Why you shouldn’t fall back on religion to carry your political views

Chelsea Boushka

U.S. citizens are more polarized than ever, and this makes for increased resistance to compromise. Studies from The American National Election Studies and the Pew Research Center found that all political parties are susceptible to this. There is, however, a unique issue with positions of the conservative right. Since many conservative voters ground their opinions upon religion, productive conversation on religiously-charged issues, like gay marriage or abortion, prove extremely difficult.

Such reluctance to consider contrary ideas is in no way specific to conservatives, but justifying it through religion is. Christianity, like most religions, has changed to such a great degree that this political rigidity is insupportable. However, modernizing religion with the times need not challenge its legitimacy for believers.

Department of Religion professor, Dr. Chad Seales, uses the issue of slavery to explain. Southern evangelicals formerly used literal examples from The Bible, like Paul telling slaves to obey their masters, to defend slavery. Now, in a time when almost no Christian would condone slavery, people aren’t disassociating from their faith because there are Bible passages that support this atrocious practice. Christians can recognize, as Seales says, “That was historically contingent, and we don’t do it anymore.” In this way you can maintain the consistency of the Bible’s spiritual messages, but “there’s much more flexibility in contextualizing scripture.”

Comparing gay marriage, Seales asserts, “It’s the same kind of thing in terms of how the issue of the Biblical text is being interpreted… [It’s] Biblical literalism that’s still applied to a moral issue.” This doesn’t necessitate that Christians embrace gay marriage, or any other progressive views, but demonstrates that literal excerpts from the Bible aren’t sufficient to defend a point.

Many Christians already understand this in regards to issues of history. We know the earth isn’t 6,000 years old and the solar system isn’t geocentric. Believers can understand these discrepancies in such a way that they aren’t a direct attack on Christianity.

Dr. Seales says there is a distinction between claims of “historical inerrancy” and “spiritual inerrancy.” Abolitionists maintained the Bible’s unchanging spiritual messages by understanding racist teachings simply as bad interpretation. This reasoning applies to any contemporary problems in Christianity. To address sexism we realize that no women had authority in the Bible simply because that was a cultural norm, not a matter of spiritual necessity. Similarly, denying women’s right over their bodies, with contraception and abortion, reflects a former lack of scientific understanding. Religion changes with the times, and Christians can’t deny this, but they shouldn’t fear they must deny God’s word or infallibility to do so.

Boushka is a psychology sophomore from El Paso.