Friday, November 12, 2004

A Not-So Distant Mirror

Real Live Preacher, Gordon Atkinson, recommended the blog of Rachel Barenblat, The Velveteen Rabbi. (She's not a rabbi, but she plays one in the blogosphere.) I went to her site and found this interesting post on liberals and conservatives in the Jewish tradition. Unable to post a comment on her site, I dropped this email response:

I really love your site. Your posts are thoughtful and thought-provoking. I also love the name for it...Maybe the best name for a blog that I've seen yet.

For some reason, when I attempted to post a comment on your most recent post, the cursor moved along with each keystroke, but there were no letters to be seen. Given my abilities as a typist, it's likely that had I stuck it out, you would have read me saying things like, "vzpglo siunttpr..." Well, you get the idea.

I'm one of those "er Lutherans" you referred to in your post on "Liberals and Conservatives."

By some in my neck of the Christian woods, I'm referred to as a conservative and I am conservative on some issues. By others, I'm seen as a liberal and I am liberal on some issues.

But I think it's generally true that conservatives are less inquisitive about the views of liberals than vice versa. Speaking in reckless general terms, I imagine that in part this can be explained by fear on both sides of the equation. Conservatives tend to be afraid of the new ideas advanced by liberals. Liberals are afraid of being seen as heterodox.

On the other hand, I have seen liberals be as intolerant of conservatives as conservatives can be of liberals.

And people in both camps seem equally capable of disdain.

Good writing!

Mark Daniels

Generally speaking, I try to shy away from labels like conservative and liberal. It's gotten to the point where they may not communicate much. But I think I broadly understand what Rachel is talking about and for those of us who aren't Jewish, her insights are informative and to some extent, provide some of us with a distant mirror on our own circumstances.


Rachel said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your kind words about my blog! Sorry you weren't able to post a comment. In accordance with Murphy's Law, my email provider chose yesterday to go completely kaput for 24 hours, ensuring that all email sent to me during that span of time would vanish into the aether. Whoops. :-)

I identify with your remark that you're conservative on some issues and liberal on others -- and that you're seen accordingly by different people. That sounds pretty familiar to me! Honestly, I think you're right that the terms are beginning to lose their meaning -- they've been so overused that they're mostly noise, at this point.

I like your theory that fear is behind the general trend of conservatives being uninterested in liberal religious phenomena...and take to heart your warning that liberals can be as intolerant of conservatives as the other way around. That latter is absolutely true, and saddens me every time I encounter it!

One of the folks who commented on my blog post noted that while it's rare for large groups to bridge these kinds of ideological divides, the picture is much more hopeful on an individual level. Though movements or denominations may not be able to engage in dialogue, we as individuals can -- and every little candle we kindle is one more spark of light against the darkness...

eLarson said...

That is a good point that Rachel brings up. (Ditto on the kudos on the name of her blog.) What are Conservatives conserving? Are liberals who call themselves 'Progressives' really 'Liberal' in the old sense of the word (the sense as implied in "liberal arts" or "western, liberal culture")? And either way, toward what do they see themselves progressing?

As best I can see it, today's political conservatives are trying to conserve an interpretation of the Constitution and other founding documents that would mesh with the intent of the Founders--insofar as that can be known, anyway. Liberals, in the new sense, take a more, well, liberal interpretation of those documents.

In the religious sphere, are the conservatives and liberals split over doctrine only? Or are there other issues besides?