Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Progressive And Conservative

When discussing religion and politics we always seem to get the two camps. We have the "people of faith" that want to conserve our values and our way of life. Then you have the progressives who are not drive by faith but by scholarship. They are ready to question everything and move society forward. The trouble is both are wrong.

Both are trying to hold on to what was good about Christianity. Conservatives want to hold on to the rules. If we can just get rid of the pornography and the abortions and gay marriage and get back to praying in schools then God will be happy with us and we will be blessed. Progressives want to hold onto the heart of Christianity. As long as we love it can't be bad. So follow you feelings. Don't follow rules.

On the surface it would seem the progressives would do better. I mean the greatest commandment is to love, isn't it? If you get that right the details should be relatively unimportant, right? Not exactly. If you had true love and true commandments then love would be greater. The commandments depend on love and not the other way around. But we don't have that. We have distorted love and distorted commandments. That flips things around. Love get distorted a lot quicker than commandments do.

The quote at the top of the blog says, "Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way." That is where we are at. We have lost track of truth. Since the reformation the Christian faith has divided and divided. Protestantism has questioned almost everything and settled almost nothing. So we have had Christians becoming sentimentalists. The trouble is a sentimental argument can be made for anything. So Pope Benedict is right. You can always say you are doing the loving thing and accuse the other side of being full of hate. 

So progressives errors are often worse then conservative errors. That is accepting abortion and gay marriage is worse than neglecting the environment or not providing health care to the poor. The trouble is that accepts a false choice. That you have to pick between the progressive camp and the conservative camp. Hanging onto rules is not always the right answer either. The right to bear arms was just a mistake. We don't need to hang on to that rule. What we need is the ability to ground love properly in truth. Then we will know which rules we should conserve and which ones need a progressive rethink. 

That sounds like progressive thinking. The question is where do we get this truth? Progressives get it from whatever is fashionable among society's intellectual elite. The assumption is that man is smart enough to save himself. That if we just get the best minds together then society will get better and better and the sky is the limit. 

The trouble is sin. Sin is not a problem that can be solved by smart people. In fact, sin can make very smart people embrace very stupid ideas. So society comes to the conclusion that pornography is wonderful not because it is wonderful but because the intellectual elite is made up of sinners. Since they are smart people they think every idea that appeals to them must be brilliant. But being smart is not the highest goal of man. 

In fact, being smart is not even helpful in becoming a truly good person. It is just another talent that can be used for good or evil. We don't get that. That is why "doctor assisted suicide" is more popular than just suicide. You don't need  medical degree to kill someone. We just assume since the doctor is smart that the doctor is moral. It isn't true. Doctors are no more moral than welders. Yet nobody talks about "welder assisted suicide." 

So we need to get truth but we need to get truth about what is the greatest good of man. Just the opinions of some smart guys is not enough. If we don't get that then any chance we have at progress is pretty much finished. We don't know what progress looks like. 

There is good news. There is the grace of God. He tells us what is true and noble and pure and right. We just need to be willing to accept that grace. We need to be willing to accept it through the church. That is unthinkable for progressives. But that is what true progress looks like. Actually progressing towards something rather than just chasing your tail. 

This is unthinkable for conservatives as well. Putting God at the center seems like an idea they would like but only when it is God as they understand Him. When a progressive idea becomes old it can actually become a conservative idea. Contraception is a good example. Progressives will notice that conservatives used to oppose contraception and most of them no longer do. They like to think that this is typical. That progressives are always right and the conservatives are just a little slow to notice they are right. They eventually do come around and forget to thank the progressives for making society better. The trouble is they didn't make society better. We just have a strong consensus around a bad idea. 

Without the grace of the church there would be no way to know what needs to be conserved. So conservatism ends up fighting the wrong battles. They end up just wanting the values from 100 years ago. Not all the time, things like racial equality and gender equality they would not roll back. They don't have a consistent rule. It is more of a suspiciousness towards change. They are right a lot because progressives push more bad idea then good ones. When they have a really bad idea they push it really hard. 

Anyway, being Catholic allows you to be the ultimate progressive and the ultimate conservative. You don't have to pretend every new idea is awesome. You don't have to pretend every new idea is evil. The church will identify the truly awful ones. Most of the rest are probably pretty good. At least to the point where we can try them and see if life gets any better and reverse the changes that don't improve things. 

The evil changes like abortion, contraception, and gay marriage  are not reversible without some serious divine intervention. It has to get ugly where society turns on the church. The church is the body of Christ. Just like Christ's physical body suffered on the cross for the sins of the world and won salvation, Christ's mystical body suffers for sins and saves the very people who inflict the pain on her. It can make being Catholic very interesting.

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