Re: Liberalism and conservatism
- Dear Steve
Ah, I see you are using "liberal" in a 'special' sense of the word, to
I think you are completely wrong about this, and here's why.
The Unitarian Universalists are about as liberal (in the true sense)
as it is possible to be. They stand up for gay rights, women's
rights, and include gays, Pagans, Buddhists, Hindus & Jews in their
congregations. Two of them died for their beliefs last Sunday. They
stood in front of other members of their congregation to shield them
from a gunman who was shooting at them. The gunman shot at them
specifically for their liberal and inclusive attitudes. Their
liberality is not built on shifting sands; it is an ever-expanding
circle of inclusivity. Their Kingdom of Heaven is not receding from
them as they march towards it; they are building it here on earth.
I am truly honoured to count myself as a Unitarian knowing that such
people are Unitarians.
I'm sorry you had such a negative experience with the Rev Robinson.
Are you saying that he was going to betray you to the South African
--- In email@example.com, "Steve Hayes" <hayesstw@...> wrote:
> Among Christians, however, it is perhaps most succinctly stated by G.K.
> "As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of
> be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be
realized, or even
> partly realized. The modern young man will never change his
> he will always change his mind."
> In other words, if you keep chaning your theology, you will never
> world. And theological liberalism is always changing the content of the
> Christian faith to bring it into line with what is acceptable (or
> be acceptable) to "modern man" -- in other words, the political
> When I went to the UK to study theology I skipped the country in
> escape the clutches of the South African Security Police. How close
> it was was only revealed when the archives of the apartheid state
> after it had ended. I arrived after a long and weary journey, a
> at the house of my host who was entertaininging one of the most
> theological liberals of the day, the Rt Revd John A.T. Robinson,
> Woolwich, whose book "Honest to God" had caused a huge storm in
> circles. And he simply couldn't understand why I had put so much
> opposing the Vorster rgime in South Africa. His thinking was
> through and through. It is so much easier to change your theology
> change the world.
> Steve Hayes
> E-mail: shayes@...
> Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/stevesig.htm
> Blog: http://methodius.blogspot.com
> Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
- On 29 Jul 2008 at 19:07, Yvonne Aburrow wrote:
> Ah, I see you are using "liberal" in a 'special' sense of the word, toNot necessarily.
> mean vacillating.
But I do distinguish between political, theological and economic liberalism,
which are three different things, and do not necessarily go together.
>I really don't know enough about the theology of Unitarians (with a big U) to
> I think you are completely wrong about this, and here's why.
> The Unitarian Universalists are about as liberal (in the true sense)
> as it is possible to be. They stand up for gay rights, women's
> rights, and include gays, Pagans, Buddhists, Hindus & Jews in their
> congregations. Two of them died for their beliefs last Sunday. They
> stood in front of other members of their congregation to shield them
> from a gunman who was shooting at them. The gunman shot at them
> specifically for their liberal and inclusive attitudes. Their
> liberality is not built on shifting sands; it is an ever-expanding
> circle of inclusivity. Their Kingdom of Heaven is not receding from
> them as they march towards it; they are building it here on earth.
> I am truly honoured to count myself as a Unitarian knowing that such
> people are Unitarians.
Jews and Muslims are unitarians (with a small u).
> I'm sorry you had such a negative experience with the Rev Robinson.No, just that his liberal theology did not lead him to see any need to change
> Are you saying that he was going to betray you to the South African
> Security Police?
Perhaps this may clarify what I mean by the terms:
Updated: 1 January 2008
There is often a great deal of confusion about political terms
like "left" and "right", or "liberal" and "conservative". In
part the confusion arises because the terms tend to have
different connotations in different places. They are also
confused because they are often applied to different dimensions
of social life, and in any conversation, unless both parties
have the same dimension in mind, the listener may get a picture
that is very different from what the speaker is trying to con-
Another source of confusion is that political groups and parties
may choose to describe themselves by one or more of these terms.
So where there is a party called a "Liberal" party, or a "Con-
servative" party, liberalism and conservatism will tend to be
identified with the policies of those parties, even though the
policies may change over time.
