28 September 2005

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"Blindly Taking-On and Using Labels Without Qualifiers"
For a quite a while now I've wanted to write a blog concerning the often blind labels of conservative and liberal, the assumption in many circles that there are only two political perspectives -- on CNN Headline News last week I heard the phrase "members of both parties were there" without a qualifier as to which two parties they were referring -- , and the idea that any of those labels would actually mesh with the teachings of Christ and the interests of the Kingdom of God. This response letter to the weekly email newsletter from Ron Sider's organization that I receive will have to do for now.
PRISM ePistle - Wednesday September 28, 2005
Dear ePistle,
I beg to differ with Ron Schott's categories in his letter on "conservative" and "liberal" thought in last week's ePistle. There are many things wrong with reducing political thought to two simple categories of "conservative" and "liberal."

First, the words themselves can cause dangerous confusion to Christians when we fail to make the distinction between political conservatism/liberalism and THEOLOGICAL conservatism/liberalism - the desired distinction being between thought that takes God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible seriously and does not consider that they need to "adapt" to the modern day, and thought that subordinates these realities to human reason and sometimes is simply a religious cloak for practical atheism. Perhaps this is what Mr. Schott means when he says "conservative thought" leads one to submission to Jesus Christ.

But to equate this sort of faithfulness to our timeless faith to plain political conservatism is a mistake on many levels. The word "conservative", spoken in a political context in the U.S., means a number of things that ought to be considered SEPARATELY. For instance, if it is true that doctors who object to abortion should not be forced to refer patients for abortions, does this necessarily entail that taxes should or should not be lowered, that U.S. farmers should or should not be subsidized, or that federal regulations should or should not limit the activities of large corporations? These matters are not inherently related to each other, nor do they, as a group, have such an obvious & clear connection to Christ that we can know He takes the same line on all of them.

The use of the words "conservative" and "liberal" as though they represented grand unifying worldviews or even states of mind (eg. conservatism as hard-heartedness, liberalism as the idea that nothing is anybody's fault, etc) is a fallacy that does nothing but worsen the polarization we're experiencing now. And to tie these "positions" to faith or faithlessness makes it even worse. We now think we know everything about a person, including their relationship to the unseen & utterly free Maker of us all, as soon as we hear their opinion on one Current Issue.

We desperately need to come out of our boxes and listen directly to the words of Jesus Christ. It may be true that subservience to the government is incompatible with subservience to Christ, but if so, might that not also mean (not a "conservative" thought) that if Christ commands us to love our enemies the government has no right to command us to kill them?
- Heather Munn (Champaign, IL)

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