The Grand Narrative of Liberalism
Despite Smith’s credentials and acumen, you don’t necessarily expect evangelical sociologists to be fair—even when they’re trying to be—when they distill the essence of the mission of their enemies. So what’s interesting to me is that this paragraph was quoted in its entirety and with evident approval by secular moral philosopher Jonathan Haidt (whose book The Righteous Mind is well worth reading). The liberal progressives are Haidt’s own tribe. Or at least they were; he says (and I believe him) that he has moderated somewhat.
Here’s the liberal progressive grand narrative, as described by Smith and approved by Haidt:
Once upon a time, the vast majority of human persons suffered in societies and social institutions that were unjust, unhealthy, repressive, and oppressive. These traditional societies were reprehensible because of their deep-rooted inequality, exploitation, and irrational traditionalism.… But the noble human aspiration for autonomy, equality, and prosperity struggled mightily against the forces of misery and oppression, and eventually succeeded in establishing modern, liberal, democratic, capitalist, welfare societies. While modern social conditions hold the potential to maximize the individual freedom and pleasure of all, there is much work to be done to dismantle the powerful vestiges of inequality, exploitation, and repression. This struggle for the good society in which individuals are equal and free to pursue their self-defined happiness is the one mission truly worth dedicating one’s life to achieving. (p.82)
What has really struck me in the last few months since I read that (while doing some research for my own writing at BJU Press) is the last line: “This struggle for the good society in which individuals are equal and free to pursue their self-defined happiness is the one mission truly worth dedicating one’s life to achieving.”
That nails it in my experience. Progressive liberals are not live-and-let-live, no-skin-off-my-nose, live-free-or-die libertarians. They are crusaders. And in a way, I say more power to them. In a way. I wish we could all live according to a life-defining moral mission. Just not theirs.