My job requires me to field all kinds of questions. From the ridiculous, I remember receiving a call form a pastor inquiring if Denver had urban squalor; I am still not sure what “urban squalor” looks like. To the soul searching, what is God calling me to? And even the demanding, why? It is not often that I am caught off-guard. Yesterday I was confronted with an unusually direct question. So are you a liberal or a conservative? At that moment I began to understand with new eyes what Jesus must have felt at the religious leaders attempted to back him into a corner by asking if he should pay taxes.
I do not think this person was intentionally trying to trap me, but I certainly felt boxed in. And I don’t like boxes, they are limiting and confining and give me a sense of theological claustrophobia.
Now it is true that I was raised Mennonite Brethren (MB), and still claim them as my own. It is also true that many MB’s would understand Southern Baptists to be their more “liberal” brothers and sisters. Part of my faith struggle for the past 20 years has much to do with this tension between the faith of my youth and an unwillingness to be painted into a corner.
So, how did I respond? I think I had one of those rare moments of insight. You see I have come to a place where at least the contemporary ideals of liberal and conservative no longer have any appeal to me. In the end both groups have people, or groups of people, who cannot belong. The exclusion of people just doesn’t seem to be very Christ like.
The implications of rejecting liberal and conservative and seeking a third way of radical inclusion have the potential to alienate one from both sides of the church. You see, radical inclusion means that the primary task of the church and the Christian faith is to find new creative ways to filter people in. For too long, people of faith have hidden behind denominational distinctives and statements of faith as justifiable excuses for excluding those who are different.
Back to the question, am I liberal or conservative? I choose “C,” none of the above.