#0017 Conservatives and progressives think differently (part I)

Many of my blogs deal with the differences between religious people and people who are not religious. I have done this and will continue to do it because I’m trying to establish pathways of commonalities on which people of religion and people who aren’t religious might meet up and travel together, even if it’s only for a short distance. The backstories of people in each of these groups are a better place to begin if we hope to accomplish any sort of a dialogue between them. First off, people in the group who think of themselves as religious have origins which predate their religious story. This origin along with all events and circumstances which brought them to their religious perspective—this is their backstory. The other non-religious group is a bit different. These folks haven’t found it necessary to identify with a group, religious or otherwise’ so each of their backstories is unique and entails their whole lives. I want to assign different category labels to these two groups with the hope that doing so will make the discussion somewhat more accurate and simple. The two labels then will be conservatives (depicting religious people) and progressives (depicting nonreligious people). I don’t like having to use the term label because it tends to box people into and limit them to a particular category when in reality all human beings are extremely complex and unique by their very design; but it is necessary to do this here in order to separate people who self-identify with the big-ticket social, political and spiritual ideologies. In hearing individual backstories of conservatives we can find specifics like why one is a Catholic and another is Seventh Day Adventist; but beyond these details we are looking for something more widespread which draws people in and holds them in an identity orbit around conservatism. I think that if we can get a fix on what this certain something is, or figure out exactly what the gravitational attraction keeping them there is, we may find ourselves well on the way to cracking this mystery.

Rather than trying to dissect each group to figure out what makes them tick, I think we can accomplish more and do so quicker if we work on discovering the general backstory of conservatism. The reason I think this is the same reason I used above; progressives don’t have a shared or a general backstory…all of their backstories are—almost by definition—individual. Maybe we can use this fact as a springboard for our discussion on conservatism. Progressives tend to be open-minded about things; whereas conservatives generally like to be told what the right or correct thing is. Conservatives will follow orders given by someone in charge: “Don’t touch the flame; you’ll burn your finger!” The progressives will burn their fingers pursuing the truth about fire. And it’s not that they don’t believe the guy in charge…it’s more they want to experience for themselves what fire feels like. “Live and let live”; “Do your own thing”; “Let it all hang out”; “Give peace a chance”; “The joy is in the journey” are slogans printed on tee-shirts progressives might be seen wearing. Meanwhile on the other side of the street, conservatives base their whole purpose in life around not aspiring to any of these kinds of notions. Such thoughts are intimidating to them. What they are drawn to are things that will help them to identify then align with something they esteem as the one right and true thing. This mission is so imperative to their sense of reality and feeling secure in the world that once they believe they have found it they tend to stick to it like glue. Once this has happened, they stop looking for it, they cease their journey and they tend to become critical or judgmental of others in their pursuits of truth.

Even though I am using only 2 models, they are not meant to be thought of in their black and white extremes—most people naturally fall into the gray areas on either side of the line. I also wish to keep from playing favorites as I present my comments; because my goal isn’t to depict one as being correct and the other incorrect. I consider myself leaning way to the left or to the progressive side of the scale; however it was only relatively recently that I began to think of myself in these terms. I was born into a religious family and at the age 19 I converted to another religious denomination; so I have thought of myself as a religious person for the majority of my lifetime (GO HERE). I never considered myself a conservative, though and looking back on my walk—while I was self-identifying as a religious person I was operating either on the fringes or completely outside the parameters of religious conventions without realizing it. Because I was really morally grounded and was quite active in the church throughout my tenure as a member of religious communities I viewed myself as cut from pretty standard Christian cloth.

It was in the late nineties that I found myself being faced with the question of homosexual behavior—was it sinful or not and what was God’s position on this question? It wasn’t my own personal dilemma; but once the question came into the conscious sphere of my brain, I found myself rather quickly coming down on the side favoring gay people and began to foster strong feelings that God also favored them; or rather He loved them just the way they were. Because my strong beliefs had me siding with the homosexuals, I became very vocal about my new-found insights on the topic. As a result it was rumored by some in my own religious circles that I was probably gay. Not true; but by that time my belief was so established in me that what people thought about me paled in comparison to my convictions. So that’s what fire feels like!

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