — instead, it is an all-out war. This is what happens when nuance is forced out of the room.
This worldview (that of tyranny), when allowed to fester, will incentivize someone to be anti-science, exceptionalist, and afraid of change. In other words, the white American Christian identity in 2020. The MAGA identity.
Hold on, you say. Why do you keep bringing up ‘white’? This rambling and choleric manifesto is about religion, so why are you bringing race into everything, James? Classic liberal. There are no inherent connections between my faith and my beliefs about race, right?
Wrong: the ways that humans build identities, social categories, and societies hold strong parallels, and the impulse toward scapegoating (a good example of a Biblical insight, by the way) manifests in every person and every culture on the planet. The historical particulars of those impulses get ingrained into our psyches until “white” and “Black” hold very distinct meanings in that dynamic. There is nothing inherently racist about having more or less melanin in your skin, or a particular variance in genes — racial categories are constructed and enforced by the people in power so brutally that they become real.
The tendency to exploit for personal gain is a human impulse among many others. Those impulses lead to humans building racist systems and doctrines, which in turn incentivise (one might say again: exploit) certain psychospiritual tendencies in the humans whom it benefits. It’s really the same sick cycle of dogma I mentioned above — at its simplest, the human behaviour of ‘confirmation bias.’
Racism is, most basically, a spiritual problem. Spiritual problems at scale become structural problems. And thus the false binary between “individual responsibility” and “collective responsibility” breaks down. They are symbiotic.
And this is why I emphasize racism as a way to explore how our spiritual beliefs reverberate out into society and back in again. There is a powerful statistical correlation in America between being a white Christian and holding racist beliefs, regardless of how you control the variables (if you care to dispute this, I have some books for you).
Here’s what I’m claiming: if you identify as a white Christian in America (and particularly an Evangelical) it is far more likely that you will hold racist beliefs, that you will vote for a man who holds not only no Christian values but basically no values whatsoever, and that there are ontological, epistemological, historical, and phenomenological forces creating your worldview that you may not be aware of.
It’s true for me. I grew up in a wonderful Christian family that believed in the strength of community, believed in making mistakes and living out grace. But I also grew up in a specific tradition whose theology suggested immovable categories of human nature and sexuality and salvation. There was the natural and the supernatural. Heaven and hell. Christian or — not.
These days, speaking as a ‘not,’ it doesn’t seem so simple.
These tendencies toward duality and complacency have played out throughout my life. As a part-time southerner I played with Robert E. Lee statuettes in my grandparents’ farmhouse without the slightest reservation. I am a white ‘third culture kid’ who bought the post-racial ideology hook, line and sinker. Do I think I held these beliefs because of my theology? If not because of it, I was certainly discouraged from questioning the categories and narratives that worked for me.
If these facts (and my opinions) bother you, that’s good. Take that bother and do something with it. Let’s use this moment and these crises and all of the information we have available to examine how our worldviews function at the most basic level. That is, really, all anyone has ever meant by “doing philosophy.” Now is the time to see what’s at stake.
Just to be clear — many, many people who identify as Christians hold worldviews that do not function this way. I do not by any means believe you need to renounce your Christian faith to move beyond these ideologies, nor that Christianity is going away any time soon, nor that it ought to.
In the Museum of the Bible, a giant digital survey asks visitors if “you believe that the Bible has been an important influence on American history and values?” Obviously ninety-five percent of people answered “yes” — filling the glowing graphic of a human body to the very brim, suggesting overwhelming assent to the Bible’s importance to Americans. But it’s asking the wrong question: the question has never been whether the Biblical tradition is important to American history and even the American future. The question is in what way.
Again: tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance. Don’t fall for it.
Fortunately, life often intervenes. It is difficult to live out a binary belief system in an analogue world. Life, and our experience of it, is an inherently evolutive thing. It is full of shifting shadows and grand dynamic patterns, unpredictable and predictable at once, but always on the move. One can choose to ignore it, at least intellectually. But as your body ages and the very language you speak morphs around you like tectonic plates, an acceptance will creep up that: as the astrophysicist Carlo Rovelli says, “all reality is interaction.” We are not forever; and we are not alone.
So on that note, let’s talk about fear.
