No, the title of this post is not the beginning of a joke—no one’s walking into a bar. All three of the words above describe me. After reading some thoughts from George Lakoff about framing arguments, I thought about the ways in which conservative Christians frame our national discussions of Christianity and American values (often conflating the two), and I want to take a shot at framing my own take on those values.
Because Christians with a conservative world view and a fairly literal interpretation of the Bible have articulated their beliefs well and used that articulation to shape our national understanding of Christianity, Christians who have a different world view, and a different relationship with the Bible, are often cast as un-Christian, or at the very least wrong-minded when it comes to religion. In my view, nothing could be further from the truth. So, with a tip of my hat to George Lakoff, here is how this feminist democrat of a Christian frames her political world view:
- Tolerance: Of other people in general, of other religions (and no religion), sexual orientations, ways of thinking and living. From a Christian perspective, this value would fall under “Love thy neighbor as yourself” and “Judge not lest ye be judged.” This tolerance, for me, extends to interest and even fascination. I like to hear about the different ways in which people conceive of God and of themselves.
- Compassionate Action: By the luck of the draw, I was born into a middle-class home and received many advantages. I believe I should help those who weren’t, who have had to fight battles I can only imagine simply to survive. The Republican Right frames the progressive Democrat’s desire to help others through social programs “socialism,” using the word as a scare tactic. I believe in personal responsibility and accountability; I don’t think those qualities are incompatible with getting help when you need it. I also believe Jesus when he said that what we do for the least of those among us, we do for him.
- Sexual Self Acceptance: Frank Schaeffer, in Sex, Mom, and God, discusses the ways in which Christians who interpret the Bible literally are taught to fear sex and hate their own bodies. I believe this way of viewing our bodies and desires is harmful, and not just from a secular perspective. I don’t think God would want me to hate my body, its parts and hormones and the intricate dance they create. If I am to love my neighbor as myself, I first must love myself—not in a self-aggrandizing way, but in an accepting way.
- Freedom: Political conservatives are often concerned with the loss of freedom, and I understand that. I do think we have to watch government so that it doesn’t become too big, too all-knowing, too powerful. But when it comes to personal freedom and our government, I’m more worried about media conglomerates than healthcare and birth control. The cry for freedom often masks a fear of sex that is centered in a fundamentalist view of Christianity, which means our national conversation about freedom isn’t only about democracy but also about God and sex. And when it comes to sex and freedom, you know I think we ought to have it—just like we ought to have freedom of religion.
- Equality: Conservatives espouse a view of our political system that encourages a “survival of the fittest” definition of equality. Anyone who can get there is welcome to the spoils—let him (because it is usually him) do what he can to get his piece of the pie. I believe in an equality that relies on hard work but recognizes that the playing field is far from even, and suffers from the slings and arrows of outrageous history.
So—tolerance, compassion, self-acceptance, freedom, and equality. Sound Christian? Sound American? I think so.
And I think it’s time the Democratic party, and especially those within the party who identify as Christian, figured out how to articulate these values. Of course everyone within the party is not Christian, and I don’t believe Christian Democrats should presume to speak for the party as a whole. But non-Republican Christians often end up in a de facto position of “lesser Christianity” when it comes time to discuss values. And I’m tired of falling, by default, into a no-woman’s land of someone else’s argumentative framework.