So I’m sure everyone saw these profile pictures on facebook, as people across America showed their support for marriage equality. You probably also saw status messages, pictures, and the works from conservatives counteracting to the equality photos. Blogger Libby Anne summarized these for us, but I wanted to touch on something else triggered by *this* photo — that of the conservative identity.
Evangelicals have tried their might for the last several decades to convince us that being an evangelical Christian means having conservative political views (usually Republican but sometimes 3rd party). As a child I never questioned that claim. It was just a fact. Evangelicals are Republican. Sure, I heard that Methodists are more into charities, and so are supportive of welfare programs, but I always had the Religious Right lurking over me, showing me, guiding me, on the Christian political life.
So the Religious Right became part of my Christian identity. I accepted it as as part of the religious package deal.
I’m not the only who has noticed this identity. So has Jonny, who blogs at Leaving Fundamentalism.
Funnily enough, the political indoctrination hung around the longest. Even when I’d rejected everything else ACE taught me, I was still furiously right wing. But I’ve learned that there were big flaws in their radical free market ideology just as much as in other areas, and now I’d like to see politics that takes care of the poor and the planet.
The reason voting for social programs is so hard for a current or former fundamentalist or evangelical is that the conservative position is apart of our identity. Its so engrained in us that its very hard to identify as less than the gospel truth. The Religious Right is slowly losing their ground because Christians are tired of the anti-gay, anti-women stance. But nonetheless, the image they try to portray is that Christians should be united on politics, and if you are not on their team, then, your not a Christian.
After living in Asia, this religious identity jumped out at me.
Because in Asia, that’s not how we dig.
See, where I lived in Asia, political positions are not part of the religious identity. My Asian friends often dump their political opinions on me, and people disagree plenty — oh they disagree — but they disagree not based upon whether they were an evangelical or Buddhist. When I go to church there, I can’t walk in church expecting 90% of the people to be in political agreement based upon their Christian faith. Other factors certainly influence their political perspective, such as location, class, ability to read or not, but the religion itself does not tell me what political parties an individual supports.
This religious identity is so engrained in us that when a Christian finally moves from the Right to the Left, a popular response is then to tell people that Jesus would vote democrat, or that all Christians should support gay rights. In an ideal world, all Christians would agree, but life doesn’t work that way. Its messy. Its confusing. And its not black and white.