As we mingled and talked with friends and family this Thanksgiving, the conversation frequently turned to the recent election. “What do you think…” was a common question. During one of these conversations, I was asked a simple question, “What’s the difference between a liberal and a conservative?” What an opportunity for a series of jokes! Here is one:
An elderly man went to a store and bought $15.23 in groceries. He handed the young cashier a $20 bill, expecting $4.77 in return. He was surprised when she handed him a single dollar bill. Bewildered, the gentleman complained, “This is the wrong amount!” The cashier – a liberal – replied, “No sir, this is the right amount. You must be using the old math. We’re using the new math now.”
Jokes may be good for a laugh but will not answer the question.
The words “liberal” and “conservative” immediately conjured up some stereotypical characteristics of people:
Of course it doesn’t take long to realize that these stereotypes are just that: Stereotypes. We all know emotional conservatives and rational liberals, and so forth. Clearly this approach would not yield an acceptable response and must be abandoned.
Not knowing what else to do, I started naming the typical questions regarding today’s hot political topics such as,
- “Do you support abortion or right to life for the unborn?”
- “Do you believe the law should apply equally to all citizens?”
- “What do you think of homosexual marriage?”
But that approach quickly failed because it became clear that all of us are “conservative” on some issues and “liberal” on others. So are “liberal” and “conservative” just fungible labels we use for convenience, or is there more?
Is it our position on political issues that defines a conservative or a liberal? Or is there a fundamental state of being a conservative or a liberal that is simply being displayed through our various political positions?
During the conversation we found we held different points of view on global warming. Unable to reach agreement, the dialog finally ended with the challenge, “Are you willing to look at data that points to a conclusion different from the one you presently hold? If not, there is no need to discuss the matter any further.”
Surprisingly the “liberal” with the pro-global warming position responded, “No, I don’t want to see the data.” The “conservative” who had previously examined both sides of the argument and had consequently chosen not to believe in global warming therefore concluded, “Aha, that’s the difference! Conservatives are willing to look at both sides of an argument, liberals are not.”
But clearly something didn’t add up: The “liberal” suddenly appeared conservative, and the “conservative” suddenly appeared liberal. If the labels are interchangeable, then they are meaningless.
Furthermore, in the Middle Ages didn’t “conservative” flat earthers who represented the establishment positions persecute “liberal” round earthers who represented a new view? Didn’t the “conservatives” actually burn some “liberals” at the stake rather than honestly examine the new view?
Besides, if all liberals were unwilling to consider alternative new positions, they couldn’t even have come into existence to begin with: To simply exist they would have had to reject the traditional view they had once held, then examine and embrace a new view they found more satisfactory. Therefore at least some liberals must be accepting of data that disproves an established view!
Moreover, if liberals were intolerant of opposing views, they should have been the ones persecuting the “conservative” flat earthers – not the other way round! Something is definitely wrong with this explanation!
I left the conversation intellectually unsatisfied. It had been enjoyable but fruitless, for we never really answered the original question.
Unanswered questions torment me. There must be something I’m missing. So I pondered the matter deeper. What is missing? Then The Spirit whispered, “Sin.”
“Sin?” I asked.
“Yes, sin.” That’s all He said.
“What does that have to do with “liberal” and “conservative?” I muttered to myself.
Puzzled, I searched The Bible. It says much about sin and its consequences. It contains warning upon warning not to sin. But what does that have to do with “liberal” and “conservative”?
I started searching through The Old Testament. The Old Testament is the story of the Israelites, God’s chosen people. Their history is provided for our benefit as a mirror to see ourselves the way we really are – including both the good and the bad. (Let us not delude ourselves; we are no different from the Israelites: We are all fallen, sinful humans. We will surely fall into the same traps that snared them.)
The words of Isaiah jumped out at me. They are still fresh and applicable to modern America 2,500 years later.
For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence.
For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.
Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. (Isa 3:8-11)
America may not have fallen yet, but we are certainly stumbling. Sobering message, but what does it have to do with “liberal” and “conservative”?
Then I remembered the words of Ezekiel, which reminded me of our iniquities:
Eze 16:20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?
Eze 16:22 And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood.
I shudder in terror at these words when I consider how we have torn off babies’ limbs and killed over 50,000,000 of our sons and daughters in the womb at the altar of convenience and “choice.” But what does that have to do with “liberal” vs. “conservative”?
Finally I read the words of Jesus in His letter to the Church of Thyatira:
Rev 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Rev 2:21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
Now I’m crushed. But what does all that have to do with “liberal” vs. “conservative”?
The Spirit whispered, “Don’t you see? Still?”
Then He made it clear:
A “conservative” seeks after righteousness and truth with all he has. He uncompromisingly seeks and “conserves” that which is good, and abandons all else. He carefully considers all options – even unpleasant ones – before choosing to act. He meticulously evaluates all aspects of every significant decision beforehand and counts the cost of all options carefully.
A “liberal” is willing to compromise the truth for personal convenience either through a half-finished search, or even willful disregard of the truth.
That sounds good, but how can anyone find truth? Isn’t truth relative, in the eye of the beholder? Does it even exist? Pontius Pilate asked Jesus that very question just before he condemned Jesus to be crucified,
Joh 18:38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.
The Bible answers Pilate’s question unequivocally:
Joh 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus is truth personified. Seek Jesus and you will find Him and in Him you will find the Truth. Seek Jesus and you will also find life.
Seek the truth uncompromisingly and surely you will find Jesus. Do not turn to the right or the left, do not allow falsehood to distract your eye from the truth. Surely you will find Jesus. Doing so will make you “conservative.” You cannot help it because God is conservative.
Keep your eyes on Jesus and you will walk in the light and the truth. Be diligent and uncompromising. If you are, inevitably you will find truth, and life in Jesus.
All other paths, followed by most people, “liberal” paths, lead to dead ends. That, my friends, is not a pun, but the hard truth.
But be careful, for all is not as it looks.
This world is filled with deception and lies, and we are easily distracted by the newest shiny baubles dangled in front of our eyes. The Bible teaches us that the deceiver masquerades as an angel of light.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2Co 11:14-15)
Jesus warns us that seeking the Truth is extremely difficult but worthwhile:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Mat 7:13-14)
Notice that Jesus is warning all, be they conservative or liberal. We all have difficulty staying on the right path. We all love to wander and are easily deceived.
A conservative may be deceived into thinking that tradition is as good as knowing Jesus. A conservative may be deceived into thinking that heritage is equivalent to a “get out of jail” card and there is no need to seek the Truth. A conservative may be deceived to interpret Biblical truth liberally and thereby take his eyes off Jesus.
In contrast to the conservative, the “liberal” is more easily deceived and likely to be captured by the latest trends, fashions, and manias. In the “liberal” world what is good today may be evil tomorrow; what is evil today may be good tomorrow.
“…but it’s new!” becomes more important than “…but it’s true.”
In contrast to someone firmly guided by Biblical Truth, a liberal is willing to bend here and there to satisfy his desires. After all, he is called liberal in part because he interprets guidance and rules “liberally”, not literally. For example,
- A little white lie to prevent an argument in not really a lie…
- A furtive glance is not really coveting…
- The end justifies the means…
- That baby in the womb is just a clump of cells…
- We are not created male and female, but can change gender as the weather changes…
- Buddha, Krishna, Gaya, Allah, Jesus, etc. are all the same…
- There is no God…
We all know all the excuses because we’re all “liberals” at heart. We don’t want to follow God’s strict guidance and be conservatives. We want what we want – now! We think we can bend the rules a bit for our own good. We think, “God won’t mind this time – if He even exists.”
But God does mind…
The Bible amply demonstrates God’s graciousness, mercy, and love: He gave the Israelites chance after chance after chance, until finally they ran out of chances. He even gave sinful Ninevah a second chance. But God is also righteous and just; consequently both Israel and Ninevah were ultimately punished and destroyed for their sinful, “liberal” ways.
God does not change…
Which brings me back to this election. God graciously gave America another chance. Will we, like Ninevah, repent (become “conservative”) or will we continue down our sinful, “liberal” ways and be punished? God only knows.
Not as it looks