Conservatives emphasize truth (morals), liberals emphasize grace (compassion).
Conservatives want to conserve for society what’s right. Liberals want to liberate society from what’s wrong. Liberals’ desire to fight racism in the 60s was commendable. I praise God for what liberal groups like the ACLU accomplished in that arena (even though I oppose much of what the ACLU does today).
But often liberals fought good standards, like those that said abortion, fornication, adultery and homosexual behavior were wrong. They embrace tolerance, a grace-substitute. Liberal Christians end up being liberals first, Christians second.
Conservatives want to restore old values. They fondly remember “The good old days” when America was a Christian nation. Unfortunately, “the good old days” included women being unable to vote. They included slavery, then segregation.
Conservatives want to go back to the days when prayer was allowed in schools. But they forget that the same schools that allowed in prayer didn’t allow in black children! By trying to condemn things that were wrong, conservative Christians ended up conservatives first, Christians second.
But why should we have to choose between conservatism’s emphasis on truth and liberalism’s emphasis on grace? Why can’t we oppose injustice to minorities and to the unborn? Why can’t we oppose greedy ruination of the environment and extreme anti-industry New Age environmentalism? Why can’t we affirm the biblical right to the ownership of property (“thou shalt not steal”) and emphasize God’s call to his people to voluntarily share their wealth with the needy? Why can’t we uphold God’s condemnation of sexual immorality, including homosexual practices, and reach out in love and compassion to those trapped in this lifestyle and dying from AIDS?
We cannot do these things if we are first and foremost either liberals or conservatives. We can do these things only if we are first and foremost followers of Christ…who is full of grace and truth.
For more about grace and truth, see Randy Alcorn’s book The Grace and Truth Paradox.