- Christian left
The term often specifically refers to Christian beliefs and can be interchangeable with the term Religious left. Subsequently, the term has been used to describe groups and persons from countries outside the U.S.
As with any division inside the left- and right- wings of the political spectrum, such a label is an approximation, including within it groups and persons holding diverse viewpoints. The term left-wing might encompass a number of values which may or may not be held by different Christian movements and individuals.
As the unofficial title of a loose association of believers, it does provide a clear distinction from the more commonly known "Christian Right" or "Religious Right" and its key leaders and political views.
The most common religious viewpoint which might be described as 'left wing' is social justice, or care for the poor and the oppressed (see Minority groups). Supporters of this might encourage universal health care, welfare provision, subsidized education, foreign aid, and Affirmative Action for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. Stemming from egalitarian values, adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their religious duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed. As nearly all major religions contain some kind of requirement to help others, social justice has been cited by various religions as in line with their faith.
The Christian Left holds that social justice, renunciation of power, humility, forgiveness, and private observation of prayer (as opposed to publicly mandated prayer), are mandated by the Gospel (Matthew 6:5-6). The Bible contains accounts of Jesus repeatedly advocating for the poor and outcast over the wealthy, powerful, and religious. The Christian Left maintains that such a stance is relevant and important. Adhering to the standard of "turning the other cheek", which they believe supersedes the Old Testament law of "an eye for an eye", the Christian Left often hearkens towards pacifism in opposition to policies advancing militarism.
While non-religious socialists sometimes find support for socialism in the Gospels (for example Mikhail Gorbachev citing Jesus as "the first socialist"), the Christian Left does not find that socialism alone as an adequate end or means. Christian faith is the core of their belief which in turn demands social justice.
Early antagonism between the left and Christianity
For much of the early history of anti-establishment leftist movements such as socialism and communism (which was highly anti-clerical in the 19th century), established churches were led by a reactionary clergy who saw progress as a threat to their status and power. Most people viewed the church as part of the establishment. Revolutions in America, France, Russia and (much later) Spain were in part directed against the established churches (or rather their leading clergy) and instituted a separation of church and state.
Early socialist thinkers such as Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, and Henri de Saint-Simon based their theories of socialism upon Christian principles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels reacted against these theories by formulating a secular theory of socialism in The Communist Manifesto.
Alliance of the left and Christianity
Starting in the late 19th century and early 20th century, some began to take on the view that genuine Christianity had much in common with a Leftist perspective. From St. Augustine of Hippo's City of God through St. Thomas More's Utopia major Christian writers had expounded upon views that socialists found agreeable. Of major interest was the extremely strong thread of egalitarianism in the New Testament. Other common leftist concerns such as pacifism, social justice, racial equality, human rights, and the rejection of excessive wealth are also expressed strongly in the Bible. In the late 19th century, the Social Gospel movement arose (particularly among some Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists in North America and Britain,) which attempted to integrate progressive and socialist thought with Christianity to produce a faith-based social activism, promoted by movements such as Christian Socialism. Later, in the 20th century, liberation theology was championed by such writers as Gustavo Gutierrez and Matthew Fox.
Christian left and campaigns for peace and human rights
Some Christian groups were closely associated with the peace movements against the Vietnam War as well as the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Religious leaders in many countries have also been on the forefront of criticizing any cuts to social welfare programs. In addition, many prominent civil rights activists (such as Martin Luther King, Jr.) were religious figures.
Christian left in the United States
The Christian Left does not seem to be so well-organized or publicized as its right-wing counterparts. Opponents state that this is because it is less numerous. Supporters contend that it is actually more numerous but composed predominantly of persons less willing to voice political views in as forceful a manner as the Christian Right, possibly because of the aggressiveness of the Christian Right. Further, supporters contend that the Christian Left has had relatively little success securing widespread corporate, political, and major media patronage compared to the Right. In the aftermath of the 2004 election in the United States Progressive Christian leaders started to form groups of their own to combat the Religious Right; The Center for Progressive Christianity and The Christian Alliance For Progress are two such groups that have formed to promote the cause.
Members of the Christian Left who work on interfaith issues are part of building the Progressive Reconstructionist movement.
Christian Left and issues
The Christian Left sometimes differs from other Christian political groups on issues including homosexuality. This is often not a matter of different religious ideas, but one of focus — viewing the prohibitions against killing, or the criticism of concentrations of wealth, as far more important than social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to homosexuality. Some on the Christian Left believe homosexual sex to be immoral but largely unimportant when compared with issues relating to social justice, or even matters of sexual morality involving heterosexual sex.
