Two years ago, I started my college journey at a similar point to most college freshmen, politically ignorant. Many of my southern friends and relatives hoped that I would develop a firm foundation of conservative Christianity, politically and theologically. However, after joining the debate team my freshman year, I realized that I was much more politically liberal. On the debate team, I was able to research and explore political ideas that I never would have discovered on my own. At first this led to a massive amount of tension with the rest of my studies. I struggled to reconcile the secular politics I learned in debate, and the Christian principles leaders in my faith were teaching. With help from my coaches, teammates, and even some of my professors I began to learn to craft my own means of integrating what I believe about politics and what I believe about God.
Many of my conservative Christian peers are baffled by the idea that my political beliefs could be grounded in my faith in Jesus Christ; but I believe the best way to find any sort of concrete truth among the shifting cultures of Christianity is to go directly to the Bible. From my studies, I have concluded that the Bible clearly indicates all life is valuable. Jesus calls his followers to care for those on the fringes of society: the poor, orphans, immigrants, and other disenfranchised groups. His calling leads me to a strong passion for social justice and an interest in hearing Senator Sanders speak.
Some readers may question what a conservative Christian would define as social justice. The National Association of Social Workers defines social justice as “the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.” The policies that the government creates shape people’s access to these rights and shape the way that citizens, under the power of the government, view each other’s legitimacy. For example, when the government gave women the right to vote, it led the rest of the nation to acknowledge the personhood of women outside of their relationships to men. This gave women more power politically but also began a movement towards an increased acceptance of women in the workforce. If it is true that the Bible states that all life is valuable, than these types of policies should be important to Christians.
Jesus spent the majority of his time on earth ministering to people seen as outcasts or invaluable to his community. He healed people with diseases and disabilities, reached out to those facing judgment from religious and political authority, and continually gave of himself to those in need. A favorite biblical story of mine is commonly referred to as “The Woman at the Well.” While traveling throughout Israel, Jesus met a woman at a well in Samaria. At this time in history, Jews disliked Samaritans and would go completely out of their way to avoid the area. If they happened to come across a Samaritan woman, most Jewish men at this time would have refused to interact with her because of her faith and gender. Jesus crosses these cultural barriers to reach out and share his love with this woman. Jesus’s conversation with the woman indicates that she felt ashamed of her life and disconnected from her community. Jesus makes it clear that he knows the woman completely. He knows the worst parts of her life and the reasons that her community has rejected her; but regardless of these facts he cares for her. The woman was overwhelmed by this encounter. She immediately went back to everyone she knew and encouraged many of her friends to follow Jesus. Because of her peculiar story many Samaritans were drawn to Jesus’s radical ministry.