Sunday, July 29, 2012

Secular Liberals and Conservative Evangelicals: the root of their differences

Professor of Anthropology (Stanford) Tanya Luhrmann was interviewed about a book of hers that was recently published. You can find the resultant article here.

What struck me was her comment about her understanding of the root of the difference in political thinking between secular liberals and conservative evangelicals.  She said,

"Secular liberals want to create the social conditions that allow everyday people, behaving the way ordinary people behave, to have fewer bad outcomes. When evangelicals vote, they think more immediately about what kind of person they are trying to become—what humans could and should be, rather than who they are. From this perspective, the problem with government is that it steps in when people fall short."

One party wanting to change the effects of human beings' choices and the other wanting to change the causes that are behind the choices made.  No wonder that they have such a terrifically difficult time understanding each other's modus operandi and feel totally thwarted by each other at every turn.

It reminded me of this quote by Ian Buruma:

"Obama is neither a socialist, nor a mere political accountant. He has some modest ideals, and may yet be an excellent president. But what is needed to revive liberal idealism is a set of new ideas on how to promote justice, equality and freedom in the world."

I am old enough to remember the idealism and belief about what we Americans could become in terms of equality, justice and freedom  that rang through the rank and file of many Democratic Party members in the days of Martin Luther King Jr., George McGovern and others in spite of the political old-boy network that still controlled its upper echelons.  I recall that that idealism and belief were grounded in a vision of moral integrity and the brotherhood of man that carried its believers forward through incredible opposition, fear-mongering and  hate that also prowled the political scene. 

I think we could use more of that vision, both of moral integrity and universal brotherhood in all political parties.

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