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Conservatism, liberalism, and the Gray-Haired Old White Man

Posted by Chance on June 19, 2007

The concept of a modern day Noah’s Ark story found in Evan Almighty had fascinated me. After all, the original account deals with God wiping out the earth because of our sin. The idea of a story about God punishing sinful man, well, it just seems out of place in Hollywood.

Of course, it depends what the sin is. Now, I have not seen the movie, but I’ve read a brief synopsis in the Washington Post review. This is not an in depth analysis, otherwise I would wait till I saw the movie. But the sin that the movie focuses on is not surprising. The post says…

the movie has a modern theme about saving the environment from corrupt politicians and businessman looking to profit by diminishing green meadows and animal habitats.

Now, of course many people can get on board with this idea. I don’t like corrupt politicians and businessmen either.

But corrupt politicians are not the only thing wrong with the world either. For instance, there is the dissolution of families, promiscuous sex, and the marketing of sex on TV. However, I don’t think a movie about the bad guys being people who sleep around a lot would catch on as one in which the bad guys are evil businessmen destroying the environment.

This is not to downplay the latter, but the concept of the movie does point out a divide between what bothers liberals and conservatives. Now, this post is not an attempt to invalidate or discredit the beliefs of either side, it is only an attempt at an analysis of what each side values. I would welcome any input from anyone regarding these views.

Liberalism, it seems, has the spark of youthful rebellion. Liberalism is all about challenging the establishment. It is rebelling against the Gray-Haired Old White Man. (I don’t say “White” to give this any racial overtones, I am just mentioning it because if you look at most people in power, well, that’s what they look like.) Liberals like to leave people alone in their personal lives (again, in theory, I think the DP has done the opposite many times) but focus more on regulating economic activity. Regulating economic activity is essentially telling the Gray-Haired Old White Man what to do.

Also, part of liberalism is the avoidance of being the Gray-Haired Old White Man. Let’s take abortion for instance. Saying “No” to some poor woman, maybe a minority, just doesn’t have the same zing as saying “No” to the rich and powerful. Telling someone who isn’t in power “you can’t do that” is so Gray-Haired Old White Man, it’s so…conservative.

Conservatives, on the other hand, well, most often they are the Gray-Haired Old White Man, or at least the favored son of the Gray-Haired Old White Man. Perhaps the conservative is the good son who went to college and has a nice job in a skyscraper, and the liberal is the 2nd-born son who dropped out of college and builds houses in Ecuador.

Jesus Himself could be seen as a liberal, in the sense that He also challenged the rich and powerful. He purposely upset the religious establishment, the Pharisees, and he had no qualms about upsetting the governmental authorities, although he had no political ambitions. But Jesus was also set on challenging us as the individual. He not only challenged the Pharisees taking God’s name in vain, but he also challenged the woman at the well who had five previous husbands and was living with a guy. He did so out of love, and not a condemning tone, but he still made her feel uncomfortable.

In the political sense, both appeal to government power more than I would like. But I think in a cultural sense, in the sense of what is right and wrong, I think both groups have their strengths. Many conservatives can learn from liberals in regarding those who are oppressed and corruption among the rich and powerful. At the same time, I think liberals need to look more at “conservative” type issues and realize that maybe the fracture of the family structure may be leading to things like poverty and inner-city crime.

Also, sometimes Christianity and our current modern American philosophy may agree. Both scorn the abuse of power by the Gray-Haired Old White Man. But Christianity goes further. It is not just telling Gray-Haired Old White Man, “Hey, quit destroying our earth” or “Hey, quit oppressing the poor!” but it is telling the suave 20-something year old man “Hey, keep it in your pants!” or telling the 30-something housewife “Hey, stick with your husband and work it out, even if you think the guy in the next office truly ‘gets you’!” Christianity is not only about exterminating the evil found in the ranks of the rich and powerful, it is looking at ourselves and finding the evil within us.

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6 Responses to “Conservatism, liberalism, and the Gray-Haired Old White Man”

  1. Josh said

    Good post. Pop culture has overtaken our society. How many were killed in Iraq this weekend? Who knows, but we all know who won American Idol.

    It’s sick what our society has turned into, but I agree… a movie about the other sins won’t bring in the crowds.

  2. Neil said

    Well said, Chance, especially the last paragraph. Movies like this don’t surprise me. They are rather predictable, in fact.

    I am disappointed that so much of the Christian community (magazines, pop music stars)appears to be endorsing it as if it were somehow portraying Biblical truths in a serious way.

  3. Dan Trabue said

    “Christianity is not only about exterminating the evil found in the ranks of the rich and powerful, it is looking at ourselves and finding the evil within us.”

    True. But it is especially about decrying the evil found in the ranks of the rich and powerful. Or, at least the Bible is.

    How many passages in the Bible – especially of Jesus and the prophets and the disciples – are dedicated to calling out the sins of the powerful and wealthy as opposed to heaping scorn on the sins of the poor and oppressed?

    You are correct, of course, that we ought to be watchful for all that which would trip us up, but I think what God focuses on and is most critical of in the Bible is instructive.

    “After all, the original account deals with God wiping out the earth because of our sin.”

    Did you know that the Noah story tells us that God specifically was concerned about violence and corruption?

    “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

    12And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.

    13And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”

    ~Genesis 6:11-13

  4. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    “Christianity is not only about exterminating the evil found in the ranks of the rich and powerful, it is looking at ourselves and finding the evil within us.”

    This is a false dichotomy. It’s about both. Your post seemed to be leading to that conclusion, too. It was very revolutionary in the way that it by-passed the tired Left/Right dichotomies–just as Jesus did and does. Christianity is radical–and radicals shake up liberals and conservatives alike. So, this one-sided conclusion seemed a conservative cop-out.

    It was a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise great post.

  5. Chance said

    Michael,
    Thanks for your comments and your honesty. I think the keywords are not only. I tried to indicate that it was about both, but perhaps I emphasized the more personal sins too much.

    Part of it was a response to what Hollywood views as “sin”, so that is why I may have emphasized the personal sins more. But many in conservative Christian circles have an incomplete view as well.

  6. John Kaiser said

    “Liberals like to leave people alone in their personal lives (again, in theory, I think the DP has done the opposite many times)”

    They are all about regulating our personal lives- unless it involves killing your unborn child or engaging in homosexual sex acts. Otherwise they want to regulate everything:

    1. spanking your children
    2. What is your “fair share” of the tax burden.
    3. Where and when can you pray
    4. How much of your money you can pass onto your children after you die.
    5. Who you must associate with (rent to, exclude from groups, etc.)

    The list goes on and on.

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