October 28, 2020

God Forgives; I Don't

Bible with cross

Some Christians consider forgiveness to be a good thing and strive to be more forgiving of others. They might even point to some of what the Jesus character allegedly said as a way of letting others know that they are trying to follow his example. This has always been one aspect of Christianity that has made sense to me. When I hear Christians talking about how they are trying to be more forgiving of others, I regard that as a positive thing. I don't think religious belief is necessary for any of this, but if it is the excuse some Christians need, so be it.

Other Christians are quite fond of the saying I used in the title of this post: "God forgives; I don't." Some of these Christians seem to view forgiveness as a sign of weakness or are hostile to it for other reasons. Perhaps they are conservatives who think forgiving others will erode "personal responsibility" or something. In any case, they want no part of it. They are going to treat others as poorly as they want, and are not overly concerned with anything Jesus allegedly said unless they can use it to bolster their views. If confronted with what often looks like hypocrisy, they will tell you that they aren't perfect like the god in which they believe and aren't going to pretend otherwise.

I'm sure there are many exceptions, but my experience has been that the first group of Christians (i.e., those who regard forgiveness positively) are more likely to be politically liberal while the second group of Christians (i.e., those who regard forgiveness negatively) tend to be politically conservative. I can't help wondering if this means that Christians' broader political views often precede their religious beliefs, shaping them rather than being shaped by them. That is, one might embrace a certain form of Christianity that seems more consistent with one's political views rather than adopting political views that seem more consistent with one's preferred form of Christianity.

A good counterargument to this possibility would be that religious indoctrination usually seems to precede political indoctrination. It seems that way to me, but I'm not at all sure that's really the case. Maybe they happen simultaneously with one being used to support the other. It is easy to imagine liberal parents pushing liberal Jesus alongside liberal political views and conservative parents pushing conservative Jesus alongside conservative political views. Do you think one usually comes before the other or that they happen at the same time?

In any case, there does seem to be some connection between one's views on forgiveness and where one falls on the left-right political dimension. Of course, this is not limited to forgiveness. We could probably identify many other examples (e.g., empathy) where Christianity looks very different depending on the individual Christian's political views (or that one's political views look very different depending on the individual Christian's preferred form of Christianity).

I mention this because I find that Christians like to point to their Christian beliefs as a way of explaining or justifying their political views. We regularly hear them say they vote Republican because they are Christian, but we rarely hear them say they go to church because they are Republican. It seems unlikely to me that one's Christian values really explain their political views. I suspect that both reinforce one another and that they developed along similar lines for most people.