A friend recently asked me how I, growing up and living in an extremely conservative area, came to be liberal. I think this is an interesting question, because it’s quite easy to accept a title and wear it as a badge, but then forget what leads us there in the first place. What follows is a [hopefully] brief account of what lead me to descend into pretentious, Satan-worshipping, pink lifting liberalism.
I grew up in a very conservative household. For goodness sake, I grew up in Steve “über-douche” King country. If it’s a baseline conservative position, I’ve probably held it. I’ve a vivid memory from my elementary years when my school held a mock election (for whatever reason I cannot imagine) and, as a fourth grader, I voiced my support for Bush because Clinton “wanted to allow gays in the military,” and that just wasn’t acceptable to my 10 year old mind. However, in my younger years, I didn’t realize I was conservative. I knew myself to be Christian and most of what I saw was a Christian versus anti-Christian dichotomy. Those who supported anything opposite to the moral virtues that I held wasn’t simply different in opinion, but anti-God, anti-Jesus, and anti-Salvation (in other words, people like Bill Clinton and all those gays he wanted to help were on a one way path to Hell).
In high school, my pubescent angst pushed me away from the traditions and commonly accepted “wisdom” of my family and peers. This manifested itself in subtle ways at first — the way I dressed, the music I listened to — but by the time I was a Freshman in college, I realized I still didn’t really know what the terms “conservative” and “liberal” meant. It was in my dorm lobby, during a meeting with my Christian mentor, that I confided in him that I thought I was a liberal. “Liberal,” after all, meant one who is for liberty, and I believed people should be free to make their own choices. My friend then asked me a simple question, “Are you for abortion or against abortion?” I told him that of course I was against it. “That makes you a conservative,” he said.
That statement haunted me. It felt too easy, too hasty to slap a label on me after such a casual interaction. And my angsty desire to reject commonality lingered, so I examined my beliefs. In time, I realized that the question he asked me was a vast oversimplification. Abortion was a complex subject. And by thinking through it I came to realize that even though I was morally opposed to it, I had to support its legality. For the first time in my life I considered myself pro-choice, and I came to this conclusion after examining both sides as objectively as possible. It was around this time that reason became my vehicle of thought. I established a base philosophy. All positions I took on a given subject had to meet the following two criteria: It had to be arrived at objectively and rationally, and it had to be consistent with other positions I took.
Over time, my beliefs evolved. The world wasn’t as black and white as I had once considered it. I went through a phase of not really knowing what I believed politically and philosophically, but when I did come to a conclusion, I was very adamant about it. The Bible aided me in my endeavors. Jesus didn’t seem like a conservative Republican, but that was often how he was portrayed. I remember instances of telling my parents about a position I had taken, not realizing at the time that it was very inconsistent with the conservative ideal, certain that they would agree with me because it seemed quite Biblical, but then realizing later that others didn’t see it that way.
I also had to think about what type of government I wanted. For me, it’s important to have a governing body that supports, enhances, and protects the rights of the minority. This stemmed from the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 25, where he states that what you do for the least, you do for him also. Jesus was all about helping those who needed help. He desired no material positions and even loathed the desire for more when one already had enough. It didn’t make sense to me that Christians were against marriage equality, immigration, welfare, reproductive rights, corporate regulation, etc. because Jesus wasn’t the type that seemed concerned with those things (and if he was concerned, it was certainly with those in need, not those who were not). He separated himself from government and worked with the people in it rather than trying to change government to his desires. He was about the people, not politicians. So all through college, I made a very conscious and serious effort to separate my religious views from my political leanings. Once I was able to see through the lens of legality rather than moral religiousity, my politics veered sharply to the left.
In the end, liberal and progressive ideals made more rational sense and, I thought, would bring about a better, safer, more egalitarian country that I would be proud to call my home. I didn’t choose this path to be simply different or radical. I came to embrace this ideology after much thought and deliberation. It wasn’t an overnight change either. It took years for my former beliefs to crumble under their own inconsistencies. But now that I’ve established myself as a liberal, it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of just following the “platform.” I’m not perfect, but I try to change what I believe based on the evidence and rationality of the argument. I think that this is the essence of being liberal. While it’s easy to choose a belief and stick to it, a truly liberal mentality requires that one change their positions if the evidence demands it.