Posted by: Dan | August 18, 2006

Overcoming the Liberal/Conservative Divide: Worship, Economics, Sex

It seems commonplace to argue that Christians who are “Conservative” tend to focus their political influence on sexual issues while Christians who are “Liberal” tend to focus their political power on socio-economic issues. Thus, Christian Conservatives spend a lot of time talking about things like abortion, sex among teens, divorce, and homosexuality while Christian Liberals spend a lot of time talking about things like poverty, war, racism, and corporate businesses. Essentially Conservatives and Liberals have two different compartmentalized hierarchies of values — one places sex at the top, and the other places economics at the top.

I would like to suggest that not only are both the Liberal and Conservative compartmentalized hierarchies flawed because of what they leave out, they are also flawed precisely because they are compartmentalized hierarchies. The problem with the Liberals' hierarchy is that they think they can talk about economics without talking about sex. The problem with the Conservatives' hierarchy is that they think they can talk about sex without talking about economics. What I want to propose is that every discussion of economics carries sexual implications and every discussion of sex is intimately shaped by the economic context within which that discussion takes place.

Sex and economics go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated from each other. This is so because both economic practices and sexual practices are expressions of worship. Thus, worship of the one God should result in particular economic practices and in particular sexual practices — just as worship of idols, in the Old Testament, results in a particular kind of economics (oppression of the poor) and in a particular kind of sexual practice (temple prostitution).

If we are to overcome the Liberal/Conservative divide that mars much of North American Christianity we must begin to explore both economic issues and sexual issues through the lens of what it means to be a community shaped by the worship of the one God — Father, Son, and Spirit — as that one God is revealed in the biblical narrative.

Therefore, in order to participate constructively in any current debate about sexuality, one must first begin with the topics of worship and idolatry, move from there to a discussion of the economics which result from worship and from idolatry, and only then move into a discussion of any contemporary sexual issue in light of contemporary economics and contemporary forms and objects of worship.

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