Why I'm Not a Conservative or a Liberal

Before Facebook and memes, knowing a person's worldview took intuition and people skills. But now, everyone wears their views like badges. Which makes it easy to tell if someone is a conservative or a liberal based on what they share and like.

photo credit: DonkeyHotey via photopin cc
On the one hand, it's great to know your friends' opinions on just about anything. People are fragile so it's helpful to know what topics someone might be sensitive to. On the other hand, it's turned social media into a battleground. And there's a lot of peer pressure to demonstrate your partisan loyalty through as many inconsequential statuses as possible.

But it's no more beneficial to polarize the issues than it is to polarize relationships. I'd even go so far to say that those who ardently identify as either conservative or liberal are enslaved to one of two ideological fallacies: either nothing changes (conservative) or everything changes (liberal). Which is precisely why I refuse to identify myself as either. Because I believe that some things change, and some things do not.

Socially

We often forget that slavery was defended in America by citing the Bible. And make no mistake, some passages appear quite devastating:
Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. (Leviticus 25:44-45)
The New Testament's relative silence on the issue doesn't help. Jesus never addresses it. And as I've said before, Paul never calls for revolution but rather for slaves to "remain in their condition."

Does this mean that the Bible supports slavery and God created some folks to be nothing more than property? Well, read the language in Leviticus again. Were the Israelites commanded to have slaves or permitted? It sounds like small comfort, but it can't be ignored that slavery was never commanded and freedom condemned. From this we learn that God has always spoken within the confines of culture. And culture has changed. Because some things do change.

Conversely, the pro-choice movement has made abortion about preserving a woman's right to choose what she does with her body. As if any of our decisions solely affect us. Granted, pro-lifers' biblically untenable "life at conception" argument can't help but beg the question. But if no one can know when life actually begins, why on earth is humanity playing with such dangerous fire? It's like choosing to drive under the influence. It's my choice, right? My body, my will. No one can say for sure if I'm going to kill anyone.

Except that I might.

None of us live in a self-contained little bubble free from affecting those around us. None of us are our own. It's not your body with which you have the freedom to disregard its influence on others. Christians belong to Christ, husbands and wives to each other, children to parents. Don't sweat the possessive language, the Bible is talking about responsibility. And you're responsible to somebody.

Like the nursing mother to her helpless infant, we're called to make sacrifices in spite of our choices. We're called to abandon our rights at our own inconvenience for the sake of the needs of another. That's life. And some things don't change.

Politically

Imagine getting into a car accident. One where the fault lies clearly with the other party. The laws of retribution would dictate that the offender compensate the victim.

Justice.

Now what if the offender can't pay? Sure, the government could jail this person and the debt to society would be paid. But not the debt owed the victim. No, the victim is out a car. And possibly other consequences that might follow.

Justice?

Of course, Dave Ramsey fans will say that prudence should have prevailed and contingencies like this planned for. So let's zoom out the hypothesis. Now imagine this victim has a disability that not only limits employment, but also expendable income due to extensive medical bills. And just for fun, let's say the victim was recently robbed and has no living family members. This person, now utterly destitute, becomes a victim of not just a car accident but society as well.

Before civilizations were relatively stable, a person like this would have simply died. Only the strong (or lucky) survive, and the world has no room for victims--an oddly Darwinian philosophy. But today, societal structures exist for the purpose of helping those kinds of folks. Because people who can't help themselves exist just as much as those who abuse the system. This doesn't affect the value of self-reliance any more than it does compassion (or the prevalence of arrogance and laziness for that matter). It just recognizes that some things change.

This doesn't mean that big government is the answer to all the problems of adolescent societies. Ironically, just as conservatives forget that abuse is unavoidable in any service rendered (like welfare), so liberals forget that the same applies to the family. It's true, I knew plenty of homeschooling families growing up who didn't take their education very seriously. But that didn't stop my own homeschooling mom from declaring a standard 7:00 am wake up time with the expectation that me and my sister be in our desks by 7:30 am. That's right, she bought us real, classroom desks. And like my mom, my wife and I intend to educate Naomi as we see fit. Because she's our daughter, not the government's, and we decide what's best for her. Some things, things like this, don't change.

Theologically

This is where it gets tricky. How could I possibly suggest that anything about God could change? Isn't he immutable or something? If you read my post on theostasis, you'd understand what I'm getting at. But just in case, here's an example.

Impassibility. Like the title of the previous post I made up, it's a complicated and convoluted concoction of criteria for creating a God we could comprehend. Simply, it means that God doesn't actually feel any emotion. He's impassible. Instead, God is described in Scripture through anthropomorphisms. Yes, welcome to the world of theology, that too is a word. And it means that God only appears to exhibit emotion--for the benefit of our understanding.

One problem. There's nothing in the Bible to indicate that God doesn't feel emotions.

This is a borrowed concept from the ancient Greeks' understanding of deity. To them, god must be perfect. And to be perfect, god could not change. Because if god changed, what was the change to or from? More perfect, less perfect? Impossible. Thus, since emotions or passions were considered a change of demeanor, god could not experience emotion.

It's a logical enough idea. It just doesn't fit with the biblical account (read Hosea if you don't believe me). Which makes me pleased to say that like all man-made ideas, as opposed to God's character, some things change.

Now the difficulty with a God of immutable character is that some of his attributes seem in need of redaction. Rob Bell may be the latest universalist scapegoat, but this is a sentiment humanity has wrestled with for millennia. How can a God of infinite love willingly condemn anyone to an eternity of punishment?

It's a paradox that has led many to try and reread the Bible thousands of times. But for every passage on God's love there's another on his justice. And for every verse proclaiming paradise there's another promising judgment. As if holiness is the flip side of mercy on the coin we call God's love.

The small consolation we're given in the mean time is his abundant patience--something that must be washed down daily with a large dose of trust. I don't pretend to understand this. And just like God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, I take no pleasure in saying that some things don't change.

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