Christian left

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The Christian Left or Religious Left are terms used to describe those who hold a strong Christian belief and share left-wing, liberal, or socialist ideals.

As with any division into left-wing and right-wing, a label is always an approximation. The term 'left wing' might encompass a number of values which may or may not be held by different Christian movements and individuals.

The most common Christian viewpoint which might be described as 'left wing' is social justice, or care for the poor. Supporters of this might encourage socialised medicine, generous welfare, subsidized education, foreign aid and government subsidized schemes for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. Stemming from egalitarian values from a Christian perspective, adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their Christian duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed. Classical liberal Christians argue that the Christian left are not true liberals and are instead politically correct Christians.

Many such people assert that their left-wing views derive directly from their Christian faith, and some cite Jesus as "the first socialist". Many adherents maintain that the early Church practiced socialism, or even something resembling communism of a non-Marxist-Leninist variety, sometimes referred to as Christian communism ("The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common." - Acts 4:32) and that Jesus often seemed to advocate pacifism, while being opposed to the wealthy elite of his day.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Early Christianity

See also: Christian anarchism

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[edit] Movements

A number of movements of the past had similarities to today's Christian Left:

[edit] Early antagonism between the left and Christianity

For much of the early history of anti-establishment leftist movements such as socialism and liberalism (which was highly anti-clerical in the 19th century), established churches were led by a reactionary clergy who saw progress as a threat to their status and power. Most people viewed the church as part of the establishment. Revolutions in America, France, Russia and (much later) Spain were in part directed against the established churches (or rather their leading clergy) and instituted a separation of church and state.

Early socialist thinkers such as Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, and the Duc de Saint-Simon based their theories of socialism upon Christian principles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels reacted against these theories by formulating a secular theory of socialism in The Communist Manifesto.

[edit] Alliance of the left and Christianity

From St. Augustine of Hippo's City of God through St. Thomas More's Utopia, major Christian writers have expounded socialist views. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, some began to take on the view that "genuine" Christianity had much in common with a Leftist perspective, pointing out that there is an extremely strong thread of egalitarianism in the New Testament. Other common leftist concerns such as pacifism, justice, racial equality, human rights, and the rejection of excessive wealth are also expressed strongly in the Bible. In the late 19th century, the Social Gospel movement arose (particularly among some Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists in North America and Britain,) which attempted to integrate progressive and socialist thought with Christianity to produce a faith-based social activism, promted by movements such as Christian Socialism. Later, in the 20th century, the theology of liberation and Creation Spirituality was championed by such writers as Gustavo Gutierrez and Matthew Fox.

[edit] Christian left and campaigns for peace and human rights

See also: Peace churches

Some Christian groups were closely associated with the peace movements against the Vietnam War as well as the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Religious leaders in many countries have also been on the forefront of criticizing any cuts to social welfare programs. In addition, many prominent civil rights activists (such as Martin Luther King, Jr.) were religious figures.

[edit] Christian left in the United States

In the United States, members of the Christian Left come from a spectrum of denominations: Peace churches, elements of the Protestant mainline churches, elements of Roman Catholicism, and some parts of the evangelical community.

The Christian Left does not seem to be as well-organized or publicized as its right-wing counterpart. Opponents state that this is because it is less numerous; supporters contend that it is actually more numerous but composed predominantly of persons less willing to voice political views in as boisterous a manner as the Christian Right, possibly because of the perceived aggressiveness of the Christian Right. Further, supporters contend that the Christian Left has had relatively little success securing widespread corporate, political, and major media patronage compared to the Right. In the aftermath of the 2004 election in the United States Progressive Christian leaders started to form groups of their own to combat the Religious Right; The Center For Progressive Christianity and The Christian Alliance For Progress are two such groups that have formed to promote the cause.

Members of the Christian Left who work on interfaith issues are part of building the Progressive Reconstructionist movement.

[edit] Liberation Theology

One of the largest strains of Christian Left thinking has been in the developing world, especially Latin America. Since the 1960s, Catholic thinkers have integrated left-wing thought and Catholicism, giving rise to Liberation Theology. It arose at a time when Catholic thinkers who opposed the despotic leaders in South and Central America allied themselves with the communist opposition. However, the Vatican decided that, while Liberation Theology is partially compatible with Catholic social teaching, certain Marxist elements of it (such as the doctrine of perpetual class struggle) are against Church teachings. However, by today's standards, the Catholic church maintains a fairly moderate viewpoint overall.

[edit] Christian left and homosexuality

The Christian Left sometimes differs from other Christian political groups on issues such as homosexuality. This is sometimes not a matter of different religious ideas, but one of focus -- viewing the prohibitions against killing, or the criticism of concentrations of wealth, as far more important than social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to homosexuality.

On the other hand, there are also members of the Christian left who affirm gays and lesbians and believe that the Biblical statements used to condemn their homosexuality are not relevant to modern gay and lesbian relationships.

[edit] The Consistent Life Ethic

A related strain of thought is the (Catholic and evangelical leftist) Consistent Life Ethic, which sees opposition to capital punishment, militarism, euthanasia, abortion and the global maldistribution of wealth as being related. It is not specifically Christian (being subscribed to by Buddhists, Hindus, and members of other religions), but uses arguments broadly similar to those used by Christian leftists. Sojourners is particularly associated with this strand of thought.

Other Christian leftists, such as Catholics for a Free Choice<ref>Catholics for a Free Choice has been attacked as not being genuinely Catholic. The Real Agenda of Catholics for a Free Choice, William A. Donohue, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights</ref>., and the members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice regard safeguarding women's reproductive freedom, and feminist advocacy, as one of their central focuses, and tie the absence of reproductive health services for women into their work.

Jim Wallis believes that one of the biggest problems that faces the left in any effort to reach out is to (evangelical and some Catholic) religious voters.<ref>"And there are literally millions of votes at stake in this liberal miscalculation. Virtually everywhere I go, I encounter moderate and progressive Christians who find it painfully difficult to vote Democratic given the party’s rigid, ideological stance on this critical moral issue, a stance they regard as "pro-abortion." Except for this major and, in some cases, insurmountable obstacle, these voters would be casting Democratic ballots." from Make Room for Pro-Life Democrats, Jim Wallis, Sojourners Magazine, hosted on beliefnet</ref> To this, Catholics for a Free Choice has responded that these progressive evangelical and Catholic pro-lifers have difficulties dealing with the implications of feminist theology and ethics for Christian faith.

[edit] Notable Christian leftists

[edit] Argentina

[edit] Australia

[edit] Brazil

[edit] Canada

[edit] Colombia

[edit] Cuba

[edit] Ecuador

[edit] El Salvador

[edit] France

[edit] Germany

[edit] Haiti

[edit] India

[edit] Italy

[edit] Netherlands

[edit] Nicaragua

[edit] New Zealand

[edit] Norway

[edit] Peru

[edit] Russia

[edit] Slovenia

[edit] Switzerland

[edit] United States

[edit] United Kingdom

The medieval Lollards, particularly John Ball, took up many anti-establishment causes. During the English Civil War many of the more radical Parliamentarians, such as John Lilburne and the True Levellers, based their belief in universal suffrage and proto-socialism on their reading of the Bible. Other people on the Christian left include:

[edit] Venezuela

[edit] Parties of the Christian left

[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] See also

Contrast: Christian right, Atheist left, Atheist right

[edit] External links


See: Christian politics (index) for articles related to this subject.
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