The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

2/26/2005

Converts v. Heretics

There’s a new ol' saw making the rounds of the blogosphere: "I've heard it said that the Right is looking for converts and the Left is looking for heretics." The above phrase is becoming a cliché because, like most clichés, it contains an element of truth. The question is: why is this decidedly so?

In part, it is because of the underlying institutions upon which conservative and liberal thought have been built. Conservatism is built on the foundation of the church. Churches are, by nature, evangelical. Rarely are churches closed communities. They send out missionaries. Missionaries may have strong beliefs about what is right, what is wrong, what is proper, what is improper. But missionaries do not aim to convert by name-calling, or an immediate demand for rigid adherence. They build bridges, find the common ground, and then enlarge the community.


The Left (which in my opinion has ceased being "liberal") has built its foundation on the academy. Academia is probably the major institution in America most hostile to free, unfettered speech. Academics rarely try to convince someone to adopt his or her position. They lecture. And in modern academia, it is often a uni-directional lecture from the Left. Outside speakers are drawn from a shallow pool of leftists, with an academic fraud like Ward Churchill more likely to get a speaking invite than a mainstream conservative (a label the Left refers to as "extremist").

Academic administration actively seeks to silence alternative viewpoints, ironically in the name of diversity. Rather than trying to broaden minds, academia has adopted the position that students exhibiting particular traits are entitled to an environment free from distress, challenge or disagreement. Agreement is assumed and disagreement is punished. With low grades. With banishment from the tenure track. With the Administration-permitted theft of non-conforming newspapers. Sometimes with Administration-ignored physical intimidation.

Given these two distinct climates in each side’s base institution, is it any wonder that we are witnessing such a huge difference in attitude toward outsiders? I don’t see any institutional forces on the horizon to change either side’s outlook.


Addendum: When liberalism was the dominant force in American politics, roughly from the 1932 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the end of the Civil Rights Act with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, liberalism was the faith-based political philosophy. It was grounded in the New England puritan idea of the perfectability of humanity through community action. It is no accident that the civil rights movement was born in southern black churches. Conservatism was based on mercantilism. It may have sought victory, but it did not then seek conversion. Times have changed.
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