Liberalism Can Never Accept the Real Christ
The central truth of Christianity is that Christ is not only the Son of God but that he came to suffer and redeem us by his sacrificial atonement. In this world of suffering, the suffering of Christ alleviates ours and heals us of our brokenness. Liberals, however, cannot abide by this Christ because they see the state, not Christ, as the path to redemption.
Christianity asserts that the world is broken, as such the world needed to be healed by a Love that took on this brokenness and wounds of the world. Another central claim of Christianity, one that is now often distorted and twisted for the service of liberal humanitarianism, is that God is love. These two claims intersect with Christ on the Cross. On the cross the incarnate God of love came into the world and offered healing and reconciliation through his sacrificial death, bearing the suffering of the world to himself.
A world that acknowledges the reality of suffering and our inability to resolve it ourselves is a world that needs Christ. A world that is blind to suffering and substitutes the reality of the suffering and wounded world for a world of coercive submission, domineering triumph, or the eradication of suffering through the hand of the state, is a world that does not need Christ. That is the impetus of liberalism and why it can never accept the real Christ.
The liberal world, in its dream of eradicating suffering by the works of human hands, is a world that increasingly shuns Christ and pettily transforms him into a human image of their own wanton dreams: The Christ who is open and does not rebuke or require any suffering; the Christ who accepts without repentance (because repentance requires some degree of suffering); the Christ who is a humanistic ethics sage preaching a vague and abstract gospel of “love” without any concrete sacrifices to express love. And the dream of creating a world free of harm is the essence of liberalism as anyone who studies liberal political theory knows.
Liberalism accepts certain Christian truths before corrupting and distorting them -- which is the way of Satan. Liberalism accepts that the world is broken and suffering. Liberalism accepts that there is a certain lust for domination that permeates the world. Liberalism accepts that the salvation of man involves overcoming the brokenness and suffering of the world. But that is where the similarities end and the great divergence commences.
Liberalism’s redeemer is the state, rather than Christ, which brings about the harmless utopia that, according to Hobbes, Locke, and Rawls, all men seek. Its saints are militant socialists moved not by a love of others but a self-adulating love of self, mixed with self-righteousness and hatred of the wealthy and middle-classes whom they wish to overthrow. Liberalism is hatred disguised as compassion. It is the lust to dominate disguised with the language of love to give it moral and sentimental potency over its rivals who are labeled as cruel, unjust, and not compassionate.
It is the liberal dream of eliminating suffering that causes the Christ of liberal cultures to be transformed from the Suffering Redeemer to something more palatable to the present zeitgeist. Look at the liberal theologies today, widespread in all denominations as they are, where the Christ emphasized by liberal Christianity matches the prevailing liberalism of the times.
Here, Christ is transformed into an open-borders prophet who crossed boundaries and turned away no one. Christ is transformed into the “open and affirming” lover who accepts one as they are without the mission to do away with sin. Christ is transformed into the anti-poverty crusader calling to life all up into health and wealth. Christ is even proclaimed as a “socialist.”
The liberal Christ is anything but the Suffering Servant who redeemed the world through his suffering which was the highest expression of love possible and who, in His suffering, fulfilled the promises to the patriarchs and prophets. As stated, the liberal’s Christ -- if they even keep Christ -- is just a figurehead for politics and to advance certain state-sponsored policies. Liberals take an element of Christ’s character and make that the entire essence of who he is.
Liberalism is incompatible with Christianity at every level. But most pernicious is how liberalism infiltrates Christianity and corrupts it from the inside -- transforming the Christian tradition into a new, progressive, and modern puppet for the secular establishment and the dreams of godless liberal philosophers who hated Christianity. When the liberal establishment is threatened it turns to Christianity to hold it up by distorting the gospel and the message of love and service to others; when the liberal establishment is ascendant it seeks to curb and eliminate Christianity from its last vestiges of public life. Christians should be aware of this double game played by the establishment.
The contemporary world wishes to rid the world of suffering. It seeks to create a harmless world where no sacrifice is necessary because sacrifice would be harmful; sacrifice means one needs to give up something dear to them -- to deny thyself and follow Christ is antithetic to the modern spirit. Because of this, the modern world does not need the real Christ. Insofar that Christ persists in the modern world it is a Christ who is a shallow parody of his true self and the self-created delusion of anti-Christian dreams which is, and must be, an unreality for the Christian.
Christ was the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah and the Psalmists. Christ was the seed that would crush the Serpent and free humanity from the chains of disordered love. Christ was, and is, the Bride of Israel. Christ was he who took away the sins of the world and calls us to follow him. “Pick up your cross and follow me.”
The Christ of Easter is the Christ that so many flee from but is the Christ who calls us to love because love entails suffering -- thus, Christ tells us to pick up our cross and follow him. This Easter, as with every Easter, we must always keep sight of the True Christ, the Christ who hung on the Cross and brought salvation through his sacrificial love. As St. Paul says, “For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
In this Easter beset by suffering, we are reminded that God came to suffer with us. Christ, not the state, heals us. Christ, not the state, brings our redemption. Insofar that liberalism sees the state as the vehicle of redemption it can never accept the real Christ.
Paul Krause is the editor of VoegelinView. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love: A Christian Guide to the Great Books, The Politics of Plato, and contributed to The College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Making Sense of Diseases and Disasters.