The political terms “right” and “left” wing come from the French Revolution. “The right” favored a traditionalist system of social hierarchy and structure that led to some groups being less well off than others. It’s also been pro-free market and competitiveness. It’s the religious side of things that doesn’t always add up.
Obviously some right-wingers aren’t Christian and don’t believe in any deity at all in the same way some left-wingers may go to Mass every Sunday. However, take one look at the USA and you see a clear split between most liberals and Republicans in terms of who believes what.
Left-wing liberal media and television shows like to mock and critique Christianity, while right-wing news and TV programs are more tolerant and respectful of Christianity and sometimes even promote it.
What’s striking is how the philosophy of the right has linked in so well with a faith that promotes equality and preaches the evils of the dollar (you know, with the love of money being the root of all evil and stuff).
Pope Francis is one of the most Christian Christians you’ll find, but based on his public statements he seems to be more of a “lefty.” He’s ruffled some right-wing feathers in the past, particularly red, white, and blue ones. Radio host Rush Limbaugh was quick to call the Pope’s philosophy on capitalism “pure Marxism.”
When asked about this statement, the Pope responded by saying that he wasn’t a Marxist but had met some Marxists in his life that were good people, so he didn’t feel offended by the accusation.
Pope Francis defended his stance on capitalism, stating that his problem was with the theory that the free market would eventually bring about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world.
“The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefiting the poor. What happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger and nothing ever comes out for the poor,” he said.
While the Catholic Church has always made helping the poor one of its main focuses, its leader has never gone after capitalism like the Pope is now. He has said that Marxist and communist theory of equality and socialism are nothing new, and they were lifted from Church teaching. (Then again, most evangelicals in America are Protestants and not Catholics. Nearly half of American Catholics are Hispanic and tend to vote Democratic.)
In Eastern Europe it might be a little easier to explain the close links between right-wing politics and religion (Christianity in particular). As most people know, communism ruled in the Soviet Union for more than 70 years. Despite the communist ideologies of equality, the masses were wretchedly poor and often lived in terrible, Third World-like conditions. They got very little reward for their hours of hard work, and the worst part was, the guys in charge seemed to be living it up.
Those who got away and had a taste of Western life would regale their friends and family stuck under communist rule with stories of the lands of milk and honey where you get out what you put in. People in the Eastern parts of Europe hated communism, and communism was well known for stamping out any idea of God. This was unlike the West, where you were free to practice the religion of your choosing. Religious leaders may be criticized for trying to force their religion down your throats now, but under communism it was vice-versa: You had to be an atheist, and if you wanted to practice a religion, you did it underground and made sure nobody knew.
The Church played a big part in the fight against communism. In Poland, Pope John Paul II was a key speaker against it. People would band together with the Church to fight off and eventually get rid of communism. Since those miserable times, when most people in Eastern European countries hear the world “left wing,” they immediately associate it with the communist system under which they or their parents lived. They also associate the left with atheism. This is why right-wing governments rule in many Eastern European countries: because they are profoundly Christian.
In America, it’s little more difficult to pinpoint the reason why religion is so closely linked to the right. It certainly isn’t communist rule (even if some citizens feel they live in the Obama era of communism). The only theory that comes to mind is traditionalism. Since “the right” adheres so closely to traditionalism, it has remained close to Christianity.
In logical terms, you’d think the more pro-equality and economically liberal left would be better suited to Christianity. Jesus didn’t go around giving people advice on how to market their fish to increase sales, he went around flipping over tables that were doing business in places of worship. He didn’t sound like a right-winger, even if the terms left and right weren’t yet invented.
Speak to a lot of liberals today, and they’ll criticize or even make fun of Christianity. Perhaps the mere fact that the Church is a traditional institution is what makes them hate it. When liberals look at Christianity, they see rules and structure, and they don’t like it. Liberals might not necessarily be atheists; they’re just not religious. They may believe in a God they want to believe in, but won’t adhere to any religious traditions, because they don’t like being told, “This is how it is and this is what you have to do.” This could be the answer to why the right has often had a better relationship with Christianity. It conforms better.
While a conservative may not necessarily be a Christian, their conservative nature and acceptance of tradition and structure makes them far more tolerant of a religion such as Christianity compared to some of the crazy antics these young hippie liberals get up to. This is why Christianity and “the right” get on so well.