Resistance and the Religious Left by Gina Messina


Gina Messina-Dysert CGUFor the last forty years, the Christian Right has influenced the conversation in American politics. Where is the Religious Left and how are they impacting our nation’s moral agenda? It is an important question, and now, more than ever, we need a progressive religious viewpoint in the conversation.

We are living in an era where the morality of our society is at stake and the soul of our nation is being bought by billionaires who have an insatiable appetite for money, power, and control. With an alt-right movement growing and nationalism becoming the Trump Administration theme, we are in danger of losing our humanity.

It is time for a serious response to the Christian Right. Why must we associate Christianity with bigoted policies? This ongoing movement has dominated our nation’s political agenda and led to the idea that you are either religious and conservative or liberal and atheist. Don’t get me wrong, every person’s belief system is their own and should not be judged.  However, studies well demonstrate that many Americans are walking away from religion all together because of the Christian Right’s political influence. It is time that Christianity be recognized as more than a conservative movement seeking to highjack policies and victimize the disenfranchised.

The true message of Jesus is founded on love, inclusion, liberation, and social justice. No Christian Right position resembles this. In fact, they are in direct conflict. Rather than focusing on condemning those who are deemed “the other,” why not focus on caring for the poor, welcoming the stranger, and healing the sick?

Likewise, conservative Christian stances have been historically anti-feminist and anti-woman. Those clinging to such beliefs would rather elect a president that has openly discussed grabbing women by the “pussy” than risk giving up privilege.

As the Women’s March has challenged Trump and his policies on gender, an anti-feminist backlash has strengthened with Evangelical women arguing that feminists have created their own oppression by whining rather than taking responsibilities for themselves.

The Christian Right would be surprised to find out that Jesus’ politics and teachings mirror the values of feminism – calling for an end to all oppression and creating a society that is just and fair for every person regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, etc. Jesus welcomed women to his community and women played a critical role in his ministry.  Jesus not only had women disciplines; but also selected women as prominent recipients of his revelation. Most notably, Jesus chose women as the first witnesses of his resurrection. And while the apostles did not believe Mary Magdalene’s testimony, nevertheless, she persisted.

It is time not only for a resistance but a religious resistance where those who try to abide by the message of Jesus stand up to the Christian Right.  I acknowledge that no one is a perfect Christian; we all fail. But what is important is that we recognize the message of the Gospels and keep trying. Thus, we must reject the oppressive regime of the Trump Administration and the bigoted claims of the Christian Right. We must reclaim the Christian faith in its true form and live out its message the way it was intended.

We are living in a difficult time, but let us claim this moment to energize and unify the Religious Left. In the name of the Lord, let us challenge those who manipulate the Christian message as means to claim power and privilege while oppressing everyone else. It is time to make humanity great again.

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, author, and activist, and is Co-founder of FeminismandReligion.com. She writes for The Huffington Post, and is author or editor of 5 books including Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay, Women Religion Revolution, and Jesus in the White House. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website ginamessina.com.

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Categories: Activism, Christianity, Politics

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12 replies

  1. I am glad to see the Christian left speaking out about their interpretations of the meaning of Christianity, challenging the hegemony of the Christian right.

    However, I worry about two things in this new resurgence or attempt to revive the religious left.

    One is that the rhetoric that is used–perhaps in an attempt to persuade or at least speak the language of religious fundamentalists–will become a fundamentalism of the left. What I mean by this is that those on the religious left will forget the principle that all texts and traditions are interpreted by individuals and communities and instead will speak in unqualified voices of certainty and authority about the meaning of the texts and traditions they cite. Yes, it is more complicated to say “as i and my community understand the tradition, it means,” than to say “the Bible says,” “Jesus says,” etc., but this complication, I would argue, is important.

    The second is that the growing numbers the spiritual but not religious will not be included or invited to join the conversation of faith voices on the left, but only Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

    (PS I know I have stated these points before. I repeat them because I think they are important.)

