A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Question of the Day

My Contention: Modern political conservatism is not very conservative; modern political progressivism is not very progressive.

Do you agree or disagree? Please state why.

All are welcome to comment.


William said...

I think I agree with you, at least with respect to conservatives.

Conservatism, as I understand it, advocates greater economic freedom, but not necessarily social freedom (as opposed to libertarianism or classical liberalism). Most conservatives I know preach economic independence and not social independence, but in practice they work towards bigger government all around.

With respect to progressives, however, I don't know, but that is because I haven't been able to pin point progressive ideology. They used to call themselves "liberals," until conservatives gave "liberal" a negative connotation. Yet liberal shouldn't have that connotation. The real problem with progressives is that they are not liberal. As G.K. Chesterton once said, "I believe in liberalism, but not in liberals."

The progressive ideology, according to Christian progressives I know, is to look out "for the least of these." This translates to increased government welfare programs and greater social freedom.

If this is what is meant by "progressive," then I think progressives are more progressive than conservatives are conservative.

That being said, I think one of progressive's greatest problems is that, while caring for the poor and forgotten, they ignore the unborn, the most poor and forgotten. They place the rights of the born (freedom from government interference with respect to reproduction) above the rights of the preborn (right to life).

This response was cross-posted at Philosophical Theology.

doodlebugmom said...

I might have an opinion, but have added cold med to my over use of pain killers....so I have no idea what my opinion would be. :o

Andy B. said...

If conservative means predisposed toward preserving a given set of values, beliefs, or institutions, then I think that most people are conservative, but just trying to conserve differing worldviews. In that sense, people who label themselves as either conservative or progressive are probably actually conservative, just for different ideas.
But if conservative means predisposed toward preserving the status quo, then those labelled conservative in our country seem to be far more conservative than those labelled progrssive are actually progressive. True progressives don't make headlines, they make history.

Bruce said...

The problem is that conservatives and liberals are people. All the inconsistancies of humanity are found in both sets of ideologies. Conservatives are not conservative. Look at 8 years of the Bush admin. Liberals are not liberal. In general liberals only like people who agree with them. Anyone else should be silenced. They are not the open thinkers they think they are.

Anonymous said...

Agree and disagree. Bad question. There are too many varieties of liberals and conservatives for this question to have meaning.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Pastor Mack,

Yes, there are varieties of both, but both are expressed broadly in popular culture. From that perspective, the question is quite relevant.

PamBG said...

I think American politics - and probably also European politics - is subject to sloppy thinking. Or do we actually think at all? People seem more to want to pick a group and identify with it. And if I consider myself a "progressive" and some conservative says something, then I'll just take the opposite view. (Yeah, I know I succumb to this too *grin*)

In the realm of economic politics we also get ideology and process all mixed up. So, people who believe that the government's process of getting things done is inefficient seem to then feel obliged to defend an economic philosophy of caveat emptor.

I think that European politics does this as well but Americans do seem to be particularly vulnerable to this herding instinct. And don't even get me started on political-and-theological herding! (e.g. "If I'm theologically conservative, I must also be politically conservative")

Country Parson said...

Once upon a time I was a conservative. At least that's what I proclaimed. Conservative then meant politics that emphasized optimization of individual opportunity consistent with the welfare of society as a whole. Today conservative seems to mean something stridently selfish, deliberately oriented to preserving the privileges of the rich, and bordering on fascism.

So I guess that makes me a progressive liberal. Who knew? On the whole, I come down with Niebuhr.

Chuck Tackett said...

Progressive versus conservative in today's environment has transformed the debate about the role of government in our everyday lives into monumental and unwavering battles over specific values. Though there may be some substantive difference between the two, there is little procedural difference between those who align themselves in a specific camp.

This debate has cut off many people from feeling they have the ability to make real change on their own. Our culture has decided that if something needs to be done, the government must do it.

I think our churches are particularly to blame in this regard as we have as a whole moved away from the role of service provider to one of only evangelism and worship. We have embraced government as the catalyst for change and forgotten our own need to be revolutionary.

Chuck Tackett said...

Revolutionary may not be the right word. My feeling, though, is that our churches have become more interested in serving the congregation than the community.

elm said...

I think that our culture is naturally progressive towards secular humanism, which leads conservatives to be more moderate, and progressives to be even more progressive.

Allan R. Bevere said...


An insightful observation. Thanks!