94 Four reasons not to be a conservative Christian

I have been reflecting further on the issue of what makes an individual a conservative Christian. Whatever the reasons, whether from personal psychology or from circumstances of life, I can think of several practical reasons for not wanting to be among their number. Apart from the issues around surrendering my independent thinking to another individual or institution, let me list four practical reasons for resisting the temptation ever to go down this path.
1. This conservative Christian is committed to a belief in the utter reliability of Scripture. Such a position means that there is no wriggle room and possibility of change or development in thinking about the ultimate things in life. The implication of this belief is that no one, beyond the small group of fellow conservatives, has anything to teach you. Also absent is the possibility of a good discussion with another point of view where each side can learn from the position of the other. This is indeed a sterile place to be. Never having one’s mind changed, or allowing this as possibility, makes the world an extremely dull place.
2. Arising out of a sense of the utter reliability of Scripture, there is no sense that the future has anything new to reveal to the earnest Christian. It has all been discovered already. Words like creativity, newness and its accompanying excitement will have no meaning. Of course sometimes someone will reveal something fresh about the teaching of the Bible, but this will be done in a highly controlled way. There will always be a background sense of anxiety in case the ideas are found eventually not to be completely ‘sound’. By and large the future is only important because that is where death and a final reunion with God in heaven is to be found.
3. Along with a sense that the future has nothing to bring to the world, there is also a profound pessimism about whether or not individual ambition and striving have any real meaning to the conservative Christian. It may be possible to earn money and even to do a reliable responsible job, but is there any real joy in such an occupation where no real discovery and possibility of change are part of that vocation? No, the occupation that one undertakes is purely for practical reasons of survival and has little to do with the real business of being saved and encouraging others to enter into this relationship with God.
4. A fourth reason for not being a conservative Christian is a partial or complete absence of humour in your life. The conservative Christian is unlikely to be comfortable or familiar with the ideas of paradox and incongruity. Everything is normally black or white and thus there are no greys. It is unlikely that such a person will understand humour which depends so much on ambiguity and word meanings that are not tied down and fixed. The earnest and humourless caricature of the evangelical Christian is not far short of the reality.

These four characteristics of a conservative Christian can be summed up in a single adjective – boring. All the qualities I have mentioned, or lack of others, end up at this description. People who cannot discuss, have no sense of the newness of life or indeed its humour, are unlikely to be good conversation companions. By choosing to stand apart from broad mass of ‘unsaved humanity’, many Christians have become unattractive company for the rest of society. Perhaps others can suggest other reasons not to be a conservative Christian. I would hazard a belief that most of the characteristics that we do not want to possess, would also come under the broad category of being boring and without humour. If there are good reasons to be this way, perhaps someone could help me understand. Jesus for all his seriousness, seems to have been able to see the humour of life. Although this is a discussion for another time, the parables and his use of them show him to be a teacher with a strong imagination, flexibility and sense of humour.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Northumberland. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.

6 thoughts on “94 Four reasons not to be a conservative Christian

  1. I’d just like to put in a word for autists? Naïve, humourless. But you’re right, of course. Just please be cautious. I remember listening to a bishop banging on about satanic possession when he could have been describing autism. He acknowledged it immediately when challenged, but . . .

  2. Note that I did not say that all boring people are conservative Christians. We have all met people who are dull and boring for plenty of reasons. Some may have become boring for no fault of their own, as you say. Others,though have allowed themselves to become this way through deciding that it is easier to parrot the opinions of others rather than think for themselves. This can happen in politics or by reading some of the more opinionated of the daily newspapers. Ultimately the easiest way of being boring is the consequence of sloth. Is that not one of the seven deadly sins?

    1. No, I didn’t think you would be so incautious. I always have an eye to the other people reading. Good point about sloth.

  3. Now when I read the headline I thought this would be another interesting attempt to nuance an understanding of evangelicalism. After all conservatism theologically speaking has no inherent parallelism with “evangelicalism”.
    In fact my first response (and admittedly with little data to support my hypothesis) suggested to me that there are a lot of so called “liberal” Christians who are really very conservative in their views. Depending on books and writers who might be considered a little “long in the tooth”, a tad passé?

  4. On the way out of my dentist yesterday I met an old friend Roy.
    I had known Roy in 1972 when we were both attending a Pentecostal fellowship hall.
    Roy had not changed at all, even though he had gone through some troubled times.
    There he was standing on a busy town street handing out tracts, annoying the shopkeepers telling people he believed in miracles etc.
    Since 1972, my life has led me into the dark halls of a long stay psychiatric hospital, working with people whose hopelessness could not be exaggerated. I also worked on the (Then called) Psycho-geriatric wards where death and pain were commonplace.
    I recount this experience because it has started a debate within my thinking.
    I ask myself, where is God in this vast tangled struggle to please Him?
    Roy with his child like faith that has not changed (Or matured) down the decades of same old, same old, repetitious cruel custody, I with my memories of superhuman inhumanities dished out to the helpless who were promised “A land fit for heroes to live in?”
    Roy is a victim of a religious system that has left him with vending machine responses that believe the ‘Gospel’ is a one-way street. I am a genuine seeker suffering from guilt and self hate because I was once in the straight jacket that Roy unknowingly wears.

    Chris Pitts

  5. ‘To trace with foolish fingers’

    Further to my comments on the horrors of (Conservative) evangelical programming above. I return to the question that I have consistently asked,
    Does the church care about how it is perceived by those outside?
    I am yet to get anywhere on this blog with a response to this?

    At the cost of repeating myself, I again draw attention to the sickening lackeying to capitalist norms.
    I start with the celebrity culture. This is seen most in the big events like the Spring Harvest big tent (Shall we say) ‘Shows’? It is here that the celeb culture is the most visible. Aging former Rock stars and TV personalities are put on the payrolls simply because they have the word ‘Christian’ in front of their face. The same goes for ‘Christian’ Radio & TV.

    The praise band and the ‘Christian’ rock band go out with an industry that rivals that of the secular scene. Alongside this we have the preacher; “I’m in with the in crowd” people pleaser. Not once over the last 10 years have I been able to get a response to this.

    We also have the church propping up the ‘big C’ system by defending career motivation and ambition incentive.

    I have used before the example of a middle class family whose daughter post degree went into advertising. They were jubilant at first. However when her bosses treated her like a, ‘Throw away Barbie doll’ the crying over spilt milk created an ocean.
    What does the Church want? Does it want clones that worship the interior decoration and their own conclusions or those set apart to love?

    I’m very much afraid that we need a massive re – examination of purpose and those we regard as our natural bedfellows?

    Chris Pitts

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