Saturday, August 7, 2010

What's Your Label? Conservative? Liberal? Ambidextrous?

A label serves a purpose and so does a rope. A rope can be tossed to you and save you; it can be tossed around your neck and hang you. So let's not "hang" too much importance on the label.

The labels "conservative" and "liberal" are rampant. If you were to ask me if I am a conservative I would answer "yes. . . and no." As to being a liberal I am and I am not. If you're confused, imagine my own perplexity. (This is where you're probably thinking I'd be a great politician in that I apparently don't stand for anything.) Let me explain.

The definition of "conservative" is:
1. opposed to change
2. moderate, not extreme; marked by moderation or caution
3. protecting from loss, waste, or injury
4. tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions

So, am I a conservative? Yes, I'm a conservative in that I value the conserving of our natural resources and want to protect people and the planet from loss, waste, or injury. All people bear the
imago dei--the image of God-- and therefore I desire their well-being. All people have intrinsic value and must be treated accordingly. No, I'm not a conservative in that I am not opposed to change; in fact, I think the status quo can be deadly. Jesus was not about preservation of the existing zeitgeist--the general cultural, intellectual, spiritual and/or political climate of the times; he was about a revolutionary way of thinking and living. In the Sermon on the Mount he often would begin a teaching, "You have heard it said (i.e. the conventional wisdom of the day), but I say to you. . . "

The definition of "liberal" is:
1. marked by generosity, openhanded
2. broad-minded, especially not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
3. free, not literal; loose e.g. " a free or loose interpretation of what she had been told"

So, am I a liberal? Yes, I'm a liberal in that my intent is to be characterized by a generous spirit. I desire to be openhanded rather than closed-fisted in my relationships. I'm a liberal in that I strive to be broad-minded and tolerant of differences. No, I am not a liberal in that I am, indeed, bound or governed by authoritarianism in the sense that I govern my life by the example and teachings of Christ who declared himself to be "the way, the truth, and the life." I regard myself governed or directed by authoritarianism in the sense that there is a certain "orthodoxy" contained in the ancient paths of wisdom. There is a body or deposit of truth that has been handed down for centuries and to categorically discard all of that merely because "I'm all about change" would be tantamount to being liberal in stupidity.

I hope this has provided substantial clarification as to the label I wear. Yeh, right. It's not a simple matter, is it. Maybe the bottom line is this:
A label describes; it does not define.

In the meantime, I can't decide whether to call myself a "consiberal" or a "libervative." What do you think??



Anonymous said...

#1 I don't like labels.
#2 Are you saying if you are a "true" Christ follower, you can not be a liberal? If I read this correctly, that is the only reason you do not "label" youself as such.

Just a thought. Sharon

Steve said...

Anonymous Sharon, Thanks for your question; you made me go back and read more precisely what I wrote. No, I'm not saying that to be a "true" Christ-follower one cannot be a liberal. What I was trying to say was that I am not a liberal in that one particular sense of the term, i.e. if being a liberal means that one is not bound by any sense of orthodoxy or moral code that is regarded as authoritative. In other senses of the term (which I briefly mentioned) I would regard myself as a liberal. This is why I coined the 2 terms--consiberal and libervative--and asked all of you for additional suggestions. Maybe I'm just a conservative liberal.

Anonymous said... that case my vote for you would be libervative. The word just sounds more fun. :)

Zach P said...

Steve, one concern I have when reading this is that, by refusing to adopt a label, you are denying other people the right to pigeonhole your entire identity into narrow slice of the political spectrum. If they can't do that, how can they decide whether or not you are worthwhile before they actually get to know you?

That reservation aside, I'm partial to consiberal. It just rolls of the tongue easier. Although it sort of sounds like it could be a disease. If you tell people that you're a consiberal, they might be nervous that it's contagious.


Steve said...

Zach, you are so right and I was so very wrong in not adopting a label that would not only describe me, but define me. I feel like such a jerk. Hey! A jerk! There's the label for which I've been destined. A Christ-following, consiberal or libervative jerk. Whew! I'm experiencing self-actualization even as I type this. Ohm. . . ohm. . .