Here is a rough indication of the different dimensions, or
levels, of political and social life, and where the various
terms fit in the left-right continuum. It is sometimes difficult
to place some groups. Many who call themselves "libertarian" are
actually leftist on the political level, and rightist on the
economic level. Communist parties have tended to be the opposite
- left on the economic level, and right on the political freedom
LEFT <-- --> RIGHT
<-- Anarchist Libertarian Liberal Authoritarian Totalitarian -->
<-- Communist Socialist Mixed Economy Capitalist Laissez-faire
<-- Revolutionary Radical Conservative Reactionary -->
<-- Democracy Oligarchy Aristocracy Monarchy Dictatorship -->
Anarchist - one who believes that "no government is good
government". Most anarchists would agree on that,
though on not much else. Some anarchists are
socialist, while others believe in laissez faire
capitalism. Some anarchists have been nihilists - they
have believed that everything in society needs to be
destroyed, in order to start again from scratch.
Aristocracy - this comes from a Greek word meaning "rule of the
best". Aristocracy is found in societies that have
rigid stratification of social classes based on birth.
Members of the aristocracy are born to rule, others
are born as workers, peasants, traders, etc. It is
very difficult to cross from one class to another,
because the classes are defined by descent.
Authoritarian - authoritarian government is "strong" government.
It is a system in which the government has a lot of
power, and uses it. Morality and certain standards of
behaviour are laid down by the government and enforced
by law, often with heavy punishments. There is often
censorship of news and views that the government does
not like. There may be some degree of indoctrination
in schools and other educational institutions. Dissent
Capitalism - a mode of economic production requiring the use of
capital, or being largely dependent on capital, and
the spirit underlying this principle. Capitalism
appeared in early modern Europe. Capitalist enterprise
showed a deliberate search for and acquisition of
money, in place of a mere effort to maintain a tra-
ditional livelihood. When the industrial revolution
took place, those who accumulated wealth to own
factories, plant and equipment became known as cap-
italists. In our day, capitalism is largely defined in
terms of Marx's critique of it - as a society in which
the state and society are organised in such a way as
to be favourable to capitalists - in other words the
Communist - communism is primarily an economic doctrine. It is
the belief that all the means of production, dis-
tribution and exchange should be communally owned. In
its Marxist form, it is also the belief that there are
several stages of history, and that communism is the
final stage, in which the state will wither away, and
that the principle will be "from each according to his
ability, to each according to his need". But this must
be preceded by the "socialist stage", which would be
ushered in by the "dictatorship of the proletariat",
where the principle would be "from each according to
his ability, to each according to his work".
Conservative - conservatives desire as little change as
possible. They are happy with society the way it is
(the status quo). If changes are needed, they are seen
as minor ones, and conservatives believe they should
be introduced gradually, and slowly. Conservatism does
not say very much about the *kind* of society or
status quo that conservatives wish to maintain. For
example, in the USSR under Gorbachev, conservatives
opposed the changes implied in the ideas of glasnost
and perestroika. They wanted to keep things the way
they were, with the Communist Party retaining sole
power in the government. So conservatives may seek to
retain an aristocratic, a communist, or a liberal
democratic society. This is why the terms "con-
servative" and "liberal" are not opposites, as many
people seem to think. Where there is a liberal-
democratic society, liberals will tend to be con-
servative, in that they will see no need to change it.
In a dictatorial or totalitarian society, liberals
will not be conservative, but will tend to be radical
Democracy - democracy (derived from the Greek for "power to the
people") is the idea that political power comes from
all the people. Government should be with the consent
of the governed. There are several varieties of
democracy. Popular Democracy attempts to allow the
general body of citizens to vote on particular issues,
or at least important ones. This is difficult in a big
country, though it might be possible in a small
community. In big countries, the usual form of
democracy is representative democracy, where the
people elect their representatives who make the laws
and administer them.
Liberal - a fairly wide term, that can have different meanings
depending on whether it is used in a political,
economic, social or theological sense. Political
liberals are usually in favour of democratic
government (one man, one vote), and a limitation on
government control of people's lives. This is
generally expressed by the term "the rule of law" -
liberals are opposed to oppression, arbitrary exercise
of government power, imprisonment or other punishment
without trial and so on. So political liberals believe
that "the government governs best that governs least".
Economic liberalism (which was associated with
political liberalism in the 19th century) is in favour
of laissez-faire economics and free trade. At the
beginning of the 21st century economic liberalism is
often called "neoliberalism". Theological liberalism
is usually associated with the idea that Christian
theology should be brought up to date, and made to fit
in with the ideas of the current society. Theological
liberalism often goes hand in hand with political con-
servatism; political liberalism may be linked to
theological conservatism. Using the term "liberal" on
its own can often be confusing.
