The Sopris Sun

Mutt & Jeff: Absolutes? Absolutely!

First off, thanks to editor Will Grandbois for seeing the need and allowing for a different voice than we usually see in The Sopris Sun. Consequently, we now have Mutt and Jeff, a couple of local yokels, to address the issue.

On today’s poisonous political spectrum we would undoubtedly be described as extreme or radical right. Although we think of ourselves as simply constitutionalists. Today, right wing seems to imply the principle of maintaining the “old ways,” the tried and true ways and values that work, being closed-minded to change and tending to be judgmental.

What about the left wing or progressive? Someone who is vibrant, always ready for improvement, open-minded, embraces change and would rarely criticize anyone else’s lifestyle and values?

Sadly, I believe this presents an inherent and intractable problem which I’ll get to shortly in attempting to find common ground between what I will call genuine conservatism and its counterpoint: liberalism.

First, let me critique the above description of conservatism. I believe it to be accurate in some ways and is one expression of human tendencies, but it is not “genuine conservatism.” To help explain “genuineness” I can refer back to Mutt’s, (aka Stan) column from several weeks ago in which he described the ways we often misuse the concept of “spectrum” — that is to confuse and misapply certain words so that they do not accurately fit on a spectrum of meaning.

Have you, for example, noticed how the word “absolutely” is much over-used now-a-days? The simplest question, such as, “Do you think the Broncos will win the Super Bowl this year? will be answered “Oh yes, absolutely.” Well then-that person should bet his life-savings on that game if he believes it absolutely. (Yes, I know we use words more broadly than their literal meaning.) My point is that to be a genuine conservative one must hold that certain ethical questions do have literally absolute answers; not just based on tradition, or one’s upbringing, or some inner intuition, or such things.  

The inherent problem mentioned earlier now comes into play.  Mutt and Jeff would agree with most conservative political and social ideals, but oftentimes for a very different reason. Why? Because a genuine conservative believes that certain human actions are based on absolute truths, not just tradition or pragmatism.

Now, before you, dear reader, throw this paper down in disgust, think about this: I would suggest that we all, conservative or progressive would agree that it is not good to steal, to commit adultery, to lie, and it is good to love your neighbor as yourself, perhaps even to the point of saying these are absolute truths (even admitting that no one can keep even one of these absolutely).  Decrees such as these do not flow out of a meaningless, lifeless universe caused by a “big bang” 16 billion years ago, nor out of unguided, purposeless, evolution.

Now, my next question is, if we agree that the above decrees are true and valid, why would a person not agree with all of the others found in the Bible? Do we agree with the Bible when it condemns extortioners, drunkenness, or even gossips? How about fornication or bestiality? Or do we get to pick and choose our evils? What about divorce? Yet we have codified and enshrined divorce as a natural right; and the result is broken families, mixed up kids, and often financial ruin. We wink at fornication then deal with two results of doing so: 1. single moms on public assistance or 2. far worse, millions of abortions since Roe vs. Wade.

Now, a moment of warning and acknowledgement to all you genuine conservatives concerning these things; to those who take their marching orders from the absolute authority of the Bible: I Cor.5:12, the apostle Paul speaking: “For what have I to do with those who are outside(i.e. outside the church)? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges.”

In other words, we are not to judge others who disagree or even oppose us, but we are to be advocates of good and permanent things while engaging the society in a respectful and sober way. Too often in history certain groups of Christians have been wrong on important issues. However, when the Bible speaks clearly against an action we must communicate with our progressive neighbors and stand against it if they are endorsing it.

So, yes, we have an inherent problem in dealing with our differences.  An example of this is the present movement in some public schools, including the elementary grades, to teach the naturalness of various sex/gender related life styles. My argument to any of my progressive friends would be twofold: 1. God has forbidden such things, and 2. The family, not the school, is the most basic social institution and as such has priority and sole responsibility in such things. What is the solution? – ironically, in this life, there is no “absolute solution”  Perhaps the best we can do is to start by realizing that I am what I am, and each liberal/progressive is what he or she is; and the challenge is to do our best to live together while embracing greatly differing views of reality.

To summarize the difficulty of the problem: consider these two quotes:

John Dewey, American philosopher and educator:  “Since everything changes, the past doesn’t matter and can’t inform us.”

Francis Schaeffer, American philosopher and theologian: “If society has no absolutes; society will become absolute.”

Paige Meredith shares this column with fellow conservative Stan Badgett.