Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Mere Christianity: Word studies: Progressivism
Jonal entry 1079 | November 27 2008
It's obvious in the writing of far-left liberals and Marxists that one of their favorite words is "progressive." Why? What do they mean by it? Though we've discussed the differences in conservative and modern liberal thought in the Jonals before, we've never specifically addressed "progressivism," but in the past week I've come across some insights worth discussing.
On the Daily Show recently, "progressive" liberal anchor Jon Stewart was interviewing one of his occasional conservative guestsI believe it was Bill O'Reilly, who I usually don't watch because I consider him an unctuous phonywhen the guest referred to American traditional values. "But," Stewart interrupted (I paraphrase, not remembering the exact words), "American tradition is a progression from one level to the next. And the next level the society should be arriving at now is gay marriage."
Of course his audience exploded into raucous applause as it always does when any liberal point seems to trump its conservative counter and, even worse, the guest just tried to shrug off Stewart's point. But I was struck by the fact that, for the first time in my life someone had succinctly defined what "progressive" means to that party. To left-liberals (as opposed to "traditional" liberals of the Thomas Jefferson stripe, now known as one of the sub-groups of "conservatives"), it means society should always be "evolving" and (of course) always moving farther and farther to the left.
I found the counterpoint of this in my reading a few days later. In Mary Through the Centuries by the late great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan (who was a Lutheran for most of his life and was when he wrote this), says, "Judaism and Christianity both viewed human history as a process in which divine governance was a matter of divine initiative," and further unfolds that idea:
I'm not saying, and neither has the church said through all of its history, that we should not work to make things better, nor that things never get better from generation to generation or even from decade to decade. The church is always promoting the Kingdom of God, working to demonstrate more and more of it, and although we know through Jesus's prophetic words that will never come in its fullness in this world, we are also commissioned to work as though our work is fruitful. And it is. But the irony is that when things are getting better in one historical "track" (better racial relations now than before 1970, for example; maybe even a higher view generally of the sacredness of marriage) they're getting worse in another "track": (a general "acceptance" now of couples living together without being married; less considerate or more ill-mannered interpersonal behavior in public).
But the church, like the nation of Israel in pre-Christian times, has always taught that God's will is not discerned by anyone's "native (or natural) intuition," hunches, or feelings about what "seems right," but is known only through revelation through His Word and seeking, comprehending, and living its precepts.