Some consider discrimination and bigotry against homosexuals to be immoral. Some (but not all) of these members of the Christian Left affirm that some homosexual practices are compatible with the Christian life and believe common biblical arguments used to condemn homosexuality are misinterpreted. Such views hold that the prohibition was actually against a specific type of homosexual sex act, pederasty or the sodomizing of young boys by older men. Thus, it is irrelevant when considering modern same-sex relationships.
The Consistent Life Ethic
A related strain of thought is the (Catholic and progressive evangelical) Consistent Life Ethic, which sees opposition to capital punishment, militarism, euthanasia, abortion and the global unequal distribution of wealth as being related. It is an idea with certain concepts shared by Abrahamic religions as well as Buddhists, Hindus, and members of other religions. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago developed the idea for the consistent life ethic in 1983. Currently, Sojourners is particularly associated with this strand of thought.
Jim Wallis believes that one of the biggest problems that faces the left is to reach out to evangelical and Catholic religious voters. Catholics for a Free Choice has responded that these progressive evangelical and Catholic pro-life people have difficulties dealing with the implications of feminist theology and ethics for Christian faith.
Liberation theology, (not to be confused with the completely unrelated Black Liberation Theology), is a strain of Christian Left thinking that has developed in the developing world, especially Latin America. Since the 1960s, Catholic thinkers have integrated left-wing thought and Catholicism, giving rise to Liberation Theology. It arose at a time when Catholic thinkers who opposed the despotic leaders in South and Central America allied themselves with the communist opposition. However, the Vatican decided that, while Liberation Theology is partially compatible with Catholic social teaching, certain Marxist elements of it, such as the doctrine of perpetual class struggle, are against Church teachings.
Notable Christian leftists
- Movement of Priests for the Third World
- Other figures
- Juan Manuel Abal Medina
- Juan García Elorrio
- José Sabino Navarro
- Cristianismo y Revolución (an old magazine)
- Salvador Ferla
- Frank Brennan, Jesuit and advocate for Australia's indigenous peoples
- Brian Howe, AM, Australian politician, was Deputy Prime Minister in the Labor government of Paul Keating from 1991 to 1995
- John Garden, founder of the Communist Party of Australia,
- Tim Costello, former Baptist pastor and CEO of World Vision Australia.
- Leonardo Boff, academic and social activist
- Sister Dorothy Stang - Roman Catholic nun murdered in Brazil for helping the landless and poor
- Richard Allen, politician and historian of Christian socialism
- Charlie Angus, writer and politician
- Bill Blaikie, minister and politician
- Andrew Brewin, politician and author
- Lorne Calvert, minister and politician and premier of Saskatchewan
- Bruce Cockburn, singer and songwriter
- Cheri DiNovo, minister and politician
- Tommy Douglas, voted the "Greatest Canadian". Leader of the first avowedly socialist government in North America in Saskatchewan. Introduced universal medicare, former Baptist Minister.
- Stanley Knowles, minister and politician
- James Loney (peace activist)
- Desmond McGrath, priest, trade union organizer and activist
- Bill Phipps, church leader and activist
- Bill Siksay, politician, former theological student, partner of a minister
- Frank Scott, poet and constitutional expert
- William Horace Temple, politician, and trade union activist
- J. S. Woodsworth, minister and politician.
- Camilo Torres Restrepo, Liberation theologian and guerrilla
- Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, Nobel Peace Prize winning Archbishop linked to East Timorese independence.
- Rafael Correa, incumbent president and former finance minister.
- Leonidas Proaño, liberation theology bishop.
- Bishop Jacques Gaillot, Roman Catholic Bishop of Partenia, social activist
- Abbé Pierre, Roman Catholic social activist
- Personalism (Emmanuel Mounier, etc.)
