Thursday, April 30, 2009

Liberalism’s Orthodoxy: Or Why We Should Defend Miss California

Dr. Stephen Long wrote in his book, The Goodness of God, “Liberalism has now become a dogmatic form of orthodoxy incapable of change.” Indeed, consider this for a moment. Theological liberalism seems to have no room in the inn for its own virtue of tolerance, only canonized dogma: God must suffer to love, missiology is eschatology, biblical miracles are literary myths, newer is better, and of course women and homosexuals must be able to be ordained or the Church is both oppressively patriarchal and an apostate.

Indeed, liberal theology has indentified numerous inviolable theological planks, crafting, slowly, a dogmatic platform. It has becomes an ideology demanding capitulation to hold-outs who have not yet converted. Outside of theology, we see that secular liberalism demands this same type of iron-clad orthodoxy. Recently, if not also infamously, Miss California was asked if she supported the recent ruling in Vermont that allowed for same sex marriages. Before answering that she in fact did not agree with same sex marriages, she opined, “Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose.” Indeed, while Aquinas thought a democracy was only a moderate well functioning government, as it was slow to act toward the good, and could only be moderately assured to enact the good, it nevertheless, was also slow to enact evil. More importantly, where is the well-spring of tolerance for Miss California that liberals so often demand be extended to everyone (and everything) else. Instead, the reaction was indignation. A particularly – if not peculiarly – urbanized cry of, “she didn’t, did she?!” was heard round the blogosphere.

Of course, the reason for the intolerance was that she was intolerant. And only intolerance can be matched with more intolerance. Here we realize the impossibility of diversity (liberalism). That no political claim can equate to perfect tolerance. That all beliefs – even beliefs in tolerance – are ultimately divisive. Otherness (diversity, liberalism) only identifies by being separate. The problem of perfect liberalism also makes us equally realize the impossibility of unity. No taxonomy will be able to perfectly organize everyone (and everything) into a single category. This is the problem of relationships – and it is also the mystery of Trinity and the Incarnation. We are the same and we are different. Oliver O’Donovan offers the term ‘pluriformity’. It offers to explicate the paradoxical claim that we are all one and all other. We realize that particularity rents violence in its necessary act of exclusion, but our limitedness – our humanness – does not offer recourse. Pluriformity is an anthropology for understanding theology that need not capitulate to late modern liberalism (our difference unites us), or conservative theology (our correct belief unites us), but rather a way to recapture the theology of the Body of Christ as the body of believers that are both diverse and universe.

We live in the tension between diversity and unity. However, I think some of my friends would argue that perfect diversity and unity come under God. And, I hope, they are correct. But it is an eschatological hope. Fidelity may hold more promise than either equality (liberalism) or certainty (conservatism).