Too Conservative

Too Conservative July 26, 2013

Fred Clark has a post about the fact that conservative Evangelicalism's language gives the impression that there is only one direction in which one can move too far. He writes:

Gatekeepers police the fortified boundaries of evangelicalism, but only on the “liberal” border. There is no conservative border…

The tribe only has “liberal” boundaries. Conservatism is unbounded…

That’s not to say that most white evangelicals are comfortable with Wilson’s Neo-Confederate nonsense. They’re not. But the subculture lacks any useful vocabulary for speaking or thinking of something as too conservative.“Conservative” occupies the same space in the evangelical imagination as “sexual purity” does. To say someone was “too conservative” — theologically, politically, socially — would be like their saying a bride was too much of a virgin.This is tied up with the distorted notion of holiness as meaning the avoidance of contamination. In this view, spirituality — like sexuality and all the rest of life — is like a spotless, undefiled white bed sheet. Our task is to conserve the cleanliness of that sheet from all potential defilement. Holiness is a matter of being conservative.This idea of holiness-as-non-contamination is profoundly un-Christlike. Nothing in the life or teaching of Jesus Christ suggests that avoiding contamination has anything to do with holiness. From the manger to the cross, Jesus’ whole story is about getting down in the dirt with the shepherds, fishermen, tax-collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, women, Samaritans, zealots, lepers and other “unclean” outcasts of every kind. “Follow me,” Jesus said, but the idea of holiness-as-purity forbids us from doing that.

This view of holiness creates a bias favoring everything perceived or purported to be “conservative.” As long as any given “stance” can be framed or positioned or spun as the conservative option, it will be perceived as the purer choice. Conversely, anything that can be framed or positioned or spun as “liberal” will be perceived as less pure — as tainted, suspect and dangerous.This framework of conservative = pure, liberal = impure also becomes the basis for determining and defining what is or is not “biblical.” No need to go to the Bible itself to figure that out. No need to read the Bible at all. Whenever you’re presented with two conflicting or competing interpretations, just ask which one is more “conservative” and which one is more “liberal.” The conservative one must be purer and holier, so it must be right. The more liberal view must stray from such purity and holiness because anything that is “liberal” is, by definition, a form of straying…

The danger of this approach is articulated well. If the fact that it is the opposite of Jesus' view and approach doesn't persuade you of that, perhaps this will:

Doug Wilson is obviously not a liberal. So therefore his views must be purer and more biblical even if they seem repugnant. The spotless white sheet of his holiness may have eye-holes cut in it, but as long as it remains uncontaminated by the stain of liberalism his status and standing within the tribe will go unchallenged.

The gatekeepers of evangelicalism do not patrol the tribe’s right-wing boundary because there is no right-wing boundary. Their ideal of holiness prevents them from imagining that there ever could be one.

Click through to read the whole thing.


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