I know it well. I remember the sheer weight of existential dread that had me screaming into a pillow as a freshman in college — I saw my carefully constructed edifice of a worldview come collapsing in on me. I saw my parents, their theologies tempered by lives of devotion and grief and action, paralyzed with fear as they watched mine, built from the same stuff as theirs, crash and burn.
Years later, my mother said to me over a coffee and a break-up: “I’m glad you left it behind, James. Whatever you believed in, it wasn’t working.” It wasn’t. The first time your worldview unravels, you’re not certain you’ll ever wake up from the nightmare — you have no evidence for it, not in your own bones. But gradually, with the strange distrust we feel of a passing storm, reality rights itself, and evidence comes pouring in.
In the words of Friedrich Nietzche, who knew the feeling:
“Gratitude pours forth continually, as if the unexpected had just happened — the gratitude of a convalescent — all at once attacked by hope, the hope for health…the rejoicing of strength that is returning, of a reawakened faith in a tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, of a sudden sense and anticipation of a future, of impending adventures, of seas that are open again.”
Did you realize that’s what happens after the whole “God is dead” thing? I didn’t. Turns out, if God is anything at all, you can’t kill it.
I think the fear at the heart of many Americans is understandable. If we believe that the world we exist in depends upon the particular Christianity to which we were born, and if our religion begins to bow out, become simply another colour in the spectrum, it makes sense to fear that all we hold dear may disappear, all our Christian values vanish. It makes sense that we grasp at thinner and thinner threads to power until we are codependent, beholden to an abusive system that doesn’t care about us for any reason except the votes we can give them.
But standing on the other side of the curtain, as it were, I need to let you know: nothing disappears. In fact, innumerable things you never knew of suddenly populate your unfurling landscape, beautiful and terrifying and rolling on forever.
Compassion, courage, repentance, lament. Charity and accountability and agency and family. These are Christian values. But they are beyond, before, above, below and deeper in your soul than that. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.”
Faith is stepping out of what you think you know and into the wild ride of life. It’s not ‘questioning’ things the way a youth pastor goads his flock. It’s not gathering more evidence for the belief you already have (this creates Ben Shapiros) — it is about noticing your fear and leaning into it, letting your worldview unravel, and acting on what you find.
Hope is that smallest, humblest and most indomitable of virtues — the microbe hanging onto life deep beneath the Pacific floor for one hundred million years. Sometimes it is so small as to be irrelevant. Invisible.
And love, well. I assure you, it’s not going anywhere. You will never not love people, and you will never stop believing things because of it. That’s good. Fight for them. But not at the cost of your dignity. And not at the cost of everyone else. A world where you are right and everyone else is wrong is, in the end, a lonely one.
If you believe in these values and change the way you live because of them, you might still be a Christian. You might not be.
But if they call you a heretic, you are in good company.
Much like the Bible, America is a story. Of genocide, and generosity. Of prophetic ideals from the mouths of sinners — a seed of freedom planted by slaveowners who did not understand it, but tended by women and immigrants, the enslaved and the refugees, the rich young rulers who repented, the heretics who persisted.
To me, that sounds a lot like the world Jesus of Nazareth showed up in. What he saw was a truth already out there, a religion constructed around it, and everybody totally missing the point.
This is what Marx’s infamous phrase “opiate of the masses” really refers to — not the mystical impulse towards justice, love, and truth-telling that motivates many Christians and other humans — but rather the vulnerability of hollow theologies. Fragile worldviews that can be manipulated into violent tribal identity, binary thought, and apocalyptic mythology.
The American religious nationalist complex falls for the oldest phenomenological trick in the book: that because you happen to experience reality as the center of the universe (quite literally both in space and time), you believe you are the center of the universe, losing any sense of temporal relativity. It is the basic psychological bias that you are the achievement of history, rather than a member of it.
In an individual, this is called megalomania. In a country — well, it has a few names, and precedents. White Christian America is not the first to fall for it, not will it be the last.
The separation of church and state was necessary not as an inherent aspect of democracy so much as a symptom of ours. We must not reject spiritual values in politics — our societies and spirits are deeply intertwined. In fact, it is the spiritual values of democracy itself that must reject a worldview that foments injustice.
We can aspire to what aforementioned heretic Thomas Jefferson once proclaimed: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my legs.” A religion that helps all and harms no one is no threat to democracy. It will undergird it.
