It has been a while since I posted here and part of the reason for that is that I have embroiled in a bit of a kerfuffle. I didn’t go looking for it but it came and found me. Anyway, here is a part of my response to all of the hullabaloo.
Once is an incident. Twice is a trend. Three times is a pattern.
This the now the 3rd time this thing idea about shying away from the label ‘liberal’ has come up.
- I heard it for the first time almost 10 years ago: “Emergents are just cool liberals”. This came from conservative, evangelical and reformed folks who were squawking at the Blue Parakeets that were new to the yard.
- More recently Fitch & Holsclaw leveled the accusation in their new book Prodigal Christianity and Tony Jones took exception.
- Then last week the idea was suggested on a different blog that Tripp & I were really just closet liberals who where afraid of the label because of its intrinsic baggage.
I tend to bury my big point in the final quarter of every blog post. For the purpose of clarity I am going to begin putting them at the top of the post. Here is my main point:
There is nothing wrong with being liberal. It is one of many valid ways to participate in the christian tradition. If I were liberal I would be so proudly. I am not liberal. Liberal approaches do not go far enough to combat capitalism, address colonial consequences or repent of the Constantinian compromise that led to Christendom it’s subsequent horrors.
I am not liberal. While Tripp and I are left-leaning. We are progressive. We are postmodern in our approach. We are emergent in our expression. We are playfully heretical (in a good way) and we are innovative where appropriate given our christo-centric hyperTheism.
But I am not liberal. Liberalism doesn’t go far enough in addressing five of my biggest concerns:
- Critique of Capitalism and Consumerism
- Post-Colonial consequences
- Continental Philosophy’s reflection on late modern thought
- Criticism of Christendom (Western and Constantinian)
- Our cultures’ dangerous cocktail of Nationalism and Militarism
There is nothing wrong with being liberal. It is one of many valid ways to participate in the christian tradition.
If I were liberal I would be so proudly. But alas I am not.
One last thing in closing: I understand the historic drift of the term ‘Liberal’. I know what it meant in the 1700’s (specifically as it relates to individualistic epistemology) and I understand what it has become in the late 20th century (a constellation of loyalties and identity markers). I also know about it’s demise as an impotent political approach and I get why some evangelicals are allergic to the term and thus why some would desire to shy away from it. I get all that. I even recognize the unique draw of its individualistic epistemology.
What I am saying is that calling me a closet liberal who is afraid to be identified by the label is like saying that I don’t wear ‘medium’ sized T-shirts because I don’t like the letter M. It is to miss the point. I don’t wear medium sized T-shirts because they are not big enough and don’t cover some essential areas that I deeply care about.
i.e. It just doesn’t fit.