We’ve seen the extent of the breach that these words have caused in our current Congress. No one wanted the honored position of Speaker of the House because the position is so fraught. Time after time our national economy is brought to the brink of paralysis because of the inability of Congress to go beyond the impasse created by Liberal-Conservative name calling.
The great irony of Liberal-Conservative is that if you twist into a circle the pole on which the two extremes lie, Liberal and Conservative end up sitting next to each other. Each as intractable and opinionated as the other. Neither able to move the bar when it comes to serving the needs of those around them. They are too busy debating policy and issues. Too fixated on a single opinion and not able to flex and collaborate.
Having sat on the conservative end of the polarity most of my life, I understand the thinking. I grew up in the conservative South, in a conservative home, and when to a conservative church. The conversations in my home about my more liberal aunts and uncles were interesting, to say the least. What I didn’t understand at my young age, was that the liberal side of the family was having the same conversation in their homes about us.
I’d like to redefine Liberal/Conservative. I like liberal when it stands for liberal in generosity, kindness, openness, coöperation and collaboration. I like liberal when it means being liberal in concern about the disenfranchised, poor, and alienated. It’s the same sort of liberality that Jesus showed when he gathered little children to bless them, touched lepers to heal them, and gave time to the questioning and lost in order to orient them.
I like conservative when it means holding to traditional values like love, service, inclusion, and communication. Conservative is good when it means using power conservatively rather than destructively or selfishly. Cautiousness is a hallmark of good conservatism when it is used for wise and judicious choices in governing. Conservatism when it stands for a closed mind and closed society is not good because it silences good and wonderful minds that can contribute to the welfare of our world.
Jesus was a liberal when he sat on the edge of a Samaritan well and talked to a woman. He was conservative when he taught the woman about water that really quenches thirst. The tension he created between the two ideas was Liberalism/Conservatism at their best.
O for that kind of world!