I have always thought it sad that conservatives let liberalism get away. I ‘m referring of course to the term, not the political ideology that hijacked it. The etymological root of the word is simply Latin for “free.” Yet the liberal ideology primarily aims to enslave people – first to their own passions, then to rulers who dominate them by manipulating their passions. Except that it encourages dictatorial politicians to be free with other people’s money, liberalism isn’t free at all. In fact, the cost of funding the bloated government budgets it requires leads rapidly to national bankruptcy.
With the Obama faction determined to push us over the edge into full-blown totalitarian socialism, the liberal label now offers the wrong kind of camouflage. For the Obama faction, politics is all about being taken care of. They don’t want to remind people, even covertly, that in America it once had something to do with being free. Since outright socialism is still a hard sell in many quarters, the preferred euphemism seems to be “progressive.” The term has positive mojo derived from its association with advances in science and technology that have produced positive changes in everyday life. Of course, like its kissing cousin, “change,” it evokes positive feelings while remaining utterly devoid of content. Progress implies forward motion. But in politics as in outer space, you can’t know what takes you forward until you know where forward takes you.
Voting for people because they claim to be “progressives” is like jumping into a cab because the driver says he’ll take you there. Before the meter starts running, you’d better make sure “there” is the place you want to be. In American politics at the moment, it’s the place where government takes care of you. But is that in the familial, custodial or terminal sense? When they’re running for office, the politicians want you to think it’s the warm and fuzzy, mom’s serving comfort food sense. As legislators trying to get a bill passed, they want you to think it’s the “we’re on the job, ma’am” custodial sense. But once the law is settled and the power is in their grasp, the only family involved comes straight out of “The Godfather” or “The Sopranos.” Custody turns out to be the kind you’re taken into. And terminal is a dark pit at the end of the line, not the brightly lit station you left behind.
Though “progressives” can be vague about where they’re taking us, we get broad hints of what it will be like from the vehicles they build to take us there. For example, Obama criticizes the instrument of government America’s founders devised because it’s too much about limiting what government can do to you, rather than what it can do for you. This focuses attention on all the good things you’ll supposedly get from “progressive” legislation. But on the excuse of procuring these good things, the Obama vision of government brings the force of law against you simply because you refrain from doing to yourself or others what your “progressive” rulers demand that you do. Of course, this means that they use the force of law to impose on you their vision of what is good for you, forcing you to see that vision as your own.
By contrast, the American founders’ vision for the most part authorized the force of law to come against you only when you do something to others that you would not want them to do to you. It leaves you to act without constraint until and unless you do something to others that you would consider wrong and harmful if done to you.
The Obama faction’s media and entertainment claque consistently portrays Christian right-wingers as the people who want to force their morality down everyone’s throat. Actually, “progressives” turn out to be the ones determined to use the force of law to compel you “to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Not content for government to enforce the line that marks transgressions, they use the law to force people to do good. That can mean forcing people to buy health insurance. It can mean forcing them to employ homosexuals in their churches and schools. It can mean paying for charitable works with money forced out of their pockets through taxation. As I’ve argued in another context, it can also mean coercing people to destroy standards and institutions (like medical and scientific ethics) it took many centuries to develop.
There’s nothing Christian about this forcible imposition of moral virtue. Christ made it clear that acts done from external compulsion (rather than from the God-loving heart’s exceeding determination to do His will) don’t satisfy his standard for the love that, by his example, he teaches us to offer one another. For in the absolute freedom of his identity with God, Christ chose to take on and to expunge our fault, giving and suffering all. As he gave, we are called to give, freely, not from compulsion but from the love of God.
If the goal is greater liberty and justice for all, then “progressives” betray the name they bear, for their way exalts coercion and does no justice to the opportunity of self-determination God gives to each of us along with our humanity. If the goal is true salvation, then “progressives” betray the way of Christ, for their way makes good action a matter of forceful compulsion, seeking thereby to forestall the inspired liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. In either case, there is no progress in “progressive,” unless we mean to say that humankind advances by returning to the stunted era of elite domination when the few who exalted themselves above all forced others to serve their good and dared to call it law and justice.