• M. J. Chrisman

Fence Traveler (pt. 3) 'Liberal' or 'Conservative'?

Updated: Jan 15, 2019


Was Yeshua (Christ) a liberal or a conservative? Think about it. Let the question stew for a sec and we’ll come back to it.

For most evangelicals today, there is a call to maintain a strong “conservative” ideology, as if it were a religion in and of itself. What does it mean to be a Christian conservative today? Forgive the generalizations below, but it usually entails believing:

  • America was founded as a Christian nation

  • The Bible, like the Constitution, is our supreme document that must be interpreted with either a loose, or strict, constructionist viewpoint (with no room for other interpretations)

  • Faith supersedes modern science in cases where the two contradict one another.

  • The biggest issues threatening our culture today are abortion, homosexuality/sexual sin, and other religions (Islam, Buddhism, etc.).

Now, what are some broad points typically attributed to liberal Christians? They usually entail believing:

  • The Bible is an irrelevant book, and therefore we pick and choose versus that relate to modern contexts

  • Empirical evidence and the use of intellectual reasoning supersede faith experiences

  • There are many paths to Heaven, but Christianity is a preferential choice

  • Social justice/humanitarian issues take precedence over the "afterlife" and salvation theology

While I would love to dive into each bullet point on either side—and trust me, we will in coming posts—I’m afraid it would be a novel-of-a-blog post and we don’t have time to read a novel!

The point here is the terms “liberal” and “conservative” change over time, and so do the issues that we house in those camps.

Going back to Yeshua, we see him always bringing in the “outcasts”—those not expected to be on the inside of faith—and rejecting those who thought they had it all figured out: both religious institutions and the Roman government of his day. On one side, he had the religious leaders getting angry at the fact that he healed people and shared the good news on the Sabbath. On the other side, he had the hedonist, power-hungry Romans, who were bent on wealth extraction and the subjugation of other people groups.

Any of this sound familiar?

While I believe Yeshua started a spiritual revolution in the heart of the ancient world—one that had a kingdom “not of this world” and whose message was grace—we now know the danger of when a people’s movement is co-opted by a religious institution through political enforcement. From the crusades, to the genocide of Native Americans, and to the enslavement of black people, we often try to sugar coat the brutal history of our “Christian” ancestors’ pasts. Deep down, we know they weren’t all that “Christian” like we’d like to believe and their history is our history too.

But fast forward to Christians who argued for the freedom of slaves during the late 1800s. Was it “liberal” propaganda for them to stand against slavery? Was it contrary to scripture to argue against slavery through liberation theology? In fact, pro-slavery Christians often used Leviticus 25:44-46 and many other versus to argue for the enslavement of black people and the displacement of Native Americans. So, would the pro-slavery Christians back then be considered the theological conservatives of today?

What matters is that the abolitionist Christians did the right thing with the time that was given them.

In summary, rather than hold fast to the ideals of “liberal” or “conservative” constructs, since they change overtime, and instead just simply do. the. right. thing. NOW. Today, Yeshua wouldn’t tell you to be a more “conservative” Christian any more than he would tell you to be a “liberal” one. I think he would lovingly remind us that the world will know of his love for them because of our “love for one another.”

So love your neighbor. Later, we'll explore ways to do that today.


This concludes the intro series to my Fence Traveler Blog launch. If there is anything I hope to achieve with my writing, it's this: to spur dialogue and get us asking questions.

So... why not ask, eh?

I want to hear from you. Post a comment or send an email to micah@mjchrisman.com.

Maybe ask me something you'd like me to write about, or something that's keeping you up at night. I can't promise it'll become a blog post topic, but I CAN promise that you and I will at least chat about it.

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