Evangelical, Republican, Progressive, Me.

I thought I’d use this occasion of launching my column with an valiant, if not awkward, attempt to reconcile my competing identities. I am an Evangelical Christian, a Republican and a Progressive. To many these identities seem at odds, and I often am expected to apologize for at least one of them in virtually every social circumstance.

Starting from the top, I am an evangelical Christian. As a kid growing up in the rural Pacific Northwest, I explored going to different churches fairly independently. Before I can remember, my parents went to a Latter Day Saints Church, leaving before they divorced. During my middle school years, when my parents weren’t practicing, I attended a Seventh Day Adventists church, and related school, as as both were seven doors down the street from where my mom lived. I went to Portland Christian High School while attending an inner city black church, which was gospel in style but non-denominational in theology. I was on the worship at school and at youth group, and didn’t miss a summer camp. Yep, I was one of those.

Living in New York, it often feels like “Republican” is an epithet one should whisper in the halls of contemporary society. In some ways it’s understandable, as it’s fair to say that the current GOP leadership is the antithesis of progress and reason, and this is coming from a professed conservative! But I understand my conservatism differently than what you might expect. As a third generation entrepreneur, I was raised with small government ideals, while also taught that the government doesn’t need to be in the business of telling people how to live their lives.

I suddenly discovered that the apologetics I was taught was no replacement for critical thought ...

My faith, my politics, and my identity at large took a good healthy beating when I left the safe haven of a Christian environment, and began studying Music Business at New York University. I held a lot of traditional views that made sense on paper, but really just sounded absurd when put into context in the real world. I slowly began listening to myself speak from the perspective of the “Other,” whether Catholic, Muslim, Gay, or liberal. In short, I suddenly discovered that the apologetics I was taught was no replacement for critical thought, and that I need faith that I can truly say I have reckoned with and struggled to understand. In short, my faith lacked empathy and reason.

The reason I still call myself a Republican, despite my frustration with the current platform, is because I like to think long-term. When you think Republican, you may think of Rick Perry or Sarah Palin, but I think long running narrative, including Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. I believe in pragmatic, lean governance, both in matters fiscal and social. This isn’t a popular perspective among Republican leaders today, as current Republican leaders talk more about social issues, and populist tacts. But with demographics shifting to a younger, browner, and more education population, the GOP simply can’t sustain itself with its current platform. I believe when the populism subsides, the party will come back to those roots.

Being a progressive seems to be at most odds with the other two identities. These days, it’s common to hear religious leaders denounce progressivism as anti-God, while progressives denounce God as anti-progress. Yet it shouldn’t be. My faith informs my worldview, and that includes a belief that everyone should have a fair chance at success, that we should build more bridges than bombs, and that no interest should be a special interest.

Being progressive also shouldn’t be controversial for a Republican, even if contemporary public opinion suggest otherwise.

Being progressive also shouldn’t be controversial for a Republican, even if contemporary public opinion suggest otherwise. The Progressive Era was, after all, highly supported by Republicans at the turn of the century. Theodore Roosevelt was the first presidential candidate to run on progressive platform, with the Square Deal including consumer protections, challenging corporate monopolies, and creating environmental protections. It wasn’t just smaller government, but better government. Yet Roosevelt was pro-business and an avid hunter. His progressivism realized that the only way to maintain the freedom to have a healthy economy, a clean environment and a safe workplace was to think long-term. Foreign policy aside, I think we need Teddy’s message in our own generation.

While most of my writing will be stories, single ideas and reflections as an evangelical living in an ever-changing world, I thought it best to introduce myself. I want to be honest with readers upfront with who I am, so no one can say I’m not being clear about where I am coming from. I pose to you, the readers, is it possible to be Evangelical, Republican and Progressive? Are there many more people like myself who just aren’t represented in politics, religious leadership and the media? Please use the comments below to share your thoughts, so we can continue this conversation.

9 Comments

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Liz commented…

Fred, Thanks for sharing. I think it is important for us to judge one another as people rather than labeling each other and putting one another into boxes. It's natural for people to want to make things black and white, but life is rarely so clear cut. In both our personal life and politics, we should focus on listening to one another and achieving practical and effective solutions to problems rather than fighting for the ideology of a particular group.

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Anonymous commented…

It's OK Jack,

This guy's views have no more validity or truth than others unless they coincide with what Christ taught anyway. Let the progressives blog and talk and discuss, without ever coming to a conclusion of what is true. That is what they like to do. "There is no black and white, only grey" or "right and wrong is sometimes not easily defined, but is much more nuanced and complex", which really means they won't come to a firm conclusion of truth. I for one hold that it's OK to have discussion for the purpose of finding the black and white, but not to discuss just for the sake of endless discussion. Ultimately there has to be an end, a truth reached and revealed, a right and a wrong recognized and a black and white. Progressives don't like such an idea though because it means at some point, someone will be labeled "wrong" or "the bad guy". Of course we can't have that.

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Anonymous commented…

Ciao Jack, Thank you for your earnest comments. I agree that thecaricatures are true on all sides. My hope is to explain that my intention is be self-critical as a evangelical, conservative, and progressive. That means I'll focus more on the identities that are closest to me.

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timbrauhn commented…

Charles - Progressives do have pretty solid ideas of right and wrong, but they don't make snap judgments about those ideas. And frankly, a lot of issues are pretty grey once you take more than a few seconds to think about them.

And there's a huge difference between "endless discussion" and substantive dialogue. As someone who has spent considerable time in such dialogue with Christians of all stripes (as well as other faiths and atheists), I can safely say that such conversations have deepened my own faith and made it easier for me to get closer to the black and white that you speak of.

But stereotyping progressives as wishy-washy babies is offensive and untrue. Generalities like that get us nowhere.

Jesus never said, "Judge quickly, lest ye be viewed as a sally."

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Anonymous commented…

Well said! Thanks Liz!

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