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Your Views: Liberal religious views allow for more tolerance, compassion
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Two recent articles in The Times showed the sharp contrast between liberal and conservative world views. As President Barack Obama recently noted, November’s election may be a referendum on this debate.

In her column, Joan King discussed the tendency of some religions to dominate, divide and easily dismiss alternative views. Trevor Thomas gave a possible example of this in his article which defended discriminating against gays and lesbians when it comes to marriage.

Liberal religious views usually emphasize compassion, nonjudging and grace. Conservative views are often less tolerant and more condemning.

Liberal religion focuses on the main teachings of Jesus without filtering them through a particular worldview, allowing the possibility that some words may have been added to the original over time. Liberals propose that some Biblical statements, like those addressing homosexuality, could be more a reflection of a particular culture than God’s absolute truth.

Liberal religion accepts imperfection in everything, including the Bible, yet still values it and trusts God to use it in our long evolution toward what “heaven” symbolizes. Liberals believe the Bible can be “inspired by God and profitable” yet still contain statements that are not completely true. It will all be good in the end.

Speaking of evolution, another idea that some conservatives struggle with, liberals think God saw the genius of evolution long before Darwin did. A liberal prayer for human rights is that evolution will speed up so we can outgrow our somewhat primitive tendency to fear and exclude that which is different.

Regarding marriage, heterosexual marriage has worked well for me, not so much because of gender as because my wife and I have learned to love, forgive and become best friends over the past 36 years. Plain old good luck also played a role. Liberals see no need to bar others from a socially valuable institution simply because of gender. Our society’s 50 percent divorce rate doesn’t seem to be about gender, either.

Obviously, gay marriage has its challenges in our society, as does all marriage. But when in doubt about anything, liberals would rather err on the side of love and grace than on the side of legalism and forced conformity. Liberals believe God’s house has many rooms, not just the one we happen to be in.

Another liberal idea is that God actually designed religion’s evolution so as to offset the other natural human tendency to neglect the weak and favor the strong. Conservative economics seems to do this, believing that “a rising tide will raise all ships.” Liberals question that oversimplification and tend to demand more safety nets and social justice.

This brings us back to gay marriage. A liberal worldview puts a premium on protecting the basic human rights of everyone, especially the weak, the unlucky, minorities, outcasts and any group being unfairly discriminated against.

Alan Shope

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