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  2. Gina, I am sympathetic to your thrust in this piece, however, I especially stumble over your assertion of what truth is within Christianity. Two sentences: “The true message of Jesus is founded on love, inclusion, liberation, and social justice,” and “We must reclaim the Christian faith in its true form and live out its message the way it was intended” give me pause. As Carol notes, individuals and communities understand their sacred texts within their own experiences and experience varies depending on many factors–history and geography–to name a couple. So, what does “love, inclusion, liberation, and social justice” look like when manifested in the lives of individuals and community? To give one example: Some Christian men “love” their wives as admonished to do in the New Testament. They believe the intention of Scripture means they are leaders in their families, having the “last word” when there is disagreement.

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    • I think this is the struggle of the ages – just what kind of action is “loving”. It seems to me to be something to reflect on, and strive for, and grow into. The early followers of “the Way” had the same questions, as Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”. This is the challenge for Followers – to grow into the Spirit of Jesus. But if there is no urging to change, why not continue to beat your wife or cheat your employees?
      We change our experience, and our world, by the choices we make, and continue to make as we mature.

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  3. We need to listen more to some of the best speakers on the radical left — it doesn’t matter what religion they belong too — their heart is there, and especially right now their worry regards healthcare for all. This is the compassionate voice of the true left — Elizabeth Warren saying; “I’ll fight this mean, scary, reckless, shameful, heartless SenateGOP healthcare bill every way I can.” And she is indeed out there doing her job every day faithfully, wonderfully, and deeply compassionately.

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  4. Gee, it never occurred to me that there might be a “religious left,” but the idea sure makes sense. Thanks for writing this thoughtful, thought-provoking post.

    Yes, indeed, Jesus does in many ways sound like a feminist. I highly recommend a book called Jesus and the Goddess https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Jesus-Goddess-Radical-Spiritual/dp/1931412782/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1498054191&sr=8-5&keywords=Carl+McColman by my friend Carl McColman.

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  5. Thank you for yet another insightful article. The road of Christian values is fraught with detours, cul-de-sacs, and potholes. Please keep ‘persisting’. Many are yearning for the justice and peace modeled by Christ. It ain’t easy swimming upstream.
    Blessings.

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    • Louise, your image of swimming upstream brought a smile for me…I live in the Pacific North West where a big event is the annual salmon migration, upstream. Here, we say, “Only a dead fish floats downstream” ! :-)

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  6. Thank you for your insight. I agree about the implications of Alt-Right Conservative Religious influence on our society and politics. I have believed that religion doesn’t belong in any political regime for many reasons, one being exactly what is happening in the US today. Politics perverts religion and exploits the bigotry to their advantage. Let religion be.

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  7. As a parish pastor and “proud member of the religious left,” I’m surprised at the lack of commentary available for preaching from the left. This week’s readings from the common lectionary include the story of Hagar and Ishmael and the dysfunctionality of Judaism and Christianity’s matriarch and patriarch – and even God. The the gospel text has Jesus saying, “Don’t suppose that I came to bring peace on earth. I came not to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to turn a son against his father, a daughter against her mother, in-law against in-law. One’s enemies will be the members of one’s own household.” Sound like anyone’s families these days? If the religious left is going to be effective, I think we need a place for the sharing of resources and ideas – and even the challenges and struggles as named in previous posts.

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    • So what should a progressive Christian say about the gospel text you quote?

      That Jesus did not say this, it was put in his mouth by the early church?

      That Jesus did say this, but he did not mean for Christians to take up the “literal” sword to enforce Christian hegemony as the Emperor Constantine and others who followed him did?

      That Jesus was not advocating the sword or strife, but only speaking of the consequences of standing up for what you believe when you try to change the world?

      That even if Jesus did say this, we should not follow this teaching?

      All of these answers are “interpretations” which is why I keep insisting that the principle that texts are interpreted from standpoints should be recognized!

      I would add further that my colleague Judith Plaskow thinks that Jews (and Christians) can acknowledge and should acknowledge that some parts of sacred texts are “really horrible” and must choose not to follow them–while still working to transform their traditions.

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