I’m having an identity crisis.
My most recent and probably most significant publication to date was in the Wall Street Journal, a publication well known for its conservative bent. In fact, earlier drafts of my op-ed piece featured some rather blatant political statements that the friends and colleagues whom I asked to read the drafts pointed out were at odds with the editorial stance of the Journal. I didn’t heed their suggestion to nix those parts and instead watched them get chopped at the hands of my skillful editor, to the enhancement of the piece, I ultimately agreed.
As a result of the Journal piece I have received many comments, on the WSJ site itself, but also here on Patrol and through email. Many of these have been positive and others negative, but what is most surprising is that a number of the congratulations I have received came from conspicuously conservative sources. This has led to some interesting interactions with leaders at organizations with which I never imagined myself having any affiliation; all of this in addition to the fact that I recently signed on to teach a course at a rather conservative Christian college.
These experiences have jostled me a bit and more often than not I find the agitator in me (who is very much alive and well) wanting to scream, “BUT I’M LIBERAL!!!” Though, to date, I have resisted. Or did I just blow it?
For approximately the past ten years, since I reached both voting age (first) and critical thinking age (sometime later) I have identified as liberal. I love the quote from John Fitzgerald Kennedy (a personal hero and not just because of his awesome name) that begins, “If by a ‘liberal’ they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind…” and continues with “someone who cares about the welfare of the people” and concludes, “then I’m proud to say that I’m a ‘Liberal.’” That is the kind of liberal I have prided myself on being, or trying to be, and that is the kind of liberal I have tried to surround myself with. And I think, in those early years of development it was important to surround myself with likeminded people who could act as a support system as well as a wall off which to bounce ideas.
But it has been ten years. Though I will never stopped challenging my ideas and beliefs, I think it is safe to say that I am secure in who I am. I can think of no better time, no better opportunity to now step out and engage more fully with people whose perspective differs from mine. And, as I was recently telling of one of those leaders of a conservative organization, I think that a credit to our generation is our willingness to put aside differences in order to work for a common good.
This means that we may not always agree on tax policy or the specifics of the healthcare debate, or, on a more micro level, whether swearing is acceptable or how young Christians identify themselves, but we can still work together, dialogue, interact and, hopefully, achieve some good.
I look forward to that kind of interaction going forward. And this isn’t to say that the old agitator won’t rear his head from time to time; that it’s not occasionally important to stress what makes us different in the course of constructive conversation, but I think this, too, is alright.
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