Friday, April 25, 2008

How to be labeled as a liberal

In my formative years (I'm still being formed, however) it was clear to me that those Christians who took Jesus's words seriously and made a serious attempt to live them were inevitably identified as liberals. The workers of Catholic Charities or Lutheran Social Services, leaders and members of Catholic Worker Houses, Sisters of Mercy, Lay Missionaries in Central America, food shelf volunteers, soup kitchen volunteers and on and on. This is still true in large part today.

There were, of course, many non-christians, even athiests who considered themselves liberals but the strong emphasis of liberals on helping the poor and the hungry, the powerless and disenfrancised, those dehumanized because of their ethnicity , gender or race, and those being victimized by power, money or law creates a broad overlap with the directives of Jesus to treat all humans as though each was in fact Jesus himself.

You might say I became a liberal by the back door. That is my faith, when put into action, caused me to be identified as a liberal and the fit seemed to be fine. However, the last candidate for President I felt good about in the general election was Jimmy Carter. This was before abortion was an issue and his strong belief in the inalienable human rights of all human beings coincided with the Christian teaching about the dignity of all human beings. Since that time my presidential voting has been a painful process of choosing among less than acceptable alternatives.

If Carter were a candidate today I would have a problem because he has since moved to the right and bought into the conservative concept that some persons have rights only if granted them by the powerful or the majority.

The centrality of inalienable human rights in Christian thought, at least the Catholic Christian view, was demonstrated in Pope Benedict's talk to the United Nations last week. This point was made forcefully to the same body by John Paul II in earlier appearances at the UN.

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