Conservatives and Liberals, and why we need both

I came across new blog on the vast Patheos website, Science on Religion, and this post by one Connor Wood, a PhD student at Boston University in religion and science, a post called Calling an End to the Culture Wars, which in turn links to his essay at, from which I quote…

Conservatives are, for my purposes, people who exist close to the heart of a traditional culture, whatever that culture is. They tend to be invested in religion, because religion is another way of saying culture. They are not bigots per se, but they tend to distrust or act coolly toward those who live beyond the warm bubbles of their own traditions. Tribal beings, they are cocooned in worlds of constructed social meaning: culture.

Liberals, in contrast, are those who dwell at the flickering edges of their cultures, in the strange and eerie space between the spheres of the world’s traditions, religions, belief systems. They tend to be cosmopolitan, to live in places where many different cultures rub up against one another daily. Because of this exposure, liberals have perceptive, even burdensome insight into how each culture is flawed and deluded in its own, often very serious, way, and so they cannot allow themselves to buy into any of them wholesale. From a liberal perspective, to belong to a culture unthinkingly means to accept that culture’s injustices and stupid horrors: to grin blithely at the binding of women’s feet and the redlining of black neighborhoods. And so the liberal can never fully trust human culture. She is destined to live just at its peripheries, in the weird interstices between worlds.

Conservatives are microscopes. Liberals are macroscopes.

But conservatives, reliably, are happier.

The difficulty with being a progressive, radical, or liberal is that the scale of the world is far larger than a woman or man can ever be. There is a basic mismatch between the aspirations and dilemmas of liberal-leaning people and their meager status as individual, warm-blooded mammals who must live in family and tribe.

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