My Name Is Bill, and I’m with the Religious Left

by Bill Brenner on November 19, 2012

I’ve been on a spiritual high for the last several years. I became a Catholic in 2006 and since then have tried to live my faith to the fullest. I’ve been on three Catholic retreats, one as a team leader, and have spoken up about my beliefs regularly in this blog.

I’ve worked hard to become a more peaceful person instead of the Bill who would flip people off on the highway and throw rocks through windows when he was young and stupid. I’ve allowed God into my life as part of my battle over personal demons like addiction and bitterness toward some individuals. I’m still a long, long way from perfect. But I’m better than I used to be, and that counts for something.

But it’s been getting harder.

 

A lot of people who claim to be Christians do the very thing Jesus taught us not to do: Judge other people, in stark black and white. Sinners are complex beings, but the so-called Religious Right keeps telling us it’s pretty clear: If someone does everything to live a good, Christian life — feeding the poor, frowning upon war and violence in general and being kind to neighbors and strangers alike — they may still go to Hell.

Why? Because that person votes for Democrats.

Democrats tend to consider themselves pro-choice or, as the Religious Right calls it, pro-abortion. To be pro-choice is to embrace the murder of unborn babies. The Religious Right has taken over the Republican Party, and God-loving candidates go on about protecting the sanctity of life, meaning the unborn, while embracing the death penalty, something the Catholic Church itself opposes.

I have a lot of dear brothers and sisters in my home church who would give you the proverbial shirts off their backs and drop everything to help a neighbor in need.  We don’t always agree on politics, but we agree on the things that count. There are a few in my church who are also judgmental and arrogant as all hell, but they tend to be a minority.

Beyond my home church, though, you see a religion taken over by powerful people whose only interest is in getting obedience from the masses. They may do some good things, raising money for charity for example, but then they do the worst of the worst: They point to certain segments of society and telling their followers that it’s OK to look down on them as some subhuman blob of sin incarnate.

Gays.

Immigrants.

Women.

The poor.

Liberals.

In short, the leaders of the Religious Right tell us anyone who isn’t just like them are bad.

There’s this notion that to be a “true” Christian, you have to be a Republican and frown upon government programs. The welfare of the poorest among us must be taken care of by charitable organizations alone. To allow for government assistance is to support government control of every facet of our public and personal lives. In other words, being a Democrat means you support a socialist regime that allows intrinsic evils like abortion. You also don’t support freedom of religion.

What a bunch of rubbish.

I know a lot of conservatives and liberals, and they tend to feel the way I do on the following:

  • Abortion is never a good thing. Those who support the status quo (Roe v. Wade) aren’t for killing babies and never were. They don’t see it as an acceptable form of birth control. They simply want women to have a choice when they’ve been raped or their health is in mortal danger because of a problem with the pregnancy. I’ve never met someone who chose abortion upon learning their child might have serious developmental issues. They’ve brought those children into the world and have loved them as parents should love their children. They also tend to vote for president based on all of the candidate’s platform, not just one plank. To vote for a candidate on abortion alone is considered ridiculous, especially considering that four of the last six presidents have been staunch pro-lifers. They tried to put like-minded justices on the Supreme Court when the opportunity came to them, and yet Roe v. Wade has not been overturned.
  • Being gay is not a disease. Nor is it a lifestyle choice someone casually decides to make one day. I have gay family members and love them as much as the heterosexual family members. All I ask is that they be good people, live life to the fullest and pay their taxes like the rest of us. Every gay person I know meets all the criteria.
  • Government should leave us alone, for the most part. I don’t want to live under a socialist system, certainly not the variety we saw in the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. I want the government to be there when it counts: during a natural disaster or economic crisis in which millions need a helping hand through the bad times until they can get back on their feet. That 47 percent Mitt Romney talked about? I’ve never met them. Most of the people I know, regardless of party, work almost to excess to keep themselves and families afloat. They don’t want the government to build it for them, but they wouldn’t mind a little help along the way on things like taxes and zoning laws.

I’m tired of right-wing extremists controlling my religion. I know Jesus. He’s with me through every success and failure, never quitting me. He looks nothing like the finger pointing, arrogant people I see everywhere now.

I’m not leaving the Catholic faith over it or rejecting the sacraments. I love and need those. But I can make it known that I’m not going to follow the intolerant herd. So, from here on out, I’m considering myself a member of the Religious Left.

God bless you.

Man with flag and bible

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole November 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Thank you for this. I am a Christian left, as well. For a long time I thought I was alone or wrong in my beliefs (I went from conservative Baptist to conservative Catholic), but due to a major change in my personal life that has greatly changed my spiritual life, I am finally on the spiritual path that is giving me what I need.

It’s nice to be reminded that there are, in fact, others like me out there.

Mer November 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Great post, Bill.

Randy November 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Anti-abortion is not pro-life. $ of the last 6 presidents may have been staunch anti-abortion, but events in Iraq clearly demonstrate they were not pro-life.
The platform is not about abortion, but rather about letting the government manipulate our bodies. The “abortion” issue is really about exerting control over women and generally manipulating small portions of “holy” writing while ignoring other parts of the same tomes. If the government can control a woman’s body then the next step is government control of men’s bodies too. It may sound paranoid, but then we are far too civilized fro genocide to ever happen in this world. It is naive to think that it’s only about abortion.

“..Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”

armorguy November 20, 2012 at 7:07 am

Awesome post, Bill.

You didn’t put it this way…but I suspect you’d agree….that many on the “Christian Right” have become latter day Pharisees. They seem more interested in the process and procedure of religion and calling out those who “don’t obey” that they miss the entire point of what being a follower of Jesus is about…

Christ sacrificed Himself on a cross to save the world. That world includes people you may not like, people you disagree with, people who do things you think are icky. But He died for them just as much as He died for you. You don’t get to choose…that choice was made 2000 years ago.

So, I think, the question is: What do you do now? Do you take this gift and try to see who is allowed to have some or not? Or do you let the light of Christ seep in and through you and help show others the way?

So – enough from me.

Again, thanks Bill. Next round of Diet Cokes is on me!

Bill Brenner November 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

Armorguy: Exactly.

Jeff November 20, 2012 at 7:14 am

I became Catholic in ’05. I really appreciated this post! I too have watched religious extremists use hate cloaked in “christianity” – thankfully it appears that the tide may be turning against them. My husband and I got married in DC in 2010, and thankfully belong to a liberal parish that supports and embraces us as a couple, even if we can’t get married in our own church.

Garrett November 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Thanks for your powerful testimony, Bill, and for sharing a link to the site! You speak to a lot of the same reasons that drove us to start TRL.org, and there is real power in knowing that there are other folks out there whose faith compels them to speak truth to power and seek true justice for all of our brothers and sisters.

Christy November 24, 2012 at 12:27 am

Great post Bill. I know sometimes you like to post ‘mood music’ and I certainly thought of this song as I was reading this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG7CB3xsTS8

It is called ‘Jesus, Friend of Sinners’ by Casting Crowns
I would love to post the lyrics but I’m not sure of the laws on that…figured I would play it safe:-) The one line that hits me everytime is ‘Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers’…so appropriate for your post. Peace:-)

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