- Alfred Delp, Jesuit involved in resistance to Nazi Germany
- Christoph Blumhardt, Lutheran theologian
- Rudi Dutschke, student protest leader
- Emil Fuchs, Quaker theologian
- Helmut Gollwitzer, Lutheran theologian
- Ulrich Duchrow, theologian, global justice movement theoreticist
- Johann Baptist Metz, Catholic theologian
- Dorothee Sölle, Lutheran theologian
- Johannes Rau, German President
- Stelios Papathemelis, lawyer, former Minister of Interior, leader of "Democratic Revival", a minor Christian-Socialist party
- Christos Yannaras, theologist, philosopher
- Beniamino Andreatta, economist and former Minister of Treasury, of Foreign Affairs and of Defense
- Rosy Bindi, President of the Democratic Party
- Pierre Carniti, trade union leader and co-founder of Social Christians
- Ermanno Gorrieri, trade union activist, economist and co-founder of Social Christians
- Dario Franceschini, Democratic Party leader in the Chamber of Deputies
- Rosa Russo Iervolino, politician, Minister of Interior, Mayor of Naples
- Sergio Mattarella, politician
- Romano Prodi, former prime minister
- Nichi Vendola, former Italian Communist Party member, founder and leader of the Left Ecology Freedom movement, governor of the Apulia region
- Pietro Scoppola, historian and politician
- Huub Oosterhuis, theologian and poet
- Ernesto Cardenal, Liberation theologian
- Lloyd Geering, theologian
- Walter Nash, prime minister
- Arnold Nordmeyer, minister and politician
- Michael Joseph Savage, prime minister
- Gustavo Gutiérrez, founder of liberation theology
- Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. - anti-Marcos dictatorship hero and martyr of Philippine democracy, who described himself as a 'born again' Catholic and a Christian Socialist
- José Burgos - Filipino priest and independence activist
- Gregorio Aglipay - Supreme Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Aglipayan Church
- Jaime Sin, - cardinal, leader of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and pillar of the People Power movement
- Conrado Balweg - Former SVD priest turned Rebel leader in Cordillera during the Marcos regime
- Alberto Ramento - Supreme Bishop of the Aglipayan Church and advocator of human rights and humanitarian law
- Luis Jalandoni - Former priest and one of the members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines
- Santago Salas - Member of the National Democratic Front
- Stanisław Adamski - Polish priest and workers' activist.
- Leo Tolstoy, writer and social reformer
- Bogo Grafenauer, historian
- Vekoslav Grmič, Slovenian Roman Catholic bishop and theologian
- Edvard Kocbek, Poet, Essayist and politician
- Ivo Juvančič, historian and theologian
- Andrej Magajna, politician
- Metod Mikuž, resistance fighter and historian
- Boris Pahor, Writer and essayist
- Virgil Šček, Roman Catholic priest, politician and social activist
- Aleš Stanovnik, political activist
- Joaquín Ruiz-Giménez, former ombudsman and leader of Democratic Left.
- José Bono, speaker of the low house of Parliament.
- Desmond Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa
- Jin Joong Gwon aesthetist, culture critic
- Lee Jae-joung priest of Anglican Church. former minister of Unification
- Catholic Priests of Justice Realization (천주교정의구현사제단)a society of Catholic priests who are activists for progressive movements.
- Karl Barth, neo-orthodox theologian
- Hans Küng, Catholic theologian
- Hermann Kutter, Reformed theologian
- Leonhard Ragaz, Reformed theologian
- Tim Ryan, U.S. congressman
- Walt Brown, ex-Oregon state Senator, Socialist Party USA
- William Jennings Bryan, three time presidential nominee
- Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President
- Robert Casey, former Pennsylvania governor
- Bob Casey, Jr., current US Senator from Pennsylvania
- Nick Clooney, Roman Catholic activist/Congressional candidate
- Eugene Debs, Co-founder of the IWW and Socialist Party of America candidate for President
- Diane Drufenbrock, nun, Socialist Party USA
- Thomas J. Hagerty, founding member of IWW
- Ammon Hennacy, Wobbly
- Hubert Humphrey, former Vice President of the United States
- Jesse Jackson, politician and civil rights leader
- Dennis Kucinich, U.S. congressman and past Presidential candidate
- John Lewis, U.S. congressman and civil rights leader
- George McGovern, Methodist, former Senator for South Dakota and Democratic nominee for the Presidency
- Walter Mondale, former Vice President of the United States
- Brian P. Moore, Socialist Party USA
- Norman Thomas, Socialist Party of America presidential candidate
- Al Sharpton, 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and civil rights leader
- Robert Drinan, Congressman and Roman Catholic Jesuit priest.
- Frank P. Zeidler, ex-Mayor of Milwaukee, Socialist Party USA
- Frank Ford (farmer)
Leaders a/o activists (civil)
- Jay Bakker, pastor of Revolution Church
- Sr. Joan Chittister Catholic Nun and Feminist Theologian
- Father John Dear Catholic Priest and Peace Activist
- Father Roy Bourgeois Catholic Priest and Peace Activist
- Rosey Grier
- Joseph Bernardin Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago
- Everett Francis Briggs POW and Labor activist.
