The Ecumenism Blog

Home » Church and World » Liberalism (and Conservativism) Today

Liberalism (and Conservativism) Today

My friend and colleague, Dr. Matthew Tan, has his own blog, the Divine Wedgie, which lately has been more active than mine. Probably because he has finished his license and i am still procrastinating toiling away.

Recently, he posted this little bit about “Liberalism today” and prompted my thoughts, below. This continues a thread loosely connected on the topic of partisan labeling, in the Church especially, started with a quote from the famous canonist Ladislas Orsy, and followed by a former parishioner’s response.

First, Matthew’s remarks:

The American radical social activist Saul Alinsky has been dubbed as one of the “great American leaders of the non-socialist left”. He once said that a Liberal was someone that left the room before an argument began. 

That was the 20th century, now that Liberalism has established itself as the dominant institutional paradigm in the 21st century (even when articulated through some ostensibly postmodern voices), we find the Liberal being the only one in the room and who bars entry into it  before an argument begins.

One should not be surprised, since Liberalism, in its attempt to provide a space for all to behave however they want regardless of communal telos, paradoxically enjoins a particular pattern of behaviour that seeks to undercut and displace any pattern of virtue it claims it wants to include. To the extent it seeks to do this, Liberalism becomes not the opposite to but equates to a form of totalitarianism.

[Warning, liberal use of dry wit below. Or is it conservative use?]

 My immediate response:

 This sounds rather like late 20th century liberalism, not the contemporary kind. At least in the States, the 80s and 90s were the days of overly uptight political correctness, and you could be sued for sexual harassment for opening a door for a woman. Only the intolerant could not be tolerated. Totalitarian and liberal, in the contemporary sense, are anything but synonymous. Today’s “liberals” really do just want to listen, and be welcoming, which is what gets them labeled as such….

Unless you really do mean Liberalism with a capital L. Because we do not call them Liberals anymore, in the classical sense, probably because they would get confused with the liberals, so they are now called neo-conservatives for some reason. And your description fits well, since they do not care much for dialogue. Or people.

Thankfully in the Church things are much clearer.

Church liberals are the people who are trying to maintain the status quo, or at least the status quo of the last generation or two. They may find themselves fighting fiercely to maintain the serenity and balance of the way things are, lest they be destroyed by these young radicals. Their concern is with tradition as they received it, and protecting the Church from the damage done by irresponsible change.

Church conservatives are radical change agents, dissatisfied with the current state and confused as to why everyone else does not see the obvious need for “reform” (or the abandonment of all that is good and holy, if you are on the other side).  They are trying to look back beyond the last couple generations to a previous period, and bring back a ‘purer age’ unencumbered by the historical accretions that are represented in the ‘golden age’ that the reactionaries (above) idealize.

… Does anyone else miss the good old days? You know, back when men were men, roses were red, conservatives were sticks-in-the-mud, and liberals were singing kumbayah?



1 Comment

  1. […] Liberal and Conservative in the Church (see june 26, Feb 2) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: