If western liberalism can be defined as that which is “progressive” than conservatism can be defined as that which is traditional. This does not mean, of course, that a Liberal will not hold to any philosophies that are founded deeply within history or that a conservative will not hold to any philosophies that are modern! What it does mean is that the presuppositions of each group are founded on being progressive or traditional.
When the going gets tough and a situation within a community requires intellectual support, a Liberal will begin to root their argument on progressive concepts which give more credence to philosophical (ethical, doctrinal, etc.) change in the community, regardless of what the historical argument and practice may be. A Conservative, on the other hand, will begin to found their intellectual argument on more historical concepts which give more credence to preservation of various philosophies and doctrines within a community. Both groups aim to sustain the community but through different means.
Can a Man Take Fire to His Bosom and Not Be Burned?
The antithesis to liberalism is not “conservatism” but traditionalism. Tradition encompasses history and historical values are what the conservative movement claims she is based on. So the questions remains: Why does liberalism continue to conquer our societies? Why does it seem to be winning?
Liberalism has been on this earth since the first families of creation. From the family of Cain we can see how a sort of “overcapitalization” of certain concepts and innovation leads directly and swiftly to complete corruption. There is such a thing as having too much of a good thing, to put it simply! The sons of Cain were certainly the first to accomplish this, capitalizing on women, weapons and instruments for music. No longer was one wife enough, Lamech decided to have many more. No longer was singing enough, simply orchestrated from the human body; instruments were forged. No longer were tools enough for life, weapons were now forged. The progressive lifestyle thus began!
A conservative/traditionalist is in many ways progressive, because the conservative embraces some aspect of modernity. It is required to survive in this life. Modernity, as evil as it is, has always been here and it will always conquer. It is a part of the human condition. It is not natural, but that is what we struggle with: the unnatural aspects of life that grope at our souls. The unnatural vein of modernity is impossible to stop. It is an eschatological reality within our world. It can be slowed and tempered, though. This is the calling of the conservative: to harness modernity so it does not become overcapitalized by the liberal minded.
To harness and control the beast of modernity we must become experts in the history of traditional societies. If we are not experts, then we become vulnerable to the attacks from the modernists, those who fully embrace modernity. One reason why many of America conservatives will continue to become more and more discouraged is because their scope of history does not continue into history as far as it should. The American Revolution seems to be their point of reference. There is much argument that the rebels were far more liberal than those who remained loyal to the crown, but this is an argument for another day. What we might want to think more about in this discussion is the fact that there are many other traditional societies that thrived and who were not a part of the western monarchy and the destruction of both medieval Catholicism and Protestantism. What is now known as the “Byzantine Empire” is the primary example. This community is often disregarded by western school of thought, even though, in many respects, it was the most powerful and successful society in all world history. It lacks the confusion that western society often embraces regarding modernity and all things progressive. The Byzantine Empire is the Roman Empire (more commonly known as) through what the west often refers to as “the dark ages.” It is a bit humorous that western society would use this term, since yes, the west was in many ways in the dark during these hundreds of years. They often refused to follow the culture and laws of the empire, leading themselves to complete corruption and birthing thousands of illegitimate children (ideals and denominations) throughout the world, who began building illegitimate societies. These societies and denominations were completely unsustainable, eventually fully embracing modernity even in their worship of God.
A cursory view of civilized societies throughout history will show us how if modernity is embraced and coddled rather than chained and harnessed, exploitation along with many other forms of immorality begin to prevail within the culture. The American Freemasons were experts at this, taking a very ethical concept of lending, for instance, and capitalizing on it, turning it into big business, charging interest to the borrower. This is the unethical concept of usury, and was forbidden in many societies prior to the American rebellion of the late 1700s. Another example might be slavery, and how a biblical concept of the poor working off their debt was turned into big business of slave trade, kidnapping family members from foreign countries who owed nothing to the captors. This is very liberal, very progressive thought, to exploit humanity through slavery. So as much as we might like to think that the early founders of America were modest “conservatives” many of them where not, rather, they were “capitalists.”
A more modern example of liberal progressive action might be that of the current debate of sexuality. Liberating blacks and females to become productive parts of the culture is a good thing, but capitalizing on that concept and liberating ALL types of people, including homosexuals and transvestites is another thing. Or how about free trade, especially in the west, where because we have the ability to build enormous ships and planes we begin building them to create a whole new form of slavery where we do not even have to know the enslaved people and how they are being treated. They are managed by the various types of tyrannical leaders who capitalize on their people. They capitalize on these poor people and we capitalize on all of the people, including the tyrants, creating what we like to call “free trade.”
The beast of modernity is aggressive and monstrous. It knows no boundaries! It is fed and cared for by those who might feel empowered by its dominating force. Both the major political parties in America are guilty of feeding this beast…and many fallen Christian organizations. She has been around for thousands of years and she has grown to be a very conniving and deceiving force.
Prior to the beginning of the World War in the early 1900s, our communities carried much momentum in spirituality and applying spirituality to the community. The dominating force of nature was harnessed through the Church. The Church maintained the heart of the community because for one, she created the community, but also because she had the answers for the community problems. There was much to be desired, much of what is now being acquired through science and other secular organizations, but the Church was not opposed to science, for instance. The Church simply wanted to harness science, since science was clearly smothered within modernity.
In our day (and rapidly increasing for the last 100 years or more) we do not have the Church to harness modern innovation of any sort. Rather, we have political parties that people lean heavily on for their guidance of modern troubles. But the parties inevitably polarize and the beast of modernity takes one large bit at a time out of us all because we can never iron out what it is that we believe, much less implement it within the culture. Even the polarizations are not fully embraced by each party. They talk big, perhaps hoping that some sort of balance or mix can be accomplished within society, all while forgetting that the Church and her philosophy of life is for this very thing: to build right community!