Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 146. Liberal versus Conservative, part 1
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 146. Liberal versus Conservative, part 1

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Ron Liefer, M.D. has offered helpful insights into what distinguishes liberals from conservatives.1 He thinks they differ fundamentally in what they regard as the source of human suffering. Liberals believe that people are basically quite good and that suffering is primarily due to insensitive or abusive social or legal institutions, such as the structure of the government, civil laws, and social customs. If harmful institutions could be reformed or eliminated, people would be much happier. In contrast, conservatives see human suffering as rooted in individual human failings, such as laziness or moral turpitude. They endorse existing institutions as necessary for peace, order, and societal well-being, particularly when these institutions protect society from the malevolence of morally depraved individuals.

Liberals have objected that unbridled laissez-faire market economies facilitate discrimination against minorities and women, engender great disparities of wealth, and leave animals, children, and the environment vulnerable to abuse. Liberals have typically favored laws to protect vulnerable individuals. Conservatives have asserted that laissez-faire market economies are very efficient at resource distribution and are morally just because they reward hard work, risk-taking, and creativity. Conservatives have claimed that many regulatory laws are unnecessary and harmful.

According to mimetic theory, both the liberal and conservative views are narrow and flawed. The conservative position, which points to individual failings as the cause of suffering, readily lends itself to scapegoating. It can be tempting to regard poverty as a sign of poor character, but it is unreasonable to hold that everyone has roughly equal innate abilities, home environments, and educational opportunities.

Liberals generally believe that institutions have been constructed to protect privilege, but few liberals regard all institutions as grounded in the scapegoating process. Because liberals tend to believe that social institutions, once cleansed of their most noxious elements, can work toward the social good, they tend to favor reforming institutions rather than eliminating them altogether. Radical leftists often aim to abolish a broad range of institutions altogether, but radicals (other than Jesus) generally do not have a program to reconstitute social institutions in ways that eliminate scapegoating. Instead, (if successful in destroying the institutions they despise) they initially tend to scapegoat the former scapegoaters, and later often themselves become the powers and principalities that scapegoat weak and vulnerable individuals, just like their predecessors.

Next week, we will look further into how liberal and conservative views relate to mimetic theory and the scapegoating process.

1. Leifer, Ron. The Happiness Project. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1997.

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