Sunday, May 18, 2008

Conservatives & Progressives

Not long ago a candidate for our state legislature got my Irish up. He's Lutheran, from a nearby town, but he opens every campaign pitch with a Evangelical Religious Right wing diatribe about gay marriage, abortion and teaching evolution and prayer in public schools, while getting government off our backs, out of the social welfare business, stop giving health care to illegal aliens etc. etc.

After a few weeks time to cool off and reflect, it occurs to me that we're both right (and wrong) but also both as sincere as can be. He thinks that it's up to churches and charities to help the poor and disaster victims- not the government, whereas I think it's up to the churches and parents to teach about God pleasing personal and moral choices and to encourage and model prayer- not the government.

However you feel about it, whether you think that government is a means to reform society in preparation of the second coming, like Conservative Evangelicals (Restorationists & Calvanists), or whether you think that government is an instrument for achieving social justice or continuing Jesus' ministry to the poor, the sick, the widows and the aliens, like the Liberation-Theology (AME & Liberal Catholics) you have to admit that the convergence of faith and politics can be very sticky.

You also have to admit that Americans don't know the meanings of our own words. But then, so much of language is semantics.

I thought what follows was a fascinating discussion:

"The labels are somewhat oxymoronic if not paradoxical.

Progressives, for example, like to conserve nature, and historical buildings.

Conservatives like to put up new and more modern buildings after demolishing the old.

Conservatives mostly want to retain historical morals and ways of being: against stem-cell research, and abortion, and gay marriage, and want to retain the Judeo-Christian heritage based on the Ten Commandments.

Progressives want to retain historical cultures, and want the Native Americans to remain Native Americans, and want African tribes to remain tribal, and want each culture to retain its originality, even to the point of not being quite able to stand for women's rights in places like Afghanistan.

Conservatives (like Reagan) wanted to mainstream American Indians, bringing them up to date with the latest developments. Bush wants to mainstream Muslim countries, pushing them into the Democratic 21st century, where dictators disappear, and voting appears, and women have universal rights.

I'm sure there are many other ways in which the two terms aren't exactly adequate to what the supposedly rival groups claim to actually want.

And of course the two great streams have lots of crosscurrents within them.

But every time I hear the terms I giggle to myself at how inadequate they are.

Conservatives actually want progress on certain fronts: they want universal human rights based on Lockean Christianity, and they want to build an aggressive economic sphere that looks to the future.

Progressives actually are quite conservative on certain fronts: they want to retain each culture's wisdom, based on a Unitarian belief that Diversity of ideas is a good thing, and must be retained, and they want to retain the look of the 19th century even in the midst of our business spheres so that some kind of link to our history remains."

Posted by Kirby Olson on

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