Saturday, November 04, 2006

on conservatives and liberals

I heard Peter Beinart, recent author of The Good Fight: how liberals--and only liberals--can win the war on terror and make america great again, speak at a local event yesterday.

I haven't read his book yet, and am not ready to wade into the debate about whether or not he's a good spokesperson for the kind of liberalism that I love.

I have, however, been intrigued by what seems to me to be an ironic mis-paring between the conservative politics he describes and the conservative Christianity that so often support them.

He defined conservatives as folks who think USAmerica's problem is that we don't believe enough in ourself. By advocating the strength of America, a good and virtuous nation which has accomplished democracy and ought to spread it around the world, conservatives gain momentum.

He defined liberals as those who see USAmerica, like any human endeavor, as a nation in continual need of shaping, as we seek to become virtuous but deal with the reality that we are subject to the same flaws as all human institutions. Our strength is in our down doubt--our own commitment to ensuring that no one within our nation has too much power, and that our foreign policy is shaped in concert with less-powerful nations. They will keep us honest, and just.

What strikes me as ironic is how much this definition of "liberalism" shares in common with the basic theological anthropology that evangelical Christianity espouses--it begins with the sinful nature of humanity. Our "fallen" condition. (We liberal Christians tend to focus on this a bit less, though we're still glad to find redemption and grace!)

I would think that liberalism--acknowledgement of our own failures and inadequacy--would resonate with evangelical Christinaity.

Of course, I write this as Yahoo headlines tell about a leader of USAmerican evangelicalism, Ted Haggard, who is accused of meth use and of having hired another man to have sex with him. I'm not yet sure what to think about this. It reminds me again of how our understanding of sexuality is broken, in the church; perhaps Haggard was yet another victim of the sort of spiritual violence that convinces gay and lesbian people that they are unacceptable in God's eyes.

Somehow, though, it feels to me like it's time for an invitation to acknowledge our own brokenness: as a nation whose foreign policy is far from righetous, as Christians who--though we are practicing at getting better--are not yet perfect, as humans in need of each other and God to be reconciled.

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