And it’s a struggle.
For instance, while I do adhere to the traditional United Methodist understanding that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” I’ve always felt uncomfortable with a lot of the antihomosexual dialogue coming from “the church” and am greatly aware that I have sin in my own life that is “incompatible with Christian teaching” as well. I’ve never felt like I could fully stand in judgment against homosexual practice because of my own need of redemption. Furthermore, I have some libertarian tendencies when it comes to government and, therefore, I take issue with the government enforcing “moral” issues. Well, this perspective has meant that many would have thought me too “liberal” in the midwestern Bible Belt of Indiana, but perhaps too “conservative” among some of my peers in Alaska. Furthermore, I really want to be able to listen and talk to those who disagree strongly with me and want to be open to persuasion. I don’t claim I have all of the answers here.
Well, that’s just one issue that I like to think I don’t really fall into some of the traditional “camps.”
Biblical interpretation is another one. I believe that all of scripture is “inspired” by God — the good, the bad, and the ugly–the easy stuff and the hard stuff. Therefore I want to take seriously all of Jesus’ words about reaching out to the poor and the outcast, those outside of the traditional confines of the church. Now, if one looks at my life, it’s right to question whether or not I’m doing much to reach those “outside of the traditional confines of the church” but I hope that in some of my actions, and definitely in my preaching, this comes through. Well, when you talk about the poor and the outcast it kind of thrusts you into the “liberal camp” in today’s world. I know there are a good many conservative Christian folks doing great work with poverty and world issues. I celebrate that and I celebrate that they can do so and never bend from their “conservative credentials.” However, it’s hard to preach about the poor man, Lazarus, at the rich folks’ doors and not be branded liberal…or worse…”socialist.”
Yet, amidst all of this self-reflection I don’t waver from the assumption that this Gospel message we have, the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, is a message to be shared with this world. I believe it is a “saving” message although I don’t presume to understand all the nuts and bolt of the soteriology involved. And, I’m not a big fan of the “in your face,” “this is the day of your salvation” evangelism of some of my sisters and brothers in the church. I’m in it for the long haul. I’m in it for the relationships. I’m in it grow and learn and live life together, journeying with Jesus.
So what does this make me? I don’t know.
However, I came across Paul Martin’s blog from Bideford in the UK. He’s a Methodist minister over there and describes himself this way:
I am theologically a liberal evangelical. I believe that faith influences political judgments so I am a convinced believer that it is imperative to support the poor and the powerless and to seek to promote their interests above all others. If this puts me on the left so be it.
So, am I a “liberal evangelical?”
Perhaps I’m a “Moderate Evangelical” and it’s just that in today’s world with conservative Christians talking loudest, moderate seems more left than it has been for a while.
Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter and, instead of trying to define myself or worry about being defined by others, I should just focus on what I’m doing–trying to be faithful to the claim Christ has on my life and live that out in community, sharing, as best I can, the message that I have received.