Why Are Progressive Christians Afraid to Acknowledge This?

Recently I wrote a piece criticizing Jim Wallis and his politically progressive magazine Sojourners for misrepresenting Scripture in order to sell socialist economic policies as something Jesus would advocate. It caught the attention of former Obama staffer Michael Wear, a progressive Christian who works to bridge the gap between evangelical Christians and the Democrat left.

Unsurprisingly he took exception to my piece, calling it “slander” and “reprehensible.” While it was nothing of the kind, I chose to engage Michael and express the premise of the article that no one on the side of the Gospel of Jesus confuses government confiscation and redistribution of property with Christian charity.

Michael responded with what can only be described as Obamaesque misdirection:

“Sorry, Peter, no one on the side of the Gospel of Christ confuses an ideological position on politics with faithfulness to Jesus.”

To an extent that is a silly and unbiblical statement. If God is sovereign, and Christ is Lord of heaven and earth (spoiler: He is), then our politics must be subject to His authority. Therefore in order to be faithful to Jesus, a Christian will submit his political ideology to His Lordship. It’s true our faith should never be subject to our politics, but as true believers our politics must always be subject to our faith. In my efforts to achieve the latter, I wrote an article rebuking Wallis and others for committing the former (making the Bible fit their socialist ideology).

I asked Michael directly if we could at least both agree that Christian charity, as Jesus defined, is to be born of a generous heart and not compulsion at the end of the gun of government. Wear didn’t answer, instead ironically offering a checklist of liberal social programs that comports with his ideological dogma:

“Say what you mean, Peter. Do you believe taxation is theft? Do you oppose Medicaid/Social Security/food stamps/school lunch programs?”

What? Was I that unclear or was this just another intentional attempt at misdirection? I truly am asking because I don’t know. So let me try again: it is more than fine if Jim Wallis or Michael Wear want to disagree with me on those topics.

I don’t believe anyone is unchristian for supporting the Social Security ponzi scheme. Politically wrong and unwise? Yes, but not unchristian. I don’t question the Christian bona fides of anyone who wants to ramp up Medicaid or the SNAP food stamp systems. I may disagree with them politically, but those aren’t issues of belittling or abusing the Word of God. My objection to Wallis was and is that he teaches that support of socialist redistribution policies are synonymous with obedience to the call of Christ to care for the “least of these.”

If the government takes from me and gives to the poor, I am not fulfilling the command of Jesus to be personally charitable. Anyone who teaches that I am is a false teacher.

Similarly, if I am in a position of power in government, and I use the force of law to take from certain citizens and redistribute to other citizens, I am not fulfilling the command of Jesus to be personally charitable. Anyone who teaches that I am is a false teacher.

Yet this is a point that progressive Christians will not acknowledge, and that causes me great concern not as a conservative or a Republican. It causes me great concern as a Christian who believes anyone wearing the name of Jesus has a duty to correctly handle the word of truth. And it’s not just Jim Wallis and Sojourners.

In response to Hurricane Harvey, the progressive “Red-Letter Christian” organization tweeted out this tone-deaf proclamation:

“Natural disasters: when we all become socialists.”

Just like I did with Wallis, I called them out for this same offense. The organization reached out to me to have a productive dialogue about these issues. I agreed. Here’s the extent of that dialogue:

And that was it. No answer. No acknowledgement. No response. Just silence. As an evangelical Christian who has conservative politics, I am more than happy to acknowledge that policy differences are typically not matters where our faith compels us to be rigid and dogmatic. But when it comes to twisting and using Scripture to advance our policy preferences (particularly when those policies lead to dramatic suffering for the poor, as in the case of socialism), all believers must oppose such an offense.

The fact that progressive Christians won’t acknowledge that is extraordinarily concerning.

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Peter Heck

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