4 Things Liberals Can Learn From Conservatives

4 Things Liberals Can Learn From Conservatives November 8, 2012

Facebook was a bloodbath yesterday. An early update read, “Friends… if you are an Obama supporter go ahead and delete me from your friends list. You are DEAD to me!!!” … the first sign that the post-election climate would be rough. One of my favorite blogs read “Mourning in America,” lamenting the coming ruination of America by the power-crazed, inept, baby-killing Obama… another sign. As the day progressed, scores of comments, tweets, articles, and interviews ranged from hopelessly sad and passive aggressive to downright mean and nasty. Astute Christian commenters usually covered their flank with a preemptive “I do not believe in politicians or parties,” before trashing the other side as morally bankrupt. I went to bed last night hoping it was a one day thing. Not so much.

Reality: this country has serious problems facing it. Iran’s not going anywhere. The economy is still fragile. The Affordable Care Act needs work. Washington has us poised on the fiscal cliff. The planet is warming. Injustice and poverty are everywhere. Immigration needs work. Wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of the rich while the middle class shrinks. The left & right are at each other’s throats… I could go on.

Anxious? Not in the least. Afraid? No, I am not afraid. I am not worried or fearful about tomorrow, next week, next year…

We are not as broken as everyone seems to think. That which divides us is far weaker than that which unites us. There are a lot of good people in this society of ours, and a lot of good leaders. Romney is not the devil, Obama is not the devil, nor are either of them the answer to our problems. Neither political party has a monopoly on virtue, and they both have a lot of blood on their hands after this election. Any accusation you can make against one side has its analog coming the other way, so everyone put their rocks down before our glass houses all come crashing down on our heads.

Yes, we have big problems, but I am unafraid. Jesus is unfazed by 21st Century Presidential elections so we should be equally unfazed. Sure our problems are big, but working together seems like the only reasonable course, so let’s get to it.

As my friends on the left gloat and celebrate while my friends on the right trash and bash, I’m trying to hold to the maxim that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Since I write a blog and pretty much need to say something, I’m opting for something nice. So this is for all my conservative friends out there who are still stinging from the election, for all my liberal friends out there who are still riding high, and for my post-liberal friends who think they are too smart for all of this silliness. It’s an excerpt from an article that appeared yesterday in The Huffington Post of all places.

Here are 4 things liberals can learn from conservatives, written by Kate Blanchard (read the whole article here). I’m not endorsing all of her ideas, just her spirit. Nice work Ms. Blanchard for attempting to reach across the aisle. Here’s hoping many will follow your lead.

Abortion is not “just” a medical procedure like any other.

There is a tendency in pro-choice rhetoric to trivialize a fertilized egg, or even a six-month fetus, as if it were akin to a mole or a kidney. The religious right certainly fails by refusing to recognize any moral difference between a fertilized egg and a fully grown woman, or between a “morning after” pill and a “partial birth” abortion. But we on the pro-choice side are foolish to think that we can easily dismiss the meaning of potential human life without also discounting pregnancy and human life in general. It is not necessary to view an embryo as “sacred” to realize the wisdom of being more cautious about giving it no moral value at all. Pregnancy is not like anything else, and it has no ready-made parallels.

Entitlements without responsibility are toxic.

Republicans often remind me of the obedient brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who complains loudly when his father graciously welcomes his unworthy brother home. “Democrats just want stuff for free,” I hear them saying, “they don’t deserve it!” Such whining is annoying because it unfairly caricatures every single American who gets social security or food stamps as a lazy bum, as if Republicans have forgotten that there is a horrific job shortage out there. But there is indeed something ennobling about work, and something degrading about feeling like a victim or choosing to let other people take care of you if you can do it yourself (as every parent knows). This is not a matter of “teaching someone to fish,” but rather about nuancing our sense of the interplay between systemic problems and individual agency. It’s never one or the other, but always both.

Not all sex is good sex.

While I find supposedly “biblical,” one-man-one-woman arguments beyond ridiculous, I nevertheless appreciate the reminder from conservatives that sex is not a purely private matter. Our individual sexual behaviors have consequences not just for us and our families, but also for our communities and even our world. We are shaping culture all the time, even as culture shapes us; our sexual choices, no less than our consumer choices, have a ripple effect. It is therefore not a waste of time to have public conversations about what constitutes good sex, and to put some restrictions on what we as a society consider bad sex. Most of us probably take for granted that, for example, rape and pedophilia are evils, but since such laws aren’t written in the sky for all to see, it will always be up to us as a society to define them as crimes. To do so, we must be able to account for why. Which brings me, finally, to…

Religion is not a purely private matter.

Folks on the left love to complain about folks on the right who “politicize” religion. But what is religion if it not political? It intersects, both philosophically and practically, with every aspect of human life — money, food, family, bodies, war, the earth. It is one thing to claim that religion is not partisan (i.e., there are Christians, Muslims, etc. on every side of any divisive political issue), but another to insist that politicians and voters should leave their religion at home. That’s like saying politicians and voters should leave their worldviews at home — something which would defeat the purpose of having elections for policymakers to represent us in the first place. The non-establishment of religion is not the same as insisting that everyone be a blank slate when it comes to public life.

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