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?