Words mean something. As human beings we stand alone in our use of language as our primary method of communication. We debate and we argue. We make speeches and we deliver sermons. We teach lessons. We pontificate, we preach, and we proclaim. We espouse liberal and conservative agendas ad infinitum. Our “bigger ideas” are framed and defended with emotion, passion, anger and indignation. We have confidence in our words and we resist any attempt of to co-op, twist or manipulate their meaning. We defend our words with tenacity. If they deceive we call them lies. If they embolden we call them inspiring. If they make promises we call them contracts. Words indeed mean something and history shows that they have the power to build nations, define religions, inspire revolutions, defend what is true or even hide what is false.
But in spite of such power, some words are used so frequently and frivolously that they suffer for lack of care and as a result their root, their origin, their intent, and their purpose is lost. Words like change and choice, green and gay, left and right, toleration, integration and discrimination – even words like liberal and conservative, if left untended, can be inexplicably used to defend concepts quite contrary and perhaps even opposite to that of their original intent.
So it is with respect for the power and integrity of words that I offer the following premise – A suggestion that may indeed be something of a surprise to some of you: As a conservative I believe my “liberal” credentials will stack up well with that of any of my contemporary peers in the academic, political, social or religious venues of our day.
Let me explain.
I am a liberal because I believe that the best education is one that indeed liberates. It liberates us from the consequences of those things that are wrong and frees us to live within the beauty of those things that are right.
I am a liberal because of my passion for a liberal arts education – An education that is driven by the hunger for answers rather than the protection of opinions, An education that is not subject to the ebb and flow of personal agendas or political fads, an education that is not afraid to put all ideas on the table because there is confidence that in the end we will embrace what is true and discard what is false.
I am a liberal because I believe in freedom: Freedom of thought and expression and the freedom to dissent from consensus. I am energized by the unapologetic pursuit of truth. Wherever it leads I am confident in the words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
I am a liberal because I believe in integration. Truth cannot be segregated into false dichotomies but it is an integrated whole. The liberally educated person recognizes that we cannot and should not separate personal life from private life, the head from the heart, fact from faith, or belief from behavior.
I am a liberal because I believe in Conservation. There are ideas that are tested by time, defended by reason, validated by experience, and confirmed by revelation and these ideas should be conserved. We are in fact endowed by our Creator with an objective moral understanding. I believe in nature and its natural law. We do know that rape is wrong, that the Holocaust was bad, and that hatred and racism are to be reviled. Even though we cannot produce these truths in a test tube we hold them to be self-evident laws that no human being can deny.
I am a liberal because I recognize that when we exchange the truth for a lie that we build a house of cards that will fall to mankind’s inevitable temper tantrum of seeking control and power. History tells us time and time again that to deny what is right and true and embrace what is wrong and false is to fall prey to the rule of the gang or the tyranny of one. We need look no further than to the lessons of Mao, Mussolini, Stalin, Pol Pot, or Robespierre for such evidence.
I am a liberal because I believe in liberty. I believe liberty is the antithesis of slavery and slavery is the unavoidable outcome of lies: Lies about who we are as people, lies about what is right and what is wrong; Lies about man and lies about God.
Here is the question: Are we really free today or are we now becoming more and more enslaved by the constructs of the Uberminsch – The superman – the power brokers, the elites, the ‘fittest” who have survived in the political arenas of campaigns or campuses? Are we free to live within the boundaries of justice that come from the classical liberal education of the Uni-Versity – Uni-verities – Uni-Veritas - or are we becoming more and more bound by group think, political correctness, and populous power - what M.Scott Peck calls the diabolical human mind?
You see good education – complete education – liberal education must be grounded in the conservative respect for and the conservation of what is immutable and right and just and real. It should seek to reclaim what has been co-opted and to reveal what has been compromised. It should be free of intimidation and should honor open inquiry and the right to dissent. It should have confidence in the measuring rod of Truth – that unalienable standard that is bigger and better than the crowd or the consensus.
Education – Good Liberal education –is the business of pursuing Truth. It isn’t about constructing opinions. As Martin Luther King Jr. told us in his letter from the Birmingham jail, it is the conservation of the immutable virtues that serves as our strongest justification for our ongoing struggle for freedom, liberation, and liberty. Without such conservative Ideas I am not sure anyone can truly call themselves a liberal.
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