These two words are getting a lot of press these days, most of it bad. Conservatives are reactionary, calling “us” back to traditional values, some of which we are more than happy to leave behind. Hear conservative, think closed minded, inflexible, harsh, lacking in grace and compassion, fundamentalist.
Liberals are clueless, calling us to jump boldly into the dark with no idea as to what is out there. Hear liberal, think groundless, lack of structure, no moorings, not based on fact, absence of rules, without reason or rational thought.
I know that each of those terms have other meanings as well, fortunately, most of them less inflammatory. However, in our current political, socio-economic, and religious context, the terms themselves are akin to racial slurs, something used to brand a person in a particular context without getting to know anything whatsoever about them.
I would like to propose a new phrase. One we all know. One we can all agree on, conservative and liberal. One that is Gospel based.
Protestant Liberality – When we use the phrase, let’s get past our idea of tithes and offerings though. Let’s use it in the context of grace, missions, being open and humble. In so doing, we make our space a place for people to ask questions. We recognize that some of those questions will have no answers. We promise that we will listen before we answer. We promise that our answer will be filled with the same grace we experienced first in Jesus Christ.
Most people are looking for a place to ask questions, a place they can rest comfortably even if they do not get all the answers, learn new questions, and still be accepted by others within the faith community. Liberality recognizes the gap between what we, humanly, can know and the reality of our God. We recognize our knowing as coming up short, that while we are fully known, in this life we cannot know fully.
Our journey of faith takes us to the borders of knowing where we look across the gap in hopes of seeing something of God. This is what Moses experienced when he asked permission to gaze upon God’s glory, only to be granted the slightest glimpse of his Creator’s back. That gaze empowered his faith anew, connecting head, heart, and hands in ministry to the people of Israel.
Just think what might happen if we put aside all our ready-made answers for just a moment, recognizing our inability to define God as we would like and our necessity to know him as he is.