Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Liberal/Conservative Dichotomy

Brian McLaren is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He has a way about him, a way of making complicated issues understandable without oversimplifying them. The complexity remains in tact, but you walk away feeling as if you actually understand it. He's passionate without being arrogant. He's thoughtful and unafraid to question the "staples" of Christendom. He recently made some remarks in an interview that I appreciated. I particularly loved his response to the reporter who tried to pin him into the "liberal" or "conservative" box (because don't you know those are our only two options?) The reporter asked if he was "a liberal" and McLaren answered:

"What do you mean by the term? If liberal means you believe ... you should help the poor, and your bias should be toward peacemaking rather than war-making, then I'm a liberal. But if liberal means that government can solve all of our problems and that secularism is better than faith, and that it doesn't matter what you do in your personal life and that morality is up for grabs, then I'm not a liberal. And I could say the same thing about conservatives...When we present Jesus as a pro-war, anti-poor, anti-homosexual, anti-environment, pro-nuclear weapons authority figure draped in an American flag, I think we are making a travesty of the portrait of Jesus we find in the gospels."


And yet it makes people's head spin when they cannot classify someone into a clean-cut, clearly defined category. This is because if they cannot classify someone into some offensive, suspicious, or baggage -laden label, then it becomes much more difficult to automatically dismiss everything they have to say. People will actually have to process new or different arguments and logically and adequately refute them, or heaven forbid, concede to the fact that "others" might just have a valid perspectives.

15 comments:

Terry said...

That is an ecellent quote. Even you have to admit, however, that there are many people in this country who appear to fit Mr. McClaren's latter definition of a liberal: no personal responsibility, and the government exists to clean up our personal messes. Then again, maybe you don't have to admit it.

Tia Lynn said...

Oh no! I totally admit it! Notice, other people call me a liberal, I never self-identify myself as either liberal or conservative, because I can identify with parts of both and also want nothing to do with parts of both. And while the latter definition that McLaren provides for liberal rings true for SOME liberals, there are also some "conservatives" that are for unaccountable wars and corporate greed and would let the poor fall through the cracks as long as the rich get richer. I so desperately want a third way. I'm tired of both political parties. The democratic and republican parties are really the "same guy" in a different hat.

Carlos said...

Tia, maybe you should become an Imigrant like me :-) (legal may I add - have my Permanent Resident card; old one used to say resident alien as if I was from out of space somewhere :-))

Heard an interesting Ravi Zacharia podcast on "Politicising Religion" as he answered questions from an audience in his talk a Penn State recently; recommmend you check it out...

But maybe I've been playing this imigrant card to long and shirking my civic responsibilities... which could be a very interesting topic to discuss...what is my role as a Kingdom worker in the local government of any country? Hum......how does that SS song go ...This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through...

Have a great weekend and don't overeat the BBQ....

Greg Anderson said...

Golly gee! Does this mean I don't hafta' believe that the Lord has mandated guns, guts, George Bush, & Dick Cheney to trigger the rapture?

On the other hand, can I still believe that vile criminals should dangle from a gallows?

Tia Lynn said...

Looks as if you are in quite the pickle there greg. Pick a side! Do it NOW! Or else you cannot play at all. :)

Jeff Gill said...

Interesting thoughts, Carlos. I've been pondering for a while becoming a UK citizen (which means dropping my American citizenship) and wondering how that fits with being a kingdom of God person and a 'stranger and an alien' in the kingdoms of this world.

Carlos said...

Jeff, with all due respect to Tia, since this is her blog, interesting question/musing as to where does a Kingdom person fit in/belong?

I think W. P. Young, author of "The Shack", may have something there when he writes "we belong to the Circle of relationships with the Triune God and those in relationship within that circle" (and yes it does include Democrats, Republicans, fence sitters, Chinese, and all the races, including the Mexican Prince Caspian - was that a racist slip by whomever commented? :-))

It was a tremendously freeing experience for me when I realized that no matter what I did or din't do, I wouldn't fit in... as an American, Republican, Democrat, Complementarian, Baptist, or whatever...but my heart is still Brazillian when it comes to "Futebol" :-)....

Greg Boyd has some intersting and provocaive thoughts in his book "The Myth of a Christian Nation" - you should pick it up...

Cheers as they say in Wales (Went to an interesting Dinner/Theater/Cabaret in Wales about an hour west of Bristol a few years back - interesing people/culture....Feel happy for Gigsey, the welshman of Man U.

Tia Lynn said...

Greg Boyd's book The Myth of a Christian nation came in the mail this week. I'll start it soon! :) Great thoughts everyone.

Jeff Gill said...

Carlos, Greg Boyd has been very influential in my thinking. My gut instinct is great friends with his theology and intellect.

I realise that in an absolute sense my earthly citizenship is irrelevant; I'm thinking about it more in terms what way forward for me will bring the most Life to the people and culture around me.

I'm not sure if it matters in that sense either. It could be that I just think I would be incredibly cool if I was British.

Carlos said...

Jeff,

My second born son put me up to Boyd; he got an M. div. at Bethel in Minnesota and heard him speak often. (BTW, Tia he was involved at The Lift, led by a woman:-)..

Being British has definitely an aura....don't know what it is...it must be all the Lawhead's and Lewis' (and now N. T. Wright)books I've read :-) for me I think I'd become a Scott :-)as I love MacDonald and his country....

Michelle said...

Tia, this is a great point. Our whole "purple church" has some members of both our families extremely confused/frustrated/annoyed. But I absolutely love it. Not just when it comes to politics, but to theology as well.

Michelle said...

another point here... when you accept a firm label of liberal or conservative as traditionally held, you limit the relationships you can effectively have in your life and then in turn, limit your influence.

This afternoon we had a cookout with neighbors who are new to the faith - if we allowed ourselves to be viewed/considered hard nosed conservatives then we would never have befriended these people. And yet I've not compromised my beliefs at all... they know that. But as I made very plain to them tonight, "There is one Judge, and I'm not HIM". In addition to that, I belive He alone judges with mercy and love, as no human can.

I'm not sure I've made a point, I just found myself so thankful today that I have such a wide variety of friends/relationships in my life - I love watching the Lord work in all of those, in His own unique way/time. I'm blessed to get to be a small part of that. This whole liberal/conservative thing plays in because we both come from staunch conservative backgrounds ... yet we've purposely made a point NOT to have those labels limit who influences us and who we can influence.

I'm purple through and through but I'm not a fence sitter - I know what I believe/value, I just haven't found a group that encompasses ALL of what I believe/value.

Carlos said...

Hey Michelle,

I will let you in a secret re: your last sentence about finding a group that "encompasses ALL of what I believe/value".. you'll never will because you(we all) are an unfinished work in progress as God continues to transform you(us)...

Labels set boundaries and boundaries separate and that's a bad thing in my view...the focus should be on how to embrace vs exclude...I keep bringing up Miroslav Volfe's book titled "Embrace and Exclusion" as he he does a wonderfull job on the subject; he, as Croat was asked if he could embrace a Serb, Serbs which tried to annihilate the Croats and their culture..

I guess what I'm trying to say is our Union Life with Christ...to the extent we know who Christ is in each of us (the mystery no longer a mystery as Paul says in Colossians), to that extent we are able to do works of the kingdom...everything else is chaff that shall be burned..

my apologies, for that sounds way too preachy and it was not my intention....

Cheers...

Michelle said...

I don't think it sounded preachy :)

and I'm off to see if our library has that book!

thank you Carlos!!

Spiritbear said...

Wow and a Christian who is not a hardcore republican. Awesome