It's tough these days to get liberal and conservative Christians to agree on anything. But a new study has found one consistency -- both left-leaning and right-leaning believers admit that Jesus wouldn't definitively agree with their views on social issues.
Conservatives, in fact, believe Jesus would be even more opposed to abortion and gay marriage than they are. Additionally, they contend that he would be less disagreeable to helping illegal immigrants gain citizenship. Surprising? It gets better. In contrast, liberals believe Jesus would be tougher than they are when it comes to moral issues and more open regarding fellowship.
"Liberal Christians tend to believe that Jesus is more conservative than they are on moral issues, while conservative Christians believe he is more liberal," writes Randy Dotinga of HealthDay News. "Liberal and conservative Christians also tend to believe that the matters most important to Jesus are the same ones most important to them," he continues.
"Liberals are conceding that they're deviating from Jesus on their views on moral issues and conservatives are conceding that they are deviating from Jesus on fellowship issues," said Lee Ross, the study's lead author and a professor at Stanford University in California. "They differed almost as much in Jesus's views as their own."
"There is a reality that conservatives are more religious than liberals. It's more important for them to reconcile their views with their religion," Ross continued.
It's interesting to note, as well, that the Old Testament, which researchers see as more "morality-focused" and the New Testament, which is deemed "compassion-focused" offered different challenges to the two groups. Conservatives essentially struggle with personal belief discrepancies that they see in the four gospels, while liberals struggle more with rectifying the rules of the Old Testament, according to Ross.
The end result of the study, which included responses from 787 self-identified Christians, is that people sometimes separate their political and religious views. The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, asked respondents to use a 100-point scale ranging from liberal to conservative to gauge Jesus' views on a variety of issues. Dotinga further explains the methodology:
The study authors gave an online survey to 1,256 people who offered to take part in such surveys in return for a donation to a charity of their choice and a chance to win $100. The researchers focused on 787 people who said they were Christian, but removed those who were in the middle between liberal and conservative or thought Fox News was more liberal than CNN.
The researchers compiled the answers of the remaining 474 liberal and conservative Christians on their personal views and the views they think Jesus has on issues of "fellowship" — caring for the poor and helping illegal immigrants gain citizenship and assistance — and on morality — abortion and gay marriage.
Some, like Shaun Casey, who is a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. and who advised the 2008 Obama campaign, took issue with the study's definition of Christians as either conservative or liberal. He claims many Christians are both (Casey recently took some heat for saying that he's glad American civil religion is dying).
Either way, the study provides an interesting lens into the views that Christians hold as well as how strongly these ideals are predicated upon Biblical teaching.