Until it doesn’t. Until ‘God’ becomes a hammer, a totem that a teetering despot holds aloft before his cathedrals, before a sign that says “ALL ARE WELCOME.”
Personally, I did decide to leave the Christian faith, to sail other seas. Did I need to do that to know what I know now? Maybe not. I have friends who share much of my worldview and have decided that they do identify as Christians, and that the word is important to them. And while we have our differences, we’re oriented in the same direction and can see it in one another.
What I do know was important was that I changed my mind at all. The telescope I was using wasn’t taking me towards truth, so I put it away and walked another direction. Turns out it was hard to walk looking through a telescope.
It wasn’t the direction that was important so much as the walking. Learning does not start and end somewhere. You don’t make fewer mistakes as you grow older, you make different ones — we don’t measure our maturity by repenting less.
What would a world look like full of folks who have changed their minds over and over again until they embraced change and the patterns you find within it as their reality? What would we even call such a worldview? Some call it “science,” but that, too, is a little creaky. Others use “mystical” or “non-dual.” The dilemma — like that of the behemoth word “Christian” at this point in history — is that the moment you name it, it slips away. I prefer “the poetic worldview.” After all, poetry is a practice of celebrating the finitude and infinitude of our souls at the same time. The poem written is never the poem read. You cannot ‘understand’ it. It cannot become an ideology. You meet it and then you live on into the world, carrying with you what you remember.
I promise you that you already know this. You may just not know it in this language yet. Have you ever gotten stronger without becoming sore? Have you ever found fulfillment in something you can’t explain to anyone else? Do you notice different things about people when you’re angry than when you’re in love? It’s everywhere, once you pay attention.
Jesus said, “Those who have ears will hear.”
I would only add that before you can hear, you must listen.
APPENDIX A (lol how pretentious is that??)
My journey has been pockmarked and meandering and still fairly short, but it has taught me a few lessons already about how we understand ourselves and the world and how we change our minds. Most are things I learned because someone I respected gave me words for what I was already feeling.
So, in the spirit of this, here is some advice for my Christian friends trying to make a hard decision come November. Take it or leave it — after all, I might be wrong:
- If someone is trying to make a point from a ‘biblical worldview,’ interrogate that. The intent is probably not malicious, but the phrase is unhelpful and distracts from the worldview that is really at work.
- Don’t be afraid of having conversations when you don’t have all the facts. You never will — and neither will they! Ask instead where they got their information and what they don’t yet know. Anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about will tell you.
- Always consider how the relationship you have with someone could influence how much credibility you’re giving them. Dads can be great, but they can also be dead wrong.
- Beware the ‘hyper-rational’ mind, or anyone who says they only care ‘about the facts.’ Wisdom understands that what you ‘think’ will always be affected by how you feel, what you ate for breakfast, or what you fear. Fear doesn’t care about your facts.
- Read books that challenge you. Read books that threaten your perspective. If what you believe is true, it’ll hold up. If you’re worried what people will think to see you reading a book by a ‘liberal’ or an ‘unbeliever,’ that’s a symptom of the problem. Read it anyways.
- Make friends with people who disagree with you — and build those friendships on something that can’t be broken by a political argument.
- Practice meditation or mindfulness. I’m serious. Religious practice can also give you great insight into the mechanics of your mind, but it might be helpful to disentangle that practice from your religious vocabulary.
- Be incredibly wary of anything cast as a binary. Liberal and conservative. Pro-life and pro-choice. Straight and gay. Flattening the ‘other’ into a single category is usually an act of power, and ultimately violence — both from your own ego, and at political scale.
- Don’t listen to Ben Shapiro. Like at all.
- Two things can be true at once. I’ll say it again: two things can be true at once.
APPENDIX B (i’m rolling with it)
Here are a few books I found both helpful and accessible of late that either address this intersection of faith and politics or more generally help you smell bullshit in these conversations. I’m sure there are more, I’m sure there are many that disagree with me, and I’m sure we’ll all do best if we just start reading:
- Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein
- The Radical King edited by Cornell West
- White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity by Robert P. Jones
- The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart
- Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
- The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
- Factfulness by Hans Rosling
- Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett
There will be many more books and sources of wisdom that will meet you on your journey and help you build a worldview to weather the 2020s of the world, but it’s a start.
All we ever do is begin, after all.