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Conservatives and Liberals, Catholics and Protestants

March 4, 2010

I have been aware for some time that broadly speaking, at least in this country, conservative Catholics tend agree more with conservative Protestants (or atheists for that matter) than they do with liberal Catholics (and vice versa) concerning those issues which people seem to care about most, that is those issues which are most hotly debated. In light of this, a few questions come to mind:

1.It seems that this is the case because we are no longer formed by the authentic Christian witness of our liturgical communities, which is also to say that most of us are not primarily formed by the Word of God, but rather are formed by our secular/political communities. What effect might this have on ecumenical and/or evangelical effort? What might be changed to reverse this trend?

2.We see church’s splitting over some of these issues on which conservatives and liberals tend to disagree: ordination of women/female pastors, gay marriage, etc. Is it possible that Catholics and Protestants can agree with these issues while disagreeing with members of their denomination because these issues are now more important to them than are issues of justification and the like?

7 Comments
  1. March 5, 2010 12:13 pm

    1.It seems that this is the case because we are no longer formed by the authentic Christian witness of our liturgical communities, which is also to say that most of us are not primarily formed by the Word of God, but rather are formed by our secular/political communities. What effect might this have on ecumenical and/or evangelical effort? What might be changed to reverse this trend?

    —Our authentic Christianity is challenged to “pick a side” in liberal or conservative matters and we often have to chose one evil over another. Many of us are formed by the Word of God, and take much time in discernment to make a political decision. Ecumenical and evangelical efforts should focus on the fact that neither political party fully reflects the teachings of Christ and just because a Republican is pro-life doesn’t mean they support all of the tenants of the Christian faith (they primarily focus on abortion – yet disregard other issues of life). That simply voting for a Republican does not mean that life will always be protected and promoted.

    2.We see church’s splitting over some of these issues on which conservatives and liberals tend to disagree: ordination of women/female pastors, gay marriage, etc. Is it possible that Catholics and Protestants can agree with these issues while disagreeing with members of their denomination because these issues are now more important to them than are issues of justification and the like?

    — gay marriage within the Catholic church is impossible. gay marriage politically is possible. the Catholic church will never bless it as have other denominations. I’m not really sure what issues of justification are, maybe thats a theology school phrase…

  2. March 5, 2010 1:35 pm

    Josh

    I think you know my view — most American Catholics confuse politics and religion and use politics to define their religion. It is sad. And it goes beyond ecumenical relations: one can see this happens in inter-religious situations as well. There are more ties which bind between political ideologies than faith and it is because we live in a world of practical atheism (it shouldn’t be, of course).

  3. March 7, 2010 12:09 am

    V,

    Justification refers to the stereotypical Catholic v. Protestant debate on salvation, i.e. are we saved by faith or works? This was a key (and often heated) theological argument during and following the Reformation. In my very limited experience people seem not to argue about these topics anymore and now argue across political, rather than religious lines to discuss civic matters.

  4. March 7, 2010 12:11 am

    Henry,

    I think you are exactly right. Political ideology (or perhaps ideology generally speaking) has replaced the fundamental ecclesio-communal commitments to Church in Christ.

  5. March 8, 2010 10:24 am

    Certainly, people do still have arguments about issues like justification, sacraments, etc. — and it remains an issue between “conservative” Catholic and Protestants. For instance, my former boss is a Bible Christian with whom I fully agree on the politicized moral issues such as abortion, gay marriage, etc. (Having a non-sacramental theological outlook, he sees no issue with female clergy.) But we’ve had some solid (and enjoyable) arguments about topics such as justification, the nature of baptism, sacraments, etc.

    Perhaps another contributor to the overall dynamic of arguments over moral issues rather than theological ones, however, is that with a great many Christians of all sects being fairly poorly educated as regards theology, many Christians are very concrete thinkers about religion, and thus moral issues loom large. Further, one of the main characteristics of the more “liberal” (theologically) Catholics and Protestants I’ve known personally is an indifferentism as regards theology, sect, sacrament, etc. which renders argument over such issues moot. After all, if one roundly insists that all religions are “really just different paths to the same God”, any argument over individual theological questions becomes entirely superfluous.

  6. Micha Elyi permalink
    September 17, 2011 4:13 pm

    “Having a non-sacramental theological outlook, he (a former boss said to be a Bible Christian) sees no issue with female clergy.”

    In other words, that former boss is unwilling to respect the example of Christ.

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