- Tony Campolo, Baptist evangelist and sociologist
- Forrester Church, Unitarian Universalist minister, author
- William Sloane Coffin, Jr., UCC minister and peace activist
- Helen Keller
- Father Daniel Berrigan, Catholic priest (Jesuit) & peace activist
- Philip Berrigan, former Catholic priest (Josephite),& activist
- Kim Bobo, founder, Interfaith Worker Justice
- Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report and Sunday School Teacher
- John Cort, writer, editor for Commonweal, Peacework, Religious Socialism
- Jerome Davis, labor organizer and sociologist
- Dorothy Day, Catholic Worker Movement cofounder, Wobbly
- James A. Forbes, minister at Riverside Church
- Tom Gabel, Anarcho-Catholic and Punk Rock Icon
- Jeannine Gramick, Roman Catholic nun and founder of New Ways Ministry
- Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Roman Catholic bishop of Detroit and social activist
- Rev. Joseph Lowery Civil Rights Leader.
- Ava Lowery - peace activist
- Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- Pauli Murray, first female Episcopal minister and co-founder of the National Organization for Women
- Mike Papantonio
- Monsignor Charles Owen Rice, Catholic priest, labor leader, and civil rights activist
- Fred Rogers
- Frank Schaeffer
- Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action.
- Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
- Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners Magazine
- Barry Welsh Congressional Candidate and Minister (United Methodist Church)
- Rev. Jeremiah Wright former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ
- Cindy Sheehan peace activist.
- Rev. Lennox Yearwood Veteran and anti-Iraq War Activist
- Rev. Robert Drinan, - former U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts
- Leonardo Boff, Liberation Theology activist ()
- César Chávez Mexican American labor and social activist
- Charles Kekumano - activist Hawaiian priest
- Angelo Liteky - former priest, soldier, activist
- Georges Pire - "Peace University" and Nobel Peace Prize for work with refugees ()
- Sister Helen Prejean - anti-death penalty activist; author of Dead Man Walking, adapted for the film of the same title
- Mitch Snyder, - convert; advocate for the homeless
- Rev. George Foreman
- Rev Richard Penniman AKA Little Richard
- Peter Boyle actor, studied to be a Priest.
- Martin Sheen Roman Catholic activist/actor.
- Carmen Trotta Roman Catholic pacifist
- Peter Agre, awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 
- Miguel A. De La Torre, Scholar-Activist and Author of numerous books on Hispanic Religiosity
- David Ray Griffin, Theology professor and 9/11 Truth author
- Chris Hedges
- Stanley Hauerwas, theologian and ethicist
- Anne Lamott, author
- Peter Maurin Catholic Worker co-founder
- Charles Clayton Morrison
- Brian McLaren, Emerging Church Leader
- Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Church
- Walter Rauschenbusch, social gospel thinker
- Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver Son of Sargent Shriver member of the Kennedy family holds a Degree in Theology.
- John Shelby Spong, retired bishop and liberal political activist
- Paul Tillich
- Kathleen Kennedy Townshend
- John Howard Yoder, biblical scholar and ethicist
- Randall Wallace Academy Award Winning Author holds a Degree in Theology.
- Cornel West, theologian, academic, activist
- Jim Winkler leading member of the United Methodist Church
- Ray Boltz
- Val Kilmer has done promotional videos for his denomination.
- Brian Welch former member of Korn now performs Christian metal.
- Johnny Cash, singer/songwriter promoted Christianity in a number of songs and public appearances.
- Pete Maravich, Hall of Fame basketball player
- Barry McGuire, singer-songwriter
- Michael Moore, documentary filmmaker
- Alonzo Mourning, basketball player
- Atlee Yarrow, Founder of Christian Socialist Party USA
The medieval Lollards, particularly John Ball, took up many anti-establishment causes. During the English Civil War many of the more radical Parliamentarians, such as John Lilburne and the Levellers, based their belief in universal suffrage and proto-socialism on their reading of the Bible. Other people on the Christian left include:
- William Ewart Gladstone, Prime Minister
- Charles Dickens, writer
- George Fox, Quaker
- William Blake, poet, painter, Christian mystic
- Florence Nightingale
- G.K. Chesterton, Catholic Journalist and Christian writer, Distributist
- Stewart Headlam, Anglo-Catholic
- Hilaire Belloc, Anglo-French writer and historian
- Charles Gore, Anglo-Catholic
- Conrad Noel, Anglo-Catholic
- Bishop B.F. Westcott, Anglo-Catholic and spiritualist
- R. H. Tawney, economist and historian
- Chris Bryant, Labour MP and former priest
- John Lewis, philosopher
- David Cairns, Labour MP and former priest
- Maurice Reckitt, writer
- Tony Benn, former Labour MP
- George Galloway, former Labour and then RESPECT MP.
- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
- David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
- Dave Gahan, lead vocalist of Depeche Mode
- Paul Heaton, pop musician
- Christopher Isham, scientist
- George B. Chambers, writer and Anglican priest
- Tony Blair, former Labour leader, Roman Catholic
- J. K. Rowling, writer of the Harry Potter-novels
- Sister Rose Thering - During Vatican II helped in exonerating Jews from Christ's death; social and human rights activist.
Parties of the Christian left
- Democratic Party (Italy)
- Christian Social Party (Switzerland) (Catholic)
- Evangelical People's Party (The Netherlands)
- Christian Socialist Party (USA)
- Christian Democratic Party (Uruguay)
- Christian Democratic Party (Chile)
- Christian Left Party (Chile)
- Christian Socialist Movement (United Kingdom; the Christian wing of the UK Labour Party)
A number of movements of the past had similarities to today's Christian Left:
- Fifth Monarchists, Diggers, Quakers
- Heretical movements such as the Cathars
- Liberation theology
- Peace churches
- German Peasants' War
- Role of Christians in the Peasants' Revolt in England, See Lollard priest John Ball.
- Jesus movement
- Christian democracy
- Christian pacifism
- Christian socialism
- Christian politics
- Christian communism
- Evangelical left
- Homosexuality and Christianity
- International League of Religious Socialists
- Jewish left
- Liberal Christianity
- Political catholicism
- Progressive Christianity
- Progressive Reconstructionist
- Religion and abortion
- Religious left
- Religious Society of Friends
- Spiritual left
- Social Gospel
- ^ "Mikhail S. Gorbachev Quotes". Brainyquote.com. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mikhail_s_gorbachev.html. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
- ^ Blow, Charles M. (2 July 2010). "The Rise of the Religious left". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/opinion/03blow.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage.
- ^ Why TCPC Advocates Equal Rights for Gay and Lesbian People
- ^ Equality for Gays and Lesbians
- ^ http://www.pflagdetroit.org/BibleandHomosexuality.html
- ^ http://www.whosoever.org/gayxian/articles.html
- ^ Bernardin, Joseph. Consistent ethics of life 1988, Sheed and Ward, p. v
- ^ "And there are literally millions of votes at stake in this liberal miscalculation. Virtually everywhere I go, I encounter moderate and progressive Christians who find it painfully difficult to vote Democratic given the party’s rigid, ideological stance on this critical moral issue, a stance they regard as "pro-abortion." Except for this major and, in some cases, insurmountable obstacle, these voters would be casting Democratic ballots." from Make Room for Pro-Life Democrats, Jim Wallis, Sojourners Magazine, hosted on beliefnet
- ^ Reframing Social Justice, Feminism and Abortion
- ^ http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2009/10/michael_moore_is_a_better_chri.html
- ^ "Tony Blair joins Catholic Church". BBC News. BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7157409.stm. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
- American Socialist Voter Educational and interactive networking (non-partisan)
- Anglo-Catholic Socialism
- CrossLeft: Balancing the Christian Voice, Organizing the Christian Left
- The Christian Leftist: The 'Religious' 'Right' Is Neither
- Religious Movements Homepage: Call to Renewal: Christians for a New Political Vision
- Epochalypsis.org: Reforming Insights for a 21st Century Christianity
- NOW with Bill Moyers:The Christian Left?
- Points of Unity for Social Democratic Branches within the USA
- Religion and Socialism Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America
- Socialism and Faith Commission of the Socialist Party USA
- Sojourners Magazine
- Social Redemption
- Turn-Left.com - Religious Left Goods
- The Center for Progressive Christianity
- The Christian Alliance for Progress
- The Christian Left -- An Open Fellowship of Progressive Christians
- The Living Hour & Lord's Prayer Christian Left Meditations
- Totalitarian Daydreams and Christian Humanism At the Crossroads
- Known Author - discussion forum for liberal Christians
- The Bible on the Poor: Or Why God is a Liberal
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