Joco Diversions

Too many allow conservative ‘Christian’ leaders to betray them

Somehow, Emily Parnell says, conservative politics has hijacked Christians.
Somehow, Emily Parnell says, conservative politics has hijacked Christians. File photo

Have you ever been betrayed? Maybe you found out your spouse had been cheating. Or someone you thought had your back threw you under the bus.

Perhaps you trusted someone to handle the finances, only to be swindled. Betrayal hurts. There’s an inherent pain involved when we are sacrificed for someone else’s selfishness. After all, that’s usually what a betrayal is: someone we trust uses us as a bargaining chip for their own gain.

But the other part of betrayal is that when we give someone our trust, we often also hand off something else to that person, and it’s something we may not think we’ll need. For instance, one of my friends gave her husband the luxury of developing his career while she kept house and cared for their children. When he ran off with his secretary, she was left with no job skills. She didn’t know she’d need to generate an income.

I once gave away something, and in retrospect, it was entirely too valuable to let out of my guard.

I was brought up in what was dubbed a conservative Christian household. We went to church, confirmation, youth group, religious camps, the whole nine yards. My parents were shining examples of what I believed a Christian should be. They didn’t drink, they didn’t smoke, never ever cussed, and sang hymns in harmony around the piano because it was fun for them.

They were stewards to mankind. My mom dedicated years to a crisis pregnancy center as a counselor. My dad gave gas money to those stuck at the gas station, without ever criticizing whatever led them to beg for money from strangers. My parents opened their hearts to neighbors and strangers, giving their time, their patience and their care to anyone hurting who happened to cross their path.

They sometimes gave up full days helping mere acquaintances navigate the red tape of the welfare system, helping them find security. They drove virtual strangers to work. My parents’ model of Christianity was the ultimate example of kindness and love – just like Jesus would do.

And so, that’s what I thought it meant to be a conservative Christian. My, what a comforting word “conservative” was to me. I had a straight arrow for a guide that would keep me a safe distance from what I surmised could only be evil excesses of liberalism. I let the safe, umbrella term of being a “conservative” inform me about things that were surely too complicated for me to understand.

Foreign policy, taxes, opinions about Israel, abortion, evolution: Who has time to research all these current events when Bible study is at 9 a.m.?

Except, as fate would have it, there was a little crack in my bubble. I’ll blame that on my parents. When you’re taught to see everyone as valuable individuals with valid opinions and feelings, outside ideas can seep in, challenging you to do something that conservative Sunday School won’t prepare you for – to synthesize information and draw your own conclusions.

What did I conclude? That somehow, conservative politics has hijacked Christians. They’ve girded themselves, not with the armor of God, but with the armor of conservative politics, which, incidentally, was made by the same tailor as the emperor’s new clothes. Strapped to their side are glowing swords of alternative truth and rhetoric, as effective as children’s toys.

Most of them have no idea they’ve been betrayed, played for fools. They placed their trust, and let their politicians paint for them an abridged and revised definition of compassion and righteousness, not realizing that they’ve been bamboozled into becoming a massive but mostly mindless voting machine.

I’ve seen it play out. I’ve asked a group of women if they really felt Israel was being fair to Palestinians. “I really don’t know much about what’s going on there,” they said, right after praying for Israel’s victory.

I had to divorce my faith and beliefs from the arranged marriage with conservative politics after I realized how much I was being betrayed. And yes, I lost a lot. I have to think for myself. I have to look beyond the “safe” sources for information. But that’s OK. At least I feel like a Christian again.

Emily Parnell lives in Overland Park and can be reached at emily@emilyjparnell.com

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