Hon­or­ing the in­tegrity of words

‘I am a lib­eral,’ and other con­ser­va­tive ideas

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Everett Piper Everett Piper, pres­i­dent of Ok­la­homa Wes­leyan Uni­ver­sity, is the au­thor of “Not A Day Care: The Dev­as­tat­ing Con­se­quences of Aban­don­ing Truth” (Reg­n­ery 2017).

At the risk of com­ing across as “cap­tain ob­vi­ous” I’d like to sug­gest that if there is one sin­gle thing the present cul­ture war be­tween lib­er­als and con­ser­va­tives proves it’s this: Words mean some­thing. Us­ing words is a uniquely hu­man thing. We de­bate and we ar­gue. We make speeches, we de­liver ser­mons and we teach lessons.

We de­fend and chal­lenge words with emo­tion, pas­sion, anger and in­dig­na­tion. If they de­ceive we call them lies. If they em­bolden, we call them in­spir­ing. We use our words to build na­tions, de­fine re­li­gions and in­spire rev­o­lu­tions.

But in spite (or per­haps be­cause) of such power, some words are used so frivolously that their in­tended def­i­ni­tion and pur­pose is lost. Words like change and choice, green and gay, hate and love, left and right, tol­er­a­tion, in­te­gra­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion — words like lib­eral and con­ser­va­tive.

So, it is with un­bend­ing re­spect for the in­tegrity of words that I’m propos­ing some­thing that may sur­prise a few: I’m a “lib­eral” and that’s a con­ser­va­tive idea.

Be­fore you claim I’ve com­pletely lost it, hear me out.

I am a “lib­eral” be­cause I love a good ar­gu­ment and be­cause I be­lieve the best de­bate is one that lib­er­ates. It lib­er­ates us from the con­se­quences of ideas that are wrong and frees us to live within the beauty of ideas that are right. It el­e­vates the agenda above feel­ings by high­light­ing the facts. It trusts the em­pir­i­cal more than the emo­tional.

I am a “lib­eral” be­cause of my pas­sion for the lib­eral arts. A clas­si­cally “lib­eral” ed­u­ca­tion was cre­ated, let’s say a thou­sand years ago, to ed­u­cate a free man and a free woman; a free peo­ple, a free cul­ture, a free Church, and free coun­try. It was in­tended to be an ed­u­ca­tion in “lib­erty.”

I am a “lib­eral” be­cause I be­lieve in free­dom: Free­dom of thought and free­dom of ex­pres­sion and the free­dom to dis­sent from con­sen­sus. I am not afraid of the pur­suit of truth. Wher­ever it leads I am con­fi­dent in the words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

I am a “lib­eral” be­cause I be­lieve in in­te­gra­tion. Truth can­not be seg­re­gated into false di­chotomies but it is an in­te­grated whole. A true in­te­gra­tionist rec­og­nizes that we can­not and should not sep­a­rate per­sonal life from pri­vate life, the head from the heart, fact from feel­ings, re­li­gion from rea­son, or be­lief from be­hav­ior.

I am a “lib­eral” be­cause I be­lieve in con­ser­va­tion. There are ideas that are tested by time, de­fended by rea­son, val­i­dated by ex­pe­ri­ence and con­firmed by rev­e­la­tion and these ideas should be con­served. We are in fact en­dowed by our Creator with cer­tain self-ev­i­dent truths. We do know that rape is wrong, free­dom is bet­ter than bondage, and that the Holo­caust was a bad thing. Even though we can­not pro­duce moral­ity in a test tube, we hold it to be an ob­jec­tive fact that no hu­man be­ing should deny.

I am a “lib­eral” be­cause I be­lieve in prin­ci­ples more than power. His­tory tells us time and time again that to deny what is right and true and em­brace what is wrong and false is to fall prey to the rule of the gang or the tyranny of one. We need look no fur­ther than to the lessons of Mao, Mus­solini, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler and Robe­spierre for such ev­i­dence.

I am a “lib­eral” be­cause I be­lieve in lib­erty. I be­lieve lib­erty is the an­tithe­sis of slav­ery and slav­ery is the un­avoid­able out­come of lies: Lies about who we are as peo­ple, lies about what is right and what is wrong, lies about man, and lies about God.

Ask your­self this ques­tion: Are you re­ally freer to­day than you were yes­ter­day, or are you be­com­ing more and more en­slaved to the uber­men­sch: the su­per­men; the power bro­kers and the elites who walk the halls of our cam­puses, our courts and our Congress? Are you en­joy­ing more free­dom to live within the bound­aries that come from what is right and just and true or are you be­com­ing more and more bound by group-think, po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and pop­u­lous power?

Here’s the con­clu­sion. At the end of the day, it be­comes ap­par­ent that no one can truly claim to be a “lib­eral” with­out a con­ser­va­tive re­spect for what is im­mutable and real. If you don’t have a pas­sion to re­claim what has been co-opted and to re­veal what has been com­pro­mised; if you don’t have the courage to be free of in­tim­i­da­tion and com­mit­ted to open in­quiry; if you don’t have the con­fi­dence to rise above the crowd or the con­sen­sus, you sim­ply are not a “lib­eral”.

A true “lib­eral” be­lieves in pur­su­ing truth, not in pro­tect­ing opin­ions.

As Martin Luther King Jr. told us in his “Let­ter from the Birm­ing­ham Jail,” it is the con­ser­va­tion of the im­mutable virtues that serves as our strong­est jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for our on­go­ing strug­gle for free­dom, lib­er­a­tion and lib­erty.

With­out such con­ser­va­tive ideas, I am not sure any­one can truly call them­selves a “lib­eral.”

I am a “lib­eral” be­cause I be­lieve in lib­erty. I be­lieve lib­erty is the an­tithe­sis of slav­ery and slav­ery is the un­avoid­able out­come of lies.


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