Essay:Conservatism and Progressivism
Conservatism makes the claim that some actions can cause harm and suffering for others. This is definitely true. For example, adults who are addicted to hard drugs are quite likely to neglect their children and if these children are removed and placed in state or foster care, they are at risk of being abused and exploited. Conservatives seek to make a better world by minimizing this type of harm and suffering by restricting the ability of people to engage in such behaviors through criminalizing and stigmatizing them.
Conservatism’s approach of restricting the ability of people to engage in behaviors that can cause harm and suffering to others is successful in minimizing such harm and suffering. However, the problem with conservatism is that preventing people from doing what they want to do can induce neurosis while stigmatizing them can create feelings of guilt and criminalizing the behavior can turn ordinary people into criminals, which can seriously disrupt their lives.
Progressivism makes the claim that people are happy when they are free to do what they want to do and unhappy when this freedom is restricted. This is definitely true. Progressives seek to make a better world by removing the social and criminal restrictions on individuals’ actions put in place by conservatives. Increasing people’s freedom will definitely decrease neurosis, reduce feelings of guilt and avoid unnecessarily turning ordinary people into criminals. However, increasing people’s freedom does lead to an increase in social problems because the actions that produce social problems become more common.
Conservatives and progressives both believe that they are right and are engaged in a never-ending battle. So, who is right? Both ideologies contain elements of truth but neither is the whole truth. Is the solution to find a reasonable balance between conservatism and progressivism or is there another way? There is another way that represents the whole truth and is not a compromise between two half-truths.
Let me explain conservatism and progressivism in terms of sin and then explain what sin is to make it clear. Conservatism aims to reduce the social problems associated with sin by restricting people’s ability to commit sinful acts but it does nothing to address the sinful desires of individuals. Progressivism tries to convince people that sinful desires are actually perfectly normal and healthy and that people should engage freely in sinful acts. However, while the desire to sin is normal, we are all sinners, it is just not healthy to have sinful desires or act on them. Progressives must play down and distract people from the obvious effects of sin to enable people to continue to believe the lie that sin is perfectly normal and healthy and that sinful desires of individuals is a problem that doesn’t need to be addressed.
It is an undeniable fact that drinking poison is harmful to our physical bodies. We can’t choose not to be affected by poison, bullets and gravity etc. In the same way, certain desires and the acts that come from them are harmful to our souls, our spiritual bodies. We don’t necessarily need to act on our sinful desires to be harmed by them. Prostitution is a quick and easy way to make money but it is soul-destroying, which is why many prostitutes use drugs to try to switch off from what they are doing. People consumed with greed or lust have an inner turmoil where they are never satisfied so lack inner spiritual peace. Viewing pornography makes men view women as objects to be used for their sexual gratification rather than as unique and valuable individuals in need of care, guidance and assistance.
Sin is not just acts with negative social consequences. Sin is the desire to do the wrong thing. Sinful acts naturally flow from the sinful desires of an impure heart. Individuals should purify their hearts to remove their sinful desires because doing so gives them a great inner peace. Having an impure heart that desires to do the wrong thing but not acting on those desires out of fear of negative consequences or pretending outwardly to be pure to receive the praise of others is not good enough because it won’t deliver inner peace.
The ideologies of both conservatism and progressivism were created and are promoted by the powers that be to keep us fighting amongst ourselves and stop us seeing the reality that we are spiritual beings needing to purify our hearts to find inner peace. The best course of action is to give up on trying to make a better world and focus on purifying one’s own heart and those of others one encounters by pursuing spiritual truth and love.