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How Christians Reconcile Their Personal Political Views And The Teachings Of Their Faith:


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How Christians reconcile their personal political views and the teachings of their faith: Projection as a means of dissonance reduction

Abstract

The present study explores the dramatic projection of one's own views onto those of Jesus among conservative and liberal American Christians. In a large-scale survey, the relevant views that each group attributed to a contemporary Jesus differed almost as much as their own views. Despite such dissonance-reducing projection, however, conservatives acknowledged the relevant discrepancy with regard to “fellowship” issues (e.g., taxation to reduce economic inequality and treatment of immigrants) and liberals acknowledged the relevant discrepancy with regard to “morality” issues (e.g., abortion and gay marriage). However, conservatives also claimed that a contemporary Jesus would be even more conservative than themselves on the former issues whereas liberals claimed that Jesus would be even more liberal than themselves on the latter issues. Further reducing potential dissonance, liberal and conservative Christians differed markedly in the types of issues they claimed to be more central to their faith. A concluding discussion considers the relationship between individual motivational processes and more social processes that may underlie the present findings, as well as implications for contemporary social and political conflict. (http://www.pnas.org/...0/3616.abstract)

From the study (downloadable here for free):

Results

Our first finding of note (although not one directly relevant to our

predictions) is the strong association between participants’ conservatism

and the centrality of Christian identity to their sense of

self (Table 1). That is, self-identified conservatives (classified on

the basis of a simple median split) proved much more likely than

liberals to see their religious identity as very central and much less

likely to see it as not at all central [χ2(2, n = 474) = 54.74; P <

0.001]. The strength of the association, we found, is essentially

unchanged when more stringent criterion (i.e., top versus bottom

tertile) is used to classify participants with respect to political

identity [χ2(2, n = 361) = 55.7; P < 0.001]. The correlation ®

between religious identity and political ideology was 0.35

(P < 0.001).

Characterizations of Own Political Ideology and That of Jesus. As

predicted, conservatives and liberals differed dramatically in the

way they characterized Jesus’ views “in general” on the relevant

rating scale (with a score of 1 representing “extreme liberal” and

a score of 100 representing “extreme conservative”). Indeed, as

apparent in Table 2, the difference in characterizations of Jesus’

views was almost as great (mean D = 56.34 points) as the difference

in self-characterizations on the same scale (mean D = 45.84

points). The correlation reflecting such projection of own views on

Jesus was also extremely high (r = 0.70) and proved to be stronger

(r = 0.76) among survey participants who reported themselves to

be strongly rather than somewhat or not at all identified with their

Christianity (r = 0.55 among those somewhat or not at all identified

with their Christianity; z = 4.07; P < 0.001). Despite this

dramatic difference in perceptions of the overall views of Jesus,

the liberal Christians in our sample did characterize Jesus as

somewhat less liberal than themselves [t(212) = −3.32; P < 0.01],

and conservatives did characterize Jesus as somewhat less conservative

than themselves [t(253) = 2.69; P < 0.001].

Our subsequent analyses, which distinguish “fellowship” and

“morality” issues of the sort that currently pit American liberals

against conservatives, sharpen our appreciation of the views, and

of the projections of own views onto those of Jesus, that underlie

these in-general ratings.

Table 2. Comparison of liberals’ and conservatives’ characterizations of own vs. Jesus’ political views in general

View Liberals Conservatives Difference

Jesus 26.98 72.82 45.84

Self 20.75 77.09 56.34

Diff. +6.23 −4.27 —

Interesting. Perhaps conservative Christians do follow a /topic/323895-the-gospel-of-supply-side-jesus/page__hl__%2Bsupply+%2Bside+%2Bjesus__fromsearch__1">Supply Side Jesus... It also appears that conservative Christians follow the old testament to a higher degree, which to me seems to be much more about morality (do this, don't do that, etc.), than the New Testament with a hippie Jesus who hangs out with hookers and helps his fellow man (the fellowship side of the bible). Why do the two sides focus on such different aspects of Jesus? Is conservatives' hardline morality as reflective of Jesus' views as liberals' fellowship? What I, as an atheist find great amusement in, is just how great a chasm can be between people of the same faith. I wonder how much pre-conceived opinions affect this. Does this also show how much the biblical account of Jesus matters? Is this evidence that Christians rely on the words of their shepherds?

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...Of course, but the study's point isn't that. It probes the differences between liberal and conservative Christians' views on a handful of political issues. Why is it that liberals see Jesus as even more liberal than themselves when it comes to fellowship, while conservatives see a more conservative Jesus when it comes to moral issues? Why do their views differ so greatly, if they're derived from the same source? Aren't there interesting questions this study deals with? Am I the only one who actually likes reading these studies and thinking of the implications?

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Thanks for trying, BB. Sadly, it's much easier to make me out as the bad guy every time, that way they don't have to read the things they don't like.

Of course, but the study's point isn't that. It probes the differences between liberal and conservative Christians' views on a handful of political issues. Why is it that liberals see Jesus as even more liberal than themselves when it comes to fellowship, while conservatives see a more conservative Jesus when it comes to moral issues? Why do their views differ so greatly, if they're derived from the same source? Aren't there interesting questions this study deals with? Am I the only one who actually likes reading these studies and thinking of the implications?

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