Libertarian - libertarians are usually extreme individualists.
They believe that everyone should be free to do
whatever pleases them, as long as it does not harm
anyone else. Unlike anarchists they believe in minimal
government rather than no government at all - the pur-
pose of government is simply to protect them from
those who would impinge on their social, political,
economic and moral freedoms.
Monarchy - a monarchy is a society in which there is a single
ruler, a king or queen, who may be hereditary or
elected, in whom all power is seen to reside
theoretically, if not in practice. Government is in
the name of the king (or queen). The courts and jus-
tice are the king's courts. The land belongs to the
king, and the king allocates the right to occupy it.
In pagan societies, the king or emperor is sometimes
seen as the visible representation of a god. The god
is a kind of "national spirit" and is the real ruler
of the nation. In Christian societies, monarchs have
been seen as the image of God's rule, so the king is
seen as a steward of God's rule. Some Christian mon-
archists therefore regard democracy as rebellion
against God. On the other hand, in the Old Testament,
monarchy (which was known in the pagan sense, among
the Gentiles) was seen as rebellion against God, at
least for Israelites (see I Samuel 8). A con-
stitutional monarchy is a compromise between monarchy
and democracy, in which the monarch and the people are
co-rulers, and the monarch's power is limited.
Neoliberalism - Neoliberalism is a revival of economic
liberalism in the 21st century, and linked with
globalisation. It favours laissez faire economics and
free trade and investment across international
boundaries, with privatisation of state-owned infra-
structure like health services, telecommunications
Oligarchy - oligarchy is the rule of a few people. Unlike a
monarchy, there is not a single ruler. Unlike
democracy, not all citizens have a say in government.
Before 1994 South Africa was a race oligarchy - people
had a say in the government only if they belonged to
certain race groups.
Radical - radicals believe that changes in the structure of
society need to be deep. They believe that there is
something wrong with society as it is, and it needs a
deep and thorough change. The difference between
radicals and revolutionaries is that radical change is
not necessarily sudden or immediate, but it is far-
Reactionary - reactionaries are those who think there have been
too many changes already, and they want to change
things back to what they were before (the status quo
ante). After the French Revolution, there was a
reaction, because some thought there was too much
freedom and democracy. So this was replaced by the
dictatorship of Napoleon, and eventually the monarchy
Revolutionary - revolution is rapid and complete change
throughout the ordering of society. Revolution may
take various forms - political, economic or both. In a
political revolution, the political power structure
will change, such as from autocracy to democracy (as
in the French Revolution in 1789), or from democracy
to dictatorship (as in the rise of the Nazis in
Germany in 1933). A revolution may be peaceful or
violent, and needs to be distinguished from a coup
d'etat. In a coup d'etat, there is a change of people
in power, accomplished by force or threat of force,
but there is little change in the social or political
Socialism - for the Marxist definition, see "communism". There
have, however, been other definitions of socialism,
based on the general idea that cooperation is a better
principle for ordering society than competition, and
that production should be for use rather than profit.
Totalitarian - a totalitarian government is one in which the
state and its power is exalted to supreme power. Its
ideal is that the government should control every
aspect of the lives of its citizens. Totalitarian
governments usually base themselves on an ideology,
which all citizens are expected to accept. The
government controls all the news media, and in schools
everything must be in accordance with the official
ideology. Non-conformity and dissent are severely
punished, and those who get out of line may be
imprisoned without trial. All institutions - courts,
schools, religious bodies, commercial firms, etc.,
have to toe the party line or be suppressed.
This document was compiled by Steve Hayes from various sources
Updated: 1 January 2008
Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
- Hi Steve
That's a good list, but you missed out Distributism (invented by Catholic social theorists, and I *think* espoused by Chesterton): the distribution of power to the lowest possible level, and the fair allocation of goods and services. Kind of a more practical version of Anarchism.
Here's where I fit personally on the various spectra:
LEFT <-- --> RIGHT
<-- Libertarian / Liberal -->
(I'd be an anarchist in an ideal world)
<-- Mixed Economy -->
<-- Radical -->
(there was no middle ground on that one)
(or Distributism, but without the Catholic overtones)
As regards Lewis' politics, I'd say he made himself fairly clear about them in That Hideous Strength.
There's an excellent article about the politics and theology of Unitarians here: