“Life Stages: Conservative and Liberal” Ron Rolheiser

“A friend of mine likes to explain his religious background this way: ‘I have powerful conservative roots. I was raised in a very strong conservative, Roman Catholic, immigrant, German, farming family, with all the inhibitions, protectiveness, exclusivity, and reticence that this entailed. It would be hard to find a more strongly conservative religious background than mine. And I’m grateful for that. It’s one of the greatest gift you can be given. Now I’m free for the rest of my life!’ There is something both healthily conservative and healthily liberal in that assessment. The instinct within the liberal wants to push edges, to widen the circle, to move away from narrowness, to be more inclusive, to not always see the other as threat, and to protect the ineffability of God and God’s universal salvific will. Whereas the conservative intuits the necessity of being rooted in truth, in grounding yourself in the essentials, in having proper boundaries, and in not being naive to the fact that everything that’s precious and true will invariably be under attack. Both protect the soul. . . . The liberal instinct is mostly about the fire, the conservative instinct is mostly about the glue. The story of the man who was raised in such a strong conservative background and who now feels rooted enough to be more liberal illustrates that both are necessary. There is a time to be liberal and there is a time to be conservative and it is important that we know which time is right both as regards to our own growth and as regards to the growth of others. Malcolm X once said something to this effect: I have a strong allegiance to both Christ and Muhammad because we need them both. Right now, so many of the men to whom I am trying to minister need the discipline of Allah. Their lives are in such disrepair that they need clear, hard rules of discipline that are spelled out for them without ambiguity. Later on, once they have their lives more in order, they can turn more to the liberal love of Jesus. First we need the discipline of Allah, later the freedom of Jesus. He understood that there are stages to the spiritual life and that what is needed in one stage will sometimes be very different than what is needed in another.”


“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus


Moving From Head to Heart


*Are you a conservative in some ways? How does that make you a better human? . . . a better neighbor, leader, person of faith?
*Are you a liberal in some ways? How does that make you a better human? . . . a better neighbor, leader, person of faith?
*Have you moved beyond being rooted in truth, and grounded in the essentials as a focus, towards pushing the edges, and being more inclusive? Have you become more inclined to show compassion than to set someone straight?


God, help me to know what needs defending and what needs changing in my world–and in me.

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Thanks for reading my blog! Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

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