This week, I have decided to share an essay in one of the books I have been writing—it's something that has come up in several conversations I've had this week, and I think it might be useful to those who are trying to understand the modernist issues of the Church. I hope you enjoy, L.C. Getz
When I speak of liberalism, I do not speak of a political affiliation as much as I speak of an ideology that has become more and more popular over the past several centuries. When we discuss this ideology within the context of the Church, we have to be careful to properly define and understand the implications that liberalism offers to the praxis of the community of believers. Only from remaining objective will we be able to properly asses the biblical hermeneutic of the liberal.
Where does liberalism come from? Well, the origins of liberalism are found in the depths of the human soul. Liberalism rejects the idea of being bound (some might say enslaved) by a societal norm—which is a highly desirable thought for most people. Our natural instinct is not to be ruled, but to rule. This is where liberalism begins to form as a societal ideology, and this is where we begin to get a fuller sense of it.
Liberalism, seeing the bondage that humanity has placed upon itself, constitutes and even demands inherent change—and Christianity is no exception to the rule. Liberalism asserts that an evil or injustice is constantly present and that it must be stopped. Whether or not the evil truly exists does not matter, for the liberal will see evil to fight wherever he sets foot, and will recruit others to fight with him.
Ironically, in it’s quest for total liberation, the liberal becomes the very thing they have set out to destroy—a dictatorially driven hive-mind. It demands absolute equality but cannot deliver what it demands. Goodness does exist for the liberal, but not as a spiritual morality (for liberalism refuses to confirm spiritual absolutes), but as a physical morality— a biological duty to support the human race that is not connected to any definable spiritual world. In a way, it is simply a religion in which proper ideas are God and the people who have them are prophets.
Why can Liberalism never succeed long term?
There are several reasons. The biggest issue is without the presence of an absolute, spiritual authority, the rest of their moral code falls apart. They are unable to deny the lifestyles of those who seek Machiavellian power, nor are they able to argue the selfishness of the uncharitable. Nor can they speak against any natural instinct to kill—plant, animal, or human. Nor can they argue against any true immorality. They will argue, of course, but not with any authority outside of a devout and unbacked sense of rightness. They consistently condemn the wicked without being able to explain why being wicked is worse than being good.
As for the equality they claim to seek, it is an anomaly. There is no set definition of physical equality to turn to, and so each member of the liberal mindset creates an equality in their own mind to fight for. Some of these people are more radical, some are more lenient, and still others are in a constant state of instability. There is no definition of equality that cannot be overturned with another proper example of inequality to overturn it.
The goodness that liberals follow is, to be blunt, physical and not spiritual. It always seeks to change the corporeal aspects of things, and never the spiritual aspects. Liberals will, of course, seek to change the way people view concepts and ideas (things that are not physical), but always to a physical end. In other words, they care about the bodies of others, but not the souls of others. They care about fixing the actions of others, but not through a spiritual transformation. Without a spiritual transformation, no physical practice can be maintained.
Another reason that liberalism cannot succeed long term is that it has never finally decided on its virtues and values. It has shown itself to be relative to age, it’s rules and particularities constantly shifting and expanding. The only consistency to it’s values lies in an a) openness to the behavior and opinions of those who happen to be the most controversial, and b) a constant necessity for some sort of change. This may be for various reasons, but these two elements are intrinsic to liberal ideology.
The continual variability that liberalism finds itself in is both it’s sustenance and it’s downfall. It will always gain followers who desire to fight for what is right and be part of a movement, and yet many (if not most) of these followers eventually realize the brokenness of the system of liberalism. They are commanded to be individual, and then condemned for it. They are commanded to break free from societal norms and then condemned for breaking free of any part of popular liberal ideology. They are commanded to uphold peace but are constantly doing so with an aggressive and confrontational mindset.
There is no settling down for the liberal. The confusion and moral betrayal usually wears it’s adherents out and sets them on a path that is either not liberal or, at least, not “up to date” with current liberalism. It is no coincidence that the old and exhausted are generally not liberal. It is hard to be a disciple of a ideology constantly adjusts. I have joked for years that my favorite football team is the one that is currently doing the best—and that way I never have to worry about being wrong. I am able to avoid cheering for losers simply by constantly changing my affiliation with the times. People usually think this is hilarious, and it is, because this is an unnatural and noncommittal view of fandom. I’m always a fan, but only for the current winners, and that makes me always a winner myself. As stupid as this sounds when applied to football, this is the way liberalism works. It’s constantly enthusiastic, but only as long as it applies to the ideas that are accepted by the champions of those who lead the liberal movement.
As these things apply to the Life of the Church.
There are many liberal Christians who will take a dim view of this assessment, claiming that liberalism is the thing that celebrates human diversity, loving acceptance and positive change. One might just as easily argue that a proper founding in the Holy Spirit will accomplish the exact same thing but without the spiritual dangers that are attached to liberalism. When change comes from a place of spiritual transformation, that is when we see the light of Christ working in the believer. It is easy to use Sacred Scripture in order to back societal change in the Church, and yet, a liberal reading of Scripture reads with a lens that desires to fulfill a temporal desire.
The danger of this biblical hermeneutic is that it denies the ultimate perfection of the Gospel and theology of morality. In other words, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture is in constant flux as society changes. There is no moral rule to the Church under a liberalist hermeneutic, because, in the end, the moral rule fails to be the Church, Scripture, and a traditional lens. It becomes what it desires to become and not what Christ ultimately wills for His mystical Body.
This is not to say that liberalism is completely without virtue at all times, for some of the ends that they fight for hold elements of true spiritual Goodness. The issue, however, is that as the authority of the Church has diminished in the hearts of modern Christians, the authority of societal political correctness has taken it’s place. Even the things that they hold correctly right now will not ultimately last. All sides will claim to be of God without demonstrating the same moral foundations. The authority of this ideology cannot be defined, and so what is meant to be individual morality (the relativity that they uphold to be true) suddenly becomes wrong on a communal level.
The brilliance of liberalism is that it manages to accept everything while still accepting nothing. It promotes schism while arguing for unity. It demands repentance and refuses to be corrected. It declares that there are wrongs that can never be made right, yet demands that these things are fixed. It is both aggressive and judgmental, expressing it’s “love” through an incessant bitterness and indignant stubbornness—attitudes that Christ never exhibited nor promoted. As romantic as liberalism has made itself to be, it’s premise, arguments, and conclusions have proven to be nothing short of divisive. This division is not what God desires for His Body, and we should be in constant prayer for the healing of souls who idolize the popular over the correct.