Know Thyself…Liberal or Conservative

I saw a that someone posted on Facebook the other day a definition of the word liberal. I thought I would look it up in my handy-dandy Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus. I checked out the meaning of conservative while I was at it. I just wonder how many people actually know what these words mean as they throw them around as labels whether gleefully or scornfully.

liberaladj. 1. given freely; ample, abundant. 2. (often foll. by of) given feely, generous; not sparing. 3. open-minded; not prejudiced. 4. not strict or rigorous; (of interpretation) not literal. 5. for general broadening of the mind; not professional or technical (liberal studies)). 6 a. favoring individual liberty and political and social reform. b. (Liberal) of or characteristic of Liberals or Liberal party. 7. Theol. regarding many traditional beliefs as dispensable; invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change (liberal Protestant; liberal Judaism) … n. 1. a person of liberal views. 2. (Liberal) a supporter or member of a Liberal party.

Not so bad. I think I am a liberal and I can’t really see anything here that you could call evil. Let’s see what the dictionary has to say about conservative:

conservativeadj. 1. a. averse to rapid change. b. (of views, taste, etc.) moderate; avoiding extremes (conservative in her dress). 2. (of an estimate, etc.) purposely low; moderate’ cautious. 3. (Conservative) of or characteristic of Conservatives or the Conservative party. 4. tending to conserve … n. 1. a conservative person. 2 (Conservative) a supporter or member of the Conservative party.

There is no category in the latter definition as in the first: Theol. but I think one could assume that, for the most part, a conservative theology, no matter what religion, holds traditional beliefs as not dispensable, not invalidated by modern thought, and not liable to change.

So there you have it. I have among those I love folks who claim to be conservative and others who claim to be liberal. My observation is that many share traits from the other camp but find themselves having to take sides when political rhetoric gets nasty. As I read the definitions it seems to me that conservatives might tend to be a bit tense as things around them change. I find my conservative friends also tend to be nostalgic, always yearning for whatever they remember as safe and happy from their childhood. My liberal friends get testy when change is slow or when new ideas don’t get a chance to play out. They will remember the past as ugly and painful.

I don’t want to judge either position. They have been with us so long that this person of faith wonders if this diversity of thought among humans isn’t in some way a part of the divine plan. There is sort of a pull back and lunge forward among our race. In fact there is this same pull back and lunge forward in each of us. Ying and Yang.

I claim to be a liberal but there is a conservative living in me that keeps me grounded. It makes me cautious when I need to be. It helps prepare me for lean times. It keeps me from jumping into new ideas too quickly. I am hesitant to throw out the bathtub. Let’s plant flowers in it, I think. Just in case.



One thought on “Know Thyself…Liberal or Conservative”

  1. I saw this TED talk not too long ago. Your post reminded of it:
    Ron Rolheiser once said something like this:
    “A conservative is someone who doesn’t want to do anything for the first time, and a liberal is someone who wants to move everything… and if he/she cannot move something, he/she wants to paint it.”
    Your post is good food for thought in our time, thanks for blogging, Judy!

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