…Are you a liberal conservative too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t Tell! They’d advertise you know!

How dreary to be a liberal or a conservative

How public like a frog

To tell one’s name the livelong June

to an admiring bog!


Apologies to Emily Dickinson, but there’s my stance. Am I fence sitter, a complacent one, a hedger of bets?

I’d prefer to call it “balance” or seeing the best of both sides.

By nature and upbringing I am a conservative, but I eschew ideologies and when I see either blue or red bandwagons I don’t jump. While I’m happy to acknowledge my essentially conservative instincts and believe the conservative way is best, I am always wary of parties and politics.

Here’s why: the “other side” always has some good points. If they didn’t no one would follow them. Everyone desires the good, and they follow “their side” because of the good they see in it, not the evil. Nobody gets up in the morning looks in the mirror and says, “How wicked, evil and destructive can I be today?” Not even Darth Vader.

So, for example, the pro choice person really, honestly believes they are standing up for poor women who can’t afford another baby. Do I think they are wrong? Yes. Can I acknowledge that they think they are right for a good motivation? Yes. Does that mean I am in favor of abortion? No. Would I vote for them or encourage others to? No way.

While I am an instinctive conservative I can understand what liberals are working for. I understand what they see as good motives. I understand what the best of them want to achieve, and to be honest, I want to achieve those good objectives too. I agree with their good objectives…I disagree with their methods to get there. I agree with their good aims. I disagree with their underlying philosophy.

Let us take the Christian religion as another example: the liberals would like peace and justice. They would like the faith to be integrated with everyday life and possible for modern people to both accept and live out. Furthermore, they see the amazingly rapid changes in our society and want the timeless teachings of Jesus Christ to be applicable to this changing world or they think the faith will die out. I have some of those same worries. How can a 2000 year old religion with structures and infrastructures still caught in the Middle Ages engage a modern, technologically sophisticated population? It’s a challenge.

The conservative, on the other hand, wants to conserve what is best from the past. He sees the past as the foundation on which a proper, peaceful and prosperous future is built. The conservative sees all the change happening, but believes the best way to adapt to the changes is to hold fast to what is tried, trusted and true. He thinks it is best to adjust slightly the methods and language, but not to change the essentials. The conservative sees the past as the great ship on which to sail, although it may be leaky, it is better than being out at sea in your own life raft.

These are the good aspects of both sides.

The bad aspect is when the liberal becomes an ideological revolutionary ready to indiscriminately destroy what is old in order to create his brave, new world. The bad aspect of the conservative is when he preserves past traditions or methods and venerates them simply because they are old. The liberal is illiberal when he wantonly destroys the old. The conservative is hidebound when he preserves the old for its own sake.

So call me a liberal conservative. I want to conserve the values and teachings of the past because they are true and they have stood the test of time, but make me a liberal because I don’t want to preserve customs and traditions for their own sake. I want the “old, old story” to be told in fresh new ways. I want the timeless truths and values to be re-vivified and lived out in radical ways that have impact on our lives and culture.

Therefore I’m in favor of both sides and against both sides.

Unfortunately the human tendency is to join a gang or a tribe and take one side or the other. This tendency is not only to accomplish something good within and through that tribe, but too often it is also motivated by the instinct not only to join the tribe, but to make enemies out of the other tribe. That kind of tribalistic behavior is endemic to our fallen race, and it is one of the most fundamental of temptations.

Jesus calls us out of our tribes to follow him, for he is the same yesterday, today and forever and his life and love is ever ancient and ever new. He is the only one who transcends all tribes.

Finally, if you do attempt to be a liberal-conservative be prepared to be a nobody like Emily Dickinson and you’d better get put your armor on because if you speak out both sides will turn on you and start throwing stones.

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