Tuesday, December 06, 2011

"Top 10 Liberal Hypocrisies" Considered (1b): Definitions of "liberal" and "conservative"

One quick final comment about the labels "liberal" and "conservative": they are useless.  Utterly worthless.  They really say nothing about the one being labeled except he/she is to the right/left of the one labeling.  In other words, all they do is point out that the labeler believes that the one being labeled "conservative" seems to be to the "right" of the labeler, or that the one being labeled "liberal" is to the "left" of the labeler.  They say more about the labeler than the labeled.

And as pointed out above, the labels can be very misleading, and since they are typically used polemically, their function is mostly to stir up prejudice rather than to clarify arguments or positions.

Here's why I added this note: I've asserted my conservatism before, and some of my politically "conservative" friends have ignored it and simply responded by saying that they see nothing "conservative" in my positions.  Go figure.  Of course, I don't care.  I really don't.  I don't care where I fall on the political spectrum, or whether I'm to someone else's "right" or "left."  It's meaningless.  Why?  Because I'm a Christian.  That is my one allegiance -- both in my life and in my political, moral or philosophical arguments (not to mention theological!).

So, when politicians tout their "conservative credentials," I just have to laugh.  It's nothing more than a marketing ploy -- an emotional appeal that they hope will garner support from people who actually vote.  It's philosophically untenable and in fact dead wrong if one cares to examine the claim.


Gary said...

Like my Facebook profile says: I support Traditional Family Values. If you haven't read it, Chip, then I suggest you do. You might smirk, at least.

Brandon said...

I actually do agree with your reasoning with regard to liberal and conservative. The definitions have largely become meaningless.

Capitalism is a liberal economic policy. Yet oddly in America, capitalism is considered a "conservative" economic policy, and people who reject capitalism, at least as it is practiced by Republicans, are deemed liberals.

The same thing is true in theology. A given church practice may have originated a few hundred years ago and has now become the traditional, "conservative" practice. If someone rejects that practice under the argument that it didn't exist two thousand years ago -- which is a conservative line of argument -- that person gets branded as a liberal.

Anyway, where I tend to disagree with you in politics usually has to do with how government should behave. Normally, the things you argue government should do are things that I completely agree that individuals, communities, congregations, and organizations should be doing. I disagree that the government ought to be doing what Christians ought be doing, such as assisting the poor, elderly, and sick. While I would also agree that both Republicans and Democrats are too belligerent, I do believe there is room for the state to use violence as a legitimate means of self-preservation. As far as I know, your pacifism is absolute.

Anyway, I look forward to the rest of the rest of the series. And we'll see how close you walk the line between seriousness and inflammatory trolling/baiting... Yeah, yeah. I ended with a personal attack, but you know it's true.

chip said...

Brandon, while it's a nice idea for individuals and churches to do those things, it just won't work. The problems are too big. To deal with big problems big institutions are needed. That's why there are so many "para-church" organizations, and so many of them tackling the very same problems! I know it has become an adage that we could, for instance, end world hunger if all the Christians in the world would "do what they're supposed to do," it just isn't so. And it certainly wouldn't be so without some form of organization to pool the resources and distribute them to those in need.

By the way, though I would have to agree with you that our labels do morph, this is more than just a "morphing" issue. It is an issue of mislabeling and failure to understand what various categories entail.

On violence by the state: certainly states will do that, and of course Romans 13 points that out. But Rom. 13 is not therefore a blanket permission for Christians to participate in what the states do. Such participation by Christians would have been way off the radar of the writers of the New Testament -- far beyond imagination. It is not permission for Christians to participate, but it is rather a statement that God ultimately uses nations and/or earthly powers to accomplish his purposes, as he employed the Babylonians and Assyrians in the OT, and then later punished them for their over-aggression against the Jewish people. God uses nations to keep some level of order. But that is NOT a call for Christians to jump into that task, so far as I can tell.

Finally, who are you? Your profile doesn't give any information at all.

Brandon said...

Brandon Garrison, I'm surprised you don't recognize me just based on the usual arguments.

I know the issue regarding violence is a bit of a tangent, so I won't push that one right now. I think we're both in agreement that Jesus was a "pacifist" (acknowledging that the term might be slightly anachronistic in the context) and that the earliest Christian writings oppose all forms of violence. Our only serious dispute would probably be the question of whether a Christian, acting as an agent of the state, can engage in violence for penological or defensive purposes.

I should clarify that I'm not opposed to "para-church" works. My list wasn't meant to be exhaustive and basically was meant to include all private sector resources. I just don't think the government should be involved in the kinds of social and foreign assistance in question.

I do have several questions about what you've written, and I don't mind asking them, but I don't want to monopolize your time. I usually learn something when I read your responses, even though I seem to rarely agree on the ultimate conclusion.

Daniel said...

I read through the article you sited and found myself cringing several times. It's not a very sound argument against "liberal hypocrisies". It makes "conservatives" look ignorant by focusing on issues which are largely on the fringes of the debate between "right" and "left".

It would be much more insightful to see you refute a more substantive argument that gets to the core difference between what we refer to as "liberal" and "conservative" positions: Statism and the left's obsession with utopianism. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on an earthly utopia, which you seem to support, though attempts at utopian societies tend to lead to widespread misery and despotism amongst the people.

I believe that eradicating racism, poverty, hunger, abuse, war, etc. is a wonderfully noble goal.

However, man is the cause of most of man's problems. How do you solve the issues of the human condition given that fact? Sometimes racism stems not from social conditioning, but from vile individuals. Sometimes poverty stems from poor economic decisions made over and over and over again. Sometimes individuals are lazy and do not work hard to achieve.

So, my question is: What does you ideal society look like, and how can it exist without resorting to statism and the removal of private property and the theft of individual achievement (the "pursuit of happiness")?

Gary said...

Let's just all agree to live by the Levitical code. It's biblical, so why not?

We can ask Stafford North to be the high priest, and Scott Chapel can be the new Temple.

chip said...

Sorry, Robbie -- Scot Chapel is a no-smoking zone.