Rev. Sirico Responds to NPR’s ‘Christian Is Not Synonymous With Conservative’

The Acton Institute‘s Fr Robert Sirico  throws down the gauntlet. Read on:

Christianity is and always has been a religion that “receives” its faith rather than one that “invents” it. Hence, a basic definition of “Who are the Christians?” begins with an adherence, doctrinally, to the ancient Creeds of the Church, beginning with the Apostles Creed (believed to have been of apostolic origin, the Apostles having in turn received their mandate from Christ Himself) and continuing on to the faith articulated at the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon, Orange, Hippo and Quicunque Vult (aka, The Athanasian Creed), all of which were formative for the belief of Christians. The traditions that would agree with this ecumenical Trinitarian confession (most Catholics, Evangelicals, Eastern Orthodox, et al.) have historically recognized that whatever other doctrinal differences may separate them, this is the meaning they share when they use the term “Christian.”

However, many Americans—and almost all journalists—are less interested in theological distinctions than they are in determining how the moniker can be shared by groups who differ on matters of political dogma. Asking “Who are the Christians?” is less an existential query than a question about partisan branding: What political group gets to claim the word for themselves—and exclude others from its rightful use? The irony is that many mainstream groups wish to recover the franchise at a time when several historically Christian organizations (such as the YMCA) are attempting to distance themselves from the Christian brand. Mr. Edwards claims that “politically and socially conservative Christians have in fact co-opted the title.” But perhaps they never really abandoned it while the politically and socially liberal Christians discarded it, embracing instead, the sort of Christianity that Niebuhr so memorably described as, “A God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross” (H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), 193.).

From: Acton PowerBlog

So is he right or is he wrong? Is it true that politically and socially conservatives have co-opted the Gospel or does it only seem that way because socially and politically progressive Christians have abandon it? A hard question to ask and one harder to hear. But Fr Sirico is right when he points out that ” adherence, doctrinally, to the ancient Creeds of the Church” is foundational to be a Christian and this is so personally and communally. In this sense then Christians are conservative in both doctrine and morality.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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  • Michael

    We should be careful not to confuse the different meanings of the word “conservative.” That word was originally used to describe anyone who seeks to preserve (or “conserve”) a certain set of old ideas and practices, regardless of what those ideas and practices might be. In this sense – and in this sense alone – Christians are “conservative”, because we stick to the same doctrine and morality no matter what happens in the society around us. Likewise, Muslims are also “conservative” in this sense, as are most religious people regardless of religion. And it is also possible for one to be a “conservative” Marxist, for example.

    However, the way the word “conservative” is used in ordinary political discourse in America today is very different from the above. Most of the time, a “conservative” basically means “someone who agrees with the political ideology of the Republican Party”. Since conservative ideology is absolutely NOT part of the faith we received from the Apostles, Christians may or may not be conservative in this sense, depending on personal political convictions.

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