Monday, October 16, 2006

Are Liberals Intolerant?

I have often felt that liberals are not very liberal. That is too much of a generalization, true. But whether we are talking of Catholics who characterize themselves as "liberal' or "progressive," or we are speaking of liberals in the sense of those on the left side of the American political spectrum, far too many get rapidly wroth at the very mention of opposing views or the opponents who might hold them.

Two weeks ago I was graced with meeting some marvelous young theology faculty of orthodox inclinations who teach at Catholic institutions. They were in dread that they might be forced out of their intellectual closets. They perceived the consequences for tenure, promotion, and feeding their families to be dire. Those who control the commanding heights of academe "in the Catholic tradition," define diversity in purely demographic terms.

In the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, Peggy Noonan observes that those on the political left "don't always recognize themselves to be bullying. So full of their righteousness are they that they have lost the ability to judge themselves and their manner." She notes"What is most missing from the left in America is an element of grace -- of civic grace, democratic grace, the kind that assumes disagreements are part of the fabric, but we can make the fabric hold together."

Noonan goes on to say "all this continues to come more from the left than the right in America." I believe that such behavior results from the triumph of ideology over our common humanity. Perhaps the left is more susceptible to the virus of ideology, but neither seems inoculated against it.

Certainly, the right too can fall under the Siren's spell. The only true prophylactic against her song is grace and the truth that St. Martin learned on that bitter cold night in Gaul: how we treat each other is how we treat Christ. Ideological man lets his model of the world blind himself to God's grace in the form of his fellow man. He is no longer restrained by the existential reality of the man or woman in front of him. He then ceases acting with that grace of civility due a fellow creature made in the divine image.

Ultimately, the civil order itself rests on "things unseen."

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