Why the Christian Right and Progressives Disagree
We need to start at the beginning with a confession. We’re all liberals – conservatives, republicans, libertarians, democrats, tea partiers, et al. Different kinds of liberals to be sure. Out liberalism is shared at such a deep level that we think we’re really different. But not so much.
We are liberals because we have been nurtured by the western liberal tradition beginning with the Renaissance all the way to post-modernity or wherever we are today. And at the heart of this tradition is the notion freedom, individualistically conceived, with choice as its primary good.
The right and left (of whatever stripe) do disagree and argue with each other – a lot! But what they argue about is freedom of choice. Who gets it and who is being deprived of it. That’s what we primarily fight about. Some are mad at the 1% who exercise their choice to amass as much wealth for themselves as they can. The 1%, on the other hand, argue that they are simply exercising their freedom to do what they want to do. On an emotional level it’s easy to argue against them but on a rational level there is no reason they should act otherwise given our thoroughgoing commitment to liberalism.
Christians should not be committed to this liberal notion of freedom. But we are. And we, none of us liberals, can imagine another way that life could be negotiated. So we just keep fighting. And will as long as we are committed to the liberal ideal of freedom of choice above all else.
Brian Walsh, in his book Subversive Christianity, puts it this way: as long as we believe:
“that the primary role of government is to enhance economic growth, that the world will always consist of haves and have-nots, that schooling has to do with discipline, skill and the acquiring of information, that the ultimate issue in the abortion debate is the conflict of women’s and fetal rights, that there is something normal about what we see on television, and that good business has to do with making the right connections in order to maximise profits— then the very presence of those assumptions in our daily living and our essential inability really to imagine that all of this might be abnormal, a profound distortion of our lives, is an indication that our imaginations have been taken captive by the dominant consciousness. We can’t really imagine life being any other way.”
And that’s why we’re all liberals. And why we disagree without possible resolution. We’re mirror images of each other not alternatives. We think within the same box from different places in that box. But we can’t imagine a different box. Perhaps one that Christian faith points us to. And because we can’t that faith seldom finds authentic embodiment in that liberal box. As Walsh says, “our imaginations have been taken captive by the dominant consciousness. We can’t really imagine life being any other way.”