Afraid of “L”

Afraid of “L”

Most of my Christian life I have been afraid of “L.”

It is similar to grade school, when more than anything I did not want to be a sissy. I don’t think a worse epithet could have been hurled at me. So great was my fear that I not only did all I could to avoid that label, but I of course avoided those who were identified as sissies. But what exactly is a sissy?

When I first became a Christ-follower in high school, the only Christians I knew were very conservative evangelicals. I am really grateful for the Bible training I received from them, but their constant fear of “L” lingers with me, even today. The threat of “L” is still used as a weapon, and the wounds it inflicts can be painful.

By “L,” of course, I mean “Liberal.” They were seen as the worst category of people, because they were bright, educated and wrong. To be liberal was to be wrong in moral or willful ways, not simply ideological ones. While in Bible College and seminary I was taught being “Liberal” was the greatest threat to the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God. But what exactly does it mean to be “Liberal”?

Politically, those who would prefer to see a more equitable distribution of wealth via government action are called “liberals.” They are the enemies of conservatives. Since I have always been on the side of the conservatives, my enemies were supposed to be liberals.

Here is what happens then in real life: I am confronted with an issue regarding politics, sex, money, heaven, etc. It used to be easy to weigh in with my views because I used to know exactly what my team thought. I could give a “right” answer, and I knew it was right because my friends all agreed with me and they were all conservative. Ah, so comforting.

But what happens if you start to think a thought that you know is not conservative? (Think, what happens if I cry on the playground and my fear of being called a sissy?) You become fearful that your conservative friends will think you are a “Liberal.” And then you won’t have any friends.

I am in new phase of life where I want to think thoughts that scare me. I might not be conservative anymore, but I am afraid I will be without friends.

It is a familiar story and a familiar message. We all want friends, and that desire clouds much of what we do. I miss the clarity of my staunchly conservative days, it was so much easier. I don’t really want to have to make all new friends. Can it be okay to have a just a little bit of “L”? I can already hear the concerned responses of my conservative friends, “No, Karl, it’s a slippery slope…”

Do I maybe just need new friends?

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20 Responses to Afraid of “L”

  1. Deb Beatty says:

    For over thirty years, I have been attempting to balance my “evangelical” theology with my “liberal” political leanings. For me, the balance always weighs in on the side of less for big business and more for “widows and orphans,” and a tendancy to believe that more civil rights (for poor people, people of color, people of different religions, people of different sexual orientation) is better for all society. I don’t believe I’m smart enough, or spiritual enough, to make rules for how other folks should live their lives. And I don’t believe Jesus is ever honored by a society that lets the least of our brothers and sisters wallow in poverty and homelessness, that allows children to be poorly educated, and by letting people go bankruptcy because they are injured or ill. Sadly, though, my tendancy is to just “shut up” when politics is discussed at church and other “religious gatherings. So I keep my voting records to myself…

  2. kc says:

    Hanging out with you is always dangerous and that’s why I love it. Thanks for continuing to push us here!

  3. Amy says:

    I feel the same way! Is it age, environment, the media???

  4. Karl – welcome to the dark side with me…. you have more then a few friends on this “L” side. 🙂

  5. Great post, Karl. In my church, I tried to be loving and to value people who had differing opinions than my own. I thought I’d be more well-rounded and gracious as a result, but I ended up feeling very misunderstood and rejected because I didn’t conform to the modern evangelical standard of morality. And yes, I am in the process of getting new friends. Not much encouragement, am I?

    • New friends are essential. You don’t need to discontinue your relationships with your conservative friends, but you may need to change the topic of conversation.

      • karlw says:

        i really like that, very wise. i am in fact reaching out to some of my old friends and i will remember that maybe we dont talk about some things.

      • karlw says:

        that phrase has really struck with me “you may need to change the topic”. it is brilliant, and i dont need less friends that is for sure!

    • karlw says:

      of course, and you are in good company. i do like what liz said about adding new friends, but changing the conversation with some of the old ones. of course, some folks can be toxic and that changes things. hope you sell your house, and migrate north!

  6. Well, just like the monsters under my bed, I am not afraid of the “L” word anymore. I think placing people into two categories is too simplisitic, as most of us are far more complicated. I wish we could transcend above this duality. I am one of those “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”, theologically moderate types – libertarian, if you will. However, if someone calls me “liberal”, I take it as a compliment. I now would rather be called the “L” word than the “C” word. I won’t explain my distain for neo-conservatism in this blog; that is a topic for another day.

    • karlw says:

      how did i miss this comment! so great, and the evolution of thought you might notice above. we are very much in the same vein, i say i am a political libertarian, an economic free market, and a christian socialist.

  7. karlw says:

    it why i just cannot talk about politics, if i dont fit into a theological camp neatly, i sure as heck am a bit of a loner in my politics!
    i think you are right about two camps being too simplistic, but that is how it goes it seems.

  8. Mark Tracy says:

    Finally have some time to write! Firstly, I like Deb’s response. I understand that struggle.
    As for the “L” thing, Thinking for yourself can be pretty risky sometimes if you like to be liked by everybody. I never much cared one way or the other. I remember starting out as a “charismatic” when I first became a Christian. Then I began reading my Bible more carefully and became a fundamentalist. (lost a lot of charismatic “friends”) When I started Western Bible College, I had reached similar conclusions in theology to what was written in their doctrinal statement. But as one professor put it, “a good Bible student will constantly grow in his theology”. As we get to know God better through the experiences of life, the study of Scripture, and the ever present teaching of the Holy Spirit, we learn that God will not be put into a comfortable theological box to be understood and analyzed by men. Some things are fundamental to all Christ-followers such as salvation by grace alone–not works, But as long as salvation is assured, any theology that goes outside my own little box that does not diminish the work of Christ or the preaching of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, will not make me lose any sleep whatsoever.

    Just a short comment to Deb:

    We often think Liberals in this country are the ones who want to help the “widows and the poor”. This really is not the case. The philosophy of liberalism is that it is the government’s job to take care of us. Therefore, it is OK to take money out of the pockets of the “haves” and then set up programs and institutions to distribute our money to whoever they determine are the “have nots”. This allows us to abdicate our own responsibility to get personally involved in the lives of the needy among us. (I suggest you read “Ameritopia” by Mark Levin)

    It is not, nor has it ever been, nor should it ever be the government’s job to take care of us.

    The conservative view is closer to the Biblical view that we ARE our brothers’ keeper. We should be taking care of our own widows, our own poor on a voluntary basis as a ministry in the church, and through our responsibility to our family members. For instance; before there were government hand-outs, there was the Salvation Army. When we abdicate our own responsibility—as we have unfortunately done—we hand our freedom to exercise it to those who would gladly take it.

    Now, to even hand out lunches to the hungry in the street, one would have to go through an unbelievable array of regulatory hurdles and red tape to gain permission from our oh-so-benevolent government or face huge fines.

    • karlw says:

      we had this great conversation at church saturday night, we agreed we all want the same thing- to help our neighbor, live out and share the kingdom of God. we have different perspectives on how that might happen. i admit, i was in the minority, i am politically libertarian, economically free market, and a christian socialist. i believe socialism (maybe not Marxism, i am using the term way loosely) is a great but voluntary lifestyle. i do think God would maybe want me to redistribute my wealth, but He does not force me. I can not force you. I can give cheerfully.
      love the walk down memory lane all the way back to WBC. was with steve t all day today, good for my soul.

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