Sunday, 1 October 2017

Conservative and Progressive

I recently sat in the same room as an adult explained the difference between conservative and left wing politics to a 15 year old. Conservatives, he said, think the past was good and didn't want to change anything (the clue is in the name, he maintained) while left wing people thought that the future could be better than the past. So they were in favour of change and progress while conservatives just clung to old ways and didn't like anything new.

Needless to say I didn’t agree with this as I think it makes a number of unfounded and incorrect assumptions; number one being that human beings on their own know what is true without reference to a higher authority. The speaker also ignored the fact that both left and right think of the future. It is over what sort of future there should be that they disagree, and fundamentally this means a future with God or one without him. You might say that plenty of right wing people now have no interest in God but I would counter that this is because they are only on the right in certain matters, economic for example. In most other particulars they have absorbed the current liberal ethos. The fact is that all true right wing thought recognizes a higher reality and a higher authority than the secular, materialistic world of the left. So, as far as I see it, what distinguishes the two sides is the acknowledgement of God and the acceptance that we are here in this world for a spiritual purpose. I realise that is not the usual definition but I think you will find that if you strip both back to their roots that is what you will discover.

Why is the left worse than the right, spiritually speaking, when, according to its lights, it seeks a juster and more humane society? It is because the modern left seeks to remake man in his own image and without reference to the Creator who, if he is mentioned at all, is only considered in the light of the centrality of human beings rather than the other way round as ought to be the case. When the right behaves like this, which admittedly it often does nowadays, it is only copying the left which is the main driver of atheistic relativism and the attempt to reconstruct man according to the scientific/materialistic vision (or lack of it). So, regardless of all the left's claims to improve the lot of man in this world, it immeasurably diminishes his true status by separating him from his spiritual source and being. Its focus on the collective also strips him of freedom and real individuality, denying him the chance to grow as he should. But above all its rejection of spiritual reality cuts him off from light and life in their real forms. Consequently the best you can say about the left is that it devotes itself to making the world perfect for acorns, ignoring the fact that acorns are meant to grow into oaks. It is therefore the ideology of stunted growth.

Think of these words of Jesus Christ and then ask yourself whether he was conservative or progressive.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Clearly the scribes and Pharisees, as spirit denying literalists, could be on the right or left but the point is the preservation of the Law and the Prophets is absolutely essential. You can, you should, build on them but they are the foundation. It is true that what does not grow will die but it must grow from its roots. So perhaps Jesus was progressive in a certain sense but his progressiveness was completely rooted in an innate conservatism whereas modern progressives seek to build a future on the shattered ruins of the past, the destruction of the Law and the Prophets.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - nice piece.

I agree that the only true political 'Right' - which is qualitatively different from the Left; is one that explicitly puts the divine perspective as the first priority in Life and Society - within-which other priorities must pursued.

Any political scheme which puts a worldly imperative at its heart and as its priority is of the Left - even when that priority is nationalism, military conquest, or economic success. Thus Fascism and National Socialism truly are of the Left.

This matter of The Law is clearly of the essence - as so often with Christianity the truth is two-fold. It is not just the law, or just creative growth - but both.

I think of the advent of Christ as saying something like... We need The Law; but *from now* it is not enough blindly to obey The Law (which, as the Pharisees demonstrated, usually leads to evil); *from now* we have-to know The Law for ourselves as a personal act of creative appropriation, and freely choose to live by it because we know that it is Good.

I think this is what people mean by the spirit - rather than the letter - of the law.

It is something that Christians have always found very difficult to grasp and to do - nonetheless that it what we need to do! (And repent when we fail to do it.)

William Wildblood said...

Yes, the Law and the Prophets are foundational but they are not dead things but living so from that foundation there can be organic growth. The mistake the traditional right can make is to calcify the law. The mistake the left makes is to abandon the true law and replace it with a false one of its own.